Sawdust is my new glitter

Chainsaw wedge by Issy Troth

Issy gets to grips with her first chainsaw...

Well, well, I can now say that I hold a chainsaw licence! And let me just say that it wasn’t easy. Like I’ve said in my previous blog, since being a trainee the skill set I have has broadened massively; not once in my life have I ever picked up a chainsaw until now. So understandably I was rather apprehensive and, of course, excited to get going.

I think the thing I was most worried about was how physically demanding I had been told the course is. Despite being a true believer in female empowerment and breaking gender stereotypes I was doubting my ability. I have carried the chainsaws for reserve officers and our supervisor Iain and, blimey, they’re heavy! So, picturing myself carrying a saw around a wood full of trip hazards and then actually using it was very daunting.

Right, let’s get to the nitty gritty of what myself and Jake actually did on the course. The first few days were focused on chainsaw maintenance - how to sharpen the chain, change parts, check for fuel and oil etc. By doing the maintenance first it allowed me to become far more comfortable handling the saw and being taught how the mechanics work enabled me to see how the saw functions for when I came to operate it.

Person holding a chainsaw looking up at a tree

Next we moved onto processing wood, also known as crosscutting. This is when you cut the timber you’ve felled into more manageable sizes to store or transport. This was the first time using the saw and, I won’t lie, the adrenaline was pumping. Once I’d grasped tension and compression, crosscutting became quite - dare I say it - easy (except for when I trapped my saw, that bit is quite embarrassing but easily done). Next we learnt how to cut the gob, the typical well-known wedge put in the tree trunk to help persuade the tree to fall where you want it! In the photo at the top of the page you'll see my practice runs on a stump. It’s a lot harder than you may think and getting two gobs identical is even more difficult.

Now onto the exciting bit, the felling - Danish pie cuts and dog tooth cuts and all the mistakes that come in between. Yes, mistakes were made but I can happily say I grasped it rather well. I truly believe that accepting that I probably wasn't going to be very good to begin with helped me a lot! I was there to learn and I learnt well. When hanging the tree, a lot of self-encouragement was needed; it's a rather gruelling task if you know how difficult moving a hanging tree can be. A felling bar is your best friend!

 A LOT of sweat (despite the freezing temperatures) and very close to tears on the odd occasion was put into getting my licence but we both did it! We were a team and that was crucial, picking each other up and checking in on each other was really important and I’m so chuffed to say that we can now go out together and manage woodland. It was a thoroughly interesting and positive experience and I am continuing to enjoy being out in the wood with Jake and Iain doing our chainsaw thing!

Best of Luck to Ruthie and Amy who will be completing their chainsaw course very soon! YOU’VE GOT THIS GIRLS!


Issy Troth is on a placement year from university where she studies Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Science. She has previously volunteered with Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre and the Trust and is enjoying putting her learning into practice!