About time we had a Firewood thread

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About time we had a Firewood thread

Postby matt walker » Fri Sep 13, 2013 7:07 pm

Alright, I have a confession to make. A few years ago when I started on my RMH build, I thought I was doing a pretty decent job of heating with wood. I would go out about this time of year and get the seasons wood cut, split, and stacked. That's not entirely true, I sometimes didn't split it all before I put it up. I thought that getting it under cover was the most important, and since I was processing a whole log truck of logs for the season I just tried to get it bucked into rounds and under cover, and some I would split as I went through the winter. Here's a video that shows my woodshed in 2009. Sorry for the swearing!



Nice throw by my friend Eric there, huh? Also, look how dark it was before I got rid of all those trees! Anyway, that woodshed is now my greenhouse, but you can see how dark it was, and how I just had it plugged with 10 cords of wood that was mostly not split. Man, I was bad. That wood all packed in there like that had no chance to dry, and I was only giving it a few months to dry anyway. No chance. It burned terribly, but I thought it was great because I would load the stove, shut down the air and go to work or bed and think how awesome it was that it smouldered for 12 hours.

Geez, I'm embarrassed now, knowing how terrible that was. You would not believe the smoke I put in the air, and even worse, my old stove had one of those heat reclaimer thingys that just made creosote problems worse, and then a 4' section of horizontal flue before the thimble. Oh man, I had chimney fires every year. I thought it was a great way to clean out the chimney! I think about all this now and am really, really, really glad to have learned what I have over the last few years, but I'm also pissed off at myself for being such an idiot.

So, I'm putting this here in hopes of helping others skip the decade of stupidity that I went through. If there's one thing an RMH teaches you , it's that you MUST have dry wood if you want to burn for heat. They will just flat out not work with wet wood, and let me tell you, it gets frustrating very, very quickly. So, I've been learning. My goal is to get a few years ahead on wood gathering and processing, but it's a big job. I'm slowly getting there, splitting and stacking almost everyday. Dragging wood down to my processing area weekly, then going through it. One of the most important things, and a major error of my old ways, was that dark, enclosed shed. Wood would just mold in there in my climate. I've since started to stack out in the wind and sun. Loose stacks, single rows. Trying to get the most sun and wind through 'em I can. It's making a difference. I bought a moisture meter last fall and the bulk of wood I have for this year is already in the 12%-15% MC range.

So, here's my stacks, and my processing zone. How are you guys doing for wood? Got any tricks or tips?

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Re: About time we had a Firewood thread

Postby rjdudley » Fri Sep 13, 2013 7:58 pm

Matt, THAT'S FRICKIN' INSANE!! :shock:
How much would is that?! It would seem like you're going to be just fine for like 10 yrs. OMG!!!
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Re: About time we had a Firewood thread

Postby matt walker » Fri Sep 13, 2013 8:17 pm

You know what Ray, that's only 4 cords that's split and stacked all told. There's probably another 1 to 1.5 cords on the ground in those pics. That 4 cords should last me all winter, but not having had good, dry, well split fuel these last couple years, I'm really not sure how long it will last. That's part of why I'm getting my act together. I have it all measured and this year will be able to honestly say how much wood I go through. So, that's about a third of my goal. I hope to get 12 cords c/s/s on my property, so I'll always have dry fuel. After I get to that point, the yearly wood gathering chore will be much less of a chore, since I will only need to gather one year's supply and it will have ample time to season.

One of the main reasons I started this thread is I really want to share good, solid info on what it's like heating with one of these. If you live in a cool to cold winter climate, and you plan on using an RMH as a primary heat source, you will need to process a lot of fuel, regardless of how efficient these things are. Not to say that you can't gather sticks and get some good heat, just that 4 cords of wood fuel is a LOT of little sticks. Heck, it's a lot of wood no matter what form it's in.
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Re: About time we had a Firewood thread

Postby hpmer » Fri Sep 13, 2013 9:18 pm

If you harvest your wood from late fall thru early spring there will be a lot less water in the wood to dry out since much of it will drain down to the roots for the winter.

Speaks also to the need to be at least a season or two ahead for the drying process.
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Re: About time we had a Firewood thread

Postby mannytheseacow » Fri Sep 13, 2013 10:12 pm

That does look like a crazy amount of wood, Matt! Your decade of slow burns sounds like my previous decade. I loved my potbelly because I could throw a 22" long x 10" across chunk on some coals and still have some coals in the morning, never mind getting on the roof in the middle of winter to run a brush down the chimney.

Staying a year ahead on split wood is a novel idea that I'm theoretically always reaching for, but... well... yeah. Realistically, I have some wood left at the end of the year and that's what I start with the next year. I generally split all my wood in the spring and let it dry all summer. I get a pretty big collection of logs to split by fall and they sit in the processing area until spring when I split them. My wood shed is 14 x 10 (or something like that, I forget) the front and back are somewhat open. The roof has a decent overhang and there are air vents on the sides, top and bottom. Being up on a ridge top at one of the highest points in the state, we get some good wind through the trees and that really helps my drying, I think. What also helps is that I never fell live trees, I pick up dead or wind-falls. The wind-falls are wet, of course, but it's just on principal for me. I'm really looking forward to seeing how this winter goes first time with RMH and all. I'm curious how my burns will differ because all I have is hard woods. Oak, walnut, cherry, red elm, hackberry... I wish I had a moisture meter, but dang it, I have so much STUFF already... that's another story.

Some of the old boys in my area don't stack their wood at all. They just throw it in a big pile and cover it with a tarp.

Despite me loading big logs in my potbelly, I got hip to the idea of burning dry wood very early on. I remember some cold nights trying to light wet soggy wood and burning pages on pages of newspaper to try and get it going over and over.

Great idea starting this thread! I'm really excited to hear what everyone else is doing.
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Re: About time we had a Firewood thread

Postby rjdudley » Fri Sep 13, 2013 10:53 pm

I'm really happy about this thread as well.
I have about a half cord left over from last year, but, it's beech. Ever try to split that stuff? Nasty. And pa_friendly_guy had a great idea about contacting a local mill to see what they do with board ends that they have to cut off.
But, here's two ideas I'm strongly considering:
1) There's a guy down the road from me that buys logs by the forest load, de-barks them, splits them and then drys them in HUGE kilns. Then sells them by the cord as kiln dried cordwood.
2) Last year I used some of the Eco-bricks/Bio-bricks in my wood burner stove. Loved 'em. They're clean, burn hot, made of hardwood, leave almost no ash and can stack in the house. I'm thinking of getting some, cutting them in half (they come in the size of a large brick) and trying those. The cost is the same as a cord of wood and a pallet of them is supposed to be equal to a cord of wood, BUT, you can buy them in smaller amounts which would be great to test them.
I have trees to cut down, but, don't have the cash to buy cordwood AND have next years tree cut down.
What do you guys think? Ever try the ecobricks?
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Re: About time we had a Firewood thread

Postby mannytheseacow » Fri Sep 13, 2013 11:04 pm

I've never even heard of them. It's things like that, coupled with Matt's stove side project that could be the answer to relieving our dependence on foreign oil and help the environment. Personally, I've got all the wood I could ever want to heat my house. But things like ecobricks could really help all those people who don't have wood make the switch.
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Re: About time we had a Firewood thread

Postby matt walker » Sat Sep 14, 2013 4:45 am

The mill is a good idea Ray. I and my neighbor have access to some offcuts from a local manufacturer and he's able to cover all his heating needs with that material. That is one thing great about the RMH, we can get great fuel value out of wood stocks that don't work very well in a traditional wood stove, and so are considered waste. In this case, it's kiln dried aspen in small dimensions, like most are 1"x1" or less, typically in 40"ish lengths. Perfect, right?

As for the compressed blocks, I haven't seen those, but I have tried a Presto log just out of curiosity. They burn just okay in an RMH. I bet your hardwood bricks would do well. Worth a try for sure.
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Re: About time we had a Firewood thread

Postby matt walker » Sat Sep 14, 2013 4:30 pm

hpmer wrote:If you harvest your wood from late fall thru early spring there will be a lot less water in the wood to dry out since much of it will drain down to the roots for the winter.

Speaks also to the need to be at least a season or two ahead for the drying process.



That's really a good point hpmer. I dropped all of the trees I'm currently processing in Jan/Feb and they are fairly dry to begin with. One of the biggest reasons for me to try to get three seasons ahead is exactly what you are inferring here, at that point I can be pretty casual about what goes in the stacks since it will have ample time to season.

I really like Manny's comment about getting ahead on the stacks.

a novel idea that I'm theoretically always reaching for, but... well... yeah


Come on man, let me dream a bit!

Lol, seriously though, it's something I've been sort of aware of but always felt it was theoretical as well. I'm committed now to at least trying to get there. We'll see what happens once winter hits. One thing that is surprising me is I have been having a fire literally every day, all summer. Often these summer fires are 8 hour + burns since I've been smoking meat like an addict. 360 days a year actually. Summertime it's mostly cooking fires, with some warmth in the evening, and with an underlying motive of experimenting with my designs. I'm pretty surprised that I have any wood around to be honest. But I bring it up to illustrate that once I settled into getting more than I need for the day's burn, every day, I started increasing my stacks. I intend to keep at it.
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Re: About time we had a Firewood thread

Postby pa_friendly_guy » Mon Sep 16, 2013 2:36 pm

Good Job Matt, cutting a little bit more than you burn is a good idea. My Cousin had bought an old Victorian home and remodeled it and included a wine cellar . They both like wine and thought it was a great idea. When they were back to visit she was talking with my Dad and said that they had a major problem with their wine cellar, my Dad asked why and she said that they had figured out what was wrong. You have to BUY more wine than you DRINK. :lol: Its the same with your wood pile, you have to cut more than you burn. ;) If you do that you will eventually get ahead several years like your plan calls for. Its a good plan, and a good idea to let the wood dry and season well. Hope that you can keep up the good work.
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