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"Free" wood economics 101

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by Jim K in PA, Apr 22, 2009.

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  1. Jim K in PA

    Jim K in PA Minister of Fire

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    When I am sizing up opportunities for "free" wood (nothing is free, IMO), I usually evaluate two criteria - one way distance, and access/loading considerations. I have used an arbitrary distance of ~25 miles as a limit, based on the cost of fuel for my wood getter. My '73 IH has a 5 yd box, 7x9x3, and easiliy hauls a full cord+ (factoring out dead space loss for rounds). I will not load it abot the top of the extension boards, and usually keep it below that level for safety (others, not mine). The IH gets about 7mpg loaded (8 empty- LOL). If I am paying $2.20/gallon for gas (my local price as of today), a load of wood costs me ~$16.00 load (round trip fuel costs). W&T;on the truck is additional to that, of course, but it's not really that much for as heavy duty at truck as mine.

    Am I being too cheap? Should I consider going farther for "free" wood? The cost for the oil/gas for the saws is not a factor in the decision, since that cost is the same whether I am in my back yard or 100 miles away. The other factor is time, since the old IH does not do much better than about 50mph, trips take time. However, my time is my investment in the process, and the process is something I truly enjoy, so there is still value to me in taking the time to get & process wood.

    I know this is really a subjective question, and all I am really looking for is other's perspectives. Thanks for stopping by.

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  2. d.braun28@yahoo.com

    d.braun28@yahoo.com New Member

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    Yea your being to cheap

    Or maybe I am just harder up on the need for wood.
    My last job was 40 miles each way clearing 7 acres wood was free and got paid 1500 for my time along with 4 cords and 6 cords left for the owner of the property.
  3. Wet1

    Wet1 Minister of Fire

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    I guess only you can decide what's too far. As long as the economics are cheaper to get the wood than to buy it delivered, it makes sense based on your criteria. OTOH, it doesn't make any sense to travel any further than you need to. When I've needed wood in the past I was much more willing to travel further for it. Today I have oak coming out of my ears, so I certainly wouldn't go out of my way for additional "free" wood.
  4. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Too cheap. Purchasing log length wood here and in many areas around the country is about 100$ per cord per a previous thread. Always compare your scrounge cost against the purchased cost for the same product. If you enjoy the work, as I do, then your time investment isn't really important.

    I haul wood over a 50 mile one way trip to my woodlot.
  5. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    no supply/demand, elasticity or next best alternative discussion until 102?

    If we are going somewhere I have access to wood within an hour or two, I will bring a load back and it probably covers the gas, tolls and wear and tear of somewhere we were going anyway. But, the only difference for me is hooking up the trailer and throwing the saws in the truck.

    For scrounging, I add BTUs as a variable to how far I will drive. For instance, if I get to the city mulch pile by the office after work and find a load of blocked pine, it gets thrown in and the mulch waits. If I had to drive 25 miles for it, I would not even consider it.

    If I can't back my trailer to it, I don't consider it.

    If the free wood requires a drop on a strangers property that isn't a completely obvious no risk no brainer drop, I don't consider it.

    If my trailer wasn't low for loading, an easy tow behind the truck I drive anyway and dumped when getting home, I probably wouldn't scrounge.

    However, this is based on knowing that my next best alternative is either the camp or the farm where I can back the trailer up to a pile of logs and have a cord plus blocked and loaded in an hour. If I didn't have those options or lived somewhere with limited scrounging opps (not sure how that is possible), I would probably drive further for less BTUs, drop trees for strangers and carry blocks across lawns if required.
  6. SlyFerret

    SlyFerret Minister of Fire

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    No you're not being cheap. EVERYTHING has a cost.

    I've got a guy delivering 5 cords of wood... cut, split & STACKED! for $130/cord.

    For that price, even free wood has to be reasonably close to home if I'm going to have to haul it, process it, and stack it.

    -SF
  7. mayhem

    mayhem Minister of Fire

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    I'd say for my personal situation you're more or less spot on, for me the big limiting factor is time and distance (really time is a factor of distance IMHO). I've gone as far as 2 hours to get a load of wood, but really it was from some relatives that had a big tree come down in a storm and we were going for a visit anyways so we just went in the truck instead of the car...my out of pocket costs were 11mpg on regular fuel instead of 22 mpg on premium...in other words nominal actual $ cost and only about 30-45 minutes of my time to buck and load the truck.

    Normally I won't go much more than 20-30 minutes for a scrounge, making my round trip time with cutting and loading about 1.5-2 hours. That assumes I'm not trekking into the woods and feling trees, this is trees already felled and I can drive to within 20 feet of the pile. Bordering on too much time out of my way on my day off for a pickup truck load of wood (1/2-2/3 cord if I load it tight and heavy). I only get 2 days off a week and that time is alreday fairly busy with a 6 year old, a needy wife and other commitments.

    To be fair though, I have about 3.3 acres of property where my house is located and pretty much the softest thing there is white birch...lots of Ash, Maple, elm and other hardwoods. I take a fair bit off my own land and scroung the rest if its promising and convenient.
  8. Bigg_Redd

    Bigg_Redd Minister of Fire

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    1) Other than making an occasional quarter-round for an awkward space I believe that it's impossible to get more wood in a given area than when it's left in the round.

    2) at 7 MPG I would load it to the gills and use tie downs

    3) My self imposed limit is 1 hour (one way) driving per cord. I've gone further as a favor to friends or family. If I had a trailer or an extra set of hands I'd drive further if I could haul back 2+ cord at a time.

    EDIT - For me, if I can't drag it to the road or landing or get my truck very close, I won't bother.
  9. pinewoodburner

    pinewoodburner Feeling the Heat

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    I would drive an extra distance for wood if it is easier to load. If you have to cut and drag the wood a good ways before it is loaded, you will eat up lots of time. THe best is when you can park beside what you are loading. It also depends on what you can get it for in your area. I had 1 guy that would help me load my trailer, one cord, split, for $100. It is hard to beat that price. He moved and the best price I can find now if I pick it up is $160. I will drive to get some free wood before I would pay that, but I will not drive to far.
  10. vwboomer

    vwboomer New Member

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    I've been driving 20 miles for free wood. My truck gets 10mpg ('02F150) pulling the trailer. The trees I'm getting now are on a steep hill (maybe 30-40d) and the rounds roll down when cut. Then I have to bend over and roll them 1 by 1 up the next small hill, so I can roll them down to my truck which is another 50 yards away. Then, I have to lift the rounds about 2' onto the trailer.
    Bottom line is I'll do what I have to do for 'free' wood. I live in the city and have no woodlot to make my life easier.

    The cheapest I can get cut split /sorta dried is 150 for mostly oak - and that's driving 40 miles each way.
  11. Risser09

    Risser09 New Member

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    I haven't traveled more than 5 miles for free wood, yet. But the best species I've scrounged have only been hackberry, cherry, black walnut. ALL of these scrounges were already cut, with roadside access, so I didn't have to work very hard for it.

    I consider it very prudent to calculate the actual cost of making the round trip. Every single person here enjoys saving money by burning wood so there's no reason to question you motivations. The more wood, the better.
  12. wellbuilt home

    wellbuilt home Minister of Fire

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    I will drive 20 mils round trip for easy wood if i can fill my truck & trailer . It takes a few hours to load by hand. and it takes 2 guys to stack it ,the truck is high. John
  13. Redburn

    Redburn Member

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    Free wood is not free you move it so many times before you even use it for me I try not to go for the tough stuff anymore and use the buddy system. I have 2 friends that burn and we split the work and the load and I have a guy that give me a masons dump of logs for a 100$ Its tough any way you look at it..
  14. Flatbedford

    Flatbedford Minister of Fire

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    For me, time is more of a factor than mileage. My 39 year old truck gets about 7 mpg and will carry around a cord. With a 9'x7'x3' bed the weight becomes an issue before the volume does. If I break my truck, the wood gets very expensive. I can get semi seasoned split mixed hardwood from a friend of mine who has tree company for $150/cord delivered. The "free" wood has to be pretty close to home and easily accessible to be a good deal for me. I work about 65-70 hours a week from September thru May, so my time is very valuable. I figure what the wood is worth, what I make per hour at work, and how many hours will I put into the "free" wood. I have no set mileage limit, I figure the time, difficulty, and quality of the wood.

    Jim K,
    Do you have a picture of that old 'Binder?
  15. smokinj

    smokinj Minister of Fire

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    I pay for part-time worker yes Iam out a little cash but can move 2.25-3 cords in about 6-8 hrs split in big cunks or left in rounds if posable
  16. lexybird

    lexybird Minister of Fire

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    depends on what kind of wood... if its hickory or white oak, id make the extra drive but for something like red maple or elm id stay close
  17. Jim K in PA

    Jim K in PA Minister of Fire

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    I'll post some pics of my 'binder when I am back at my work computer on Monday. It's a beast. I have no worries about weight, as is it only a 5 yd box (like yours - 7x9x3) but it is rated for 26k+ lbs. Tare is a shade over 6 tons, so I can haul as much wood as I can fit in the box and not come close to capacity on weight. I have maxi brakes on the rear axle, and it's a 5+2, so the thing stops good, and I can get the most out of the 392. I love the sound of that engine with all 4 barrels wide open and under load. I just dont like the cost of the fuel!

    As others have said, there are more factors than just distance or time. Today I went 22 miles one way for some EWP that was already down and bucked, stacked next to the road, and the guy helped with loading. I did bring my JD955 with the loader, so we had the box full in about 35 minutes. The rounds were HUGE, and I will be going back tomorrow for at least another load, maybe 2. He has more trees coming down, too. This trip took about 45 mintues one way because of the back roads, and I think up to an hour drive would be doable, but it still depends on the quality of the wood, and the quality of the loading conditions.

    I do not have any interest in felling trees unless they are in open lots with near zero risk.

    Thanks for all the feedback guys.
  18. Jim K in PA

    Jim K in PA Minister of Fire

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    Here are a couple of pics of my old Loadstar:

    http://www.pennbrookfarm.com/Loadstar/ihclfs.jpg

    [​IMG]

    This weekend we hauled three loads of huge old white pine. Cost $36 in gas, plus about 8 hours spread over two days. No cutting and the guy helped load.

    I have a shot with my trailer and tractor that I have to scan and post.
  19. Flatbedford

    Flatbedford Minister of Fire

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    No pictures. I did check out your website. That's quite a monster you got there!
  20. Duetech

    Duetech Minister of Fire

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    I had an estimated 10 cords of logs delivered for $540.00. I had to cut and split the stuff. I also had a 1/2 cord of cut and split stuff for $90.00 delivered that had to be tailored to fit my boiler. If I go somewhere to get wood I try to bring back every stick I can. the $540 cost me 45 hours of after taxes money I earned and the $90 was over 7.6 hours. Time is going to be involved regardless for me so I primarily use the bottom line from the dollar wise perspective. For selfish reasons (usually my time) I count the amount of time I would take to gather wood,and that includes travel time plus actual costs, against the price of delivery based on the rate of my take home pay. Anything too close to the middle is usually a passed deal unless necessity is dealing the cards.
  21. colsmith

    colsmith New Member

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    We get about 1/4 cord in the back of our little pickup (Ranger extended cab), plus about 1/3 cord in the trailer. There are a couple places we found MANY loads of wood via freecycle and craigslist. One was about 16 miles away, the other about 14. That seemed fine for us. We tried for some time not to go much over 15 miles one way. When the price of gas was around $4/gal we decided even 15 miles was too far. Now we have hooked up with an elderly neighbor less than 2 miles away who calls us whenever trees fall over in her yard. Although a lot of people burn in my neighborhood, the crappy wood is usually available free like that. We get a lot of box elder and willow. I hate willow! The bark is like a sponge. We would drive further if anybody was giving oak away, but they never do!

    We have a lot of trees in our own yard that could be cut, we have a 50 year old orchard with lots of elderly and dying apple and pear trees. That is one reason we don't want to drive far, we could cut at home when we need to.
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