wood heat rules of thumb

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by thebugguy, Nov 29, 2006.

  1. thebugguy

    thebugguy Not just another fungi

    Messages:
    52
    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2005
    Location:
    KS
    Folks-

    I've only been burning wood as our exclusive heat source since October but, as they say, I've learnt a few things since then. These are probably no-brainers for the old hands, but might be interesting for the newbies. Anyone can add to the list if they want:

    Size matters
    At first I just eyeballed cutting my wood, resulting in ridiculously short pieces and pieces about a half inch too long for my stove. Either way, it means more work in the end, so now I measure and mark the log with a little folding saw before I cut it.

    Neatness counts
    At first, I wasn't very careful about trimming branch stumps and whatnot off the log before cutting. I've since found that the more uniform the piece of wood is, the easier it is to stack in the stove with other pieces for a long burn. It also reduces the chance of a knob or broken branch getting caught on the edge of the stove door or the inside of the stove. Which directly leads to...

    Wear gloves
    Both when handling wood (I've gotten some major splinters!) and when stuffing it in the stove. You never know when an edge is going to catch or when the coals will pop, sizzling the skin. Definitely catches your attention at 3:00 AM in the morning.

    Variety is the spice of life
    There's nothing more frustrating than having to go out into the cold garage (or outside) because you don't have the right sized piece of wood to rekindle the fire or to bank for a long burn. While a wall of huge, gnarly chunks of wood is macho looking, it's not very practical. Mix up the sizes and even the species in every armful.

    Never walk into the woods with just a chainsaw
    After having to leave my saw pinched and hung up in a leaning tree overnight, I've learned to bring along either wedges and a maul or another saw (in my case, a hand saw) to free stuck chainsaws. It doesn't happen often (and less and less the better you get) but when it does, it's a pain in the patootie.

    The elements will always win
    At least here in Kansas, unless you plan on building an honest-to-goodness dedicated woodshed. I don't know how many cockamamie schemes I've tried with plastic sheeting, tarps, and bits of steel siding weighed down with logs, cinderblocks and railroad spike plates when sooner or latter, a storm comes along that is better than my design. This spring I will give up, admit defeat and spend the money on materials to build myself a real, solid, woodshed.

    And lastly...
    For as good a firewood as it is, cutting hedge is a royal pain in the butt.

    Anyone like to add or modify my list?

    cheers,

    thebugguy
     
  2. halfpint

    halfpint Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    2,585
    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2005
    Location:
    Alabama
    My husband has marked a place on his saw for the desired length of our firewood. When he goes out to cut, he cuts a small piece of wood to that length (usually about a 1 1/2" diameter kindling log). Then he uses that as a basis to cut all of the other wood.

    Your tips are good and what most of us have probably learned from experience.
    dawn
     

  3. mpillow

    mpillow Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    9,569
    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2003
    Location:
    CHINA
    Branches make good kindling....we make the kids cut some up with loppers....and dry nasty blowdown kinda punky stuff...lights w/ match.

    Pinecones are my favorite firestarter.

    Our stove will take a 24 in log....but we cut at 16in because its easier to handle(kids) and a little variation in size does not present a problem :shrug:
     
  4. fantasymaker

    fantasymaker Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    6,787
    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    Location:
    IL, right smack dab in the middle
    Mark the length you want on your saw blade. turn eyeball cut turn eyeball cut.........
     
  5. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

    Messages:
    15,597
    Joined:
    May 10, 2002
    Location:
    Between Crosslake and Emily Minnesota
    Bringing an extra bar and chain for your saw into the woods will solve this problem. In other words, when you get your saw stuck just remove it from the pinched bar and chain and attach the spare bar and chain and you're ready to do again.
     
  6. thebugguy

    thebugguy Not just another fungi

    Messages:
    52
    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2005
    Location:
    KS
    Cabin Fever-

    Good idea with the extra bar and chain. I don't have an extra bar at this point, but this is a really good reason to get one.

    Also, I've used the saw blade to measure before, but it still isn't as accurate and not very much faster. Besides, the less time I have the saw running, the less gas I use.

    cheers,

    tbg
     
  7. ET1 SS

    ET1 SS zone 5 - riverfrontage Supporter

    Messages:
    6,465
    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2005
    Location:
    Forests of maine
    I mounted a small cast iron propane burner [50,000 btu] in the bottom of our woodstove underneath the grate. The gas-line runs out the back and it has a backfire-preventer orifice in the blackpipe before it gets to the 20# propane tank.

    I light it for each fire, and we do not use kindling anymore. Ten minutes and the wood is burning on it's own. I can start a fire using wet green logs all over six inch diameter, and have it roaring nice in 20 minutes. No kindling.
     
  8. stanb999

    stanb999 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    6,042
    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2005
    Location:
    PA
    I must admit I've stuck the extra chain and bar also. Think before you cut. yes the wind will push it the other way. Some times cutting down a tree can be FUN.
     
  9. Fire-Man

    Fire-Man Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    5,484
    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2005
    Location:
    South Carolina
    I used a 1/4" threaded rod inserted through a hole close to the tip---jamed nuted then on the end away from the saw I used 2 more nuts with a thin piece of metal between the nuts---I let the thin metal touch the end of the log---with saw running--let the tip mark the log-----then move the saw forward to saw the piece--keep repeating-----perfect length pieces each time. If you need to take it on and off---you can use like 2 cheap C clamps with a flat bar bolted between them to measure with-----Use two clamps---using one----it can losen and move and damage your saw teeth or there is alot of squeece clamps now that would work. Randy
     
  10. Jolly

    Jolly Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    5,511
    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2004
    Location:
    Louisiana
    I've cut a many a rick. What works for me may not work for you, but a few notes:

    1. If you want to mark your lengths, you can use a pice of yardstick (or just plain stick) cut to length and painted orange. I like to use a log marker, which is kinda like an overgrown crayon.

    2. But I don't mark lengths. I can cut as I go, and keep it about an inch either way...and that's close enough for government work.

    3. I cut short. My stove will take 20" stuff, but I'm usually about 13 inches. Easier to split, easier to handle. But you will make more cuts, and you will split more blocks on the same tree.

    4. A second saw is nice to have, but not required. I don't go into the woods without a double bit axe, an 8 pound sledge or a 6 pound maul, some iron wedges and some oak or hickory gluts.

    5. Always pay attention and be ready for the unanticipated. A chainsaw will eat you up in a hurry...and a tree doesn't care who it falls on.
     
  11. Well a lot of those remind me of when I was a greenhorn myself. Here's a tip to solve your measureing problems. Use the lenth of your chainsaw bar as a guide to the length of cut you want. For instance, I use a 18" chainsaw. That tells me that my bar is 18" long, so I use it to measure where my cut is going to be. So most of my cuts are around 18 to 20 inches long. Just right for my woodstove.
     
  12. wyld thang

    wyld thang God Smacked Jesus Freak Supporter

    Messages:
    7,456
    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2005
    Location:
    Turtle Island/Yelm, WA "Land of the Dancing Spirit
    Guess I'd add know your wood. Here we have oak, maple, ash and fir to choose from, each has it's own burn advantage/disadvantages. Like, we don't want to end up with just fir with a month left to burn--it burns hot and quick, good for starting, but no staying power.
     
  13. PineRidge

    PineRidge Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    634
    Joined:
    May 2, 2006
    Location:
    WV
    Always let someone know where you will be cutting and when you should be back! Have a walkie talkie so you can call this person if you get hurt!!! Or better yet, have another person with you.

    Cut your logs straight so that they don't fall over when you are trying to split them :rolleyes:
     
  14. toomb68

    toomb68 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    231
    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2006
    i scratched the bar with a drywall screw to mark size. then i just hold the saw along the log, eyeball it and away i go down the log. its easier than carrying a stick.
     
  15. suitcase_sally

    suitcase_sally Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    6,620
    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2006
    Location:
    Michigan's Thumb
    I have one of those ceramic pots for kerosene. I lost the rod with the clay ball thingy on the end so I just stuffed large cotton balls in the pot, fill with kero and you're good to go. I put one in the kindling and light it. It will burn for 10 min. or so, enough to get it going. You could use lamp oil also. I use long needle-nose pliers to pick up the cotton ball.
     
  16. mwhit

    mwhit Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,368
    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2006
    Location:
    NY
    We pick up branches and sticks all summer long and throw them in the back corner of the woodshed to keep for kindling (good job for the kids). We also cut up alot of old lumber (2x4, 2x6 etc.)and split it with the hatchet for even more kindling-- we never use treated or painted lumber. Of course, unlike most people, we have piles of old lumber that is no good for building anything that the last owner left here. Also the Amish sell truckloads of slabwood for $5-10 depending on which sawmill we go to... makes great kindling as well. Then we bring in a whole bunch every weekend to last through the week.

    Another thing that many people do is build a large wood box somewhere near the stove and keep enough wood in it for at least a few days at a time (unless the woodstove is in the basement and then you can stack it all down there). You're right there's nothing worse than having to run outside for wood....

    We have a good sized wood shed, but we keep between 3-5 cords on the covered porch at a time. That way we only have to go on the porch to get wood-- a weekly refill from the woodshed keeps the porch full. THen every few days we carry in more wood for the woodbox from the porch. I just stacked 5 more cord yesterday in the shed-- we now have put up 20+ cord for winter and we'll need about 10 more. Need to finish cutting up the cherry trees we cut a few months ago and get them split and stacked.... I'll probably have to buy 5 more cord or so-- we buy about half the wood we burn each year.
     
  17. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

    Messages:
    15,597
    Joined:
    May 10, 2002
    Location:
    Between Crosslake and Emily Minnesota
    Geez, I did not know how anal some of you people are cutting your logs to the perfect length. I guess I'm gonna have to try it! Think I'll go out right now and buy me a micrometer or a dial caliper.
     
  18. suitcase_sally

    suitcase_sally Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    6,620
    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2006
    Location:
    Michigan's Thumb
    That's what I was thinking also.
     
  19. Leay

    Leay Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    227
    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2004
    Location:
    Wisconsin
    We recently stayed at an old hotel on Washington Island. There was a big fireplace in the living area. The owner used small pieces of broken up candle wax to start the fire and it worked great. We use it here in the woodstove now and I can always get a fire going.
    Leay
     
  20. mpillow

    mpillow Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    9,569
    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2003
    Location:
    CHINA
    Wax paper starts good too...sometimes we dip the pinecones in a bit of wax too. But lately empty paper type grain sacks start our blazes...the pigs eat alot!