Articles about DIY

 

Pro Tip: If you use fatwood to start your fires, or you regularly burn wood from conifers, be sure to clean the creosote from your chimney regularly to help prevent chimney fires.

 

 

How To Get The Most Out of Your
Wood Stove’s Firewood

by Damien Andrews

If you have a wood burning stove then you likely already know that good fires are a result of heat and oxygen. If you use your wood stove for heat, then you surely know that. And if your wood stove is your only source of heat, then knowing that is a critical piece of information. But there are a couple of other things you might not know, even if you depend on your wood burner for heat.

Hand-in-hand with a fire’s need for oxygen is the concept of surface area. The more surface area there is, the faster your fire will burn and spread. This equates to greater heat over a shorter time span. You can demonstrate this to yourself, should you wish to, by doing a simple test.

Start with two logs of approximately the same length and the same diameter. They should also be similar in age, wood type and dryness – so the test is fair. Split one of the logs into six pieces and leave the other intact. The next time you have a fire going, put the split log (all the pieces) into it and time how long it takes to a) catch fire and b) burn down to fine ash. Repeat this process for the whole log. If your fire was good and hot to start, a 6” diameter split log will burn down to fine ash in about one hour. The whole log will burn for two to three hours. Also, the split log will create oodles of short term heat, while the whole log will create a steadier, more moderate amount of heat.

This further explains why when we are starting a fire, we want small pieces, and when we put that night log on – the one put into the stove right before bedtime – we want a large piece of wood.

Something else happened when you had the two test logs. Something you may or may not have noticed. After splitting, the one log took up a great deal more space than the log that was not split. This means that the more finely your cord of wood is split, the less wood you’ll have in the cord. This is because a cord is measured by volume: 4 feet wide × 4 feet high × 8 feet long.

To get the most out of your firewood orders, ask for wood that is not split, or only split moderately. Then split it yourself. You can also ask for the wood to be piled, and not stacked, which will often knock a few bucks off the price. Of course this means you will not be able to visually ensure you have a full cord, or half cord, but if you had wood delivered on several occasions, you can tell by looking at the truck when it pulls in.

You need several types of wood for your wood burning stove, in order to get the most out of your stove and your firewood. Some of it should be split several times, into six or eight pieces. Some of it should be split twice, into four pieces. A few pieces should be split once and some of it should be left as whole log sections.

Firewood Stack

 

Use the finest splits on top of your kindling to start your fire and get the fire and heat going ‘right now.’ These are also great pieces to toss onto the stirred embers when you get up in the morning.

Lighting the kindling to start a fire

Use the quartered pieces when you want to jump the fire’s heat up fast, but not for long. The halves will do a fine job of catching fast and burning for a moderate amount of time, but without making a tremendous amount of heat. Use the whole logs when you want a steady heat over a long period of time.

When you are burning those whole logs, you can stir the fire occasionally, and scrape some of the charred wood off of the log’s surface, to get a few minutes of extra heat. This will cause the log to burn down quicker, but will provide some extra short-term warmth.

Pro Tip: If you use fatwood to start your fires, or you regularly burn wood from conifers, be sure to clean the creosote from your chimney regularly to help prevent chimney fires.

 

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