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Dealing with Bad Wood

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by jazzbiker, Feb 3, 2013.

  1. jazzbiker

    jazzbiker New Member

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    Has anyone used a chemical firestater to force less than seasoned wood to burn? Getting down to the last 1/3rd of my first cord, I'm finding a lot of wood that doesn't want to burn. Either doesn't burn and/or lots of smoke when using fatwood & normal kindling.
    I have a Heritage soapstone but I know from my fireplace, that I can get the wood to burn with a chemical starter. Problem is the chemical starter is not recommended for sealed stoves.
    Anyone used it anyway or found a another way to get wet wood to burn better?
    Or know why the chem starters are bad for sealed stoves?

    Thanks,

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  2. NortheastAl

    NortheastAl Minister of Fire

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    I would stay away from any chemical fire starters. Especially since the manufacturer does not recommend it! You may void a warranty.

    Try to get a hot kindling fire started and add the smallest pieces to the fire. Bring the wood in and try to dry it indoors for a week, if you can. Buy some kiln dried bundled wood at the supermarket and mix it with the less than perfect wood.
  3. topoftheriver

    topoftheriver Member

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    No & No. Too dangerous. But I think it is safe to use the boxed log sold at Home Depot and Lowes to act as a catalyst to assist your wood.
  4. Motor7

    Motor7 Feeling the Heat

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    Use dry softwoods like pine or cedar to get a really hot fire going, then toss on the "bad wood" it will burn. Slabs from a sawmill, kiln dried cut off from a construction site, etc. Just don't over fire the soapstone...watch your temps. I have a flue thermometer & a stove top thermo to keep an eye on my soap.
    Joful, corey21 and Beer Belly like this.
  5. DianeB

    DianeB Feeling the Heat

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    Perhaps try one bio brick with each load
    Treacherous likes this.
  6. andybaker

    andybaker Feeling the Heat

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    The best answer is to get ahead on your wood supply. I suppose you already know that. Doing what the other suggest is a good idea. Something going hot along with the bad wood should help it. Since your like me here in Ohio, can you find some dead Ash around. I'm up north and I could find a weeks worth of burning dead dry wood within a couple hours just driving around and scounging.
    corey21 likes this.
  7. topoftheriver

    topoftheriver Member

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    I keep two years supply on hand, sometimes more. I don't stack on the gound anymore. Now I use pallets in a row and my archaic stacking method, but it works. In the winter I only cover the top so that air can go through. Generally it is thoroughly dry. It's a mixture of hardwoods. Works for me.
    corey21 likes this.
  8. WES999

    WES999 Minister of Fire

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    Put it in the corner and give it a time out:p.
    But seriously, try adding some pallet wood, that should help get things going.
  9. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    If you can't get the fire to start with fatwood and dry kindling, then the wood is pretty damp. Even if you can get it to burn it's going to be a poor fire with a lot of the potential btus wasted. Also, you will be surprised at how quickly your stove becomes a creosote machine. Call around and see if you can scrounge up some drier wood. And get your wood for next year cut, split and stacked now.
    nate379 and jharkin like this.
  10. mfglickman

    mfglickman Minister of Fire

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    Eco bricks or bio bricks may help you but if the wood is as wet as you say you may want To set it aside and only burn bricks (the plain compressed wood product, NO chemicals!).

    If you do go that route be careful till you know how they burn in your stove.

    And in very early Spring put in an order for a coue of cords of green wood at a bargain price (it will be the same stuf they'd sell you now as seasoned) and stack it asap where it will get sun and wind on it for next year.
  11. ddahlgren

    ddahlgren Feeling the Heat

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    I am willing to bet for the same money as super market kindling you could buy the cheapest grade of 2 X 6 or 8 at a lumber yard cut and split in an hour and end up with half a garbage can full of the same thing. I look for construction sites that a small remodeler or home owner is doing and ask if the mind if I take some of the wood debris as they have to pay to have it hauled away. Before I was burning wood I scored 5 large garbage bags of cedar shingles from a neighbor that was having siding redone. the contractor was leery at first but every morning the job site picked up and did not have to pay the crew to haul it to a dumpster. i should call him and see if he has a cedar siding jobs going so I can stock up on kindling. Another good source is lath from plaster walls if doing an inside remodel on an old house. Maybe I have no pride or cheap but will gladly spend an hour and a gallon of gas to get two hundred pounds of kindling for free.
    nate379 likes this.
  12. ddahlgren

    ddahlgren Feeling the Heat

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    If it went to vapor and did not light do you think it might go boom when finally hot enough and enough oxygen? Of you pen the door wondering why it did not light and get a back draft and related fireball?
    Cross Cut Saw likes this.
  13. gyrfalcon

    gyrfalcon Minister of Fire

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    Forget the chemicals. Start by getting a basic maul and splitting that not-dry wood down to 2 or 3-inch splits. Get some supercedar firestarters (ad is on this site somewhere), use a quarter or half of one and a heap of dry kindling even if you have to buy it, put two or three of those cut-down splits on top loosely criss-cross. Close the door but keep the primary air wide open and you should have a good start on a fire. Then put some more of those cut-down splits on (don't fill up the stove yet, you need lots of air circulating). Once that's going well, try one of the larger splits and see how it goes, and gradually build it up from there.

    Reload sooner than you're used to doing with dry wood so you don't have to do the kindling/firestarter route all over again.

    You can burn less than perfectly seasoned wood (been there, done that) but it takes a good deal more fussing and attention to make sure the fire stays hot enough to burn new stuff you put on instead of it sitting there and smoldering and sulking. Also, you need more air circulation than with dry wood, so don't even try stuffing the stove full and don't turn the primary air down until the wood is fully aflame and the wet has mostly been driven off.

    And then check your chimney after a couple weeks for creosote, especially if you're not burning 24/7.
  14. jazzbiker

    jazzbiker New Member

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    Thanks for the suggestions. It looks like I need to get some good wood out here one way or the other while the bad stuff dries. Tricky part is I can't tell its damp from the feel of it and I don't have a meter so I stick a split in and then find out.
    Anyway, I've been using eco-bricks and this wood laughs at it. I was hoping someone could explain why the chem starter is dangerous, just cause I'm curious and can't find the info anywhere. As far as temps go, 600 degrees is about the hottest I've had it and 400 is the normal high. It heats us out of the room at those temps.
  15. jdp1152

    jdp1152 Minister of Fire

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    Go buy a few pine 2x4s. cut them up in three inch pieces. Put 3-4 of those on the coal bed underneath your load. Leave a more space in your wood than you'd normally like when loading. Not a huge fan burning lumber, but by adding a new insert on a whim, I'm short on wood and need something to get some low to mid twenties ash to burn well. I'm actually really surprised how well this has been working for me the past two days. I picked up a bit of kiln dried, but thought I'd give this try since I have 16 contractor bags full of chopped up untreated lumber from a basement gutting last year. I certainly don't want to make a habit of it since I read an article on residual salinity of lumber screwing up a SS flue, but I figure the next two months and only in small quantities should be ok. When you're producing heat, keep some wood in the heat zone when you're around. Bringing wood indoors during the winter, even if for a few days, really helps. All except this weeks wood is out of sight. At the very least, they'll ignite better before hitting moisture which alleviates one of the major problems with wet wood.

    If your wood is really wet, fire up the furnace and wait till next year.
  16. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    What do you mean by a chemical starter?

    My Dad heats his shop with a stove and we usually throw in some trash and or used engine oil to get the fire going. He heats with lumber scraps so it's dry, but it just gets it going easy and gets rid of the trash and oil.
    They separate the trash so it's just paper, cardboard, etc that gets burned.... no worries about batteries, cans, etc exploding.

    If you really have no other choice than burn this not seasoned wood I'd go buy a case of two of those manufactured "logs". Throw one in along with your wood and it should get it burning.
  17. gyrfalcon

    gyrfalcon Minister of Fire

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    If you bought this wood at the same time, it should all be pretty much the same. There might be some difference between, say, oak and ash if you've got both in that stack. If you've got oak and you can ID It, put it aside and work with the rest of it.

    Assume it's all "bad" wood and the occasional dry piece that lights right up will just be a nice bonus.

    Get a maul so you can split stuff. Get a moisture meter. You can find inexpensive ones from Hong Kong on eBay, and in my experience, they get sent right out and arrive in 3 or 4 days. If you're buying your wood and you can't tell from handling the wood whether it's dry or not, you need the moisture meter to guide you until you learn. There are other tricks that are more ambiguous than they sound until you get more experience with it, but the inside of a freshly split piece held up against your face will feel cool if it's wet, not so much when it's dry (even if it's cold out). There's also the old trick of whacking a couple of splits against each other, and if you get a sort of "ring" (like a good baseball bat), it's dry. If it "thunks" with a dull sound, it's wet.

    As for the chemical stuff, every stove manufacturer I know of says that using them will void your warranty, and I assume they have some good reason for saying that. Don't do it. You don't need to.

    Where are you getting your firewood from?
  18. jdp1152

    jdp1152 Minister of Fire

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    heck...PM your address and I'll send you a moisture meter. I've got a pretty decent one and my last insert purchase came with a thermometer, moisture meter, gloves, and fire starters. I don't need the moisture meter. No claims to how good the moisture meter is...havent used it or even opened the box.
    gyrfalcon likes this.
  19. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Take a split and resplit it in half. Place the freshly split face against your cheek. If it's seasoned it will feel dry. If not it will feel cool and damp. Also, when you bang two seasoned splits together they will produce a musical tone, much like claves. When you bang together unseasoned splits they go thud.

    Resplit a lot of this wood and stack it up in the house near the stove or in the basement with a fan blowing across it. In a week it will be much more burnable.
  20. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Wrong Nate and bad idea if you are suggesting the OP try that. Besides violating warranty and the reason for having a clean burning stove, this could have some very negative consequences under certain conditions. Adding motor oil smoke to unburnt wood gas smoke with a stubborn start could lead to very bad consequences once those fume ignite. It's a bad suggestion.
    gyrfalcon likes this.
  21. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    I used them before in a fireplace when wood wasn't available and they seemed to burn the same as good seasoned firewood.

    Ones like these is what I'm talking about: http://www.walmart.com/ip/Duraflame-Anyfire-Fire-Logs-6pk/17247755

    Maybe not ok with a CAT stove, I dunno? I'd imagine burning those versus shitty non seasoned wood is a better option though.

  22. gyrfalcon

    gyrfalcon Minister of Fire

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    He's talking about the oil, Nate, not the logs. The logs are fine if they don't have wax and other crap in them, as some of them do.
  23. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    Dumping the oil in was to get rid of it and made the stove light up quicker. In a homebuilt stove in a workshop so not like there were any warranties or anything like that to worry about. For a while even had an "oil dripper" that was a copper line running into the top of the stove that would drip oil in from a pail when the stove was burning.
    I wouldn't do that in my stove, too fussy with the CAT. If I didn't have a CAT I wouldn't worry about a splash or two of oil in there.

    Stove companies are going to put warning about everything to try and make law suits impossible.... Ie the dummy that dumps 3 gals of gas in the thing and blows the doors off the stove... then sues cause nothing says not to do that.



  24. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    So why mention it to a person struggling with bad wood in a modern stove? It's a bad idea. There's a big difference between a stove in one's house and a trash burner outdoors.
    rijim and gyrfalcon like this.
  25. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    How do you know it's a modern stove? ;)

    I mentioned it because he asked about chemical fire starters.

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