Worst wood to chainsaw??

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Hearth Supporter
Dec 3, 2008
New Jersey
I am a bit of a new comer as a burner, however I have had some experience working on our family's nursery with cutting some "Difficult" to deal with genus/species. The absolute worst wood that I've had to chainsaw was a non-native tree, Parrotia persica (common name Persian Ironwood). Parrotia is actually a highly prized ornamental tree that is related to the Witch Hazel family. It is a nice deciduous tree that has a nice dense growth habit. It is highly prized for its winter scarlet flowers, pealing bark, and wonderful fall color.

Anyway, long story short, I had 5 big trees growing on my property. They were stock plants from a Nursery that occupied my property before me. I tried to save them, but they were damaged from a storm. The One that I cut down had a 20" caliper at the base. I fell the tree and 0destroyed the chain half way through my 2nd cut through the trunk. I contacted my father in law, he showed up with a brandnew chain on his saw...... same deal, it was smoking and throwing powder by his third cut. We wore a file out trying to get an edge back on his chain.

He actually saved a piece of log and says after 3 years of seasoning in his garage, it sounds like a piece of iron/steel when he drops it on concrete!!!

Any other stories out there of nasty wood for cutting? I've read that Ostrya virginiana (Eastern Hophornbeam, or Ironwood) is a native with GREAT BTU capacity. wonder if that is as bad as Parrotia on the saw.

Cedrusdeodara (a tree I love and would never burn)

Stihl MS361
SPee Co hydraulic splitter
Osburn 1800 insert, soon to be replaced by Napoleon 1402 insert
I have 3 black locust in my back yard. I have trimmed back all 3 of them and I can tell you.. You have to go slow when cutting it.. It's amazing how such a hard tree grows so fast..
Sometimes the pallets of lumber we get (exotic...cumaru, ipe, jatoba) are too long for us to use, We have to saw them in 1/2, That wiill easilly kill a chain
A lot of Hedge wood here in Missouri they call it Osage Orange. The Indians would make bows out of it and White man made fence posts out of it.
That is real hard and the slowest I have ever seen to rot laying on the ground.
I had some real huge willows that were almost as tough as Locust.

Osage Orange has one of if not the highest BTU values for burning. Your lucky if you have some in your seasoned stack. That tree does have a natural antibacterial/antifungus compound in it's wood. An arboretum outside of Philadelphia has a large dead trunk lying on the ground from an Osage Orange tree. A plackard next to the trunk states that the tree fell down in the 1960s during a storm. It looks like it could have fallen last year because it shows little to no rot. Apparently Osage Orange is premium wood for fence building due to it's natural resistance to rot.

Bigg_Redd said:
Any wood that has been dragged around or rolled in mud.
and then frozen!
Old dead dry Mulberry, it throws sparks at night. Just kidding but it is like concrete, and explodes in the woodstove. Looks like its petrified when has been standing dead for a long time.
IRONWOOD all the way! NO DOUBT
Bois D'arc, Osage Orange, Hedgeapple, Horse Apple - same tree, different names.

I really do not think there is anything native to North America any harder. Once dry it WILL throw sparks off your chain. The time it takes to cut through a dry 6" fence post is approximately - well, I never made it clear through one.

As for longevity, come down to the Ozarks and I will show you plenty of 50 - 75 year old hedgeapple fence posts still doing regular duty. Some of them have gone through three or four sets of barbed wire.

Anything with rotten spots! (or hedge apple)
petrified oak.

don't know how it compares to any of the above.

When a puff of smoke comes out of the cut, it's time to withdraw the bar and let some cool air and oil at the bar and chain.

This would be oak that was standing so long it had anice fruitwood colored patina through and through.
I've found apple to be really tough on saws. Last year I helped an orchard cut down a couple of hundred older trees so they could plant more dwarfs. That was some hard cutting.
I cut about 2 cords of Black Locust and i had to sharpen the chain every 20 min. I went slow and wiped off any dirt on the bark. About 1 hour ago i cut some old Red Oak, very tough stuff.
I've never had a problem with ironwood,locust can be difficult,some of the others,I've never seen.Anything dry or dirty is a pain but if your chain is sharp and more importantly,your oiler is working good,you should be able to cut anything as long as it's wood
Interesting to see so much hedge and locust responses...when I go to cut my own wood (ie not scrounging or taking what ever is dropped off) , those are the two I go after and never really thought about them being too bad.

My first thought was elm...not because it's so hard on the chainsaw, but I know that most every piece sawed has to then be split...so I cringe at every saw cut! Second worst was a toss-up of willow, cottonwood, cedar, etc, as I think I've expended more energy cutting, splitting, and stacking those woods as actually comes from burning them. :)
FatttFire said:
IRONWOOD all the way! NO DOUBT

Agreed!, dry black locust is a distant second to this nasty stuff.
What does this Iron wood look like
Dill said:
I've found apple to be really tough on saws. Last year I helped an orchard cut down a couple of hundred older trees so they could plant more dwarfs. That was some hard cutting.

Yep, I never cut some of the stuff talked about here, like ironwood. I've cut locust, it's hard, but I think hickory is worse. And seasoned apple, that stuff's hard as rock. I cut some with my table saw and it smoked and carried on awful.

Worse wood to cut is stuff that has nails and barbed wire in it :roll:
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