What's the Best Size to Split Firewood?

Phoenix1

Active member
I've got a lot of tree down on the ground right now and I cut them all up into firewood length rounds, so I'm curious as to the best size I should be splitting each log. Is there a difference between small and large logs? My wood stove is pretty huge, so I think I can fit really big pieces in there, but I don't have years to wait for the pieces to dry. What's your advice when it comes to splitting logs for the perfect sized firewood?
 

Cameron

Active member
Let me ask you a question. Have you ever burned kindling? If so, you know how fast it burns and then goes out. So too small is a bad thing. Have you ever burned (or tried to burn) a huge unsplit piece of wood? If so, you know that it can burn forever, but you won't get much heat out of it. It'll likely just smolder inside your stove. So too large is a bad thing too.

There are a few factors that go into how big you should keep your split firewood and some of it has to do with your stove size. If you've got a tiny stove, you'll need to split your wood to match. I'd say about two to three inches thick would be perfect for a small stove. If you've got a large stove, upwards of ten inches is fine. Personally, I tend to keep my firewood under that diameter. Also, if my rounds aren't larger than six inches, I won't split them at all. So in large stove, the larger, the better. Just be sure that your wood is fully seasoned. These new EPA stoves don't like wet (green) wood at all, so don't even try to burn that stuff. If you've got two years to dry your wood outside, that would be perfect. I've tried to season my wood inside an open wood shed and three years later the stuff still hissed inside my stove. So frustrating.

The balance you need to strike is between dry time and burn time. We all know that if a piece of firewood is too large inside a wood stove, it won't burn well. So split that in half. We also know that larger pieces of wood (over six inches) that aren't split take forever to dry, so split those in half. The thing is, if you split your wood down to two or three inches thick in a big stove, you're going to be burning through it like crazy and no one wants to do that. It'll also burn hotter than normally which may make your house too warm. I think a good mix would be to split a variety and then bring those pieces inside. Start your fires with the smaller stuff and then add larger pieces as the day and night wear on.

But for all that's holy, please be sure to dry your wood long enough. Grab yourself one of those moisture meters and make sure the interior is under 20% moisture. And don't just test the ends or the outside. Split a piece in half and test the interior. I think you'll find that firewood takes a lot longer to dry than most people are aware.
 

Newman

Active member
I have seen so many homesteading videos lately where the people who made the videos talk about how they now burn firewood in their wood stoves. I'm not going to sit here and throw any of these guys under the bus or anything, but I've been burning wood as a primary heat source for decades. I know what I'm doing so I'd like to offer some education.

When it comes to the size of the wood you burn in your stove, that size is going to have a huge impact on how even your home is heated and how much wood your stove consumes. For average to larger sized stoves, it's not unheard of to split 10" logs in half and leave them like that. Eight inch rounds are fine as well as long as you've got enough dry time. One year ain't going to cut it when it comes to seasoning this bigger stuff. If you go smaller though, the wood will burn too quickly and too hot and you'll be sitting there sweating all day because of an overheated stove. You'll also be shoveling logs into it, which is no fun. If you do this, you lose much of the profit that's derived from getting a wood stove in the first place.

Have you ever heard the old saying that big logs are called "all nighters"? They call these things this name for a reason. They burn almost all night and give out nice even heat. So here's the rule. Grab a tape measure and measure the width of your wood stove door. Then, take two thirds of that width and there's the thickness of the logs you want to burn. So if your door is 12" across, then try to split your wood 8". Of course, you need a stove large enough to handle that size. Some of these small stoves these days are very small, but they've got huge doors. Go with three inch logs in those cases. But for the rest of us, nice big logs are better.

Also, as mentioned above, the wood really does need to be dry. You should see discoloration on the ends of each piece as well as cracking. If you take two pieces and knock them together, you should hear a hollow knocking sound. If you hear a thud, it's not dry yet. Don't burn green wood. It'll clog your chimney and cap and it's a waste of money.

By the way, what is the definition of a "homestead" these days. From what I'm seeing on YouTube is that they're now regular houses with regular gardens in the back yards. A chicken makes not a homestead my friends.
 

Cameron

Active member
I just wanted to add one thing. It's unrealistic to think that you'll have a wonderfully burning fire all day and night long, so you can't only add larger logs all the time. It's best to have a mix of sizes because if your fire starts to go out, you can add both smaller and larger pieces. The small ones will get the flame going again and the larger ones will sustain that flame over the long term. Oh yeah - also keep all that small stuff that results from a lousy split too. It's rare that every log gets split right down the center and there's lots of kindling and smaller pieces that can be saved as a result. That stuff is good to toss in the stove as necessary too.

A decent rule of thumb for a medium sized stove is:

8"-12" rounds: split into quarters, possibly in half for the smaller logs.
12"-16" rounds: split into six pieces.
16" and up: split into 6" pieces.

Make sure you season for two years to fully dry your firewood. Start outside for the first year and a half and then you can move into an open shed for the last half year.
 
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