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Tree Service Pros - Tree Service in Lincoln, Nebraska

Tree Rigging For Removal Part 1

by David Steg on 10/21/14


The intent of this paper is to briefly detail principles

and concepts of rigging for tree and tree

limb removal. This paper is intended as a

reference tool for tree workers already skilled in

tree removal techniques. It is in no way a

substitute for hands-on instruction by skilled professional

arborists. Rigging becomes necessary

when free-falling is not possible because: a) a

structure is in the way, b) sensitive landscaping

would be damaged, or c) energized conductors or

some other obstacle present a hazard.


Rigging becomes desirable when:

A. Roping large pieces provide better control

and greater efficiency than chunking down smaller

pieces, ie: piecing back a limb on a hillside

backyard. If you don't rope it, you might have to

chase a piece through two or three yards and fish

it out of a swimming pool.

B. Large pieces may produce an option in a

more useable by-product than firewood.

Sometimes taking down a tree in saw-log lengths

provides saleable lumber. Black walnut, redwood

and fir come to mind in the S.F. Bay Area, but you

must have a known ready market. An lot of

sawlogs have collected borers for several years

waiting for a buyer before it has ended up as cordwood


C. Margin of worker safety is increased. In my

opinion and philosophy,- rigging's primary function

is to decrease worker exposure to hazard. Consider

this situation: you are faced with a long,

horizontal limb. You can chunk it down if you make

20 small cuts, hold on to them and throw them out

10' to clear an obstacle. It wjlK take you 15

minutes to rig a tip tie and a tag line, but then you

can take it in one cut. One cut means you have

reduced your exposure by a factor of 20 to 1.

Those are excellent odds. Also, even though

those 15 minutes of rigging might seem like a long

time of doing nothing with a crew, when done properly,

the time invested works out to be less than

the time needed to physically chunk out 20



Rope design and construction for tree work has

seen a revolutionary change since 1970. We

used to do everything with 3 and 4-strand manila.

Now, we use synthetic braids and 3 strands.

Although the ropes of today are much stronger

than the manila of yesterday, there are some

specific rules for the safe use and handling of


 Selection. As noted, synthetic rope is much

stronger, but Navy regulations require a 1 to 1

replacement ratio. A %" manila shall be replaced

by a %" synthetic. Tree Work, being less

restricted by regulation than the Navy might well

consider down-sizing by no more than one increment

as a reasonable down-sizing by no more

than one increment as a reasonable standard. Example:

%" manila could safely be replaced by a

5/8" synthetic. When down-sizing from a 3-strand

manila (or even 3-strand synthetic) I would personally

recommend down-sizing to a braided type

construction. You'll get more strength and less

stretch than you will from a 3-strand synthetic.

 Braid. Highest strength to weight ratio, less

stretch, easier handling, highest cost, greater

abrasion resistance by 1 Vz to 2 times.

 3-Strand. Durable, more stretch than braid,

lower cost, heavier weight.

Persona/ Favorites. Stick with ropes designed,

manufactured and warranted by the manufacturer

for tree work. There are several good brands out, I

like Arbor-Plex braid and New England's Multi-line

for a 3-strand. Rope type? I prefer braided rope.

Originally designed as winch lines, they work best

on the lowering device.

Note. I'll say it again, don't judge a rope by it's

tensile strength (that's when it breaks). One-half

inch dacron (6400 Ib) is stronger than 3/4" manila

1. Presented at the annual conference of the International Society of Arboriculture in Vancouver, B.C. in August of 1988.

Journal of Arboriculture 15(4): April 1989 85

(4,200 Ib), but I stay close to a 1 to 1 on sizing. I

will say that the 5/8" arbor-plex is a super rope for

general use. We also use a lot of 7/8". We've

never had a rope fail because it was overloaded.

When in doubt, use a bigger rope.

Special Considerations. When doing critical rigging

involving the use of two load-sharing lines on

the same piece, be sure to use "SAME

SIZE/SAME TYPE" lines. Don't mix a braid with a

3-strand. Reason: they stretch at different rates,

so they won't share the load equally or as intended.

In general, 3-strands stretch more. In practice,

under maximum loading, the braid will do all

of the work. When it breaks the 3-strand is all

alone and it will fail too. Believe me, it's happened

just that way. Two braids or two 3-strands is ok,

just be consistent.

 Load Lines. The work horses. Be careful not to

slam-dunk weight into them. Five hundred pounds

freefalling 5 feet will hit the rope with a real impact

shock load of 3000 lbs.

Balance Points:

A. In the middle: hardest to judge, not recommended

for the bigger stuff. It's too hard to get it

right. Always practice new techniques on smaller

non-critical branches and trees. Turning a

medium-sized tree in an open area into a rigging

exercise can be a good investment in time for

when you really need to make the experience

count. When rigging to the middle, be wary of

heavy endweights of foliage.

B. Butt Hitch (only): tied near point of

severance, tip will drop down. Climber has to be

wary of getting hit.

C. Tip-tie (only): given the load line is crotched

directly above the hitch point, butt will fall away

and down.

D. Double Hitch: combining a Tip Tie with a Butt

Hitch gives the most control and security. It is also

the hardest and most time-consuming to rig. You

also have to be mindful of the direction of swing on

the Butt Hitch. If the crotch on the Butt Hitch is

back of the point of severance, the limb can come

at the climber like a battering ram.

Nebraska Arborist Association
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