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Need tips for processing soft woods

Discussion in 'Firewood, Heating and Wood Burning Equipment' started by FlyingDutchman, Dec 21, 2018.

  1. FlyingDutchman

    FlyingDutchman Row Seatin'

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    Recently I've been "blessed" with a connection with a tree service and I can get large amounts of cottonwood, basswood (which ive never burnt before) and other things. I have an owb with forced draft so I can burn about anything even wet stuff mixed (no close neighborz to anger either). I like silver maple for instance...

    I am a little lost as to how to process it... And when to say no. Hardwood I'm splitting small 5" dia and flat as possible and 26" approximately so it will season in racks quickly and I can handle the pieces easily once split. Handling the rounds is tough, but the long splits work well with the rack system.

    I'd like to bank as much wood as I can, never can get ahead of the seasoning curve and always find myself burning wetish wood.

    I can split as long as 28" in my splitter, also have a regular speeco that does up to 24" and tilts, and is a bit faster.

    As to when to say no, there is about 2 truckloads of basswood sitting alongside a the road waiting for me in big long straight logs. I'll have to cut and load in the truck by hand possibly by myself. The dumptruck loads of cottonwood are a different story. They can sit and I can use heavy equipment to move them around or pull the splitter right up to it.


    Should I cut short and split big? Cut long and split small? What do you do?
     
  2. NSMaple1

    NSMaple1 Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I would cut as long as you usually do or whatever works for length, and split a bit bigger than usual. The end result should be that a piece of this stuff should weigh the same as a piece of other stuff, when you throw in in your boiler.

    That should also mean you get it processed faster - less pieces resulting.
     
  3. LondonNeil

    LondonNeil Addicted to ArboristSite

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    If struggling to get ahead and get seasoned, some ideas:
    - don't say no if the wood is available and you've space to pile it
    - work smart.... Find the bits that slow your processing and improve
    - focus on soft wood, it's fast drying (generally)
    -although it's more handling perhaps try bucking and just halving rounds, start the drying process. Once you have a good amount drying go back through half and split down to size. Then buck and halve a load, then split more down to size of the original pile.... You'll get drier wood, burn a little less and start to get ahead.
    - get wood now. Winter felled, dormant trees are drier.
     
  4. Ronaldo

    Ronaldo Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I have never split Basswood but the Cottonwood is usually a real pain to split as it is very stringy and wont separate like most harder woods(Oak). That process will likely take longer. But....free is free!
     
  5. grizz55chev

    grizz55chev Tree Freak

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    Free is not free, the labor you provide costs, hugely.
     
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  6. Streblerm

    Streblerm Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I agree with keeping the length whatever works for you and making bigger splits. Softer woods tend to dry faster and should be plenty dry by next year. I wouldn’t leave too many rounds as they do tend to rot.

    Get it split and stacked off the ground as soon as you can. I find piles of rounds on the ground start getting punky pretty fast. Split annd stacked it seems to hold up pretty well.

    I don’t know if I’d make a special trip for the basswood. I am far from a wood snob and will burn just about any dry wood. I really enjoy burning pine and fir , haven’t burned my house down yet. I hauled home some American basswood once mixed with some other stuff. It seemed about like poplar when it was green but when it was dry it was like balsa wood. It was like a movie prop. Seriously worse than any pine I ever burned. If somebody dropped it off I’d split it and burn it. I’d even probably load it up if I was getting something better along with it but I don’t know that I’d make a special trip for it. Of course I’m sitting on three years worth of wood now so it’s easy to say no.
     
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  7. NSMaple1

    NSMaple1 Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I most times leave soft wood splits at least twice as big as hardwood, especially if they are clear with no knots. They split really easy later with one quick whack if I need to make them smaller then. Main thing is to open it up to get it drying.
     
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  8. panolo

    panolo Seldom right...Always opinionated!

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    Basswood doesn't split that bad. It's almost spongy. Cottonwood can be a huge pain in the butt as some of it splits stiff like elm. I leave box elder, silver maple, basswood, and the little bit of cotton wood in bigger splits as they dry pretty quick.

    And your gonna wanna let the cottonwood sit for a summer. It will put out fires if you throw it in wet.
     
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  9. foeke

    foeke ArboristSite Operative

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    If it's stringy, maybe wait till it is frozen stiff?

    Sent from my SM-G935F using Tapatalk
     
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  10. sb47

    sb47 Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I wouldn't take cottonwood for ANY reason. That stuff is stringy and just plane stinks. I can't stand the smell of cottonwood. I would rather freeze then burn it.
     
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  11. Kevin in Ohio

    Kevin in Ohio Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Cottonwood as others have said would be my last choice if you have options. Most all of it I've had the misfortune to work with was stringy like elm. What that means is full stroke splitting and if your wedge isn't very tall, flip over full strokes. It pretty darn heavy to work with because it has to be more than 50% water. When it finally dries, it's like balsa wood. To top it off it's stinks when burnt as sb47 said. Like I said...LAST OPTION!
     
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  12. crowbuster

    crowbuster ArboristSite Guru

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    The only thing I use cottonwood for is tomahawk targets. I have no other need for it.
     
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  13. Wood Doctor

    Wood Doctor Edwin

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    Fascinating posts by CrowBuster and SB47. I have, in the last ten years, been paid more money selling split cottonwood than any other species of firewood there is. By far, it is the best campfire wood that I can offer and that is what the campers who buy it tell me. I sell it by the truckload and in bundles. It makes a beautiful fire that is easy to light, throws no sparks, and that is what most campers want.

    I sell my entire stock of cottonwood every year. Like elm, you just have to wait until the bark falls of and it checks up on the ends. Then it splits.
     
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  14. Trapper_Pete

    Trapper_Pete ArboristSite Operative

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    you can find a use for nearly every waste product. turning waste into a commodity.

    there is a sheet dry wall recycling place not to far from me that turns construction waste into gypsum into powder for agriculture use.

    a friend manages a cheese plant they have Whey as their bi-product of making the cheese 30 years ago they would spread the whey on a field or fed what they could to hogs, today it is worth what the cheese is per pound as a partially dehydrated Whey protein , so whats the by-product now the Cheese. not exactly they are both products.

    my cousin used to do work with big orchards apple and cherry they would pit hundreds of thousands of pounds of cherries in their big pitting machines so that they could sell the fruit in frozen 35# pails for preserves and pie filling producers.
    this left them with mounds of cherry pits they didn't know what to do with until someone got the idea to modify a pellet stove to feed dried cherry pits it seemed like there would be an un-ending supply of them for a year or three but once a few places had cherry pit burners now it's a commodity.

    as for the softer hardwoods your probably going to have to try it for a year and see if it is worth your labor. I have burned it , would I today if it was coming to me or at the farm I cut at sure.
    would I go looking for it when I have many years worth of cutting on primarly maple , no.

    getting it off the ground is important the Poplar species I have worked with were wet and rotted if left touching the ground if they are coming in very large rounds like cotton wood often does you may be better off cutting them to rounds 2 inches shorter than the bar on your saw and noodling them into quarters it will get the drying started and make lifting them possible.

    several years ago I was moving some rounds with a 2 wheel dolly loading them on my trailer when I got to the stump cut 16 in round it was so heavy I bent the hand truck bottom plate trying to lift it had to have help lifting the far side as I pushed down on the cart handle then I just got it to the top of the ramp on the trailer and the wheel on the hand truck went flat from the weight I had tried splitting it with a maul and it just went thud and water squeezed out when I hit it . months later it didn't split too bad.

    once blocked up into quarters and off the ground they should be a lot easier to handle getting into the splitter later you will have to figure out what the biggest dry split you can easily handle and load is that is where you will want to stop.
     
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  15. JeffHK454

    JeffHK454 Addicted to ArboristSite

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    It’s all where you’re at .. you can’t give away Cottonwood around me , let alone sell it. My local dump has an area where they recycle yard wate (trees) by feeding to a tub grinder..every species of tree you can imagine comes in but the only stuff left after the wood scrounges get done are Willow, Cottonwood and Pine.
     
  16. FlyingDutchman

    FlyingDutchman Row Seatin'

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    Holy smokes I didn't think this would be a very big topic. Thanks everyone for your input. Super helpful!

    Luckily they pushed the basswood down in the timber so I don't have to worry about it. I was dreading going after that. Problem solved. Still have the cottonwood to deal with.

    I like the idea of splitting it the same as the rest of my wood just in larger splits and I'm glad to hear it dries fast.

    My SpeeCo tilts vertical whereas the big splitter does not. Which makes really short work for big green rounds on the ground but splits a bit short for my liking on the racks. I've been setting aside short splits to possibly sell some firewood later on if I don't end up needing to burn it. It's exciting to hear it makes good campfire wood as I'm on a secondary road to a camping area. Might be profitable to sell bundles if I keep getting the stuff.

    I have not had a wood splitter for more than a year, so we were splitting with wedges until this year and some of my existing firewood is pre splitter and too big to dry out. I'm having to sort the piles out and split pieces that are still wet.

    My dad used to spend months hand split wood for a few hours a day . We slayed it in a few hours and nice small pieces that were easy to handle with a log splitter.
     
  17. Kevin in Ohio

    Kevin in Ohio Addicted to ArboristSite

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    If you have an outlet to sell campfire wood that could be a good money maker. People never miss spending less than $20.00 so the bundle thing in the grand scheme of a cord gets crazy fast. If it takes off< I see a kinetic in your future. :laugh:
     
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  18. Wood Doctor

    Wood Doctor Edwin

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    How about "People like to have a good campfire and can't wait to spend only $6 for 30 lb and $12 for 60 lb of wood that's easy to light and burns well."
     
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  19. FlyingDutchman

    FlyingDutchman Row Seatin'

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    IMG_20181225_162126593.jpg We cut the cottonwoods up to 18" with vintage Macs on Christmas day. Was fun. Cut the ash 24-26" for the racks. Pic of ash action. Saw in pic had not been used since 1984 according to who we got it from.

    Been cutting boxelder and other scrub wood from fenceline cleaning to 18" also.
     
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  20. rancher2

    rancher2 ArboristSite Guru

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    Always good to see the old iron running. Years ago when I sold wood the camp folks and people with fire places that like fires on the weekend loved cotton wood with no bark. Nice and clean and easy to start. Know days I don't sell wood only use it in my Garn and it take 10-15 cord a year to keep it happy. All the cotton wood ,elm, willow I cut go in the brush pile and gets burned that way. Were getting down to locust and hedge left in the pasture. In the next couple years the Garn will be on a hedge only diet.
     
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