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Cost per Cord

Post in 'The Gear' started by Eric Johnson, Jun 24, 2008.

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  1. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I keep a daily record of what I cut, so that I know how much wood I have on the ground, how much is stacked in my yard, and how much I cut in any given season.

    The other day (after paying about $12 for 2.5 gallons of premium gas for my saw), I sat down and figured out my costs to produce 20 cords of (24-inch) wood, which is about what I do in a season:

    5 gallons of premium gas = $25.00
    2 cans of Husqvarna 2-cycle oil = $4
    3 gallons of bar/chain oil = $20
    1 saw chain = $10
    1/2 sprocket = $3
    2 plastic wedges = $8

    That nets out to $70.00 in supplies for 20 cords. Let's round up to $80 and call it $4.00 a cord.

    The prices are rough estimates and, in the case of the petroleum products, variable. No accounting for the cost of the wood (free in my case), labor (my physical fitness routine) or transportation (commute from work). I also didn't factor in the price of broken maul handles, which probably adds $5 per year to the total (1/2 handle).

    I should add that I do this over the course of the spring and summer, cutting 1.5 cords per week and hauling about 1 cord. That takes about 1.5 hours of my time, after work, three days a week. Splitting and stacking (done at home) takes another hour or two.

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  2. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    Do you cut all this on your own property, or do you drive it from somewhere else? If so- there's vehicle costs (use govt rate, or something less- but it's more than just gas cost).

    If on your own property- figure costs for a tractor if used.

    I bet it's still cheap, but there are always hidden costs. I have written a few proposals for govt contracts, so I'm always looking for nickels and dimes- LOL

    Good topic.
  3. myzamboni

    myzamboni Minister of Fire

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    Plus your labor rate. What is your time worth to you if you were charging labor for some chore you don't like to do?
  4. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Like anything, it depends on how you look at it.

    I get the wood for free, in exchange for thinning the junk trees and other undesirable species and specimens from a managed woodlot. That means cutting a lot of stuff that never makes it into the wood pile, clearing roads, etc. No tractors or skidders involved--just a pickup truck and chain saw. Hauling the wood is an expense, but as I said in the original post, I have to commute to work (which is a few miles from the woodlot) anyway. The only added expense is the extra fuel consumed by the pickup truck (Ford Ranger) vs. driving a more efficient vehicle. At least that's how I look at it.

    As to the value of my time, heck, I work for a salary so it's not like I could just work some overtime and buy my wood. Again, as I said in the original post, I view cutting and handling wood as part of my physical fitness routine. I spend around 6 hours per week on the wood. I could just as easily spend that time biking or running or working out at a gym, and nobody would be questioning what my time is worth.

    But if you want to calculate the value of the time I spend on the wood, just divide the value of a cord (say, $200 to be conservative) by 6 hours, and you come out with $33 an hour--minus the 65 cents in overhead.
  5. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    Ya, I am dubious of using labor rate unless you really need to be doing something else at the time. It's not cutting into a second job or anything for me.
    I like cutting wood- I'd RATHER be cutting wood than many other things I should be doing :)
  6. burntime

    burntime New Member

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    I got a cord of oak, extra 30 miles driven so 30/18 = 1.67 gallons. I only get 18 loaded, with wood that is. 1.67 x 4.00 = Call it 7 bucks. Gas and oil for the saw...5 bucks would be a lot. I have spent about an hour and a half loading cutting and unloading. Think I can split it in 1 hour and stack it in an hour...add 2 bucks for the gas in the tractor. Total is 14 bucks and 3.5 hours without adding wear and tear on both me and the truck/saw/tractor. Oak is 280 plus for a cord here so 280-14= 266/3.5 = 76 bucks an hour. Now I gotta give up some real estate for a year plus but hey, the RE market sucks anyway right? ;-P
  7. carbon neutral

    carbon neutral Feeling the Heat

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    Eric,I think you are correct in saying that it is what you enjoy and if you went to the gym no one would question how you are spending your time. But to be a little more accurate with the "costs" you would have to factor in the wear and tear on your equipment. The chain saw you are using will not last forever, the truck you are driving will experience more wear from hauling the thousands of pounds of wood you bring home, and the EKO you are burning the wood in will eventually fail. I have tried to figure the true savings of burning wood many times and in the end I always come up with the same thing, if you enjoy it the costs really don't matter. I have a boat I use to fish on, I couldn't eat enough fish in my life time to make the purchase cost effective. I hope to always burn wood because I enjoy it even though it is questionable wether or not it is a cost effective process.
  8. burntime

    burntime New Member

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    Problem solved, start burning fish! :cheese:
  9. savageactor7

    savageactor7 Minister of Fire

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    Well Eric thanks for figuring that all out, we're in the same position as you 20 cords so the figures have to be good for me too. The only variable is an accurate cord count since I pile my wood on a pad of run-a-crush. But back in the day when I stacked it 20 cords of seasoned was the magic number. Also I have to factor in diesel for the tractor...still, we're all saving big bucks burning wood and more importantly we're warm.
  10. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    The EKO doesn't count; I'm only calculating the cost of getting the wood stacked in my yard, say, compared to what it would cost to buy a cord of wood and have it stacked in my back yard. Probably more than $200 at today's prices--maybe a lot more.

    Anyway, my 346XP cost about $400 new and at 20 cords a year, I'd wager that it will last around 20 years. So, divide $400 by 400 cords and you come up with another $1 a cord. As to the truck, I don't really know. Since I use it to commute anyway, I consider it a wash. But you raise a good point about extra wear-and-tear. It's got about 90,000 miles on it and I've been hauling wood with since it was new. So far, it's gone through 1 set of brakes (front and back, last winter) and both front wheel bearings, plus a set of tires at about 70,000 miles. I don't think the alternator and battery count. Ironically, the trip home is mostly all downhill on good roads, and I get better mileage in the summer, when it's loaded half the time, compared to empty winter travel.

    So if you want to go nuts and add another $5 per cord for wear and tear on the equipment, that brings the total up to $9 per cord.
  11. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    $9 per cord- what a ripoff. You're putting yourself in the poorhouse at that rate LOL
  12. EricV

    EricV Feeling the Heat

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    Plus, that $33 is tax free so that adds 3 so you are now making $44 per hour and doing the environment a huge favor.

    Plus for those of us that are buying logs from local guys and not fossil fuel from, well you know where, we keep our money local so the logger down the road can buy shoes for his kids and not diamond encrusted Rolls Royce, well you know for who.
  13. carbon neutral

    carbon neutral Feeling the Heat

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    I did see a calculation made on a web site (I don't think it was this one) where someone tried to figure out how much net energy they gained by burning wood. The idea was try and calculate how much fuel was burned cutting, splitting (using a log splitter), and transporting the wood to its final destination versus how much they got back from the fuel savings of burning the wood. Looking at wood burning from many different perspectives is what makes these websites fun and this hobby so consuming. My wife will never understand how I am binding with nature by walking off into the woods with my chainsaw in hand.
  14. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    I'm 61 years old. If I wasn't cutting wood I damn sure wouldn't be going to a gym. No savings there for me!
  15. burntime

    burntime New Member

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    12 ounce curls, 12 ounce curls...
  16. Carl

    Carl New Member

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    I haven't figured my cost per cord as it varies depending on how or where I get it. I do know it is much less than buying propane........did I say much much less? :)

    With buying a new stove this year and a new log splitter, and a chainsaw I can say the savings over other types of fuel will pay for all in about 2-3 years. That means for the following 20 years my only costs will be getting the wood each year. A real bargain in my book.
  17. eba1225

    eba1225 Feeling the Heat

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    I figure that my only recurring cost are fuel and oil for the saw and scrounging vehicle. So with that said my cost per cord of wood is in the neighborhood of $5. :) With that said and the fact that I installed the insert last year in addition to the planned rental of a splitter to tackle the "ugly" pieces of wood that I could not split by hand and the refurbishing of a Still WB025 saw; my proposed ROI (based on summer 2007 oil prices) is 4 years. But with the increase in oil costs my ROI is now looking like 3 years. :coolsmile:
  18. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Well, since I save roughly 1000 gallons of propane per year. Take that times whatever the price of propane is ($2.09 is the summer fill rate currently, with a lock in of low 2.30's for winter) so if I were to burn that 1000 gallons (lets average it to about $2.20) that comes out to $2,200 saved in propane. Using 5 cords per winter, that equates to $440 per cord.

    Lets get WILD and say my per cord costs (I usually harvest all my own) is double Erik's at $18 per cord, I clear $422 per cord. Yep, I'll take $422 to make a cord stack of wood, no problems.
  19. burntime

    burntime New Member

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    Heres a monkey wrench in the scenario... I helped my buddy cut his oak, and I got a truck of wood AND a few beers... That face cord was better than free, helped a friend and relaxed!!!
  20. sgcsalsero

    sgcsalsero Feeling the Heat

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    Thanks Eric, interesting post, something I'm trying to model.

    I recently knocked out 1.5 cords of log length dropped on someone else's property. Over a four day period I bucked it and hand-split 100% (not stacked yet). I didn't wear myself out and took frequent small breaks when I felt the ticker racing pretty hard, also there is no way I'm running a 13lb. 4hp saw tired, not going to happen. The day after I was finished, wasn't sore at all and was ready for more. I figure at a slower steady pace I'll get to my goal of 8-10 cords by November.

    A neighbor who has been in 15 triathlons told me recently that my routine is decent and gives the heart a good workout (he even tried swinging my maul a few times, was a little comical). He runs twice a week (8 miles + at a clip) and ends up spending as much time per week as I would handling wood (if I had an endless supply to work on).
  21. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Most people, including me back in the day, try to get it all cut over the course of a week or two. The problem with that approach is that few people have the stamina to cut, split and stack that much wood in a short amount of time, and it becomes a huge burden hanging over your head that typically gets put off. There are a million reasons not to cut wood--rain, heat, aches and pains, etc.--but if you commit to doing it a little bit at a time, it adds up. Plus, steady exercise is good for you.

    Of course, not everyone has the luxury of being able to cut their wood when they want. But if you can do it, that's the best approach, IMO.

    I should add that it's better to get a year or two ahead--relieves the pressure to get it all cut and stacked in a hurry. Buying a load of wood in the spring with the intention of spending all summer cutting it up isn't such a good idea of you're planning to burn it that winter.
  22. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    Yup. The satisfaction of a growing stack of wood comes at the price of overcoming inertia.

    Too many mosquitoes after work... maybe I should just relax and play Call of Duty 4....
    But once you get started- it snowballs
  23. Outdoorsman

    Outdoorsman New Member

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    Interesting topic,

    Like the thread starter, I like to cut for the workout. Also LOVE to watch a really BIG tree as it falls. But I don't, at this time anyway, burn wood.

    Stihl 260

    Stihl 460

    truck & trailor

    Plus fuel & oil for all the above........

    Hate to think what a OWB of best design will cost.

    May have to keep cut'n for years to come......:D
  24. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I believe the best current design for a dedicated OWB would be the Central Boiler E Classic. I consider it an untested design, as they've only been out in the field for a few months, but the design looks like a solid gasifier, even though they don't want to call it that. And, I think you're in the $10,000 range for the boiler alone, if I'm not mistaken. Maybe more. You can get a good indoor gasifier for about half that much.
  25. Outdoorsman

    Outdoorsman New Member

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    Thanks for that info. I wish I could go with a indoor model, but no room for such in my smaller home. I've a friend who has a Central Boiler Classic and it seems to burn well for him.

    I read here about how such units are smoke monsters, but his isn't at all that way. Perhaps due to his use of well seasoned hardwoods for fuel, it smokes just a bit on startup & almost none after the first couple moments.
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