Friday, 2 December 2016

Notes on Using Douglas Fir for Fire Wood

Notes on Using Douglas Fir for Fire Wood - Intro

I do not like to cut down an Ash or heaven forbid a mighty Oak, but I am less sympathetic towards the Douglas Fir. My farmer, in-laws have a few acre's worth of Douglas Fir which they have invited me to hack away at. I have been doing this for the last few years, and here shared is what I have learnt. I am not a pro.But help yourself.

Fir is over looked as a fire wood, with everybody normally hankering after hard wood. But in truth if Douglas Fir is seasoned for long enough it burns very well, if a little quickly.

This quickness to burn is handy in that it creates a lot of heat, but also means you will need a bigger wood shed to last the winter! It is best burned in a stove where the air inflow can be slowed to allow for slower burning. For many a fire in the evening is what is required, and Douglas fir is ideal for this, as it blazes well, and heats the room quickly.

Notes on Using Douglas Fir for Fire Wood - Choosing a Tree

When choosing a tree make sure there is room for the Douglas fir to fall clear to the ground without it bumping in to any other trees. Given the slightest chance a falling fir tree will get "hung up" in a neighboring tree and this means you will have a dangerous situation where you ave to try and get in "un-hung".

Allow Enough Distance

This can be done with a winch, or block and tackle, but will waste you time. So make sure the clearing is big enough or start from the edge of the wood. I am not a woodsman so I will not go in to how to feel a tree plenty of guides elsewhere for that.

Oh No! Disaster

Note: If you are looking to cut a tree that has been blown over in the wind, take care. The tree is likely to be under stress from being bent, and also the large root stock with tone and mud attached can add downward force in that area. I have cut through a tree before only to see the 1/2 tree left remaining magically stand back up again! Once I saw this happen with my chainsaw jammed in a cut, after cutting through the trunk with an axe. I had to get a ladder to retrieve my saw.

Using Rope & Cable is Dangerous - Be Careful

Notes on Using Douglas Fir for Fire Wood - Moving

The closer you split the logs to the fire the better. This means less movements. I prefer to get all of the cutting out of the way in the woods, but splitting them after I got them home would be more efficient.

A tractor and trailer would be ideal, but I do not have use of tractor so I use a trailer and quad bike. If you intend to move the trailer on to another vehicle then you will probably need a jockey wheel on the trailer. I tow the logs how behind my VW Polo (small car).

It is very unlikely that ownership of a 4x4 will pay for itself from cutting logs for use at home. Heat from mains gas or oil costs 5p / 10c a KWh. Say you keep you stove lit for 100 days a year, and it is a 5KW stove. This equates to a £600 / $1000 saving. Just to a fuel a 4x4 for a year would cost more than that let alone buying a 4x4.

Notes on Using Douglas Fir for Fire Wood - Cutting

Douglas Fir blunts a chainsaw blade a lot quicker than a hard wood tree. Soft wood you would think would be easier to cut, but no it is not. A chain will probably need a sharpen every few hours when cutting fir.

As a minimum you will need a saw and an axe. A chainsaw is preferential of course, although more dangerous. I cut logs for a number of years with a bow saw, but you can only really cut thin trees, and it is very hard work.

After cutting off the side branches, which can be don with an axe or a saw. Start to cut the trunk in to split-table sections. Choose a length that will fit in you stove say 40cm, but vary the length dependent on where you find knots:

Cut Across Knots

Top Tip: Cut through the knots! You will notice that the knots are clustered in "layers", you do not want these knots in the center of a log (end to end) that you are trying to split, it will make splitting very hard work. Instead cut through these knotty sections, so that they are at the ends of the log you are splitting.

Examples of Good and Bad Logs

Notes on Using Douglas Fir for Fire Wood - Drying / Seasoning

Douglas fir has a very high moisture content when green and will not burn very well at all. You will need to leave your wood for 1 year before you can burn it, wood cut in the spring will burn "OK" in the autumn, but it need to be early spring, and then stored in a shed after splitting. Burning green or slightly green pine can leave deposits in you chimney so best avoided.

If you are starting out you will need to make some headway, fell enough trees for 2 or 3 years worth of logs. Leave the branches un-trimmed as this will keep the trunk off the floor and damp. Leave the trunks un-logged for a year or more. Keep a year ahead at all times.

So. . .if you are reading this in the summer, you will probably need to go and cut down an ash tree, as these burn OK even when green.

Notes on Using Douglas Fir for Fire Wood - Conclusion

You will need to plan ahead. Split more logs. And sharpen you saw more. But Douglas Fir is just fine for use as fire wood.

Environmental Consultants London