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Friday, January 18, 2019

The Art of Gathering Firewood in the PNW

This is under construction and is incomplete.   View at your peril.

This article is based on experience of 40 years and still counting...  Research was done in the field and some information gathered along the way.

This is a very good question.  The practice of gathering wood to burn is not for everyone.

We started out with firewood burning in our brand new 14' x 70' (with expando) in 1978 in an Orly wood stove.  We had just moved onto 5 acres in northwest Washington State and had trees to burn and no money to pay the heat bill with if we didn't have to.

When we built our home in 1989, we designed in another wood stove because we liked the heat we got from it.  The design also allowed us to preheat the hot water tank water which essentially gave us free, or at least less money hot water when the stove was burning.  The extreme insulation package in the house really assisted the cosy feeling of the woodstove.

One might think the cost is cheap but maybe it is only somewhat less,  The tools needed, the time invested, all  has cost but that is for a discussion to come.

I suggest this activity is for those who like physical activity and have the resources to do it at their leisure.  Currently in our later 60's it is becoming a more zen like thing and one way to stay fit but each year it gets a bit more difficult to get done.  However, the conversion to a propane burning stove of 40,000 BTUs would currently cost about $6000.  ($4000 for the stove and about $2000 for tank and installation.)  As one ages this becomes more tempting.


A couple of facts:

 Stacked Cord measures 128 cu. ft.
Loose Stacked Cord measures 169 cu. ft. (thrown in)

Burning device:

I suggest a woodstove over a fireplace or insert for efficiency of heat gathering.  Air tight with an outside air source to feed the flames is a good idea.  A masonry chimney holds heat better, like a Russian Fireplace, than does the stainless insulated stove pipe.  Costs more but looks better.  Insulated SS stacks work fine for about 15' then cool off to creosote up pretty much.  Tin chimney stacks are not recommended except for primitive structures.

Type of wood:
As to which type of wood, local wood is best unless it is cottonwood, then just don't bother.  That is the worst firewood you can try to use.  I prefer alder, hemlock, fir.  Other wood would be good but they just don't grow around here in massive quantities.  There are charts online that talk about BTUs per unit of wood specie but free wood is the tipping point.  What can you gather for 'free'?  If you order in a log load of wood for $700, you get a few cords that you still have buck, split and stack.  Cord wood that is cured is currently going for around $250 a cord stacked in place (green wood probably for that price).

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