Tractor vs. tree

I had this tree next to a shed I wanted to get rid of it. I figured this would be a good opportunity to try an experiment: Can I pull this tree out of the ground with my big tractor? What will give? The tractor spinning its wheels, the tree, or the chain?

I put the chain on the tree relatively low, hoping that this would cause the tree to get yanked out instead of tipping it over. The other end was attached to my tractor.

With the long chain between the tree and the tractor, I drove the tractor for what seemed a considerable distance after the chain went taut until the chain snapped apart.

The chain elongated quite a bit. Above, the first photo shows the chain pulled taut, and the second photo shows the chain just before it broke. Examining the chain afterwards, it permanently stretched by about 15%. The whole length of the chain is now deformed. It's no longer as flexible, and probably no longer safe to use.

1/4" chains like this one are only rated for about 1300 lbs, which isn't very much, though there is considerable safety margin.

Next I tried a ratchet strap, rated at 3300 lbs. But to be safe, I doubled it up. I attached it to the chain, which wrapped through the ratchet strap twice, spreading the load over four lengths of chain.

This time, the tractor spun its wheels. I moved the chain further up on the tree trunk and tried again. This time, the tree tipped over.

It tipped partially onto the tractor. I figured the tips of the branches might hit me because the total length of chain and strap was less than the height of the tree.

The tree just broke off at the base. It had been cut down before, so what was there grew out of a much bigger stump, and it broke off where it joined to the stump.

I dragged the tree to the shop where my intention was to cut it up with an electric chainsaw. But looking at it, I realized I wouldn't get much fire wood out of it and there would be a lot of branches to clean up afterwards.

So instead, I chained it to the front end loader and drove it to to the edge of the bush, where I dumped it. I have a tractor, might as well make the best use of it!

Danger! danger danger danger, "you could have been killed" etc....

The video seems to be another one that really brings out the safety nellies on youtube, lots of people mentioning that someone has gotten killed by a snapping chain or strap. I looked some of these up. These typically involve the pulling vehicle taking a run at it, jerking the chain or strap. With the chain becoming taut and snapping in short succession, it still has considerable sideways movement, causing it to wiplash up or to the side. But with a slow pull, the chain was straight and taut before it snapped, which is why it snapped wiplashed directly to the points of attachment, which is what I expected (I gave this some thought ahead of time, knowing the snapping chain could do some harm)

Another source of danger is if the attachment point on the vehicle breaks off in a way that gives it sideways or upwards momentum. The broken off part also becomes a projectile, especially when using a (more stretchy) strap. Stiff steel cables can be dangerous because, being stiff, they can get deflected to the side as they recoil. And another dangerous scenario could be pulling a car out of a deep ditch. If the chain is deflected upwards by the shoulder of the road, even a straight recoil can cause it to hit the cab of either vehicle.

But with a relatively short chain (these accident videos all involved very long straps, chains or cables), and the chain tightened gradually, I would do the same thing again without worry, though, having done this experiment, there's no need to repeat it. My goal was to see what would happen. A chainsaw would, of course, be the way to go if the only goal was to remove the tree.

See also:

To my Woodworking website.