One of the first forms of friction control consisted of the climber taking a few wraps of the rigging line round a small stub while aloft in the tree. This stub would act as a rope brake by creating friction as the rope ran along the stub. The more wraps around the stub the more friction was created and a larger piece could be lowered. This practice soon moved to the trunk of the tree. The groundsman could walk the rigging line around the base of the tree and create friction.
There are a couple drawbacks to taking wraps around the base of the tree. With the different size trees being removed, friction tends to be very inconsistent. The more rope that is in contact with the tree, the more friction is created. Walking the length of rope around the tree multiple times to take the wraps is also a major downfall. This practice adds time to each work day that can easily be put to better use. Rope wear is also far greater taking wraps around the base of a tree.
So how do we control the limbs without adding time to our work day, maintaining the same amount of friction on the rigging line, and making our ropes last longer? The best way is with some sort of steel or aluminum rope brake. One option is the Port-A-Wrap. The Port-A-Wrap consists of a steel tube with pins at each end. A becket is located at one end with a sling attachment on one side and a hole to load the rope on the other side.
The groundsman simply loads the rope through the becket and around the tube. One of the pins will catch the rope and secure it from coming off the tube once loaded. Wraps are then taken along the length of the tube depending on the size of limb to be lowered. Since the tube is the same size and made of metal, the friction tends to be very consistent. The metal also helps reduce wear on the ropes that run through the Port-A-Wrap. Rope is also loaded in a matter of seconds. This greatly reduces time loss and rope wear while still be very reliable.
Some other friction control devices consist of a stationary bollard that attaches to the tree by means of heavy duty ratchet straps. These are great because movement of the lowering device and rope is greatly reduced. This helps in reducing the shock load associated with lowering devices dropping when the rope is un-weighted and then "slapped" back into the tree when the rope becomes weighted. Some stationary bollards are designed to accept two ropes at one time. This is great to control the tip end and butt end of a piece being lowered.
When it comes to a technical removal, be sure to use tools that will reduce added work for the climber and the groundsman. By choosing the correct tools for the correct job is a great way to become a larger asset to any company. Each tool and technique has its place. A lowering device belongs at the bottom but can easily bring profits to the top!