Heating with Firewood

JGaulard

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Pruning Trees for the Firewood​

I’ll admit it. I’m slightly addicted to collecting firewood. I know I have enough. As a matter of fact, I’ve got a garage full of it right now, waiting to be burned this winter and next. That doesn’t stop me from collecting even more though. After all, like I said, I’m addicted. Plus, it’s just so much fun. The creative ways I come up with for finding this stuff.

Anyway, the front of our property has been a bit messy for a few years now. We’ve got some large sugar maple trees that had quite a few lower hanging branches. Those branches were growing right into some pine trees that are situated right next to them. In addition to the branches on the larger trees, we had about a dozen smaller trees that were all clustered together that didn’t look good at all. I made it a mission to prune the lower branches from the larger trees and then simply cut down all but two of the smaller clustered trees. I accomplished this mission over a few days. It was nice. The weather was good and the leaves were falling all around me as I worked. You really can’t ask for much more than that.

This is a view from the end of our driveway. Those are the big sugar maples I was telling you about.

autumn-maple-trees.jpg

This is a closer view. I’m not sure if you can see them clearly, but those two smaller maples are the only two that are left from the mess that was there.

pruning-large-maple-tree.jpg

And finally, here’s a view from the other direction. Take a close look at the trees. You can see where I cut the branches from.

pruning-limbs-from-maple-tree.jpg

After I cut down each tree or removed each branch, I’d attempt to save as much good wood as I could. I cut the smaller branches from the thicker parts and then cut the ends off as they got too thin. I threw all that smaller stuff in the woods and then piled all the larger stuff on the driveway. Check out how much I was able to save.

cut-branches.jpg

tree-limbs.jpg

Not bad. I bet my father is proud. I remember back when my friend Gary and I used to drive around in his car when we were teenagers. We’d stop to fill the tank with gas and he’d make sure to get every last drop from the pump. He’d say, “Those are miles man, miles!” Saving wood like this reminds me of that gas. This is firewood man, firewood!

Check this out. I just got back inside from cutting up all these lengths of wood. Look at what I did.

processed-tree-limbs-firewood.jpg

chainsaw-cut-up-tree-branches.jpg

I don’t know, I’d say that’s a few good days and nights worth of firewood. Hey, it’s better than tossing it in the woods as waste. At least I’ve got some extra wood now that will serve us well. Thanks for reading!
 

JGaulard

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Trying Out the Bahco Ergo Bow Saw​

When we arrived in Maine almost three years ago, we brought with us a nice Stihl chainsaw. A long time ago, I paid around $300 for it. I can remember the day I bought it. I picked it up from a local dealer in New York one morning and by that evening, in the rain, I had about five large oak trees laying on the ground in the woods behind my house. Let’s just say I was excited to have that saw. I went a little nuts with it.

I never did use that chainsaw again as much as I did that one day. Sure, when we arrived in Maine, I cut up some wood here and there. Those were more of clean-up projects though. I didn’t really need to do that work. I wanted to.

Have you ever left a gasoline powered chainsaw to sit on a shelve for an extended period of time without using it? If not, let me tell you what happens. Eventually, you’ll end up working on the saw more than you’ll ever use it again.

After storage, you’ll get it started. You’ll walk to whatever it is you’d like to cut up and then you’ll start cutting. The saw will run fine for a minute or so and then will begin to bog down. And bog down and bog down. And stall and then bog down again. You’ll do the usual – remove the spark plug and fiddle with that for a little while. Then, when the fiddling doesn’t make any sort of a difference, you’ll think about changing the gas. It’s likely old. You’ll never do it because that’s a waste and it’s hardly ever the root cause for the saw running terribly, no matter what anyone says. Then, you’ll toss the saw back in the garage and mention the situation to your father that night on the telephone. He’ll inform you that the carburetor needs to be cleaned out. You’ll think back to the moment you initially parked the saw on the shelf so long ago and recall that it ran fine then. You’ll wonder how a particle of dirt managed to swim itself into one of the carburetor jets all by itself.

Oh yeah – along this wonderful journey somewhere, the starter rope will break. I just had to throw that in there because that’s part of the beauty of owning one of these saws.

This scenario will replay itself for about two years until you decide it’s high time to purchase an electric chainsaw. This is what happened to me. My rationale was this; I hardly ever really needed a chainsaw. Why would I force myself to endure the frustrating ordeal of having to maintain a gasoline powered one when an electric version can sit on a shelve indefinitely with no maintenance whatsoever? Electric saws can sit for twenty years and work perfectly any time after. It only makes sense to jump ship and make the switch.

For almost two months, I pecked around online to see if I could actually bring myself to remove my debit card from my wallet to pay for a nice shiny Makita electric chainsaw. I knew I could probably grab a cheap one from Harbor Freight for around $50, but I didn’t want to do that. My goal was to purchase the last saw I’d ever own in my life. If I used it once a year, that’s good enough for me. I’m not running a tree removal service over here. At the most, I cut up dead branches and then blog about the experience.

I almost pulled the trigger a few times. The Makita costs almost $275, but I knew it was worth it. The word online claimed that the two versions of the same saw, one with the 14″ bar and the other with the 16″ bar, were workhorses. I had no doubt that I’d own a piece of quality. I did, however, take issue with spending so much on something I’d hardly ever use.

One night, I woke up in a cold sweat. I had just experienced a true nightmare. I dreamed that I checked my bank account online, only to discover that $275 was missing. Then, I remembered that I had a new electric saw sitting in the garage. While that made me feel slightly better, I also recalled that I only operated the new saw for about 10 minutes to clean up some branches I had sitting in front of our garage. I didn’t have any further use for it. I cuddled in my blankets and considered that fact that I had made a huge error in judgement. Such is my life. I think far too much. Good thing that was only a dream.

That morning, an idea formulated in my mind. Since I had an old bow saw hanging in the garage, why didn’t I go out to see if that would cut the pile of branches? Perhaps I didn’t need a chainsaw at all. Even if it took all day, I could get rid of the mess and save some money.

The moment the blade of the old bow saw touched the wood, I knew it was never going to work. Apparently, bow saws use two different types of blades. One is for dry, dead, wood and the other is for green, live, wood. I’m assuming the blade I had on my bow saw was for the dead stuff because every time I attempted to push it across a piece, it got stuck. I eventually made it about half way through something that was only about 3 inches thick when the wood pinched the blade so badly, I was hardly able to remove it. They were nearly bonded together. While I gave up on that particular activity, I didn’t give up on the idea.

I whistled while I walked from the garage to the house. Laura gave me an odd look as I sat down at my computer and browsed through many videos of fine folks using miraculous bow saws to effortlessly slice through virtually any thickness of wood. I was amazed. From what I gathered, the difference between my old saw and theirs was that they were using an extremely sharp version of the blade that was meant for live wood. I couldn’t stop watching. I had never seen bow saws perform such beautiful acts. I knew I needed one of these newer types of saws and blades.

The best part of the whole thing is that a pretty decent bow saw costs under $30. The one I purchased is called the Bahco 10-30-23 30-Inch Ergo Bow Saw for Green Wood and it set me back $28.19, exactly. I’d like to show you a photo of part of it.

bahco-bow-saw-blade.jpg

As you can see, the photo above displays part of the handle and part of the blade. Look at those teeth. I can tell you that they are akin to small razors. They’re very sharp, so I’m careful not to touch them.

Here’s another look at the blade:

bow-saw-blade.jpg

If you pick the saw up and view the teeth closely, you’ll notice that they’re flared out slightly at their tips. The reason this is critical to cutting green wood is that they remove more of it than their “dead wood” counterparts. Green wood tends to swell as it’s cut and if the blade doesn’t remove a bit more of it during each pass, it’ll get pinched. That’s exactly what I experienced during my previous bow saw cutting failure.

For a 2 inch thick piece of wood, I swear it only takes a few swipes to cut clear through with this saw. It’s like butter. The first time I used it, I almost couldn’t stop. I was having so much fun. The cut is clean too. It makes a tinny sound as the blade removes the wood and before you know it, the end piece has fallen and the blade is begging for more.

cutting-firewood-with-bahco-bow-saw.jpg

bow-saw-cut-wood.jpg

I have a tech blog that I write almost every day on. I recently decided to begin covering the topic of editing video. Because of this, I needed to create some sort of demo that I could use in my tutorials. I decided on capturing the cutting of a piece of wood as that demo. Here it is:

Bahco 10-30-23 30-Inch Ergo Bow Saw – Cutting Wood

 

JGaulard

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Building an Indoor Firewood Rack​

I have been going back and forth in my mind for weeks about what type of firewood rack I want. Should I build one? Should I buy one? Should I buy one and then build it? Up until this morning, I had no idea what to do.

You might think this is a trivial matter and that I way over-think things, but let me tell you something – I didn’t move to the middle of nowhere to purchase items from Home Depot that I could easily make at home. The problem was, in this case, I wasn’t all too confident in my capabilities. Throughout my life, I haven’t been the best of woodworkers and, for this project, I was truly trying to avoid picking up some lumber, cutting it all wrong and then having to head out to get some metal “wood hoop.” And actually, this morning, that was the plan – to just break down and get a hoop. I used a hoop when I was a kid and I suppose I was ready to do it again. Thing is – I really didn’t want a hoop. I wanted to build something. I know it seems strange, but trust me when I tell you that I need to build things. I feel like a waste of space if I don’t.

Anyway, here’s what I came up with. I didn’t even have to buy any wood. I had some leftover cedar in the garage and used that. And oddly enough, the rack is straight, square and very strong.

firewood-in-diy-rack.jpg

diy-firewood-rack.jpg

homemade-firewood-rack.jpg

homemade-firewood-rack-design.jpg

I bet you’re curious how I get the firewood in the house. Well, here’s your answer. It’s so easy.

firewood-strapped-to-hand-truck.jpg

That’s right, I just use my hand truck and a tie down. I wish I thought of this when I was a kid. Sure would have saved some time. My new firewood rack holds two full carts of firewood.

How much did this project cost? About $1. I bought some 3 inch screws a while back so I suppose I should account for them. Pretty good, I’d say.
 

JGaulard

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How Old is That Wood Shed?​

I was looking up homesteading blogs a few days ago and came across one that I found very interesting. I can’t seem to find it again, which is a shame because it had some really great content. If I remember correctly, it had a set of rules to live by if you decide to live in the country. The best one was “Don’t be lazy. Ever.”

For some odd reason, that one stuck in my head. While I’m not sure what the author’s definition of lazy is, I’m sure it’s something like, “Oh, I know I’ve got to get that done, but I’m not in the mood. I’ll do it tomorrow.”

The lazy thing is probably a rule that was created by way of experience. “Oh, I should really rake the snow off the roof today, but I’ll just wait until tomorrow.” And then the roof caves in from the weight of the snow. “Oh, I should really clean the cars off and shovel the driveway, but I’ll just wait until tomorrow.” And then there’s an emergency during an ice storm and there’s absolutely no way you’re going to get anything cleaned off.” I think you get the idea.

Anyway, I just thought that little tidbit was worth sharing and if I find the post, I’ll link to it.

It’s 3 degrees outside right now, which isn’t that bad. When it’s in the 20s, the house actually gets too hot. For some reason, the pellet stove doesn’t really differentiate temperature output no matter what setting it’s on. It does a good job heating, but come Spring, I think we may have to open a window or two. When the temps drop down below 0, it has trouble keeping up. Right now, it’s warming the house to 58 degrees. I can live with that.

It’s supposed to go down to -22 on Friday night though. I’ll be honest with you. I’m a bit concerned.

weather-report-12-31-13.jpg

As I sat here about an hour ago, thinking of ways to not be lazy and considering how cold it’s going to be on Friday, I figured it might be a good idea to go split some wood. Why? I don’t really know. We don’t have a wood stove yet. But it’s better than sitting around not doing much of anything. At the very least, it would make me feel like I’m somehow helping the situation.

I got all suited up and went outside. First, I shoveled out behind the trailer. That was kind of buried from the last storm. We keep some emergency supplies in there and it’s not helpful to have access to those supplies blocked by snow.

Then, I went way into the back and cleared out in front of the shed doors. I knew I was going to be doing some wood splitting, so I would need to get into the shed to stack the firewood.

snow-outside-shed-doors.jpg

After that, I grabbed the axe and split one log. I wanted to start small, just to see if it was possible. It worked out well, so I stacked the firewood from that log onto my growing pile.

firewood-stacked-inside-shed.jpg

Realizing that I was probably looking as tough as all hell, I decided to pull out the bigger logs I cut from the Maple tree I took down a few days ago. There were probably only about six in all, so this splitting episode wouldn’t take too long. I thought that if anyone was watching, they would either think I was crazy or that they envied my prowess.

logs-and-axe.jpg

I did what I had to do and withing a few minutes, I was finished. I wasn’t ready to pull out the chainsaw, so I stopped with these logs. It gave me about half a pile and finished the second row. Not bad, I’d say. You can see the new firewood on the top of the closest pile. It’s slightly covered with snow.

pile-of-firewood.jpg

After I was all finished, I started poking around the shed. My father and I had a conversation about it last night and I told him that the guy who lived here before us dragged it here from a farm up the road. As you can see, it’s got a wood floor. Now, I’m not sure if he dragged it on the road or dragged it onto a flatbed, but I’ll tell you, anything is possible. Either way, here it sits and I’m fairly certain that this wasn’t its birth place.

So how old is the shed? Interesting thing I discovered today while I was back there. Take a look at this.

writing-on-shed-wall.jpg

It says, “Please Do Not Damage Our Camp.” But what’s more interesting is what is written right below that.

shed-building-date.jpg

That says, “1969.” Crazy, huh? I knew this thing was pretty old, buy not that old. And as Laura pointed out, that most likely wasn’t written on the very first day the shed was created. It’s most likely older than that. I like things with a bit of history attached to them.

I think my father mentioned putting a heater in the shed to keep things toasty if I wanted to work on something back there. I told him that a heater wouldn’t help much, because there’s a big hole in the shed’s corner. It overlooks part of the pond.

looking-out-shed-window.jpg

Yep, there’s the hole. I could probably patch that up if I wanted to. I most likely will.

I found a great blog post yesterday that was written by a guy who loves to split wood. He loves it so much, he hunts wood out and splits it for free. If someone has had a tree taken down, he’ll ask if they would keep the wood and then he’ll stop by and split it. You should read the post. It may give you something to think about.

The Pleasures of Wood Splitting

And if you’ve ever had the itch to head outside when there’s a foot and a half of snow to split some wood, you may want to follow a few good tips. Check these out.

Axe Techniques: Firewood Splitting On Snow


You can also read Paul Kirtley’s full post here: How To Split Firewood on Snow: Key Axe Techniques
 

EmeraldHike

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-22! You are nuts! Happy New Year! Take my advice bro – you need a 4WD quad with attachments and a snow blower. Maybe both.
 

JGaulard

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-22! You are nuts! Happy New Year! Take my advice bro – you need a 4WD quad with attachments and a snow blower. Maybe both.
Happy New Year to you too! Hey, I don’t make the temperatures up here, I just adapt to them. And about that quad – maybe if I hit the lottery one day. Until then, I shovel.
 

CampFireJack

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I am the guy who has that blog that was referred to in one of your posts and who will split wood for free. Indeed all of that is true.
However, the reason why am taking the time to write this , is to comment on your technique of splitting wood on the snow. I have been splitting wood for maybe 30 years or so have never done or seen anybody split it as you do, and for a very good reason .
Usual way to split is to set the log on end on a solid surface and whack at it . It can be done on snow as well, if the snow is not too deep. If it is deep , of course it’ll just drive the log into the snow.
However, there is no way that I would use your technique for the very good reason that if the hand or the foot slips, the ax goes right into your foot. Now, I wear steel toed boots, as anyone who does heavy-duty work should do but, even so, is taking a chance to split wood the way you have demonstrated.
One more comment. As you will see from my blog I use sledges and wedges or a monster maul to split. You can certainly split little logs 5,6 or even 7 inches in diameter with an axe, but for really big ones you need sledges and wedges.
Have fun, but be careful with that strange and dangerous at the of wood splitting.
 

JGaulard

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I am the guy who has that blog that was referred to in one of your posts and who will split wood for free. Indeed all of that is true.
However, the reason why am taking the time to write this , is to comment on your technique of splitting wood on the snow. I have been splitting wood for maybe 30 years or so have never done or seen anybody split it as you do, and for a very good reason .
Usual way to split is to set the log on end on a solid surface and whack at it . It can be done on snow as well, if the snow is not too deep. If it is deep , of course it’ll just drive the log into the snow.
However, there is no way that I would use your technique for the very good reason that if the hand or the foot slips, the ax goes right into your foot. Now, I wear steel toed boots, as anyone who does heavy-duty work should do but, even so, is taking a chance to split wood the way you have demonstrated.
One more comment. As you will see from my blog I use sledges and wedges or a monster maul to split. You can certainly split little logs 5,6 or even 7 inches in diameter with an axe, but for really big ones you need sledges and wedges.
Have fun, but be careful with that strange and dangerous at the of wood splitting.
Thank you for the reply. The wood splitting style you are referring to was in a video I posted my Paul Kirtley. He’s from Australia. I’m not in favor, nor out of favor with his wood splitting style because I simply don’t know enough about it. I thank you for offering your opinion though.
 
Heating with Firewood was posted on 10-04-2021 by JGaulard in the Home Forum forum.
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