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Best Time of Year to Down Live Trees For Firewood?

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by BurnIt13, Oct 18, 2013.

  1. BurnIt13

    BurnIt13 Minister of Fire

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    I've done some quick searching and I'm finding mostly non helpful answers like "when you have the time" or "when the weather is cooler".

    I know there is a "best" time, based on moisture percentage. 90% of the wood I have available is oak, so I'd like to cut the trees when most of the moisture is out of the tree.

    What time of year does the sap and/or moisture go back to to roots? When does it start coming back? I'm not an arborist so I'm probably not describing it properly. What is the science behind this?

    An oak cut down in February has a lot less moisture in it than one cut down in August. With the long seasoning times of oak I'd like to make it count.

    Thanks!

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  2. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Two schools of thought:
    School one: take the trees down during the time that the least amount of sap is running (winter).
    School two: Living leaves will suck moisture from the branches/trunk.

    The reality is: the sooner the better. To take it one step further - whatever gets it spit the quickest. None of it will really matter until the wood gets split. Splitting it NOW vs later is ALWAYS better.
    fossil, Paulywalnut and Soundchasm like this.
  3. Bigg_Redd

    Bigg_Redd Minister of Fire

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    I get the jist of your question, but the truth is you are needlessly over-thinking it. The best time to cut wood is today. The second best time is tomorrow. The third best is the day after. Etc. Regardless of the moisture cycle of a living tree, it won't have less moisture live and standing than bucked and split in your stacks.
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2013
  4. oldspark

    oldspark Guest

    Same here, get it cut split aand stacked as soon as possibe, cutting wood when the moisture is less or the moon is full is crap.
    Missouri Frontier likes this.
  5. Applesister

    Applesister Minister of Fire

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    She blinded me with science..
    a friend told me there are 2times you can tap for maple sugar. Spring and fall. The second tapping produces alot less sap but still enough to make an effort.
    I know this has nothing to do with Oak. Apple pruning is supposed to commence in January. Loggers cut in winter. The bark stays attached to the tree protecting valuable timber. And protecting the forest floor. (frozen)
    There may be a science to the sap flow conditions but alot of it appears to be speculation.
    I think farmers gathered firewood in january because thats when there was little else to do.
    The "right time" might be an old wives tale.
    The" sooner you get to it" philosophy works for me.
  6. BurnIt13

    BurnIt13 Minister of Fire

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    I generally have the problem of too much to do (but who doesn't). The wood is at my parents house 50 miles away. So usually when we go and visit its not to cut and split wood. To process wood I have to to put all other projects aside and dedicate a few months of weekends to get it done.

    I'm wondering if dedicating these weekends in the summer or winter is better for the sake of the oak that will be seasoning for 3+ years. In the long run it really doesn't matter but since I don't have the luxury of a 10year stash of wood, if cutting and splitting in the winter will be a 20% difference in MC...why not?

    I'm hoping someone can tell me if there is a notable difference, and how the whole process works. Thanks!
  7. oldspark

    oldspark Guest

    We just told you, no, its faster drying once its cut split and stacked .
    Missouri Frontier and Bigg_Redd like this.
  8. wolfonahill

    wolfonahill New Member

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    I guess winter but how much it makes a difference i don't know...
  9. oldspark

    oldspark Guest

    I would say never wait to cut your wood in the winter, thats why we said cut it today, but other wise cut in the winter.
    Maybe thats the point we did not make clear.
  10. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    I will say it again...splitting it NOW vs later will ALWAYS win. Even when "seasons" are taken into consideration. What ever gets it split the soonest. Waiting 3 months till the winter freeze will NOT compensate the moisture loss of three months split and stacked.
    Bluezx636, MrWhoopee, fossil and 2 others like this.
  11. pen

    pen There are some who call me...mod. Staff Member

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    In general, I simply prefer working with live trees if I can do it when the leaves are off.

    As others said, when you have the time, simply do it and get it split and stacked for the best results. Later is always worse.
  12. Bigg_Redd

    Bigg_Redd Minister of Fire

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    Waiting for the "driest" time of year won't free up any of your weekends.
  13. CageMaster

    CageMaster Feeling the Heat

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    as far as my experience with oak goes, i believe if you drop them as they are budding out and beginning to leaf in the spring and don't limb them that is when the demand for moisture is greatest , so if your hoping to gain a lil moisture draw that would be the time.
  14. CJRages

    CJRages Member

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    My hypothesis is in the middle of a severe drought during the growing season a given tree would have the least amount of sap. A tree will be losing water every day from evaporation at the leaves and not able to be replaced from below. I'm talking about a severe drought like what many experienced across the Midwest last summer where subsoil moisture is affected.
  15. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Most generally cutting during the time when the tree is dormant (winter) is usually best. However, do not look for a huge drop in the moisture content as you will be disappointed. Also, the old wives tale about cutting a live tree and just letting it lay because then the leaves will suck up the moisture is pure baloney. There has been research in this but I can't tell you where to find it. All I can do is report what I've read.

    We cut during the winter for several reasons but moisture content usually is not one of them. For sure you can see better in the woods after leaf drop and therefore it is easier to judge the fall of the tree and also see better what damage it might cause to other trees. It also allows you to spot potential widow makers. But one of the very best reasons to cut in winter is that you won't be spending time slapping insects nor will you have to be concerned about yellow jackets. Cutting wood is hard work so doing it when the weather is cool or cold makes the work go much better. Besides, in the summer months there are many other things one usually likes to do but has to do them during the summer months so why be cutting wood then? Another thing for many is that you won't have mud to concern you. Snow is much easier to deal with and many areas don't usually have that deep of snow for a long period so it is almost a non-issue. Of course there are exceptions. Another reason is that many times in winter, folks need something to get extra exercise. Would not cutting wood count as a plus for this? One can go on and on but generally, winter is best. Next best is whenever you have the time and/or the wood is available.
    TreePointer and AnalogKid like this.
  16. AnalogKid

    AnalogKid Burning Hunk

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    I simply try to do the majority of my tree work/felling/bucking/splitting/stacking/etc. in the coolest weather possible. It is hard work, doing it sweaty and fatigued is no fun and not safe.

    Much rather be out there going at it in 30* vs 80* any day. I've been doing some recently on these nice days in the 60s. It is beautiful and doable, but ideally I'd still prefer it much cooler.

    Also, come summer I'd much rather be spending time by the pool than wrestling with some tree trying to avoid heatstroke.

    One further, if it gets done in the fall/winter, for the majority of woods you can use it the following year. Do it in the spring/summer and you'll be waiting an extra season.
    Backwoods Savage likes this.
  17. AnalogKid

    AnalogKid Burning Hunk

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    Haha.... Somehow I skipped over Backwood's post and typed my response. I just went back and read his and realize I just reiterated basically everything he just said.

    Hehehe.... Oops! :)
    Backwoods Savage likes this.
  18. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    I type faster.
    AnalogKid likes this.
  19. fossil

    fossil Accidental Moderator Staff Member

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    If that were the case, everyone who could would do it, and all of this talk about "best time" would have more substance than just rural myth. (BTW, loggers don't always cut just in the Winter...they always cut when there's money to be made for cutting).
    Backwoods Savage likes this.
  20. basod

    basod Minister of Fire

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    I do remember reading an old PDF file about logging with leaves vs no leaves and somewhere around 10% moisture loss was the verdict.
    This will probably be the same if wood were css in a week... with Oak the first 10% will happen in short order - the next 20 - 30% takes time or a kiln
  21. JOHN BOY

    JOHN BOY Minister of Fire

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    The best time to cut down live tree's is when fall starts into winter . i Hate cutting firewood when its hot and humid. Nothing like firewood harvesting when its colder, then splitting the wood . Nothing like a brisk cold morning and hot coffee.Sap up or down ..who cares needs to be split to season , PERIOD . Most firewood season's in 9-12 months so if your out cutting firewood now till March it should be ready to go for next winter . Now oak is gonna take 2 years. ;)
  22. Coog

    Coog Burning Hunk

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    Nailed it.
    AnalogKid likes this.

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