Barber Chair Tree: [Definition & Prevention Tips]

Barber Chair Tree

About a week ago, I was out cutting down trees for firewood and I had an ash tree ‘barber chair”.

That was the first time in my 10 years of doing this, that happened.

So, I wanted to learn if I did something wrong and what that would be, and if it’s preventable. A barber chair tree is no joke.

People get killed by that, even professionals.

So, I’m going to share everything I learned and hopefully help you out some.

A tree that barber chair is a tree that splits lengthwise while you are doing the back cut. A piece of the tree will stay attached while the cut will fall and spring back the other way. That is how loggers get seriously hurt.

In this short video, you’re going to see this rotten tree barber chair.

Looking at the tree, in the beginning, you would have never thought it was rotting on the inside.

Why Does A Tree Barber Chair?

This tends to happen a lot when the tree is rotted or hollow in the middle.

It’s a good practice to hit the tree with a hammer or hatchet before you cut it down.

If it’s hollow or rotted in the inside of the tree, you’ll hear a hollow sound when you hit it.

If it’s not rotted or hollow you’ll hear a solid sound when you hit it.

It also occurs when your face cut is not deep enough into the tree. That is how 90% of accidents happen. Just take your time and make sure everything is right before you start your back cut.

Prevention Tips

Now you need to understand, even if you follow all these tips, it still doesn’t guarantee that it won’t happen.

Sometimes life is out of our control and things happen.

So, here are some tips I learned about and will use for now on.

  • Face Cut: Always make sure your face cutOpens in a new tab. is deep enough. That way, when the tree starts to fall the face cut will close and not slow or stop the tree from falling.
  • Finish your cut: Unless there is a really good reason to get out of dodge, always finish your cut and don’t start to walk away as soon as the tree starts to fall. The main reason for a tree to barber chair is when it starts to fall and has momentum or a lot of weight in the top and something at the stump (not cutting enough holding wood, having a shallow face) starts to stop the tree from falling. This puts an immense amount of vertical splitting pressure on the tree trunk at the point you stopped cutting.
  • Escape Route: Before you start cutting, clean out a path to get away from the tree when it’s falling.

Now there is a way to stop a tree from barber chairing if you know what you are doing.

If you see it starting to split vertically, cut as fast as you can to balance out the weight of the falling tree.

But make sure you know when it is too late and get away from the falling tree as fast as possible.

Honestly, in my opinion, I wouldn’t take the chance of playing chicken with the tree. Not worth it in my mind.

I say get the heck out of there and run like your rear end is on fire and your head is catching.

And one last tip and it’s a no brainer. Always use a sharp chain so the saw cutting speed is optimal.

Even if you are cutting down one last tree for the day, take the time to sharpen the chain or change it.


In closing, I’d like to say please stay safe when cutting down trees and use common sense.

Some of the tips I gave above come from a professional logger who been doing this for 23 years.

He knows his stuff. Even he says cutting down trees isn’t as easy as most people think. Good Luck out there!

Brian Koller

Growing up on a farm in eastern PA, I’ve grown fond of wildlife and the woods and learning about the critters and firewood and everything else in-between. I made this site to share my experiences and knowledge.

Other Articles