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  1. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Central NYS
    Ninety percent of what I burn is beech. The balance is a combination of hard and soft maple and yellow birch. The YB is maybe 5% of my wood inventory.

    The thing about yellow birch bark is that it contains wintergreen oil, which basically explodes when you get it near a flame. That's true whether the wood is dry or green, though you get more bang for the buck with dry bark, obviously. If you're ever lost or stranded out in the woods and need to build a fire, find a yellow birch tree and use some bark strips to get you started. Better than anything else you'll find. It also smells like incense when it burns.

    Anyway, I noticed this morning that a few pieces of YB in the firebox of my boiler on startup has a dramatic impact on how long it takes to get gasification going. As in--immediately. It's volatile stuff.

    YB grows over a fairly wide range, but it's mostly concentrated in the more northern areas. Those of us in New England, New York, parts of Pennsylvania, northern Wisconsin and the U-P have the most chance of finding it. Attached is a pic from the woodlot I'm thinning. In PA they call it "black birch" but it's basically the same stuff.

    As a side note, YB is great firewood, but it grows really wet, so it takes about 2 years to dry out enough for good burning.

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  2. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

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    Addison County, Vermont
    We need another forum just for wood itself....

    I love how each wood has its own personality. It's interesting how many people have no idea - 'wood is wood'.

    When I was (much) younger and newly married, My new brother-in-law was a city person who had joined a health club and had been pumping iron. Pretty proud of the shape that he was in. He came up to Vermont to sample the fresh air and the rural lifestyle, eager to do some authentic manual labor and show off his physique.

    I had a seven cord load of log-length firewood, various species including yellow birch. Most of the yellow birch was as gnarly and unsplittable as any elm you ever came across. I also had some red oak.

    Dressed him in a flannel shirt and we went forth to the woodpile, where I had cut a bunch of rounds to be split. I took an enormous red oak log and demonstrated the proper technique. I repeated the demonstration with another red oak, then gave him a smaller but impenetrable yellow birch. As he wailed away at it, I made helpful comments about form and style. When it was finally almost ready to split, I gave him a break and split it with two more swings. "All in the wrist', I assured him. I split a few more red oaks and a straight-grained yellow birch to give him a break.

    For the rest of the morning, we took turns. He never suspected that there was any difference between the logs I split effortlessly and the ones he struggled over. That evening, he could barely lift a beer to his lips.

    After all these years, I'm almost feeling guilty about being so deceptive. But not quite :)
  3. JustWood

    JustWood Minister of Fire

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    Loc:
    Arrow Bridge,NY
    I bought 56 acres of woods 7 years ago that was flatened by a tornado in 1985 . Been managing it myself since with the hopes of a crop of timber when I retire. It is loaded with 3-6" yellow birch that I'm cutting and leaving . They only have 3-5 foot trunks before they branch out into a bush otherwise I would consider cutting more for firewood. Some of the larger ones next to the access roads I cut for wood and your right It takes off fast and burns a good long time. I think yellow birch has more btu's than the charts give it credit for.
  4. JustWood

    JustWood Minister of Fire

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    Loc:
    Arrow Bridge,NY
    CLASSIC LOL LOL LOL
  5. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Loc:
    Sand Lake, NY
    I had a fair number of logs this year that had that wintergreen smell.
    They were pretty gnarly to split, even with the splitter, not splitting into nice pieces and leaving scrap.
    Of course that scrap will make good kindling.
  6. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    It's always fun to play tricks on the flatlanders.

    One thing I've noticed about YB over the years is that some trees, usually very big ones, can get a nasty swirling grain pattern around the outside layers that makes it very difficult to split. I even had one once that had switched directions a few years back, so that it twisted both ways, if you can picture that. No way that's getting split. I think I cut through the offending layers with my saw and then split it from there. Still no fun.

    One winter I ran out of wood and a friend in the veneer log business game me a trailer-load of yellow birch veneer butts that had been cut off because they contained small defects that devalued the logs. But it was big, straight-grained wood with no knots. A real joy to work with. However, since I didn't have any dry wood, I had to burn this stuff. At first I thought, "Oh boy, yellow birch burns like crazy, green or dry." Well, the bark does, but not the wood. Had my one and only big chimney fire later that season. In addition to burning green wood, I was laboring under the illusion that my new, middle-of-the-house, insulated ss chimney liner wouldn't ever need to be cleaned. That was a long time ago--the first year I used a wood-fired boiler. After that I started cleaning the chimney once a week--whether it needed it or not.
  7. babalu87

    babalu87 New Member

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    I have a few on my property, knowing the special qualities they have I may cut one down for ambiance.

    ROFL Fossil, thats a corker of a story
  8. DiscoInferno

    DiscoInferno Minister of Fire

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    Loc:
    Silver Spring, MD/ Munising, MI
    I have also notice the instant inferno that the bark provides. YB is my favorite of the trees on our property, I wish there were more of them. I've read that it doesn't propagate as well as the trees it typically grows with (beech and maple), which seems to be the case. The maples in particular are carpeting our cleared areas with seedlings, and I see a lot of beech saplings. Very few birch, though, and the deer eat the ones I do see. I wish it were a hardier tree as well, two large ones near the house are slowly dying due to root damage/compression. The maples and beeches seem to handle that better.
  9. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Central NYS
    Foresters tell me that yellow birch needs scarified soil to propagate. That's why you'll see it coming up in areas that have been badly disturbed, like the tornado mentioned by Lee earlier. If you do a really unobtrusive thinning job like I do with a chainsaw and a pickup, you're not going to get a lot of YB regen. Get a dozer or a skidder in there and start ripping up the ground, and you'll get good YB regeneration. And deer are another big problem. The bastards eat the crop tree seedlings--black cherry and yellow birch--and ignore the weeds, like beech and striped maple. I think beech is a beautiful tree, but it doesn't have much commercial value and it is routinely attacked in this part of the country by a bark disease that eventually kills it. Good firewood, though. If we ever get into a biomass-based energy economy, it might start to look more desirable as a crop tree. That's probably about when the deer will start to like it.
  10. ISeeDeadBTUs

    ISeeDeadBTUs Guest

    Ok . . .no one likes the guy that differs from everyone else, but . . .I'm used to that.

    Correct me where I'm wrong, but . . .

    Here in NY there are three main varieties of Birch.

    White - technically 'Paper Birch' very recognizable by the color of its bark. Supposedly a low BTU quality wood, but since I have tons of it, I burn it, and I don't think it's too bad.

    Yellow - the bark here is yellow, the wood is higher BTU quality than the white, and as everyone seems to concur, splits like crap,, especially if there are any knots.

    Grey - this one is the one that I don't have as much of, and I think THIS is the one that they make 'Wintergreen' from. This is NOT the same as yellow birch. Thechnically this is called Sweet Birch. This has the best BTU quality of any of the aformentioned Birches.

    Since I don't make my living in the woods, Someone who does please set me aright on this.

    I have so much birch on my property. . .anyone that wants to trade some for Hickory (of which I have NONE) please let me know!

    Jimbo
  11. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I've never cut grey birch, so I can't comment on that. It doesn't grow around here. I know there are several different trees that produce wintergreen oil. The YB has some, but I've run into other species over the years in my travels that smell even more like it, so I'm not surprised. I agree on white birch vs. yellow. Totally different firewood animals. White birch can be really hard to split. Best stacked in the dormant fireplace for aesthetics. YB looks nice there, too.
  12. ISeeDeadBTUs

    ISeeDeadBTUs Guest

    Ok, call me a bit slow. . .but yer in Old Forge???
  13. Rob From Wisconsin

    Rob From Wisconsin Minister of Fire

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    From what I understand, "White" & "Grey" birch are very similar in
    nature - identicle in BTU's as a matter of fact.
    On the other hand, "Yellow" & "Black" are not. Black Birch is quite a bit
    harder than yellow, and you do get a "sweet" extract from it. As a matter
    of fact, Black Birch is oft times called "Sweet Birch". It is also less common
    than Yellow Birch. Yellow Birch was commonly used as Hardwood Flooring
    back in the 50's & 60's.
  14. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    At the moment, yes. I work in OF.
  15. ISeeDeadBTUs

    ISeeDeadBTUs Guest

    Damnit Rob, yer correct! The black stuff is the best stuff to burn of the three!!! "Grey' seems to be a mis-nomer.


    http://www.hearth.com/econtent/index.php/articles/heating_value_wood

    I REFUSE to waste my chain on Bass (I burned a HUGE one last year that was taken down the day the excavator dug the hole for my house) but I will take a LITTLE bit of Aspen. I just set it aside, then when it's warmer outside I split it into quarters and criss cross it on the fire. It will give heat, just that it's gone in an hour. The Bass will not give enough heat for the flapper on the GW to close! Better off going to the store and buying a box of toothpicks!!

    Two things they don't mention are Ironwood and witch hazel. Neither gets very big, but they bothe burn hot. In the shoulder seasons they work well, especially when I am building a hot fire just long enough to heat my DHW then let the fire go out.

    Jimbo
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