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scrounging tips

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by basswidow, Feb 27, 2009.

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  1. basswidow

    basswidow Minister of Fire

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    Other than keeping an eye on craigslist, what kind of tips can you give a first timer.

    I 've ordered 3 cords of wood so far this season and may need one more to get to spring. I don't like paying for wood and the quality of wood is disappointing. Guy's will say it's seasoned only to dump the load and I find it's fairly green and needs further splitting.

    Ever since I got my stove, I can't help but subconsciously look for wood - as I am driving - I see lots of good stuff.

    I don't see the need to drop any trees - if there are good trees just laying around - as long as I knock and get permission.

    I already have a nice maul and wedges. I am looking to get a saw. I am considering the Stihl 270. I have some state parks close that allow me to cut down wood.

    I have been told to: Dec, Jan, Feb, cut your log rounds, Mar - split your wood and stack (the holz hausens are inspiring). Oct - get your wood stacked under dry cover, and Nov start burning.

    Here's what I would like to know:

    1) Does green wood split easier than dead wood? Does wood split easier when it's cold and frozen? I know the sooner it's split the sooner you start the process - I like smaller splits that my wife can handle.
    2) ID'ing dead would may be difficult, Any trees take longer than a others to season? I'm in NJ - any tree's types to avoid?
    3) What's a good way of checking if a tree that's already down - is good to burn and not too wrotten?
    4) If a tree has been down for a year and you cut it and split it - does this have a reduced drying time?
    Usually I can see wet in the grain and know it's not ready - plus logs are heavier green and smell sappy. I am planning on getting a meter.

    If I can get 8 - 10 pick up loads over the next month or so, I will be set for next year. I think it's doable.

    I've looked at splitters and I think I can get more done by hand splitting. Hydrolic splitters seem so slow. It's just for my own use and not a business, so I don't see a need for a splitter. Any tips for hand splitting firewood? I've been splitting on the driveway and I don't think that's good for the maul edge. Should I put something under it?

    Thanks for any tips you can pass.

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  2. pulldownclaw

    pulldownclaw Feeling the Heat

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    Sounds like you've got it covered pretty well. Just let everyone you know that you're looking for wood, and hopefully it will find it's way to you. Around here tree companies have to pay to dump logs at the dump, so if they're in your neighborhood they usually are more than happy to drop some off. Don't know how it is where you are. It would be good to find a wood processing area that's not on the driveway, see if you can carve out a back corner of your yard somewhere. I hand split, and the single best thing I've discovered is the "tire trick". Get an old tire to place your rounds in and split away, a real back saver. Just make sure to drill some holes in it for water drainage, especially in Summer when the skeeters are out.

    1)I'm not sure about that, others will chime in, I have heard that frozen splits nice, but down here I don't get that chance much.
    2)Oak takes at least a year, preferably 2. I've heard that softwoods dry a little quicker, but not sure about that.
    3)I know that on oaks that have been down a long time that the outer few inches may be rotten, but the interior of the log is still good stuff.
    4)Consensus on here seems to say that wood doesn't really start to dry until it's split.

    Happy scrounging and splitting!
  3. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    As time goes on, you may find yourself changing this opinion.
  4. SmokinPiney

    SmokinPiney Feeling the Heat

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  5. Cluttermagnet

    Cluttermagnet Minister of Fire

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    I've found both of these are true. In fact, most of what I split is deadwood. I have definitely found the old deadwood Oak to be well seasoned and ready to burn. I do like to give it a couple weeks after splitting, however; also a little more time inside to dry further. A few weeks makes a big difference, as the moisture content drops even more, and pretty fast, too.

    BTW deadwood Oak that is punky tends to soak up water too easy. I've found it makes a huge difference if I take a hatchet and trim off the punk. That speeds drying radically.
  6. Bigg_Redd

    Bigg_Redd Minister of Fire

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    1) scrounge early, scrounge often

    2) tell everyone you know that you are looking for firewood

    3) be willing to act on any hot tip at a moment's notice
  7. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    You have the right mindset as for looking for wood. Even though I don't need it, every time I leave home I see so much firewood just going to waste its a shame. Then there are those who don't have many dollars and need wood....but it goes to waste.

    In our area there are many farms. It would be so easy to get firewood just by asking. I know of two this year who were approached. The farmers agreed to let them cut around some fields and all they had to do in return is also take out some brush and stack it. They never showed...


    That Stihl saw you are looking at should cut anything you'd want and last many, many years. They are a good well-built saw and hold up nicely.


    In the State Parks, they probably only allow you to get wood that is already down. No felling of trees.


    Dec-Feb are good months to get the wood cut as the sap is down, no leaves on the trees and you won't disturb any bird nests. Splitting in March is also good (we are close to starting that now). However, do not wait to stack the wood. I am not a fan of HH stacking though. Just stack the wood in rows and don't try to stack it really tight. The air needs to move through the stack (that is why I don't like the HH stack). Leave the stacks uncovered. Don't cover them until late fall or early winter, then cover the tops only. Stacking the wood this way allows for maximum evaporation of moisture.

    This works for most wood but not all. For example, if you cut some oaks, you won't be burning them the following fall. Most oak needs two years seasoning time before burning.


    On your questions:

    1. I don't worry how wood splits best whether green or dry. Split it green so it will dry. I don't worry if the wood is frozen or not. Get it split by Spring and then get it stacked so it can dry.

    2. As stated, oaks take much longer to season....but they are worth it as it is hard to beat for firewood.

    3. If you can stick your finger in the wood, it's rotten. You will do best to look for trees that have fallen but have partially hung up so they aren't touching the ground. Once the tree lays on the ground it starts rotting fast. Not only that, but if it isn't rotten, once you roll it over you will see that it has sunk into the dirt some. That dirt sticks to the log. That dirt will ruin your chain fast! So, you need to take a bit of time to clean where you will cut but you won't likely get all the dirt off.

    4. Mostly no. Some will dry a bit but not totally. It won't dry until it is exposed; that is, cut into firewood lengths.


    Most hydraulic splitters are definitely not slow. Part of that is learning how to use them. They speed up the process a lot, you lose a lot less sweat and there is much less cussing of the knots. But if you insist on splitting by hand, just move out of the driveway and onto a small part of the lawn where you will be stacking the wood or close to it. When I split by hand I never put anything under the log. I see some putting a block under it to raise it up. But that cuts down on the distance you have to swing the axe or maul. Also you will learn that some woods split good through the heart but others split better by slicing from the sides. You will also learn that sometimes wood will split better using an axe rather than a maul.
  8. johnsopi

    johnsopi Minister of Fire

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    Tree servise are the way to go around here. If you see them near your house stop and talk to the crew cheif. If there is a lot of good wood I
    give give them 25-30 a truck load.
  9. Badfish740

    Badfish740 Minister of Fire

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    Hey from Northwestern NJ (Hunterdon County)-you're on the right track. I've managed to amass about three cords so far (next winter will be my first season burning) by scrounging. Tree services, a county park, and a guy with a large piece of property in Hopewell Township have been my sources with the occasional Craigslist run here and there. Also, being in New Jersey the stereotypes do hold somewhat as most of us are never far from some sort of industrial park type area. I made friends with a place in New Brunswick that gives me all the pallets I want. Most are in such good shape I hate to cut them up and burn them, so I set the best ones aside for projects around the house. So far I've built a 2 cord wood rack, a compost bin, and a shelter for the garbage cans so I can keep the critters out at night. Hope that helps.
  10. drdoct

    drdoct Feeling the Heat

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    This is my first scrounging year so I can relate. Here is a few things I've picked up:

    1. Do not try to scrounge with a mediocre chainsaw. Look for a good used Stihl or Husky chainsaw that will pull at least a 20" bar and chain. 20" is the minimum you need. People will laugh this off but when you are scrounging you need to be able to take the stuff that others cant. You will be able to get lots of trunk wood if you can cut it and get it in the truck.

    2. Go ahead and splurge for the splitter. Make sure you get one that will go vertical. Hand splitting sounds easy, but it's a pita when your out there trying to split a big round to get it in the truck. Tow the splitter if it's close enough and split that big trunk wood in manageable pieces on site.

    3. Clean up your debris as best as you can. Wood is messy so you need to either find a place where you don't mind it being full of sawdust or little pieces where you split. And you need a good place to store it that gets sun and wind.

    4. Stop by any tree service you see cutting and ask if they keep their wood. Same goes for city trucks. I got my first dump of city wood that was already cut in 18" pieces all I had to do was split. Pretty nice. You will be dealing with wood that has lots of crotches and does not split or cut easily. If it was straight with no crotches then it would be going to the mills. Be prepared to accept the rejects that are hard to work with. Make sure your equipped to handle those pieces and again.... splurge for the splitter. It seems slow but in reality is super fast compared to wacking a round 20 times to get it to split once. I'll be through 5 big rounds before you get the first crotchy piece split once. I thought I could do without one before I found a good deal. Now I wouldn't try it without it. Read up on chainsaw cutting/bucking and keep your chains sharp and the bar oil full. I've got a lot invested in equipment because I don't want to ever pay for wood again and now as long as I can afford the gas and oil I'll be able to stay warm.
  11. basswidow

    basswidow Minister of Fire

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    Thanks for all the tips everyone.

    I got a Dolmar chainsaw instead, because I like and trust the dealer and he gave me a good deal. I got the 5100s with a 20 inch bar. 50cc's and it's bad..... I hope I am safe with it and will take good care of it.

    I hear everyone loud and clear about the splitter. I will keep an open mind about that. I am 47 and not as young as I used to be. Knots are a pain - when hand spltting. But clean rounds split fairly easy so far. As long as I take my time. So I am off to scrounging!

    I have a guy that will let me cut some of his black birch - but they are not really big. I spoke with the guy across the street who has 20 acres of hardwood, I think he's gonna help me out.

    I have already gotten some pallets - which I take apart with a hammer and saw into kindling sizes. These are just good starters.

    I have a mix of woods on my property. Tall Pines and another tree I cannot identify. It's branches grow straight as a pool stick and break easily and are pulpy inside. The leafs are narrow and are all in a line with exact opposites and when fall comes - the whole branch usually falls. Serveral of these have fallen and are propped up off the ground. The trunk is good size - for a four way split. The bark is smooth and blackish. Any idea? I will cut into one and see what the inside looks like - probably soft wood. But I may cut a split a few trees just for practice - because I am antzy and I can mix this in with hardwood during next years burn. I like to burn a mix.

    My splitting and stacking area is back by my shed at the side of my lot - all day sun and good wind. I can stack a ton of wood back there and easy access with a truck.

    Thanks for the great tips.
  12. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    You're lucky to get Black Birch. All the BTU tables say it's hotter than Oak. I wish Black Birch grew around here cuz I'd like to try burning some. From some of the pics I've seen, it looks like the bark isn't as much a PITA as the other varieties of Birch.

    I wonder if the mystery tree you describe is Black Ash?
    http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/Forestry/commontr/blackash.htm
    [​IMG]
  13. Jamess67

    Jamess67 Feeling the Heat

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  14. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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  15. basswidow

    basswidow Minister of Fire

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    Hmmm, not black ash. I have looked at some tree ID sites and it has me puzzled. I know it's a trash tree and they grow all over the sides of the road around here. I may try and post a picture tomorrow if we don't get the snow they're predicting.
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