Most underrated firewood: my list

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Caw

Minister of Fire
May 26, 2020
1,622
Massachusetts
SM not one of my favorites due to the high amount of ash left behind
Yeah if you're planning on burning primarily maple for the season you'd better have your ash bucket handy. It's very messy wood but it does burn well. I use a lot of red maple because it's abundant and seasons in a year.

Im usually burning 100% red oak or red maple depending what I scored 3 years prior but I do mix in other hardwoods. That's the benefit of living in a deciduous forest!

If I had to rank my favorite firewoods of wood I've sourced locally the last few years:

1. Red Oak
2. Apple
3. Ash
4. Black Cherry
5. Red Maple
6. Poplar
7. Box Elder
8. Butternut (waste of time, don't bother)

I have a nice black birch stand on my property and a few hickory trees. I'll give those a try once nature takes one down for me. I could get unlimited pine from the local tree guy...he said he'd give me 5 cords of logs for free. I'd take free c/s/s pine but I'm not investing my labor in processing pine logs. There's just no need with the abundance of hardwood.
 

brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
7,982
NE Ohio
Yeah if you're planning on burning primarily maple for the season you'd better have your ash bucket handy. It's very messy wood but it does burn well. I use a lot of red maple because it's abundant and seasons in a year.

Im usually burning 100% red oak or red maple depending what I scored 3 years prior but I do mix in other hardwoods. That's the benefit of living in a deciduous forest!

If I had to rank my favorite firewoods of woods I've sourced locally the last few years:

1. Red Oak
2. Apple
3. Ash
4. Black Cherry
5. Red Maple
6. Poplar
7. Box Elder
8. Butternut (waste of time, don't bother)

I have a nice black birch stand on my property. I'll give that a try once nature takes one down for me. A few hickory trees I'm waiting for as well. I have a lot of Sumac but it's got so much resin and is so light I don't bother.
But which one do you consider to be the most underrated?
 

Caw

Minister of Fire
May 26, 2020
1,622
Massachusetts
But which one do you consider to be the most underrated?
Ha fair that is the title isn't it.

Probably red maple. It's technically a hardwood but it's on the softer side compared to the others I listed. That's actually a benefit because it dries in a season, is dense enough to give overnight burns, and is literally everywhere here so you can always get some. Yeah it's not oak and is kind of messy but it's a jack of all trades and has it's place.

If you're in a pinch in the spring with no wood for the upcoming winter red maple is a good wood to seek out along with the pines and poplars of the world etc.
 

Woody Stover

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2010
13,070
Southern IN
Red elm (a.k.a. slippery elm): Simply great firewood in every way. It doesn't stink like American elm (smells more like cinnamon). Sub-20% mc it burns like red oak. Good flames and good heat, not too fast, and good coals. The grain is very twisty and it's hard to split -- even with a hydro splitter. But that's one of its best qualities! Those shredded looking splits can be lit with a match -- no kindling required.
Soft Maple (Red Maple / Silver Maple): Red Maple in particular is a fine firewood. Easy to split. Dries fast. Lights easily and leaves good coals. Silver maple isn't quite as good, but it's better than you'd expect based on firewood BTU charts. Around here, soft maple grows fast and gets huge. Scoring a big tree can give you a ton of very decent firewood that will be ready to burn in a year.
Yes! 👍 I didn't notice the cinnamon smell with Red Elm, but I mostly get long-dead ones. I do have a live log that I acquired, so I'll huff that when I cut it. I I like the pink hue of the split wood, almost no sapwood, rot-resistant, and even though I see BTU ratings of 21.6 MBTU/cord, it seems better than that. I might be prejudiced, though. Dead ones I get are in the woods, so are straight-grained and not super-tough to split. I still use hydraulics on them, being an old goat. Here's one I've got my eye on, at my neighbor's. Biggest yet, at 24"! PXL_20221206_195824188.jpg ;)
I always wondered why they call red maple "soft "and sugar maple "hard". I have nice dried sugar maple and it's super soft and light. On the other hand I've had red maple and even when dried it's hard as hell
If it is soft and light it is not sugar maple
Most of my wood lot is sugar maple and it is hard and heavy even dry
Agreed, they call Sugar Maple "hard Maple" for a reason. Red is hard as well, Silver not so much. One the worst tree I ever dealt with was a Silver Maple yard tree...talk about twisty and gnarly! 😖 I go after the Red every time, and there are a lot you can scrounge from people when they get wind-damaged. It has kept me ahead of the stoves I have to feed, due to its quick drying time. Hey, are we saying that SM is soft Maple or Sugar Maple? 🤔😄
Spruce....There isn't another wood out there that can make a stove run at max output like it,
Yeah, all these low-BTU woods can really crank out the heat since they gas so fast.
I’m a big fan of cherry. Doesn’t burn as hot or long as oak, but it’s beautiful to cut and split. And the smells is amazing. Looks pretty too.
All that, and flames and coals nicely, leaving little ash. ❤️
 
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Sawset

Minister of Fire
Feb 14, 2015
1,317
Palmyra, WI
My underrated firewood would be, silver maple. We had 1 tree that produced 5 cord of it. It dried nicely, was medium in weight, split easily. I fed off that for several years for shoulder season. The ash - fluffy stuff that compresses. I could feed the stove for weeks before shoveling it out. The fluff just would not build up the way it first would seem to.
 
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Woody Stover

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2010
13,070
Southern IN
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Tree scruff

Member
Jan 29, 2018
23
Northern England - UK
I thought I would throw my lot in from the North of England - really interesting to hear about the wood you guys burn in the States - Some species I am not familiar with but im sure that some of them are the same just we have different names (tulip poplar?? We have Liriodendron/tulip tree - maybe the same). Im a tree surgeon so I get a real mix of wood - not always easy to process as it comes how it comes. This winter I have a lot of ash (fraxinus) as we have a problem in Europe with Ash die back so lots are getting cut down.
Also on my wood pile is willow (burns fast and furious), english oak, bird cherry, silver birch. My three favourites are hornbeam (carpinus) which I rarely get being in the north as its native to SE England. Laburnum - super dense! Purple plum (pissards plum) and then finally (and my favourite) Hawthorn (cretagus) which I find seems to throw out more heat than anything else I burn. I have a load of Englsih elm which ive been trying to get rid of for the last 4 years but its such an effort to split it so its in big chunks - if find it burns cold and spits like crazy which freaks the cat out when I open the stove door! I probably should have made something from it rather than burn it.
 
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EatenByLimestone

Moderator
Staff member
I recognize a few of the genus you mentioned. In fact, Laburnum is the only one you mentioned that I haven’t seen. It may be around, and I haven’t recognized or come across it though.
 

KDubU

Member
Dec 16, 2022
197
Maine
Yellow birch for me. Beautiful wood, hard and really burns well. Ironwood is also fantastic and had a lot of this on 80 acres up when we lived in Eastern Ontario, Canada. Didn’t need to split it often as it never was huge but heavy and dense rounds of a 4-6” diameter burned a long time.
 
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PAbeech

Member
May 16, 2021
148
Wallenpaupack, PA
Yes! 👍 I didn't notice the cinnamon smell with Red Elm, but I mostly get long-dead ones. I do have a live log that I acquired, so I'll huff that when I cut it. I I like the pink hue of the split wood, almost no sapwood, rot-resistant, and even though I see BTU ratings of 21.6 MBTU/cord, it seems better than that. I might be prejudiced, though. Dead ones I get are in the woods, so are straight-grained and not super-tough to split. I still use hydraulics on them, being an old goat. Here's one I've got my eye on, at my neighbor's. Biggest yet, at 24"! View attachment 306836 ;)


Agreed, they call Sugar Maple "hard Maple" for a reason. Red is hard as well, Silver not so much. One the worst tree I ever dealt with was a Silver Maple yard tree...talk about twisty and gnarly! 😖 I go after the Red every time, and there are a lot you can scrounge from people when they get wind-damaged. It has kept me ahead of the stoves I have to feed, due to its quick drying time. Hey, are we saying that SM is soft Maple or Sugar Maple? 🤔😄

Yeah, all these low-BTU woods can really crank out the heat since they gas so fast.

All that, and flames and coals nicely, leaving little ash. ❤️
Yah I've got about 3 or 4 cords of beech and a cord or so of sugar maple. I save the maple for when it's not as cold. The beech burns soo hot and kicks us out of the house
 

Caw

Minister of Fire
May 26, 2020
1,622
Massachusetts
Isn't ironwood a colloquial term? I didn't think it referred to any specific species but more of a bunch of different ones.
 
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KDubU

Member
Dec 16, 2022
197
Maine
Isn't ironwood a colloquial term? I didn't think it referred to any specific species but more of a bunch of different ones.
True. Our “ironwood” was Shagbark Hickory if I recall correctly. All ours was second growth so on the small side.
 

Stinkpickle

Minister of Fire
Jan 13, 2015
675
Iowa
Even soft maples are still hardwoods...just soft hardwoods. ;)

Lately, I’ve grown to love three year old hackberry, so that’s on my list now.
 

brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
7,982
NE Ohio
Isn't ironwood a colloquial term? I didn't think it referred to any specific species but more of a bunch of different ones.
American Hophornbeam
 
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Tree scruff

Member
Jan 29, 2018
23
Northern England - UK
Isn't ironwood a colloquial term? I didn't think it referred to any specific species but more of a bunch of different ones.
In UK hornbeam is sometimes called iron wood but then we also have Persian ironwood to confuse things. Even regionally in this country the same tree can be known by another name.
 

Tree scruff

Member
Jan 29, 2018
23
Northern England - UK
I recognize a few of the genus you mentioned. In fact, Laburnum is the only one you mentioned that I haven’t seen. It may be around, and I haven’t recognized or come across it though.
Laburnum is an ornamental that rarely gets above 10m. It can be quite girthy. In England it seems to last about 80 yrs. It's super heavy and a beautiful dark chocolate brown. Planted for its yellow flowers. Quite poisonous.
 

Caw

Minister of Fire
May 26, 2020
1,622
Massachusetts
I don't think I've ever heard of slippery maple and I live in the middle of a maple and oak stand. We have red, sugar, black, box Elder, Japanese, Norway, and other maples though. I've heard of slippery elm, maybe that's what you mean? Sycamore is its own type of tree.
 

EatenByLimestone

Moderator
Staff member
Is slippery maple in USA what we call in UK 'sycamore'. Acer pseudoplatanus. That's the most slippery maple I can think of!
Interesting. I know of a sycamore, and a London plain tree, which are identical to my eye, but neither are a maple (Acer) genus.. both have a crazy molted brown and white bark and a leaf that looks like a big maple leaf. The Sycamore maple appears to be a completely different species! If that doesn’t make things confusing!
 
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Tree scruff

Member
Jan 29, 2018
23
Northern England - UK
I don't think I've ever heard of slippery maple and I live in the middle of a maple and oak stand. We have red, sugar, black, box Elder, Japanese, Norway, and other maples though. I've heard of slippery elm, maybe that's what you mean? Sycamore is its own type of tree.
Haha. Yes that's what I meant. We don't have much Elm these days so I'm not too familiar with them, slippery or otherwise! So educate me. What is slippery Elm? Sadly we lost most elms in the UK during 1970s with Dutch Elm disease although there are still a few pockets of them dotted around. Shame - they were often planted as avenues in towns and have never really been replaced. We usually class sycamore as a type of maple.
 

Woody Stover

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2010
13,070
Southern IN
Isn't ironwood a colloquial term? I didn't think it referred to any specific species but more of a bunch of different ones.

American Hophornbeam

In UK hornbeam is sometimes called iron wood but then we also have Persian ironwood to confuse things. Even regionally in this country the same tree can be known by another name.
I've been wondering about "Ironwood" for quite a while. I've seen "Hophornbeam" mentioned here in conjuction. In the Audubon Guide, I see American Hophornbeam listed with the nicknames "Blue-beech" and "Water-beech." And Eastern Hophornbeam nicknamed "American Hophornbeam" and "Ironwood." I'm confused. 😏 It looks like the bark might be a good way to differentiate them, with Eastern having bark "light brown; thin, finely fissured into long, narrow, scaly ridges" according to The Guide.
I am supposedly in the range of both trees, but haven't IDed either here, so far.. If you look at the Wiki page for "Ironwood," there's like a hundred different trees listed with that nickname! :eek:
Even soft maples are still hardwoods...just soft hardwoods. ;)

Lately, I’ve grown to love three year old hackberry, so that’s on my list now.
We have a good bit of Hackberry here, but I've never gotten a big enough one out of the woods where I could give it a good try-out. But I see that it's BTU-rated right there with Red Elm, at 21.8, so a notch above Black Cherry.
 

EatenByLimestone

Moderator
Staff member

EatenByLimestone

Moderator
Staff member
There are 2 ironwoods here. Hornbeam, which is also called muscle wood, a very smooth bark with knots at the bottom of the tree and Hop-Hornbeam. It’s in the birch family and has a stringy, elm like bark. Both are understory trees and have super dense wood.

In addition to the elm like bark, Hop-hornbeam has elm like, interlocked grain. It used to be used for wheel hubs as it didn’t split, lol. I’ve never seen it more than 8” wide at the trunk, so I’m not sure how big an axle the wheel could have had, lol.