Cutting and storing wood for burning

My German visitor Chris Horn, the Chainsaw master, lead me through the correct way to handle a chainsaw, how to inspect it, how to cut timber without braking your back and how to split the timber for storing.

The chainsaw I already owned, a log splitter had to be purchased along with a couple of splitting wedges, some decent eye protection, a spare chain and the all important Vege Oil for the chain bar lubrication.

Chris recommended we construct a ‘log horse’ specific to my height that would be used to cut long sections of a tree into 4 precisely measured sections of 350mm that will fit neatly into my soon to be acquired wood burning stove.  When the log is laid onto the horse, 2 cuts can be made to one half then my assistant (if I’m fortunate enough to have one) shifts the log only 350mm and the 3rd and final cut is made, resulting in 4 evenly cut pieces of log ready to be split. Easy on the back.

It took us about 4 hours to construct the log horse – thanks to German fastidiousness we measured and remeasured so many times I was fearful I might wake up the following day with obsessive compulsive disorder.

The log horse was set up on site and we prepared to fell a very tall gum on a friends property. Chris scoped out the site and managed to fell the tree without too much damage to nearby Plain Trees. This took him about 10 minutes. The remainder of the day we spent cutting and splitting the entire tree.

I was very pleased with my choice of splitter. I took my time at the store to feel the weight and handle shape of all 6 splitters that were on display. My final choice was a mid length handle similar in shape to an axe handle with a broad edge wedge head total weight 2kg. Theres nothing quite like weilding a nice axe and splitting blocks straight down the middle. I was really suprised that we managed to split all the timber and ship half of it back home for storage just before it got dark.

Important pointers prior to using a chainsaw.

Read the manual – inspect the chain tension – top up oil and fuel – make sure the chain is receiving lubrication when in operation – wear eye, ear and hand protection – let the chain do the work and don’t force the machine through the timber – clean debris off unit when finished and apply a coating of WD40 or similar spray to protect all the moving parts from moisture while in storage.

Amelie expertly stacked the timber on my car port while Chris and I ferried the last 2 ute loads back home. Some important notes on storing split timber to be used for burning:

Wet and green (or unseasoned) wood will not burn properly and produces a lot of smoke. Freshly cut wood contains about half it’s weight in water; an average sized log can contain about two liters of water. Energy and money are wasted in boiling the water in each log, the fire does not get as hot as it should and excessive smoke is produced.

Wood is ready to burn when it has been air dried for at least 12 months to a moisture content less than 20%. Store wood under cover in a dry, ventilated wood shed, in a fashion to allow the wood to continue to dry out. If freshly cut (green, unseasoned) wood is stacked in the open air, it will dry out and eventually reach about 15% moisture content. The longer the wood is left to dry the better burning efficiency it holds. Most wood should be left at least a year to dry and if you can, leaving it up to two years is optimal.


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