The high cost of electric, gas, and fuel oil heating systems have left many homeowners searching for a new way to stay warm in the winter. One of the best alternative options is burning firewood. Indoor and outdoor boilers are efficient and cheap to run and maintain, plus there is nothing like cozying up with your sweetheart next to the flickering flames in a fireplace. Here are ten tips to help you cut your own firewood.
Find Some Wood
Landowners with a moderate amount of acreage (10 acres+), may be able to supply themselves with firewood just by harvesting fallen and dead trees off of their property. Others will have to look elsewhere for wood
Many logging companies sell pole logs by the tri-axle load. Citizens are also permitted to cut firewood on some state and federally owned lands. Be sure to check local regulations before cutting on public lands. There may be special cut areas and you may need a permit to cut.
Wear Protective Clothing
Safety should be you number one concern when cutting firewood. Wear work boots (preferably steel toed), and long sleeves and pants. If you are operating a chain saw, wear eye and ear protection; it’s also a good idea to invest in a pair of protective chaps.
Get the Right Saw
Chainsaws come in a wide variety of sizes from 12″ electric models made for backyard trimming projects to 50″ commercial saws. The best saw for the average firewood cutter is a moderate power 16″ saw.
Buy an extra chain or two, plenty of two-cycle oil to mix with gasoline, and a large jug of bar and chain oil. Read and understand your saw’s owners manual before running the saw to ensure safe and efficient operation.
Cut Your Wood
Start by removing all the limbs from the tree. Once the tree is de-limbed, cut it into sections small enough to roll. Using the bar of your saw as a measuring stick, mark out 16″ sections and cut three quarters of the way through the log. Roll the log over and finish your cuts.
A sharp chain makes all the difference in the world. Make sure you sharpen your chain periodically or switch to a fresh one.
Split Your Wood
You have two options: a gas powered wood splitter or a human powered splitting maul.
Wood splitters are fairly expensive, but you may be able to prep all your logs and rent a splitter for the weekend.
If you choose to use a maul, you will need a large diameter log butt cut to 12″ long to use for a chopping block. Place a 16″ section of log on top of the chopping block vertically and hit it with the maul. Try to follow natural splits in the wood. Some wood types will split easier than others and all wood will split easier when it is dry.
Stack Your Wood
Start your stack at each end by placing two pieces of wood the direction of the stack. Place two pieces on top of the first two facing the opposite direction (think Lincoln Logs). Continue building your ends to the desired height and fill in between with pieces all facing the same direction.
Store Your Wood
If you have a wood shed, great, but don’t stress if you don’t. A piece of corrugated metal roofing laid over the top of your stack will provide all the protection that is necessary. Be sure to weigh the metal down with a couple sticks of wood.
Let It Dry
Wood burns best when it has time to dry. Many people cut their wood a year ahead to allow time for drying. Six months is a good minimum drying period for obtaining a nice fire.
Burn the Right Wood
Not all wood is created equal. To make the hottest and longest lasting fire, try to stick with dense hardwoods like oak, hard maple, and hickory. Softer species like Hemlock, Poplar, and Spruce will burn quickly and provide less heat.