Burned aspen, pine, fir, juniper, and elm this year and...

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ponderosa77

New Member
Nov 24, 2015
78
UT
Feel pretty fortunate to have so many different wood sources nearby. It is also possible to find some oak around here.

I've found that each type of wood has a purpose, as well as pros and cons, of course. I think I will try do have the same variety of wood for the next burn season as well. Here is what I learned:

Aspen
Plentiful, easy to cut, easy to load and transport; easy to find good diameter for rounds, easy to find dead standing/dry wood; doesn't drop a mess when carrying to the wood stove although I find that ants really like aspen; when dry and split, it burns easily and very hot; perfect for kindling and to bring a dead fire back to life; burns up very quickly in the stove, great for quick fires; seems to burn quite clean with little ash left behind. This seems like a no-fuss firewood that is extremely plentiful but vanishes quickly in the stove. I like to have a cord on hand. It splits very easy, even by hand, but rots very quickly over time. Bucking limbs is easy with aspen. According to firewood charts, it is a soft wood with far less heat output per LB than other woods. Aspen smoke is pleasant and neutral to me.
My Rating: C

Pine
As plentiful as aspen around here due to beetle kill; a little harder to cut, load, and transport due to the terrain on which it is found; also easy to find good diameter for rounds and easy to find dead standing/dry wood. It can be a little messier with the bark and pine pitch and it seems to always have a beetle or beetles under the bark; it also burns hot and quickly if the wood is really dry but it will also boil and burn slower if the wood isn't seasoned; it is rumored to cause creosote, although this may be more related to moisture content in the wood - so check your chimney. This is also a very plentiful wood and a good choice for this area but also burns up quickly. I also like to have a cord of this on hand. Pine seems to split fine, even by hand. Bucking limbs can be annoying with pine. It is also good kindling when dry and takes off quickly. Heat output is good with pine. Pine smoke is distinct but pleasant to me.
My Rating: C+

Elm
Another plentiful choice for this area; like poplar/cottonwood, elm grows prolifically around here and is generally considered a trash tree; can be found very close by in this area so little effort is required to travel; elm can grow quickly and can be massive diameters, so cutting can be challenging; it is very hard wood and cutting it is very challenging; splitting elm is almost a joke; I make no attempts at splitting elm by hand and it gives my modest wood splitter everything it can handle; I have to shave the rounds down at times; hand splitting maul bounces off of the rounds; as bad or even far worse than juniper for bugs; bugs seem to love elm around here and are plentiful under and on the surface of the bark, such as black widow spiders, tiny black ants, etc.; bark rots quickly and leaves a mess just under the surface (I try to remove and discard the bark); it is rumored to burn cool but I have found it to burn very hot if it is properly split to proper size and fed to an appropriate coal bed; it is not good for kindling or starting fires; it is great for long burns on a hot fire fed with plenty of oxygen; throwing a big round on some mild coals can burn out a fire; I like to mix elm with other wood; burns a long time; is very heavy wood and can require some effort to lift and transport; don't even think about it without a splitter and don't cut diameters too large - 6 inch limb rounds are fine - anything larger requires huge effort to split down and burn; keep the wood pile and insects away from the house; discard the bark; it seems to leave behind double the ash of the other woods; ash has black content as well; the ash left behind seems to come from the bark, whereas if the bark is removed, less ash is left behind. I don't plan to have elm on hand, I take it when I can get it but a cord is fine for my needs. Heat output is similar to fir but elm requires much greater effort to split; yet fir requires a lot of effort to haul off the mountain. Although elm wood doesn't stink, it doesn't seem to be a pleasant smell - it just smells like... elm; elm smoke seems to be neutral to me or at least I haven't noticed anything unpleasant.
My Rating: B-

Fir
Doug Fir, when I can find it around here, is one of my preferred woods. It isn't as plentiful but cuts ok and loads and transports much like pine; also like pine, the bark can leave a mess, the pitch can make a sticky mess, and beetles like fir also. It burns hot and crackles a lot; it is excellent for kindling and starts and burns easily; it has a lot of heat output per BTU and is one of the better wood choices around here; it is similar to elm in heat output but is far easier to split and will also roar away as kindling; it seems to burn clean with normal ash left behind; it splits easily with a splitter and by hand with some effort but is ruthless if you don't have gloves; it splinters into small, very sharp fragments. I try to have as much fir as possible. Fir smoke is neutral to me.
My Rating: A- / B+

Juniper
A great choice for this area as it is a prolific fuel source; very difficult to cut; dulls chainsaw chains due to thick, stringy bark and dirt trapped in bark; found at lower elevations where the temperatures are hotter, so cutting conditions are often hot, sweaty, extremely dusty; more of a shrubby tree so bucking limbs can be miserable; certain permits here allow it to be cut live/green but effort to obtain wood skyrockets cutting green vs. cutting dead juniper; more wear and tear on saws and fallers; lots of strange spiders and bugs in juniper, many of which stay with the wood during transport and come out of the wood when it's placed near a fire; burns very hot and for a very long time; BTU similar to elm and fir but far easier to split than elm; coals very well; in my experience, burns very clean with very little ash left behind; splits fine by hand or splitter, doesn't rot; takes a while to season; can be quite pitchy as well and is very messy to load and transport - bark litters everything; even when split for kindling, it doesn't take off like pine or aspen; seems to be much better wood for long burns or with a fire already established; burns a long time. I try to have as much juniper on hand as possible. Juniper smoke is very aromatic and pleasant to me.
My Rating: A- / B+

Overall, it really takes a lot of effort to obtain juniper but it is usually on pretty flat terrain; permits are cheap and it is convenient to be able to cut green, so juniper is probably the best wood choice for me in this area. You can drive a flat trailer right up to the tree on flat terrain and go to work. BTU per LB is high as well. I deal with the stringy bark during transport (a little extra sweeping) and it burns clean, very hot, and for a long time in my stove. It harbors some strange looking spiders but when cut live, usually has no ants or other proliferation of insects and that is a big benefit as well. It is hard wood but splits fine by hand or splitter as well.

Fir is my second choice and is a good enough wood all around that I would be happy to have 5 or 6 cords of it exclusively each year. It works for kindling and starting fires but also burns hot and reasonably long, depending on the size of the round. Heat output is excellent and is very similar to juniper in my area. The problem is that it is harder to find than juniper and often requires dealing with steep grades and mountainous terrain to get it
 

CheapBassTurd

Minister of Fire
Jan 4, 2016
515
Indiana/ Michigan border
Thanks for sharing the results and adding to our database of what works and how well.
I like the poplar family here too in the midwest, but we have oak rather than juniper for
our area "cadillac" species. We have some fir too. Good stuff.
 
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Ctwoodtick

Minister of Fire
Jun 5, 2015
1,563
Southeast CT
The different species have their purposes. I ran out of pine and miss it with this shoulder season.
 

Jeffm1

Feeling the Heat
Jun 15, 2015
368
-
I am scratching my head that you said the juniper with shaggy bark creates little ash. I have found the exact opposite...HUGE amounts of ash! So much I avoid it now. Do you know what species of juniper you have?
 

Jay106n

Minister of Fire
Apr 1, 2015
779
Litchfield County, CT
The different species have their purposes. I ran out of pine and miss it with this shoulder season.

Agreed. I just burned my last link of dry pine last night and have been mixing in a little cedar the last couple nights. Good thing the warm up is coming!
 

volunbeer

Member
Apr 18, 2016
160
Eastern Washington
I have hundreds of firs on my property. It is great firewood for the king - only wood that is better around here is tamarack (or apple). I split about 1.5 cord of fir today in 3 hours with the splitter that I dropped this last week. I have dozens of medium sized fir trees to take out for a leveling project and too many small ones to count. I also have some standing dead firs that are medium to large sized and a couple of dead tamarack - all still have limbs and most of the bark. I burned about 5 cord this winter and gave a few away and I am already sitting on 10 cord split and stacked. I was getting large ponderosa pine rounds (the king burns it all) and splitting those last year, but I am not going to bother anymore with pine unless it is really easy to access and cut - the fir is too easy.
 

ponderosa77

New Member
Nov 24, 2015
78
UT
I am scratching my head that you said the juniper with shaggy bark creates little ash. I have found the exact opposite...HUGE amounts of ash! So much I avoid it now. Do you know what species of juniper you have?

Thanks for your reply. I'm not sure at this moment - I'll call the local offices and ask them. So far, elm seems to leave behind the most ash in my stove.
 

ponderosa77

New Member
Nov 24, 2015
78
UT
I have hundreds of firs on my property. It is great firewood for the king - only wood that is better around here is tamarack (or apple). I split about 1.5 cord of fir today in 3 hours with the splitter that I dropped this last week. I have dozens of medium sized fir trees to take out for a leveling project and too many small ones to count. I also have some standing dead firs that are medium to large sized and a couple of dead tamarack - all still have limbs and most of the bark. I burned about 5 cord this winter and gave a few away and I am already sitting on 10 cord split and stacked. I was getting large ponderosa pine rounds (the king burns it all) and splitting those last year, but I am not going to bother anymore with pine unless it is really easy to access and cut - the fir is too easy.

I was cutting pine due to finding a convenient area on the forest next to an access road and stumbled across some fir. I wasn't looking for it but I'm glad I found it. These trees were standing dead. I realized it was fir after I started bucking. Live trees have their distinct identifying features but I need to figure out a few keys to identifying dead fir vs. dead pine.

Fir has proven to be good enough wood all around that I'd be happy to burn it exclusively.
 

Jeffm1

Feeling the Heat
Jun 15, 2015
368
-
...Fir has proven to be good enough wood all around that I'd be happy to burn it exclusively.

My sentiments as well...and if I come upon any oak then hey, the day just got that much better. Have you burned any pinion pine?
 

volunbeer

Member
Apr 18, 2016
160
Eastern Washington
I was cutting pine due to finding a convenient area on the forest next to an access road and stumbled across some fir. I wasn't looking for it but I'm glad I found it. These trees were standing dead. I realized it was fir after I started bucking. Live trees have their distinct identifying features but I need to figure out a few keys to identifying dead fir vs. dead pine.

Fir has proven to be good enough wood all around that I'd be happy to burn it exclusively.

I feel the same way now after the first season with the new stove. However, I am not a wood snob by any stretch and if pine is easy to get and straight with few knots I will still cut, split, and stack it. I enjoy cutting wood and I even collect many dozen straight limbs 3" or larger in diameter and hit them with the chop saw. Good btu's and easy to pack the stove with if you can dry them for 2 years. The tamarack is better, but there is just not much of it available to me without foraging.

Fir is also the easiest wood to split that I have ever found and it seems to dry very fast here in my climate.
 

red oak

Minister of Fire
Sep 7, 2011
1,294
northwest Virginia
Thanks for sharing the info! This year I burned red oak and ...that's about it. I actually burned some sycamore, cedar, and maple this year but in such small amounts I don't feel like I can comment on how effective any of them are. I do like to have some pine on hand for shoulder season and starting fires.
 

Jeffm1

Feeling the Heat
Jun 15, 2015
368
-

Wood Duck

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2009
4,790
Central PA
Glad to hear you have a lot of wood sources. However, there is a better place. I think PA is the promised land of firewood. We have oaks everywhere here, and in addition we have 20 other species of hardwood, some of which are even better than oak. We have enough rain that trees grow everywhere. If you don't mow a field for 10 years, there will be hardwood saplings 10 ft tall all over the place. There is a constant supply of wood from yards, powerline clearing, and road right-of way clearing.

The downside is that our firewood doesn't season nearly as well as it does out west.
 

firefighterjake

Minister of Fire
Jul 22, 2008
19,410
Unity/Bangor, Maine
Can anyone post a picture of a Fur tree and a pine tree so I can tell the difference ?

A fur tree can be found at many upscale department stores and will be draped in mink, fox and other furs. ;)

A fir tree needles are pretty easy to tell from a pine . . . the fir in New England tend to have short (figure on an inch or so long), flat needles with blunt tips. Pine -- Scotch and Eastern White -- which we find mostly in this area of New England are longer (3-4 inches).

Incidentally some folks get fooled by spruce and hemlock needles with fir . . . hemlock needles are really short (figure maybe half an inch) and spruce tend to be rounder on the branch and are more pointed in general.
 

fibels

Member
Mar 18, 2016
115
Boston,Ma.
A fur tree can be found at many upscale department stores and will be draped in mink, fox and other furs. ;)

A fir tree needles are pretty easy to tell from a pine . . . the fir in New England tend to have short (figure on an inch or so long), flat needles with blunt tips. Pine -- Scotch and Eastern White -- which we find mostly in this area of New England are longer (3-4 inches).

Incidentally some folks get fooled by spruce and hemlock needles with fir . . . hemlock needles are really short (figure maybe half an inch) and spruce tend to be rounder on the branch and are more pointed in general.
Your feed back is very helpful.Thanks.I never burned any Fir and would like to try some.Take care.
 

ponderosa77

New Member
Nov 24, 2015
78
UT
Somewhere I have a picture of pine and fur logs stacked together and cut in 5ft lengths. It's easy to see the difference when looking at them that way as well. However, I haven't seen a lot of information on identifying Fir vs. Pine when the tree is dead and has no needles.

This year, I will carry a small hatchet to help answer that question. A little chop into/through the bark can reveal the differences.

This is what the fir I cut last season looked like when cut into rounds. Notice the reddish/orange color inside the bark and inside the tree:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_fir#/media/File:Douglasie2.jpg

Thin fir round:
https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/eb/27/75/eb2775da887d034a25b91576d6e94aef.jpg

Here is another resource:
https://tryoncreek.wordpress.com/tag/douglas-fir/

This is what the pine I cut last season looked like:
http://hearth.com/forums/data/attachments/98/98021-ce49f3953c085e83b8cc472463409406.jpg

Hmm... if that doesn't work, try this thin pine round:
https://wunderwoods.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/dscf6026.jpg

To me, the pine looks to have a gray outer-layer and yellow inner-layer; fir looks to have a yellow outer-layer and orange inner-layer. You can clearly see the difference between the thin pine round and the thin fir round...

When the tree is dead-standing or dead on the ground with no needles or other features, cutting into the bark or notching the tree can help identify. Versus fir, I will skip pine every time if I have a choice. I like fir that much.

Apparently we have two Juniper species around here: Rocky Mountain Juniper and Utah Juniper. I'm not sure yet what comprises my wood supply but it is excellent wood. I will get more this year but I really want to find a big stand of dead fir. I'll be on the lookout for it this year...
 
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fibels

Member
Mar 18, 2016
115
Boston,Ma.
Somewhere I have a picture of pine and fur logs stacked together and cut in 5ft lengths. It's easy to see the difference when looking at them that way as well. However, I haven't seen a lot of information on identifying Fir vs. Pine when the tree is dead and has no needles.

This year, I will carry a small hatchet to help answer that question. A little chop into/through the bark can reveal the differences.

This is what the Fir I cut last season looked like when cut into rounds. Notice the reddish/orange color inside the bark and inside the tree:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_fir#/media/File:Douglasie2.jpg

Here is another resource:
https://tryoncreek.wordpress.com/tag/douglas-fir/

This is what the pine I cut last season looked like:
http://hearth.com/forums/data/attachments/98/98021-ce49f3953c085e83b8cc472463409406.jpg

To me, the pine looks to have a gray outer-layer and yellow inner-layer; fir looks to have a yellow outer-layer and orange inner-layer.

When the tree is dead-standing or dead on the ground with no needles or other features, cutting into the bark or notching the tree can help identify. Versus Fir, I will skip pine every time if I have a choice. I like Fir that much.

Apparently we have two Juniper species around here: Rocky Mountain Juniper and Utah Juniper. I'm not sure yet what comprises my wood supply but it is excellent wood. I will get more this year but I really want to find a big stand of dead Fir. I'll be on the lookout for it this year...
The Fir picture came out.Beautiful wood.The Pine picture didn't come out.Thanks for your efforts.
 

Jeffm1

Feeling the Heat
Jun 15, 2015
368
-
Somewhere I have a picture of pine and fur logs stacked together and cut in 5ft lengths. It's easy to see the difference when looking at them that way as well. However, I haven't seen a lot of information on identifying Fir vs. Pine when the tree is dead and has no needles.

This year, I will carry a small hatchet to help answer that question. A little chop into/through the bark can reveal the differences.

This is what the fir I cut last season looked like when cut into rounds. Notice the reddish/orange color inside the bark and inside the tree:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_fir#/media/File:Douglasie2.jpg

Thin fir round:
https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/eb/27/75/eb2775da887d034a25b91576d6e94aef.jpg

Here is another resource:
https://tryoncreek.wordpress.com/tag/douglas-fir/

This is what the pine I cut last season looked like:
http://hearth.com/forums/data/attachments/98/98021-ce49f3953c085e83b8cc472463409406.jpg

Hmm... if that doesn't work, try this thin pine round:
https://wunderwoods.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/dscf6026.jpg

To me, the pine looks to have a gray outer-layer and yellow inner-layer; fir looks to have a yellow outer-layer and orange inner-layer. You can clearly see the difference between the thin pine round and the thin fir round...

When the tree is dead-standing or dead on the ground with no needles or other features, cutting into the bark or notching the tree can help identify. Versus fir, I will skip pine every time if I have a choice. I like fir that much.

Apparently we have two Juniper species around here: Rocky Mountain Juniper and Utah Juniper. I'm not sure yet what comprises my wood supply but it is excellent wood. I will get more this year but I really want to find a big stand of dead fir. I'll be on the lookout for it this year...
Pine bark is much more messy. It flakes off in little pieces that your wife will yell at you about in the house. Fir, at least Douglas Fir, does not have the little flaky pieces that create a mess. It's bark stays intact on the surface and it's unlike the pine bark pieces that come off like little pieces of corn flakes at the bottom of the box. After a season of burning both and hauling them from your outside stacks to inside your house to burn you'll see what I mean.