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’Bad’ Oak as Firewood?

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by Cluttermagnet, Jun 23, 2008.

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  1. Cluttermagnet

    Cluttermagnet Minister of Fire

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    Hi-
    I'm new to the forum- great place! This is my first post here. I didn't see this topic in the FAQ but maybe it is buried in this forum somewhere. If so, sorry for a repetitious post. I have a question about some Red Oak we have been burning here. Oak is a good fuel, of course, but what if it has a lot of deadwood on its surface?

    We had a large tree about 100 years old die after about 15 tough years. It eventually succumbed to insects and other disease. Neighbors built next door to us 20 years ago and excavated 4-5 feet below grade for a driveway, taking out at least a quarter of the root system. We're left with about 15 years of growth rings which turned from a blackish color originally to now a soft, rotten, sometimes crumbly white trash wood (2 years after being cut down). It is mostly healthy red wood except for this outer layer on many of the splits.

    My question is: will this produce a lot of creosote where normally I wouldn't expect to see much from such a good hardwood? It is a lot of work to trim off the bad wood from splits if this is unnecessary. I have done a lot of this with a hatchet. Can be done but is pretty darned tedious. I suspect the bad wood would have little BTU value in it, but my only major concern is the potential added creosote risk.

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  2. savageactor7

    savageactor7 Minister of Fire

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    Sounds like it's starting to go punky...if you can keep it out of the rain so it stays light to the heft it will burn fine at 550*...if it's heavy as is waterlogged that will produce creosote. So keep it dry and you'll be OK...what the heck you may as well burn it to get rid of it.
  3. Cluttermagnet

    Cluttermagnet Minister of Fire

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    It lay around in the back yard for a couple of years. I didn't have a wood stove when the tree had to come down. Now I do. I'm doing a lot of splitting and stacking of it lately, so as to avoid it getting rained on. Any I have burned sheltered on our carport for a while. Then it came inside and dried out for a few more months, also had all the bad wood trimmed off. It burned good and hot this past winter. I'm just trying to figure out if I can really get away with leaving the bad wood on if it is good and dry. If there is creosote risk from dry bad wood, I will keep trimming it, but that's a nuisance.
  4. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    In my experience with 18 years of wood burning to heat our house, "good" or "bad" wood has little to do with creosote. Wet wood and too low stove temps have a lot to do with creosote. I burn any wood available, dead wood is just fine, and moderate punk is fine if the log holds together well after splitting.
  5. billb3

    billb3 Minister of Fire

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    If you keep it dry it will burn fine.
  6. Tfin

    Tfin New Member

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    "Bad Oak"......yeah I've seen em' before. They're always hanging around in groups, usually down on the corner by Sully's store gunnin' butts. Heard it was one of them that broke into old man Johnson's barn last week and set all his hogs free.

    They'll get there's......one of these days........in my stove.
  7. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    The dry punky stuff will not cause creosote. If it is only a couple inches on the outside of the log, don't worry about it at all. However, you do need to keep it covered as the punky areas will hold moisture.

    Oak is famous for this little bit of punk on the outside. Most pay no attention to it at all.
  8. Cluttermagnet

    Cluttermagnet Minister of Fire

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    Around these parts, those 'bad' trees hang out around fast food places. Heh!

    OK, guys- thanks for the encouraging words. So far I've learned:

    (1.) to keep 'em good and dry
    (2.) to make a real serious face and ask 'em
    "So, punk- you feelin' lucky today?"
    right before I shove 'em in the firebox.
  9. RedRanger

    RedRanger New Member

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    Burn it and get warm from it.
  10. N/A N/A

    N/A N/A New Member

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    Burn baby burn!!!! :coolsmile:
  11. Tfin

    Tfin New Member

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    You've got it! ;-)
  12. Cluttermagnet

    Cluttermagnet Minister of Fire

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    It's coming up on the 6 month mark since I started this first post and thread. I sure have learned a lot in these forums. It ended up that much of my punky Oak just never seemed to dry right- rain kept rewetting it. The long and short of it is that I ended up trimming a fair amount of punk wood off of that big batch of Red Oak. It paid off, though- the already well seasoned wood then dried out pretty quickly and it burns good and hot without any hissing.

    There was another consideration- I wanted to minimize the chances of bringing in any bugs, and I think I have been successful with that. Although I stage my wood in various outdoor piles, including on my carport, I do store a fair amount inside, more than just a day's worth.

    Fringe benefits include my growing mulch pile, and the exercise I get from all the trimming. Of course this is not an efficient process, and I will not seek any more punky wood, going forward. But this stuff I already had on site, so I needed to deal with it. Oak is an absolute joy to burn.
  13. chainsawdad

    chainsawdad New Member

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    Hi Cluttermagnet,
    I've been burning of a lot of dead ash (some of it as punky as your oak). After dumping the softest stuff into forest compost piles, I have had good luck by finally getting serious about using tarps to keep the semi-okay wood dry. I find that it dries light, so log-for-log provides less fuel and burns up faster than wood without any rot, but works just fine for what it is.
  14. EddyKilowatt

    EddyKilowatt Member

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    Ya sure got that right.

    To me, the quality of an oak fire makes it worth dealing with punk and bugs if there's any decent amount of sound wood in the log. The oak I see around here (Valley and Live Oak mostly) seems to decay slowly and by uniformly losing weight and strength... my personal rule is if it is sound enough to split, it is sound enough to burn. The light, decayed wood burns fast, but blue-flame clean (I think the decay critters eat the sap and other smoky parts first, more nutrients and sugars perhaps?).

    Eddy
  15. Cluttermagnet

    Cluttermagnet Minister of Fire

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    Yep, no question that if it is thoroughly dry, it is quite OK to burn, punk and all. Much less BTU's in punk, but I'm sure it burns clean if dry. As I work at improving my outdoor storage in coming years, I think I'll be more successful in getting punky wood to dry completely. That leaves only the issue of buggy wood. That kind of wood can't be safely stored inside, but if you bring it in and burn it same day, that should be OK.

    Love that Oak wood- it coals so nicely.
  16. jotul8e2

    jotul8e2 Feeling the Heat

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    Here in the midwest the soft outer layer will absorb moisture from the air - even if covered. I have rather a lot of this sort of stuff myself and it can be a real pain.

    Mark
  17. Malatesta

    Malatesta New Member

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    I split some today , as long as it stays dry you will be fine. It will still burn hot !
  18. deadon

    deadon New Member

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    I cut several old dead oaks from my property and the outer rings were as you described. When it is dry that fluffy wood burns hot and fast then the remainder of the split burns as good as all oak will. I would take any I can get. Dry wood is FIREWOOD.
  19. Cluttermagnet

    Cluttermagnet Minister of Fire

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    It's now been a year since I first posted in this Hearth Forums thread regarding punky Oak. Just today, I finally finished off trimming the last of that original batch of wood. I did make one small ~ 1/2 cord stack where I left the punky wood on the splits, just for comparison. Kept covered from rain, it eventually dries out.

    Here's what what I get after a typical session trimming with a hatchet. It's pretty tedious work, but not too hard to do. Kind of a good way to relax and forget about life's problems. Of course this is a big time waster, but I like doing it. This same pile was about 3 times bigger and looked a little nasty prior to trimming. It was soggy in places, but will now dry quickly. It's pretty well seasoned by now (cut 5 years ago).

    [​IMG]

    I get much better drying once I've trimmed the wood. Untrimmed, it just seems to take forever to dry out. Punky wood is like a darned sponge. Also, it harbors all sorts of insect pests, such as ants and borers.

    In the future I'll try to get only cleaner wood so it can just be split, piled, and forgotten.

    Here's where the trimmed Oak gets piled for a few months before sorting and stacking. I'll definitely be able to burn all of it this coming winter. This would not be true if the wood were green- but a lot of what I get these days is deadwood Oak. I have gotten pretty good at guessing moisture content just by holding a split. If there's any question, I get out the moisture meter and check it. A few of them get a final drying for an hour or so on top of the running stove, before going in the firebox.

    [​IMG]
  20. Tfin

    Tfin New Member

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    That's a nice pile of btu's my friend!
  21. Cluttermagnet

    Cluttermagnet Minister of Fire

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    There is a clear consensus in the forum to just leave the punky wood on. A few of us do trim. After one more year, I'll have more experience with that batch I left punky. I'm probably doing more than I need to. Here's a rule that seems to fit my situation- if punky Oak is dry as I receive it, I may opt to leave it alone after splitting- provided I can get it under cover.. If it is all wet and soggy from ground contact, I'll trim it. But punky splits piled in the open seem to soak up too much rain water and hold onto it.

    I just got another batch of deadwood Red Oak (mostly) from my friend's place yesterday. Looks like I got about 0.4 cord of rounds this time. Most is from one tree on the ground, about 16-18 in diameter. It's pretty soggy in places, so I imagine I will trim some of those splits. Almost all of it is good, sound wood. It's a great situation, having a friend who no longer burns wood and has about 10 acres to harvest deadwood off of. It's mine for the taking, and no hurry- it's always there for me, no competition for the wood. So it looks like most of the wood I harvest is going to continue to be punky Oak for a while.
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