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Dead Elms--- How long to season?

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by EDGE, Sep 28, 2008.

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  1. EDGE

    EDGE New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2008
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    Loc:
    Northeastern ND
    Hello to you all---
    I'm new to this whole thing (woodburning) and am very glad to have found this Site. Looks great!
    About my situation: I own 160 acres, of which 115 are native forest. The trees are mixed, but ranked by population I'd say it runs aspen, bur oak, green ash, elm, box elder, linden, balsam poplar, ironwood. I bought this land about 15 years ago, and built my house at the edge of the woods in 1999, but I always considered the woodland to be for aesthetic use only. The house is small--- 28x36, but with the ceiling at 9 and a half feet. The walls are poured concrete 8" thick with 2" of rigid foam on each side of that. I have water tubing in the slab, heated by an electric boiler, and using off-peak electricity I have never spent more than $400 for heat. Three years ago my buddy began selling corn-stoves, and I have helped him install most them. After watching the customers' delight over the warmth of their new stoves, I started thinking about getting one myself. But I can't grow corn, and I have about a metric bazillion Btu's of wood right out the door, so I started thinking I should go with a woodstove. Since I never accept payment for helping install the corn-stoves, my buddy said he'd get me a woodstove at cost. I've settled on the Jotul 400, and it should be on order. I am hoping to have it "plumbed in" by the end of October.
    Because I only decided to do this a few weeks ago, I have no wood laid up. Another buddy of mine who has burned wood for 30 years and has tens of cords stacked up, has offered to trade me old wood for new. However, I would rather use my own, if possible. I have plenty of down stuff, especially aspen, but I figure that might be punky if it has lain in the woods for very long. The other thing that strikes me as possibly usable is elm that has been dead long enough to have lost its bark but is still standing. The Dutch-elm disease seems to kill them when they are about 6" across at breast--- about right for not having to be split. So, my question is: Presuming I get some of these cut to length, how long would it be before I can burn them without fouling up my chimney with creosote? I expect that there may be no exact answer, so I am just asking for the considered opinion of anyone who cares to offer one. And I thank you in advance.
    EDGE

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  2. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    Elm holds a ton of water even dead. But the only way to find out for sure is to go cut some and see. I would take your friend up on his offer this year, that way you won't be disapointed trying to burn wet wood.
  3. savageactor7

    savageactor7 Minister of Fire

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    In my old stove I would burn them right after splitting them...cause you can tell right off if they have moisture in them. My rule of thumb, if you can split by hand they are dry...if you have to take a sledge to them well then they have moisture.

    In the winter we split by hand cause it's such a hassle get the fluid to warm up in the gas splitter...yeah we have a way to do it. But before I do it I'll have at least a cord or so staged up of otherwise un-splittable elm.

    Now that we have a new stove with those super secret re-burner tubes...I dunno. If I was desperate for heat then yes. Our dead elm is harvested in the winter, mostly as an outdoor pursuit not so much for production but a wood lot management kind or thing to get me out doors. Otherwise we have a 3-4 year supply of trustworthy wood to burn. ...just say'en my whole attitude on wood burning changed when we upgraded stoves.
  4. efoyt

    efoyt Member

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2008
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    Loc:
    Maine
    take your friend up on the offer unless you have some maple or oak that has been laying down for a season or two. Elm is really not a great wood, it's very hard to split by hand. I've read that you can cut Ash and burn it right away. I'm trying it this year, that might be somthing you could do if you have them on your land.
  5. savageactor7

    savageactor7 Minister of Fire

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    I've been burning ash forever and never heard anything about burning green ash till I signed up here and read it. When I asked my neighbors about it they said are you nutz...never burn green wood unless it's a matter of freezing pipes. Not that I was going too but I was just surprised I've never heard that before with so much ash around here and the fact I had a part time job years ago on a firewood cutting gang.
  6. BJ64

    BJ64 Minister of Fire

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    NE Oklahoma
    I would cut dead elm when the bark was coming loose from it. I have never tried splitting it by hand when it was dry. I did split some (about 10-12-inch rounds) while it was green with a 20 ton splitter and it was a chore but it did split.

    Anyway, it is easy to tell when it is dry enough to burn. Elm feels light and has a "clink" noise when the 2 and 3 inch rounds are whacked together. When loading dead Elm in the truck it reminds me of the sound of bowling pins falling over. If you are just burning wood that you are cleaning off the place it is good to burn. This is my first winter with a new stove and I have only burned it in a fireplace. It burns fairly quick in a fireplace and I think it should be great in a stove for a quick fire or starter wood. I think it would burn too quick for overnight burns but that may depend on the stove.

    But when it is green - forget it. Like somebody else said it has quite a bit of moisture.
  7. EDGE

    EDGE New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2008
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    Loc:
    Northeastern ND
    Thanks to all of you who have responded.
    Yupp, I've got both ash and oak fairly near. About 100 feet west of the house one oak lost a big branch and in falling it lopped two pretty good sized branches off a neighboring oak. I think this event occurred early last winter. I was out there this afternoon cutting them up. But I was just using a bow saw, so I didn't make too much progress. (I bought a Stihl chain saw locally and have pair of chaps and a screen-faced helmet on order, but till they arrive I thought it best to use my old hand saw.) I was surprised to see how conspicuous the moisture was in those oak branches. The upsides look dry, but the undersides look damp. Surprised me somewhat, because the branches had been completely ripped from the trunk and the buds had not opened at all.
    South of the house I have several downed ashes. One in particular looks promissing. It fell with its top towards an incline, so the main body of the trunk is waist-high to knee-high. It tapers down from about 16". It still has some leaves sprouting from branches, though. So, while I expect it to make good firewood eventually, I don't expect to be able to use it this winter.
    I guess the wood of the dead elms will not be suitable for use this winter. But that is OK. I am still going ahead.
    I look at the whole matter like this: I want a woodstove. I've got a huge tree-lot. If I were to have to buy wood for this winter, or trade, I could easily recoup that cost, or trading-stock next year. And since I am getting old, I don't want to delay any possible pleasure!
    ;-)
    EDGE
  8. glacialhills

    glacialhills Member

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    Loc:
    S.W. Michigan
    Buy a cheap moisture meter and check it.take a round and split it and then check the fresh split. The only really positive way to tell what the wood water content is.its funny but You can have one log be 24% and then one right next to it be over 40. lots of reasons to be different. I have been getting a lot of dead elm cut up in my woods in the last few weeks and most of it will be ready this winter.
  9. Duetech

    Duetech Minister of Fire

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    I have burned wood for over 20 years and I have burned dead elm in both a wood furnace and in a wood gasifier/boiler. If the elm is larger than 5 dia. I split it. Any wood will hold moisture if it has any size to it and if the bark is still on. It's a lot of work but on the dead elm you will find most of the branches of the trees where the bark has been off will have dried on the stem and can be used now, this year. Pieces that need to be split (ie 5"+) and are split now are stacked after splitting where air and sun can get to them and will probably be ready for use in mid Feb. as they will experience freeze drying as long as they are kept dry. That being said in reference to wood that the bark has already come off and has had a chance to dry on the stem. Any wood that has lain on the ground has a higher tendency to hold moisture because it has less surface exposed to the air and also has ground imparted moisture. For the most part elm gives off good heat but like any wood will require more draft for a higher moisture content. The higher the moisture the greater the condensation and creosote build up and the fewer btu's. Elm is what I call "stringy" wood and very hard to split with a maul especially wet. I've had it spit the maul back out at near dangerous velocities. Having burned wood as long as I have I can't hardly pass a wood lot without seeing dead trees that "need to be gotten out of there". 115 acres of woods will keep you warm physically and casually and you may not need to fell many to do it...Cave2k
  10. relax

    relax New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2008
    Messages:
    181
    Loc:
    Buchanan north dakota
    i first started my cutting a little over 2 months ago,just got the new soapstone put in this fall,but anyway im cutting ash and its wonderful wood to burn,most of my wood was laying on the ground,and about half was dead standing withmost bark off the tree ,ive cut the standing and split it ,the downed and standing all burns fine allready...letter burn ZZZim
  11. chad3

    chad3 Feeling the Heat

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    Loc:
    Southeast CT
    I'd work in smallish areas to keep a good healthy forest. Going to get on the soapbox for a minute. Most people believe that a large growth forest is a very good thing. THEY ARE WRONG!!! Most of the best woods is less than 20 years old except for the acorns for the deer in the winter. I'd keep a few big oaks and start clearing smallish "fields" each year. Do about 5 acres per year, selecting the semi bad trees, ones that are growing into others, mis formed, and starting to show wear. With that, you will have 20 plus years of cutting before you even think about going back to the first one. This will be a very good forest. Healthy for everything from rabbits and woodcock to the deer.
    Wish I could manage that type of woods. You are a fortunate individual.
    Chad
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