There are loads of articles on the web showing how (and sometimes how not to!) cut down trees, but not so much about actually cutting firewood after the tree has been felled and stripped of it’s branches (called snedding or limbing in arborist speak). This ‘how to’ shows the easiest way to produce firewood by cutting many logs at the same time. I actually use my firewood cutting operation as part of my fitness regime, much more useful than going to the gym and the same muscle burn the day after!
When thinning out woodland your aim is to remove the small stuff crowding the good stuff and end up with an even spread of good trees. This allows in lots of air and light, enabling the specimen trees to thrive. Some of the deadwood can also be taken for firewood, but don’t forget to leave a few standing as they improve the bio-diversity by providing habitat for lots of different creatures. Some deadwood that is too far gone to burn can be dropped and left on the floor to provide even more habitat for the bugs!
Practically, thinnings generally range from a couple of inches (50mm) up to around 4″ or 5″ (100-125mm) in diameter which is a nice size for easy felling and chopping for firewood. Taking it easy I find around 3 or 4 hours fills my trailer which is just over one cubic meter. Incidentally, this year that translates to 3 square meters stacked up against the wall.
I start by cutting the trees into 10′ (3m) logs so that I can easily drag them to my cleared working area close to the pick up point.
You can make a homemade ‘cradle’ that holds a whole bunch of logs from sturdy construction lumber (2 by 4). This enables you to safely cut many at once, as long as you put some of the heavy logs both at the bottom and on the top. Don’t forget to make the cradle narrow enough for the size of chainsaw bar you have. Usually not more than 12″ or 300mm inside measurement. Make sure that it is constructed in such a way that you cannot hit any nails etc with the chainsaw.
Place the logs onto the cradle keeping the ends off the logs flush one side ( or at least staggered in 12″ steps). If you are fussy like me you can mark one of the top logs at 12″ (300mm) intervals with chalk to ensure even log lengths. Then cut alternate sides (so that it doesn’t topple over to one side), finishing off with a couple of cuts over the cradle itself, don’t forget to stop before you saw the thing in half lol! (See upgraded version below…)
Once your logs are cut into short lengths (12″ or 300mm) I find the easiest way to chop them into a good size for firewood, is to mount an old car tyre onto a short stump or sturdy lumber platform using screws and washers. Then several logs can be chopped or split at once without having to bend down to pick up the split logs all the time. I generally split anything over 2″ (50mm) or so.
Arguably the most dangerous tool most of us will ever work with is our chainsaws, especially when cutting firewood. Never compromise your safety, ever! Study videos online to improve your chainsaw knowledge, it might save your life one day.
Finding free firewood
Living in Norway means that firewood is needed for about six months of the year. Of course many buy their firewood cut and bagged ready for use, but us handy folk like to get into the woods and cut our own. Especially as it can be had for free in many areas.
Try contacting the local authority to see if they have a local firewood cutting scheme. Many authorities cannot keep up with maintenance of woodlands and will allow you to take the “thinnings” from a nominated area to use as firewood.
Or you can try local electricity companies if they have men out cutting down trees that threaten power lines. The timber is often left available for further cutting and collection. Try also local arborists as they might let you take away felled timber so that they don’t have to dispose of it for their client.
How do you cut your firewood? I’d welcome any firewood cutting tips you’d like to share with me?
Stay safe and happy choppin!
By Ian Anderson
UPDATE: A new chainsaw with a slightly smaller bar and much more power necessitated a redesign of my ‘saw buck’ to keep it safe. I made the new one a little narrower with only 250mm (10″) for the logs, plus its a little longer at around 1200mm (4′). The most important new feature however is the raised bed that enables me to cut right through the logs into a 120mm (5″) air space before hitting the actual frame….