Dry wood vs Wet wood

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NickW

Minister of Fire
Oct 16, 2019
510
SE WI
Yep. My experience is still going on with this. Last January I replaced my old smoke dragon with an EPA stove. Usually css in spring and burned it in fall, was able to make it work in the old stove. New one was a learning experience... The leftover ash from spring was OK, but by February I was trying to burn beech and hard maple css in fall. It can be done, but as stated by others it's a chore. Gotta get the heat up to get the moisture boiled out and minimize creosote before getting decent heat and by then you've burned up a lot of it.

This year I'm burning what's left of the oldest beech and maple along with softwood and ash css this spring. Pine is 16%, silver maple is 23%, Aspen is 17-22%, beech is mostly around 20% and hard maple is 22-23% and I sorted my way through the ash css in spring that is now the back stacks that is 18-24%. Not terrible #'s, but also not ideal - some fires go well and others are a struggle. Have it all in the garage with a fan on it to promote air flow to try to get it down some more. That ash was an interesting tree - trunk was 38% or higher and branches 28% or lower in spring. Mostly burning a mix of soft and hard right now.

I am in full gather and css mode. Will have enough css for next year already by the end of the week (ash, beech & aspen which season pretty well). Will be moving on to more for the next 2 years after that to get 3 years ahead. I've got access to some primo stuff - beech, hard maple, ash & oak. Have a little hickory & honey locust css for 2 years from now too. Softwoods are almost always readily available...

But, back to the subject... yes, wet wood sucks. Burn it hot and inspect the flue and cap regularly and clean it often; then do everything you can to get 2-3 years ahead.
 

jmb6420

Member
Jun 25, 2019
92
NE Oklahoma
Is that on a fresh split face? I can get oak to 17 or 18 in that time period if the weather is right
Yes, fresh split face. My wood sets in the sun and it isn't unusual to have 3 months during the summer with very little rain and temps in the 90s and 100s.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
25,002
central pa
Yes, fresh split face. My wood sets in the sun and it isn't unusual to have 3 months during the summer with very little rain and temps in the 90s and 100s.
Good just making sure
 

Ctwoodtick

Minister of Fire
Jun 5, 2015
1,545
Southeast CT
it was previously split...and stacked for 5+ years under a top cover.

You can see the difference in color between the original split face and newly split face.

View attachment 265573
Pine seems to register lower than expected on MM. but after that long, 14 percent would be expected. Pine dries out quick too. You were probably at 14% yrs ago.
 

agonyzhou

New Member
Nov 29, 2019
97
Maryland
For me the moisture meter is over-rated. I do have one, but it has like 7 different settings for different woods, and I am terrible at telling wood species. Plus I misplaced the instruction manual so I couldn't set it to the correct setting had I know the species for sure.
Right now my method is like this:
  1. If the wood feels wet, don't burn it.
  2. If you are not sure, throw a piece on a bed of hot coal and carefully observe it through the glass.
I still don't know for sure the actual moisture level, but at least I only burn wood that I feel comfortable burning.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
25,002
central pa
For me the moisture meter is over-rated. I do have one, but it has like 7 different settings for different woods, and I am terrible at telling wood species. Plus I misplaced the instruction manual so I couldn't set it to the correct setting had I know the species for sure.
Right now my method is like this:
  1. If the wood feels wet, don't burn it.
  2. If you are not sure, throw a piece on a bed of hot coal and carefully observe it through the glass.
I still don't know for sure the actual moisture level, but at least I only burn wood that I feel comfortable burning.
Yes most experienced burners don't need a mm. But it is a great tool for new users. And I still randomly check samples just to be sure
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
88,944
South Puget Sound, WA
I burned for over 30 yrs without a moisture meter. Finally got one so that I could provide accurate info here. In lieu of having a meter I did several tests on various spits in the shed. First I would pick the thickest splits to resplit. After resplitting, put the new face of the wood up against your cheek. You can feel it if is damp. The other tests were weight. I compare to a known dry piece of wood. I also bang them together. If they go thud, then back in the pile. And yes, observing how they burn and watching for bubbling on the ends is also a good check.
 
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NickW

Minister of Fire
Oct 16, 2019
510
SE WI
I love my cheap little $14 Menards mm. Do I trust it as gospel? No, but it gives some guidance. If I split ash that's 24-30% in spring it burns fine come fall. Over 35% and it's gotta wait. In between is a crap shoot, so I try to at least wait with that until I run out of decent stuff. Definitely have to make sure it's warm but not hot - room temperature. Hot or cold can give a lot of variation...
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
88,944
South Puget Sound, WA
If you can cut wood in the winter when the sap is not flowing, it will dry quicker after splitting.
 
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Woody Stover

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2010
12,223
Southern IN
I love my cheap little $14 Menards mm.
Except for the color, that looks identical to the cheapie I got at Harbor Fright. I'm not a fan of the four button-cell batteries; They seem to lose contact sometimes. But the meter's a few years old, and still working. It's small, easily fitting into a front pants pocket.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,411
Northern NH
I have been burning wood for 30 years and never owned a moisture meter. I can usually confirm its dry enough by knocking a few splits together. Wet hardwood gives a dull thump while dry hardwood gives a sharper crack. Definitely not a substitute for a year plus of drying under cover but a good check.
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,085
Downeast Maine
I burned for over 30 yrs without a moisture meter. Finally got one so that I could provide accurate info here. In lieu of having a meter I did several tests on various spits in the shed. First I would pick the thickest splits to resplit. After resplitting, put the new face of the wood up against your cheek. You can feel it if is damp. The other tests were weight. I compare to a known dry piece of wood. I also bang them together. If they go thud, then back in the pile. And yes, observing how they burn and watching for bubbling on the ends is also a good check.
I saw you post this on another thread when I first joined. Cheek to fresh split face has been more accurate than my regular and pin-less moisture meter (hygrometer). The one caveat is that the wood really needs to be room temperature to tell for sure if going by feel.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,411
Northern NH
Yup frozen wood tends to screw up the highly sophisticated thump test ;).
 
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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,085
Downeast Maine
Yup frozen wood tends to screw up the highly sophisticated thump test ;).
Our first winter the "thump test" really did throw us off, thinking our wood was drier than it was.
 

Woody Stover

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2010
12,223
Southern IN
Yep, you knock splits together and they may sound good, yet they still may be wet.
 

CenterTree

Minister of Fire
Sep 15, 2008
1,047
SouthWest-Central PA
And it may stick to your cheek!
Or worse.....
flagpole--a.gif
 

firefighterjake

Minister of Fire
Jul 22, 2008
19,395
Unity/Bangor, Maine
I like to lick the maple wood . . . tastes like pancakes with syrup when it's still not seasoned. ;) :)







And yes . . . I am kidding.

I don't lick my firewood.

I do however take in long, deep breaths of my cherry and apple wood.
 
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peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,411
Northern NH
People do not typically ascribe a wood pulp mill as smelling good but our mill in Berlin "cooked" both hardwood and softwood with our predominate hardwood species being maple. When they were washing the hardwood on the pulp washers, there was a distinct maple smell in the washer building. Long ago using another older pulping process pulp mills would capture and refine that vanillin smell and it was sold as artificial vanilla extract. Southern Pine mills are still the major source of flavorings and fragrance base. Most of the the "rose oil" in perfume come from pine trees. Look on any can of orange soda and there is usually "ester of wood rosin" in the ingredient list
 
Aug 12, 2020
86
Parkers Lake, KY
Great video; thanks for sharing. I have re-posted on FB for my friends that might be trying to burn wood and not be able to access the vast amount of knowledge and experience here on this forum. We have been learning on the fast track learning curve around our place in Southern Kentucky with our Hardy OWB. We've been gathering wood that was down in the forest as windfall but some of that is still pretty wet too. Most of what's on the ground tends to rot so we're careful about what we pick up. I'm glad that we have a backup gas heating heat system because I don't think we'll be able to make it through this winter on wood alone.

We have been blessed with some very dry wood and been able to successfully burn for a few weeks to learn the difference between a good burn of dry and the struggle to burn wet. This thread should be pinned to the top for newbies that don't yet know the difference. I'm really glad that I found this information. Several people I have talked to directly (not on this forum) have suggested that it's ok to burn wet wood if you mix it with the "dry stuff" but I've learned the difference and the amount of wood required to keep the wet wood burning is at least twice the normal volume. Even though some people think of heating with wood as "free heat" the amount of time and fuel required to produce the CSS inventory is not free so burning wet wood sounds like a very poor trade of resources unless it's an emergency.

Glad to have this forum as a source of good information.
 

gggvan

Member
Dec 6, 2012
121
Dry wood definitely makes a world of difference. I had my first fire a couple days ago. Stack is 2 yrs old with mostly Norway maple. Some ornamental cherry in there for some reason appeared to be hardly seasoned and it slowed the heat WAY down.
I also remember my early days with wet wood and struggling to get heat from insert. Now, with my super easy breathing Jotul Rockland and dry wood, it hard to keep temps lower than 700.

2 years for Norway Maple? You must have had other batches in front of it, so you didn't need it.
 

McKraut

Feeling the Heat
Sep 1, 2011
291
South Central PA
Thank you for posting this. You can tell people until you are blue in the face the importance of dry wood, but a picture is worth a thousand words!
 
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FTG-05

Feeling the Heat
Feb 8, 2014
391
TN
My moisture meter is a calendar. The maximum moisture level I'll burn is species plus one year. Usually it's +4 years. This last heating season, the wood I burned I put up March 2016. I'll finish that batch of wood next year's heating season, making it about 6 years moisture levels.
 

Shrewboy

New Member
Oct 15, 2020
67
Eastern Pennsylvania
My moisture meter is a calendar. The maximum moisture level I'll burn is species plus one year. Usually it's +4 years. This last heating season, the wood I burned I put up March 2016. I'll finish that batch of wood next year's heating season, making it about 6 years moisture levels.

I had some wood that I cut and stacked 5 years ago, under some black rubber roofing material (before I knew anything about woodstoves, this was for a little firepit)

The difference in heat output, low smoke, easy to start, was astounding! For anyone that hasn't experienced truly bone dry wood: It is definitely worth it to get your wood nice and dry!
 
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