Buying a wood stove? Tips on cutting wood

So you're planning to buy a wood-burning stove to try to save money on home heat next winter? Do you intend to cut your own wood? If so, you should know what you're doing. Your tools should include a chain saw, ax, splitting sledge, wedges, and a sturdy wagon or truck.

Goggles and gloves are wise to use, too.

Chain saws may be rented for $4 to $6 an hour. Be sure to follow all normal safety precautions when using a chain saw and pay strict attention to what you are doing at all times.

Cut all the stumps of felled trees as close to the ground as possible and trim off the branches from the trunk. Then cut the trunk into fuel-size fireplace lengths, beginning at the small end and working toward the base of the tree.

Usually logs 5 to 8 inches in diameter are the best for burning. Larger logs need to be split with an ax and splitting sledge.

Large-diameter logs call for a maul and wedge. Swing the maul to notch the log section at the center and insert the wedge into the notch. Then drive the wedge deep to split the log. A maul, with its thick heavy head and cutting edge , can split smaller-diameter wood with a minimum of sticking.

Sticking is a problem with ordinary thin-headed axes and hatchets. To cut smaller logs to length safely, use a simple sawbuck. You'll find that splitting green-wood logs is easier than thoroughly dry logs.

Of course, finding firewood might be a problem unless you own a "back 40" yourself.

Some national and state forests as well as county parks allow a certain amount of cutting and harvesting by permit. Obtain any limited permits from an office of your state department of natural resources.

Further, utility companies occassionally have firewood available from trees or limbs that have been removed from surrounding utility wires.

The US Forest Service has local dumps and landfills of free wood for anyone who is energetic enough to cut up the felled trees. Sometimes, if you scout the outlying rural farm areas, you might find dead, dying, or misplaced trees which the owners may want pruned or removed. You could offer to cut these as well as any storm-felled trees -- free for the firewood.

If you intend to buy your own firewood, you should know what the going rate is for a "face cord" of the variety you want. A Cord of wood is a stack 4 feet high, 4 feet wide, and 8 feet long. Some firewood dealers may tend to be vague about what the actual measurements are.More often than not firewood is just dumped, so you'll have to do the stacking yourself to see exactly what you're getting.

Occasionally, you might hear the word "rick." A "rick" is the same as a "face cord," except that the width is the length of the cut logs as is -- usually 16, 18, or 24 inches. The cost depends on the type of wood and section of the country.

Once you have the wood on your land, how should you stack it?

The proper way to stack wood is off the ground. To ensure proper drying make a bed with a couple of 4x4s or long straight poles. Then pile the log pairs at alternate right angles. Protect the stack from rain or snow with some type of cover, if possible.

The idea is to allow air to circulate freely under, over, and around the logs to promote seasoning, or drying out. Green wood takes about six months to dry out. Simply inspect the end grain of the pieces. As the logs dry out the wood develops visible cracks. Ends that show only tight grain with saw marks are still green. v.m hen to place the stack? You might want to keep it conveniently close to the house, but not necessarily touching the building.

Insects find wood piles a snug lodging place. You don't want to attract carpenter ants or termites to your house. Don't keep more than a two-day supply indoors because as the wood warms up, the bugs will come out and make a residence of your house.

While figures may vary, many experts agree that a room gets no more than 10 percent of the heat from a wood-burning fireplace of a average size. By using a better burner you can raise that figure to 50 or 60 percent, or even more.

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