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Does Wood Start Seasoning At All When Bucked But Not Yet Split?

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by turbocruiser, Oct 31, 2013.

  1. turbocruiser

    turbocruiser Feeling the Heat

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    I'd like to ask about this ... does wood start seasoning at all when it is bucked but not yet split? I am asking just basically because I have an amazing opportunity to get a great amount of free firewood right now right before winter weather really hits. I've been focusing on bucking up the wood to lengths of about 18" average and then I thought I would wait till winter weather is finished before I split and stack it. That way I can cut more wood from full length logs to bucked up bits and not spend so much time now splitting the stuff too. Will the wood start seasoning at all with this method or should I simply cut the logs to the longest lengths I can manage and make them wait to get bucked and split and stacked all at the same time? Thanks.

    PS. If it helps this is all lodge pole pine which typically dries really rapidly once split. Thanks in advance for all the advice.

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  2. Hills Hoard

    Hills Hoard Minister of Fire

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    im no expert i'll have crack at answering this. I'd say the answer is yes but don't be slack, you need to split the wood...Split what you can, there will always be more wood to scrounge. ;)
  3. red oak

    red oak Minister of Fire

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    First of all I wish I was in your location!

    I can't speak for lodge pole pine, but with the hardwoods we have here in the east we generally don't count seasoning time until it's split and stacked. I guess it seasons a little once bucked but not that much.
  4. Kevin*

    Kevin* Burning Hunk

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    I would say yes, but slower. Only one way to know, do a test. I know there folks out there who burn rounds in large boilers. I have seen my splitting round dry super quick sitting on a concrete floor, move it every day and it leaves a wet spot behind.
  5. bogydave

    bogydave Minister of Fire

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    Lodge pole pine is one that will dry pretty good dead standing.
    So it should dry some cut to 18"rounds, even snow covered.
    Cutting now & Splitting & stacking it thru the winter or in the Spring is a typical method for
    firewood gathering. Some don't split it under 6" diameter.
    Several folks use that method successfully.

    Like you said, it dries fast when split & stacked.
    It'll be good wood in the Fall if split in the Spring & seasoned thru the Summer.
    As long as you won't be burning it as you split it :)

    I cut mostly birch & have cut in late Fall / early winter & split if the following spring & it was fine.
    Not very dry but in good shape otherwise.
    Was burnable by Fall but I didn't need it
  6. blades

    blades Minister of Fire

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    Wood doesn't dry much in rounds with bark on, ends due a bit, not much in middle, debarking helps. Best to a least split in 1/2.
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  7. 930dreamer

    930dreamer Member

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    Saturday I plan to rent a splitter and go through the three remaining rows of rounds. Good things I will/should have a young helper.

    Attached Files:

    Backwoods Savage likes this.
  8. Bigg_Redd

    Bigg_Redd Minister of Fire

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    Lets walk through this logically - how does water get into trees? Through the roots. When a tree is felled it is separated from it's roots, so it stops taking up water and begins losing it. So, yes, wood does start "seasoning" before it's split. The question is the rate at which it dries. Split wood dries much faster than wood left in the round.
    HDRock likes this.
  9. jeff_t

    jeff_t Minister of Fire

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    Is it dead already? I'd say either way, get what you can get, while you can. I do most of my wood gathering in the winter, and split it when I get to it.

    I would also cut it to length where it is. I don't especially enjoy splitting and stacking (just busy work to me), and getting a saw back out is just another step I hate. But that is just me.
  10. BobUrban

    BobUrban Minister of Fire

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    yes - just slower - much slower as mentioned above. There is physics and mechanics involved with the surface area available and uncompromised cell structure of a round vs. split. but once you ring a tree(cut the bark all the way around) it begins to dehydrate. Depending on how far ahead you are there is nothing wrong with leaving rounds for a year or two as you go and this will have a jump start on green splits for future seasons. I typically have a large pile of rounds and od crotches etc. that sit stacked for a season before being split. But I also am 4+ yrs ahead in CSS wood.

    Think of it like this: Fill a jar with water and seal it. Fill another and just set the lid on. A third with no lid and then pour an equal amount of water out onto the driveway. Monitor which water evaporates more quickly. The obvious will happen.

    Now think of your rounds as the jar w/o a lid and your splits as the poured out water.
  11. turbocruiser

    turbocruiser Feeling the Heat

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    Wow thanks for all the awesome responses folks! I'll try to answer some additional questions ... these trees are all dead or dying and that all was due to a fast moving fire that charred but didn't burn the trunks and bigger branches. All the needles and smaller branches are gone. The tops of these trees are also almost all gone even some of the bigger branches. This particular fire was fast on the ground and slow on the canopy. So the seasoning to all this wood was sort of slightly "accelerated" by that. Almost all these trees are lodge pole pine which tends to have really thin bark too. But the fire there happened really recently in June so when I'm cutting the core of the trees are still all really wet except for the smaller stuff which is already all dried.

    I am able to go and get as much as I want for free and just from the fallen trees I have enough for years and years of firewood not to mention the standing trees still there. So on the one hand this is unlimited but on the other hand I'm trying to go and gather as much as I can now before winter weather hits and that realistically then means that I either get about 1/2 as much now and spend the extra time splitting and stacking or I go and get twice as much now and just cut it to length to wait for whenever it is warm enough weather-wise to split the stuff. The other factor forcing my strategy is that the fallen trees tend somehow to soak up much more moisture from the floor because there is thick layer of ash really retains water so I've seen trunk sides almost mushy after several months straight of sitting in something that resembles really wet watery black ash bog.

    I have about 2yrs wood already c/s/s so this season isn't a worry whatsoever and all this is truly for future seasons. So with the above additional info should I change my strategy or keep on keeping on? Thanks again for all the advice I really appreciate it.
  12. jeff_t

    jeff_t Minister of Fire

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    Sounds dirty.
  13. turbocruiser

    turbocruiser Feeling the Heat

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    It does deposit some soot on clothes and chaps however it isn't as bad as one would think because the burn is sometimes only one sided and the fire was fast where there is the loose layer of charring and then under that almost perfect bark. The dirtiest things are my boots because they're mucking through muck that cannot be avoided but I just wash them off and good to go again!
  14. jeff_t

    jeff_t Minister of Fire

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    Cut away, man. If you don't need to burn it next year, worry about splitting it in the spring.
  15. MrWhoopee

    MrWhoopee Minister of Fire

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    Lodgepole is fast drying wood. That's why the standing dead (which I cut a lot of) is dry enough to burn when you fell it, even if it still has dead needles on it. The extremely thin bark probably has a lot to do with it. Buck it up and stack it. Top cover it. Split it come spring. It will be good next year.
  16. Lumber-Jack

    Lumber-Jack Minister of Fire

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    Pretty much all I burn is lodgepole pine.
    As you've noticed, the trees laying on the ground tend to re-absorb and retain water more readily than the standing trees, the same goes for wood that is stacked and uncovered. For some reason lodgepole pine really likes to re-absorb water. I have seen stacks of it start to go punky in just a couple years when left exposed to the rain and snow. This is one type of wood you really want to top cover once you get it stacked. Fortunately it's a fast drying wood, so my guess if you keep it top covered it will be ready to burn by next year, even sitting in rounds. I do concur though that it would be a good idea to get some split up, just to be sure. Update us next year if the rounds dry out. Do you have a moisture meter?
    The only other thing I might point out is that chainsaw teeth tend to dull very fast when cutting through charred wood, but likely you've found that out already.
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2013
  17. byQ

    byQ Member

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    I'm next door in Idaho in the Rockies and I gather lodgepole pine as my primary wood, too. Sometimes I get the fire burned stuff, also. I was surprised about this wood. Like you said the outer bark is burned but the inside is perfectly good. I decided to just bring a chisel and hammer to knock off the burnt black bark before loading - very easy.

    I've been getting the standing dead stuff, too. I've noticed a drying pattern in these trees. On your average tree, the top 85% or so is already dry enough to burn - I checked it with a moisture meter. Readings were like 18%. But the bottom of the dead trees is where the moisture "sinks" down to. So those bottom 2 or 3 big rounds should be split up and set apart from the ready-to-burn upper part.

    Also, I gathered a green tree accidentally (the top green part had been wind busted off so all I could see was 30' of trunk). 30 feet of wet wood - man it was heavy, too. I split this wood up and set it aside. After one hot summer's drying time it is still heavier than the other splits from the dry dead pine. So if your wood is still wet on the inside, it needs to be split and given at least 1 year of drying time. Or if it is like this charred lodgepole it is ready to burn.
    wood 004.JPG
  18. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    This is a really good question turbo and I'm glad you asked.

    First off, your situation is much different than most in that you have lodge pole pine and a recent burn. You have good answers already on that one so I'll leave it alone but would like to touch on the question in general for other folks.

    Yes, wood will start to "season" or dry after it is cut to length. Even those long logs you see at sawmills are already drying and there is a reason they treat the ends of the logs. As you no doubt have noticed, many times when we cut wood, before we get to the splitting, we see a lot of cracks on the ends of the wood. Some of those cracks can be quite large. Sadly, most seem to take this to mean the wood has dried. What this really means is that the ends are drying....but only the ends. This is why we tell folks that the wood won't dry until it is split. If not split, all the moisture has to come out through the ends and that is a super slow process for most wood. Better to spit to expose more of the interior of the log to air so it can evaporate the interior moisture.

    Even then, we find that different woods will dry at different rates. A simple example can be given if you look at some of the softer woods which also tend to be faster growing. Look at the growth rings, let's say of a cottonwood and compare them to an oak. The rings will be much closer together on the oak than on the cottonwood. The cottonwood is commonly called a soft wood while the oak is called a hard wood. Techiqcally they are both hardwoods (they drop leaf in the fall) but there is a world of difference in the hardness of the wood.

    Now for a surprise. Many times during a very hard winter we will cut soft maple during the winter months. The reason is that deer get pretty hungry and there is not much food available to them then. But cut a soft maple and they will strip all the limb tips overnight. They love it and it is good enough food to carry them until green-up time. But here is the puzzler. We say that wood will not dry until it is split. There are some exceptions and soft maple is one. If we leave these soft maple just laying where they were cut that winter and the next, we will find that all the tree will be ready to burn. In fact, it will be showing early signs of turning to punk. Leave it an extra year and it may be too punky to burn. The point is that each type of tree has its peculiarities and it is up to us to learn each of the type that we have available to us in the area where we live.

    Good luck.
  19. PSYS

    PSYS Member

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    YES, to this.

    I did a search on this question when I first joined the forum and this seemed to be the best if you're under a time management crunch. I'd at least split the rounds in two to help make the most of the drying process.
  20. Hills Hoard

    Hills Hoard Minister of Fire

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    Never any shortage of information on this site is there. Amazing the things you learn!
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  21. turbocruiser

    turbocruiser Feeling the Heat

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    Yes, thanks so sincerely for all the advice here. So far I've focused on basically just bucking the logs to 16" lengths and stacking and staging them for a future single split then I'll wait till the weather is warm enough to finish the splitting. When I do that first time single split I'll take some moisture readings to compare the ends with the middle and then I'll try and remember to post those readings here. I hope to have time for that within the month so I should have readings about one month or so after all the bucking and then I'll try doing that again for a few sections month after month and compare as they age. I'll also leave several sections unsplit just to do the same test a lot later and see what those reading then show. Again thanks for all the advice!
  22. molly1414

    molly1414 Member

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    We had a very large pine come down on our property last Dec and didn't get around to cutting it up or splitting it until this March. The wood was in single stacks from March until now. I cut some splits up a few weeks ago and checked them with a moisture meter and they were already at 2 percent. Pretty quick. Of course the tree was killed by the pine beetle here that is killing the trees by preventing them from getting water so it was pretty dry when it fell in Dec.
  23. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Turbo, this makes me curious why you, "stage them for a future single split." You also state that is when the weather is warm enough to finish the splitting. That is interesting because when we hand split, we always did that in the winter months. I hate splitting when the weather turns warm and wood will usually split the easiest right after being cut.
  24. turbocruiser

    turbocruiser Feeling the Heat

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    I can see where that would be confusing but what I was trying to say is simply that I first was focused on filling all my available uncovered wood storage space with this wood while the weather was good enough to easily go and get the wood from the forest. Then the next priority was to buck the wood and "stage them for a future single split" by stacking rounds so that they would be stacked and starting to season however much they can although they aren't yet split. Then the next priority would be giving all the rounds a single split as suggested by several fine folks here and I would do that within the month or so to accelerate the seasoning process, but before going and getting the firewood totally finished I would wait just basically because I have other projects to prioritize first and because it'll be really cold really soon. I typically leave the wood that I get uncovered for a year and then covered until it is super well seasoned and I alternate my spaces between the uncovered and covered so stuff sits uncovered right next to all the covered and then that makes it much easier to transfer.

    When I say "wait till the weather is warm enough" I really just mean weekend-by-weekend if it is warm enough to tolerate a few hours for splitting I'd do that as those days allow not really that I would wait for Spring or Summer. I too prefer to split when it is cool enough to exercise without having heat stroke! Really it is just a matter of having too much wood right now and too little time right now to do it all and this was the way to "stage" things. I have a friend who works at a local transfer station that has a huge truck scale and she doesn't mind me rolling through there just to take weights with my truck and trailer. So far just from this scrounge I have brought back in excess of 24,000 pounds of wood so with the amount I already had on hand I am starting to run out of room! Tough problem to have huh? I hope that makes more sense, basically I just forced this project to the front of our list because I wanted to "get while the getting was good" but at the same time I don't have the time right now to truly finish the firewood.

    Sheesh with all my elaborate plans I completely confuse myself sometimes so no wonder when someone else is confused too! Sorry about that and thanks again for all the advice. If after the above explanation anyone thinks I am doing any of this in the wrong order please feel free to share that. Thanks.
  25. STIHLY DAN

    STIHLY DAN Minister of Fire

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    That's a lot of touching of the wood. Careful you may go blind.
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