Harvesting Firewood

Discussion in 'General Homesteading & Building' started by SurvivalNut, Dec 25, 2008.

  1. SurvivalNut

    SurvivalNut Retired Army

    I just put in a wood fireplace and have been harvesting wood from relative's properties. I am reforesting my 5 acres with localy appropriate trees (Ponderosa Pines) that thrive here. I have learned to use a chain saw (own) and hydraulic splitter (rented). I built a covered crib to hold 4 cords and will expand it to 8 this summer. I do have central heat (gas) but have turned it off and am going cold turkey to wood and am enjoying it.

    My question is what tools should I use if my chain saw were unusable and a power splitter is unavailable? In other words, long term off the grid self-sufficiency.

    Ponderosa Pine is realatively soft, is typically 50-75 ft tall and 18 inches diameter. The bottom 2/3rds of the tree is typically without branches.

    I have read about cross cut saws and sharpening them. But what hand tools would make it easiest to fell a dozen trees a year, and split them, AND MAINTAIN THE TOOLS IN THE LONG TERM? I want to buy the tools best for the job with enough spare parts and tools to maintain them indefinitely.

    My stove takes 24inch logs.

  2. dilligaf

    dilligaf Well-Known Member

    the way they did it at the turn of the century is probably the most efficient way of doing things with hand tools.

    there are documentaries that show how they did it back then,it doesnt look easy but nothing with primitive tools is.

    from what i gather you will need a axe for notching and limbing and a cross cut saw for felling and cuting into lengths.
    its my understanding you need a special jig for sharpening cross cut saws,a sharpening stone for your axe,a few wedges and a oil can of some sorts for lubrication while cutting with the cross cut saw.
    a good splitting maul along with a couple wedges should be all you need for splitting the wood.

    to me the biggest issue is transporting the wood from point a to point b without any motorized equipment.short of horses or mules,perhaps a good block and tackle and some good rope would be the answer there..

    hope that helps..

  3. MotherEarth

    MotherEarth Member

    Depending on how far point a is from point b, you could use a sled when there is snow on the ground to move the logs, either using human power or a horse to pull it. Wheelbarrows might help also, but in either case it would take many trips to get your wood for the winter...no one said it would be easy!
  4. SurvivalNut

    SurvivalNut Retired Army

    Moving Firewood

    As far as moving the firewood, that is not a problem. I am free to harvest from relatives. My wood lot won't be ready for 20 years, but that is the long term self suffiency plan anyway. I am only moving the wood over my 5 flat acres in an emergency and I refuse to get caught moving firewood in the snow, that would be a deadly mistake, we received 3 feet this week, in Spokane! , so movement is not the issue or question, just the best and most maintainable way to cut, section and split the wood.

    I don't want to buy some tools to experiment, I am hoping some with hands on experience wil share their first-hand knowledge on firewood cutting.
  5. dilligaf

    dilligaf Well-Known Member


    oh i have first hand knowledge,just doing it mostly the modern way is all. i been cutting wood for heat for 20 years. ive played around with a axe and bow saw,but quite frankly no more gas and oil than it takes for a chain saw i believe ill just keep enough stored back to last me a good long while and save my back.:p

    as far as splitting,ive rented a splitter once in 20 years because i was down on my back. we heat with oak here so i prefer a splitting maul and i keep wedges around for the persnickety logs, but as i recall from when i lived out west a lot of folks out there preferred a broad axe to split the pine and soft wood,any way it goes a axe is pretty much the only way to split wood.;)

    stepping back in time isnt anything more than switching tools,the process is the same my friend.

    perhaps watching this short documentary will give you some incite into the fact that my initial post WAS from someone with experience. :rolleyes:

    Last edited: Dec 26, 2008
  6. solaceofwinter

    solaceofwinter Guest

    how do you guys know what trees to burn/cut down?
  7. skip

    skip Old hillbilly

    Depends on where you are as to what you use.Here in the Midwest, we use a lot of oak and hickory. One we try to stay away from, especially if you're splitting by hand, is (and I don't know the proper name) piss elm. The grain is twisted, and tries to corkscrew on you when you split it. We try to stay away from the evergreens, as they produce a lot more creosote than hardwoods. But any will burn in a pinch.
  8. Magus

    Magus Scavenger deluxe

    You'll regret using a diet of 100%pine in your fireplace!mix it with hardwood on occasion or you'll be on the roof every fall cleaning your chimney!

    Keep a anti fire bomb handy too,pine creosote burns under the right conditions!
  9. dunappy

    dunappy Well-Known Member

    We have two axes, one splitting maul and one hatchet and a variety of hand saws to use in case we can't use the chain saw. We don't have a splitter and won't rent one. We split by ax and splitting maul. Get a couple of splitting wedges and a couple good sledged hammers also.
  10. SurvivalNut

    SurvivalNut Retired Army

    Thank you. This seems like a simple usable list. I appreciate the advice! I too plan to kick the splitter habit and pass the time by axe.
  11. ShaiserManelli

    ShaiserManelli Guest

    One good tool for harvesting firewood is craigslist. Look on there for people hiring to carry away their leftover wood and go grab it and make an extra buck ;)
  12. Kudos on your choice to do it with "Armstrong" tools! You probably already know the double benefit(s) of splitting wood, even Elm by hand, that whole warm you twice thing and that exercise noise we hear about all the time too.
    In my time heating a house entirely by wood in Northwestern Wisconsin, (younger and MUCH Stupider then) I learned the value of a good cant hook or peavey, a six foot pry bar and of course a good set of files to keep the cutters on the saw(s) SHARP! A bench vise proved to be invaluable to secure the blade while sharpening it and getting consistent angles on the cutting faces.
    In a only slightly facetious tone, you may consider a one inch auger and a small supply of black powder and fuse for the really really stubborn lengths of firewood such as Elm.
    Where I lived in WI, there was a bunch of logging for pulp wood and the loggers were required to take away all the wood cut which included a fair bit of hardwoods such as maples and oaks and a few of the cursed elms as well that they would deliver to your place for a nominal charge for about eight full chord loads of eight foot logs that made it silly even for a younger and stupider man to go into the woods and harvest the trees himself. Maybe there is something similar in your area? Can't hurt to check it out and the work saved is IMMENSE!
  13. dilligaf

    dilligaf Well-Known Member

    oh i forgot all about the peavy.. yes that is indeed a essential tool in harvesting firewood..
  14. flatlandr

    flatlandr Member

    hello all, im new here, first post and all! hope all are well and in good spirits. In a reply to splitting wood without power tools. i have seen an attachment for a high lift jack that is a wedge of sorts that makes it possible to use it for splitting needs. I do not have a link or pic of it. It resembles an wedge with a "c" channel that attaches with a pin thru the highlift jack close to the top.then you jack the log in two.
    Hope this helps with your question.
  15. Canadian

    Canadian Well-Known Member

    In some municipal areas road crew remove trees that have fallen down. These usually get dumped in a yard and left to rot. If you contact to local group that removes the trees you can often arrange to pick them up for free.
  16. UncleJoe

    UncleJoe Well-Known Member

    Call a local tree service. I have one of my own and before I started heating 100% with wood, I was always looking for someplace to dump it. I ended up finding a couple of guys that would come right to my job sites, cut the wood up and haul it away. That could sometimes mean a 2 hour savings in my labor cost. You may get a very positive response if you offer to go to the site and pick it up. Keep in mind, a lot of jobs are in residential neighborhoods. If you tell the man that you will be there to get it, BE THERE. If you don't, he will never call you again. I had it happen a couple of times and those 2 fellows never heard from me again. My clients don't want a pile of wood laying in their yard for a couple weeks till you get around to it.
  17. pubwvj

    pubwvj Tinker, Tailor...

    Some thoughts on burning wood:

    1) Get a woodstove. They are far more efficient than a fireplace.

    2) Add thermal mass to the wood stove if it lacks it. Masonry. The woodstove should burn hot and fast to heat the masonry which slowly releases the heat to the house. A fast hot fire makes for less creosote in the chimney and is less polluting.

    3) The chimney should be interior to the house for as long as possible, as straight as possible, as vertical as possible and extending a minimum of three feet above the roof within 10' or more. Any horizontal chimney or stove pipe sections should be close to the woodstove where it gets maximum velocity and heat to minimize creosote.

    4) Provide fresh air to the fire. If your house is too tight you'll not get a good draft. Control the inflow of air. I like earth air tubes as they offer free pre-warming of the fresh incoming air. Stale house air is constantly being exhausted by the chimney. This is good.

    5) Don't burn pine. In general, avoid the creosote filled evergreen woods. They are fine for a little use as very dry kindling to start the fire. Poplar is another fast burning wood, pretty, fast growing, blows down easily and gives little heat.

    6) Burn hardwoods. There is more energy per log, they burn longer, have less creosote and are less likely to cause a chimney fire. Think oak, maple, birch, etc. They do take longer to grow - burn the junk logs and use up the whole tree. The tops are filled with kindling and kitchen wood.

    7) Burn dry seasoned wood. Cut it, block it, stack it and ideally let it sit under cover for a year to dry - Three months at the minimum. Less moisture in the wood means you waste less energy driving off the water so you get more heat. Less water in the wood means less water going up your chimney cooling the smoke which means less creosote build up which means less chance of chimney fires. Less water in the wood means less moisture on the metal parts of the chimney which means less rusting and they last longer saving you money and time replacing them.

    8) Clean your chimney at least once a year. Inspect it too. Depending on what you burn and your chimney condition & design you may need to do this more often.

    9) A chainsaw uses little fuel. If you think it's about to be a SHTF situation, stow ten gallons or so for the saw along with its oil. It will last a long time.

    10) Learn to sharpen and maintain the saw well. They cut a lot faster using less fuel when sharp. They're also safer.

    11) Wear protective gear - boots, chaps, helmet, face guard, ear protection... Calculate the value of your leg... Likewise, don't work with dangerous tools when you are tired. Do it when you are at your best.

    12) Split with an axe for most wood, a sledge and wedges for the worst. Try to avoid the worst stuff - use it for outdoor bonfires so you don't have to split it. Some wood splits a lot easier than other woods. Split in the dead of winter when it is cold and it is even easier. At -10°F wood almost falls apart from a tap of the axe. See this article for a good slitting axe.

    13) Cut the worst trees from your land, the junk, the pulp, to burn yourself - of the burnable species of course. Thinning the forest allows other trees to grow better and is an important forest management technique. The next up are to cut and sell. The next up should be left to grow and become timber. In time you'll improve your wood lot and eventually you may have some timber to sell. I get up to a couple thousand dollars for a single veneer quality tree, many hundreds of dollars for a lumber quality tree and about $10 for pulp and firewood quality trees. It is worth cultivating your forest to gradually improve it.

    Here's some more on heating with wood.


    Sugar Mountain Farm
    in the mountains of Vermont
    Sugar Mountain Farm
    Holly's Pencil Portraits
  18. SurvivalNut

    SurvivalNut Retired Army

    follow up to firewood harvesting-chain sharpening

    I have cut and split 10 cords of firewood, about 2 years worth I am estimating.

    I have been sharpening my chain saws with a file like I was shown, but they just don't seem to keep an edge. Are those inexpensive ($40-50) electric chain sharpeners worth it or should i just keep filing?

    I rented a gas log splitter, but does anyone have any recommendations for a manual splitter I can keep for little jobs or as a backup?
  19. pubwvj

    pubwvj Tinker, Tailor...

  20. sailaway

    sailaway Well-Known Member

    We have a 100 year old Oak that needs to come down soon. The center of the tree and the branches are hollowing. There will be alot of fire wood for a while, but the tree will need to be replaced for astetic and also environmental reasons. Do you have to leave the area where the tree was empty for 5 years to let the roots die off? I have been told this by several people.:confused: