Harvesting firewood is a skill that provides many rewards: it saves you money, it keeps you in good shape, it provides the security of having your own fuel supply and it gives you that satisfaction of doing something productive for your family. Here are some great tips regarding the art of cutting your own firewood with minimal effort and maximum safety.
Before you decide to go and cut down some trees, you should keep in mind that cutting green wood and letting it dry is not the most efficient method of stockpiling firewood. You should look after aged hardwood, the trees that are losing their bark. These trees are already aged and they are perfect for creating a blazing hot fire.
Gear to have for harvesting firewood
The gear is important when harvesting firewood and your success will depend on the gear you have. It may seem that you need lots of it and it will cost you money, but if you think about it, it’s a long-term investment and your heating costs will go way down in the long run.
The chain saw for harvesting firewood is your best bud and you have to choose your friends wisely. When it comes to choosing a chain saw for harvesting firewood you have to go as big as you can. If you decided to go with a smaller one you will have to struggle and you will only make it harder for yourself. Before you take it home, you should test start it outside the store and check how easy it can be handled, smooth idling and a working bar oiler. Don’t get a saw that it’s too heavy for you because you’ll have trouble using it or even worse. This is a powerful tool that can cut your leg in seconds and you need to be able and control it. Your main goal is harvesting firewood and not struggling with a power tool.
Gas. Get regular gas and add gas stabilizer (such as STA-BIL) to it as soon as you get home. This keeps the gas from gunking up. You’ll also need two cycle oil to add to the gas.
Bar oil. Don’t cheap out and get a good quality brand by the gallon to save $$.
You will need a gear bag for every time you head into the woods, especially if you want to spend the night there. You have to remember that accidents can happen so your gear bag could save your life if it’s well equipped. You should have a small first aid kit and a combat bandage in case you suffer a deep cut. You should have some good nutritious food (like pemmican or jerky), some water or a water filter, matches, a signal whistle or a communication device (mobile phone, walkie-talkie, etc.)
Related reading: How to make Pemmican, the ultimate survival food
You should also add a sharp hatchet and a long wedge to your gear bag as these items will help your fee your saw from being pinched in a bad cut.
Get the proper clothes when you decide to start harvesting firewood. A hard hat is a good idea and safety goggles are a must. You can also get ear protectors, but only if you have a loud saw. You must wear tight-fitting clothes with no scarves or other items that can get caught in the chain. A pair of thick gloves and boots should complete your harvesting wood wardrobe. You should also pay attention if it’s hunting season and if that is the case an orange vest or jacket it’s a must.
Selecting trees when harvesting firewood
Once you have all the gear ready, it’s time to hit the wood and start harvesting firewood for your home. Not all trees are ideal for firewood and you should avoid pine and spruce. These trees are known to produce a large amount of creosote which can cause stove pipe and chimney fires. You should go for oak and maple trees when harvesting firewood. Aged wood should be found before it hits the ground otherwise you will get some rotten firewood. You should look for signs such as crumbling top branches and peeling bark before cutting down the tree, these signs are usually good and you know you have found your target.
Cutting down trees when harvesting firewood
If you have found a suitable dead tree, make sure there is a feeling line. A tree hemmed in by others close by isn’t worth bothering with. Clear away the base area and any eye poker branches near the tree that might hurt you. Make sure you have good footing, especially in snowy and wet weather. If the tree is thin enough to be shakable, put on all your protective gear and shake the trunk as hard as you can, looking up at the top all the while. This action often snaps off any “widowmaker” branches just waiting to break off and stab you in the neck! If any break off, run several yards away. Now that you are safe it’s time to plan the exact felling line. A tree that’s already leaning more than a few degrees in one direction will usually fall that way.
Most trees come down smoothly with just one 20 or 30 degrees cut at the base. Make sure any cutting companions are at least 50 feet away, to one side of the felling line. Rev your saw to full speed before cutting and use the teeth at the bar’s base to bite into the wood to help prevent kickback.
You should always keep all parts of your body out of the saw’s cutting plane. Leaning over even an idling saw is a bad idea. One slip and you could be in serious trouble. Once the tree starts definitely falling, release the throttle and quickly retreat at least 20 feet away at a right angle to the felling direction. Don’t stand behind the tree because it can be fatal. Springy top branches or your tree landing on a smaller one will cause the trunk to break free from the cut and slam back faster than you can duck.
Debranching becomes routine after harvesting firewood a few times and if you don’t pay attention it’s very easy here to get careless and cut toward your leg. Don’t let your guard down as the job is not done yet. You should cut off all the branches before sectioning up your tree. Begin at the top so that the bottom half will be lighter and easier to handle. Using your saw’s measuring mark, make shallow cuts to mark two logs then cut through at the third mark. If your log length is less than 16 inches, add another log length to make your sections about five feet long. As you approach the base of a thick tree, those marks get several inches closer together. This makes the last few sections much lighter and the logs easier to split. You should pay attention and spot any small rocks in the wood since it can damage your chain and cause kickbacks. When cutting sections flat on the ground, you should cut three quarters of the way through. Do this until you can cut a section with air under it, and then roll the trunk a half turn and finish the cuts.
Hauling out your firewood
This is the hardest part of harvesting firewood and those heavy logs will put you to work before getting them home. Cutting, splitting, and stacking in place is fine if you plan to use a pickup or ATV. You can build log haulers based on the options you have, even a bike can become a good log hauler for dry season, with the proper modifications. A sled is the best options for snowy winter conditions. Regardless what log hauler you use, the main goal remains the same, get your logs home before someone comes along and take a strong liking to your logs.
Splitting the firewood
Harvesting firewood doesn’t end once you’ve brought your logs home and bucked them into stove-size pieces. You have to split the giant ones and that can be a drag. You can either use a splitting maul or you can use a hydraulic splitter (you would have to buy or build one). A decent hydraulic log splitter will cost about $150 and it doesn’t require gas or electricity. You should store your logs under some solid roof because dry wood is important for maximum heat output.
Harvesting firewood can be a lot of work, but it really pays off. It will save you hundreds or thousands of dollars a year on heating costs and it’s also a free gym workout. You can never have too much firewood so you have to keep on cutting until you have a stack of firewood that keeps you comfortable.
Stay Safe and God Bless!
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