As winter approaches, the need to gather firewood for those chilly nights becomes vital and the chainsaw which has been gathering dust most of the summers suddenly starts looking like the most useful tool.
Still, a lot of Americans, especially those living in urban areas would prefer buying pre-chopped firewood and all you would need to do is cut them into sizes that are suitable for you.
But there are still many with access to trees and prefer to cut firewood on their own.
And you will have to agree – there is something immensely satisfying about doing it yourself and later sitting back down in your armchair with your favorite drink and enjoying the fruits of your labor.
What Is the Best Type of Firewood?
Ideally, the best type of firewood is the type which has spent some time in the sun, or at least a summer and is not freshly cut or green.
Dry firewood will burn better and produce less stingy smoke, but that is a known fact. In broad terms, firewood is divided into two categories – hardwood and softwood.
This type of wood will burn for longer, making them ideal for overnight heating or cooking and will leave great-quality coal behind which can later be put to good use in barbeques or by restaurants.
The fire it produces will have less smoke and sparks and will give out heat for a longer time.
The downside is that really good quality hardwood takes longer to dry out and costs considerably more when compared with the same amount of softwood.
The most common types of hardwoods are olive and oak wood, almond, and orange.
These type of trees can be identified by their pine smell and needles (commonly known as conifers). These trees grow rapidly and hence, are less dense compared with hardwood trees.
The fire softwood produces a lot of sparks and large flames (hence great for campfires) and is thus great to be used as kindling.
The downside is that softwood leaves behind fine ash and produces a lot of smoke. The most common types of softwood are fir, cedar, and red pine.
Safety Is Important
Now that you have decided to cut wood on your own, it is very important that you know about firewood cutting safety.
If you are going to be harvesting firewood, it means you will be handling dangerous machinery such as a chainsaw.
Proper knowledge of how to handle such equipment and wearing the right safety gear can help you do this job safely even if the modern chainsaws come equipped with various safety features.
Here are the most commonly followed safety guidelines:
- Wear Safety Glasses: To protect your eyes from flying debris and sawdust.
- Wear Protective Clothing: For protection from flying debris and at the same time, they should not be an impediment in operating the chainsaw.
- Check the Tree Beforehand: To see if there are not any branches or roots under tension. They may unfurl or snap and cause injury while cutting the tree.
- Mufflers for Ears: If the chainsaw is particularly loud.
- Keep Hands away from the Running Blade: This goes without saying!
- Wear a Hardhat: To protect your head from any falling branches or debris.
If you are going to be cutting firewood in the woods, it is better to have a partner with you in case of a mishap or an emergency. Also, never overexert yourself while cutting firewood in the woods.
The Cutting Tools
If you have handled them before, you would know that there are the gas, electric or better-operated ones in a variety of makes and models.
Naturally, choosing this equipment will depend on where you want to cut your firewood and how much of it. For a firewood cutting job though, electric chainsaws may not be the best option because they are restricted by a chord.
Same goes for battery-operated chainsaws because they are not powerful enough.
The most ideal tool for firewood would be a gas-operated chainsaw because of the raw power they offer. Like all chainsaws, they are available in different sizes for different types of jobs.
Professional loggers use chainsaws as big as 50” and as small as 12” with which homeowners prune small branches.
Naturally, if you are going to be using a chainsaw, you will need to take care of it so as to keep it functional when you need it.
For this purpose, you would need to lubricate the chain ever so often and keep it tightened. You would also need to store it properly with all the guards and shields when not in use.
You will also need additional tools such as a splitting maul, iron or plastic wedges, a chopping block, and a sledgehammer.
Going about Cutting the Firewood
Now that you have a basic understanding of the safety guidelines and the type of wood, it is time to cut.
1. Choose a Technique
The best way to cut is downwards because gravity works its magic and the cut piece will be pulled away, allowing you to continue cutting.
In case you have noticed a tension in the branch, it is wise to cut it from below. The wedges will keep the wood from closing around the saw and keep it from getting stuck.
2. Cut the Branches First
If it is a fallen tree, you should cut away the branches which are too small for firewood first. Are there any branches that are keeping the tree above the ground?
Cut those last.
3. The Half-Cut Technique
This is done in case the trunk is too heavy to lift. Cut the trunk into manageable lengths first, 4-6 feet would be enough.
Now pre-cut these pieces to the size you want as firewood and leave about 2-3 inches uncut. Now roll it over and cut from the unfinished size.
This is done for keeping your chainsaw from hitting the ground and make the cutting much easier.
4. Storing the Firewood
Once the wood has been cut, it needs to be stored properly. It is always a great idea to dry the wood for at least 6-9 months.
Please remember that the larger pieces will need splitting but this would need an entirely different article for that, though, we will quickly look at how to store it.
- You can leave the wood to dry where you cut it if you own the land you cut it on, or if you have permission. But this way they will be at the mercy of natural elements such as humidity, mold or worms.
- Another common solution to this is stacking it against a wall. The downside to this is that the bottom layer might rot.
- You can stack the logs on a rack which will help keep the bottom layer’s rot to a minimum.
- The best way, if possible is to store it indoors if you have space. This will keep the rot and the elements away.
Though the whole process is a lot of hard work, it can be taken as a form of exercise and an excuse for you to interact with nature. You also save hundreds of dollars in terms of heating costs as another happy side effect.