I see. So your complaint about it burning "poorly" comes down to not
knowing how to regulate a fire.
Bottom line: You are the common variety uninformed "wood snob". I
wonder just how much wood you personally have actually burned in a
<Bottom line: You are the common variety uninformed "wood snob". I
wonder just how much wood you personally have actually burned in a
Sounds like you two are going to have a "flame war" (just couldn't resist!)
I bring wood for a lot of group campouts, and I've never seen
any wood that was "virtually worthless" for firewood.
Sure, some burns fast, others might burn smoky, but if the
mass is there, they've all burned well enough for us.
Disclaimer: Most of our camping is at the beach, so, there is
usually consistent and strong wind to blow smoke away from us.
Presumed OP wasn't talking for campfire use...sure it'll burn (sorta')
but in fireplace or stove you definitely won't like
a) the burn time,
b) the difficulty of starting/keeping fire going, and
c) the amount of ash to have to carry out.
All in all, if there's any thing else to choose from, you can almost be
guaranteed it'll serve better than cottonwood. But yes, in really,
really deprived wood locales folks will make do w/ what they have and
some does get used here for the purpose. All in all as noted above,
given the choice I take the trimmings of the Siberian elms for the use
here over the cottonwood even and generally put the cottonwood trimmings
in the burn pit rather than cutting it up.
I have a fireplace, but it doesn't burn wood so I was
only thinking campfire.
Did the OP specify the purpose of the burning?
If it's inside the home, I can easily see that
smoke might make a huge difference!
True, it would have been the fireplace, in the basement.
I have the previous tree that fell near my house, which I cut up and
saved (been about a year now) plus there is another tree that fell the
other direction, into the stream bed. Were I short of wood, I would
have cut that one up. (not cottonwood, but I forget what it was)
Plus all the old rails and pickets from my fence (none that are
Plus, the fireplace looked good to entertain girls, but since I don't
do that anymore, it's less important. Still I enjoyed watching it
myself, but I can't sit at my workbench and have a good view of the
fire, and the pile of projects not yet finished has spread across the
floor to where it is too close to the fireplace, so the fire need
closer attention than it did.
Living near the stream is charming, insteresting, and nice in several
ways, but the combination of being in a valley, even a little one (40
feet deep?) and having tall trees on two sides of me, means I think
the breeze I get is nowhere near as much as people a couple blocks
away get. I guess that's one reason in cowboy movies, or Kansas,
people build their houses on the top of the hill.
(I now have a big table fan at the foot of my bed, and a 4" fan on the
window sill above my head, so the lack of a breeze in the bedroom
won't be such a problem this summer. .
What is your opinion on Willow as firewood? It is the only species
readily available here in the Palouse (Washington State). Haven't
looked recently but IIANM it ranks right with Cottonwood at near the
bottom of the charts. I heated my house almost 100% with Willow for
over 30 years because anything else required a 100 mile roundtrip (or
more) for Fir or Tamarack. Willow won the "cost per btu" hands down
as I could get all I wanted withing a few miles of the house. Used
6-7 cord/yr. Last winter was my first using Black Locust (right at
the top of the charts). The locust borere moved in around 20 years
ago and I have been cutting it for the past 6 years. burned the last
of the willow the prior season.
Yes, the use of the "poor quality" wood require feeding the stove more
often and thus the usual complain "it leaves a lot of ash. Oddly,
burn more wood for the same heat will result in "more ash". Not a
I think you have it nailed. While some wood is beter than other, if you do
not mind the work and the cost is much less, any wood is fine to burn.
Maybe with the exception of pine.
I have burnt a lot of poplar wood because the trees were on my land and in
the way . I needed them cut and did not want to waste the wood. I could cut
what I wanted when I wanted. To get oak or other hard wood, I would either
have to buy it, or wait for someone to call me about a tree.
I had to load the stove about 3 times as much in a day as I do for oak.
Live trees are fine for firewood. It does take a while for it to dry enough
to use. The shorter pieces you cut it in , the shorter will be the drying
time as the wood dries mostly from the ends. You should be able to burn it
in Jan or Feb and get some heat out of it if you cut it about 18 inches
long. You can burn it sooner if you want,but it will not put off as much
heat as you are still boiling off muchof the moisture in the wood.
If cutting down live trees, try to wait for all the leaves to fall off as
the sap will run toward the roots and it will not be as wet and will not
take as long to dry.
Even trees that are just cut down will burn, but you don't get as much heat
and maybe more smoke.
PS: You don't need to know this:
The reason why live wood is easier to cut than dry wood is because wood
cells store H2O in two ways:
1. Inside the hollow cells there's a liquid which is mostly water, and
2. Inside the wood cell walls, gazillions of individual H2O molecules
are weakly chemically bound to the layers of cellulose that make up the
cell wall's thickness by hydrogen bonding. This is not liquid water but
chemically bound up H2O molecules the same as you have in the gypsum
core of drywall.
When wood dries, the liquid water inside the hollow cells is the first
to evaporate, and that water evaporates (and is absorbed) 15 times
faster at the wood end grain than across the wood grain. So, the
fastest way to air dry a tree trunk is to cut it into thin disks.
After the liquid water evaporates, the chemically bound up H2O molecules
in the wood cell walls are lost to the surrounding air. As that
happens, the cell walls become thinner and stiffer, exactly the same way
that a cellulose sponge gets thinner and stiffer as it dries out.
The thinning and stiffening of the wood cell walls makes dried wood
harder and stronger than wet wood, but that harder and stronger wood is
also harder to cut.
It's all the water in the live wood that makes it lousy for burning.
Much (if not most) of the heat produced by burning the cellulose of the
wood goes into boiling off (or otherwise driving out) the water from the
He means that while the tree is standing, the sap will run toward the
roots. I don't know that myself, but Ralph has never lied to me
before. Maybe it relates to maple sap running in the fall (after the
leaves are off?)
Maybe it relates to this: After I cut the part of the trunk resting
on my woody bushes, it didn't fall anymore.
So I cut the main trunk near the edge of my yard. I didn't cut all
the way through because I couldn't decide which way the cut-off part
would go when it was free**. I left some uncut and then used a rope
to pull on the trunk, When after cutting more the third time, I got
it to break, at the uncut part, it ripped off about 6 feet of bark.
Under the bark, was an almost blemish free white layer that was
positively wet. When I toucheed it my fingers got wet. The liquid
was clear, but that was the sap, wasn't it?
I should have looked for xylem and phloem. The bark is still lthere
but tomorrow will be two days of drying.
**It went straight down, but because of the way it was resting, I
could see it sliding off the bushes towards me and putting a 1 or 2
inch dent in my chest, or knocking me off the ladder onto the picket
Depends on the tree, and the locale, but my foot-thick oak wouldn't
burn in a campfire within a month of cutting; but, a year later, it
burned like it was nuclear power.
Here in the Silicon Valley, it's dry weather, so your locale may
also make a difference.
There's (probably) nothing wrong with throwing it in a stream bed,
(although here in California, you'd probably need a permit); but,
I question why a stream bed? Why not just pile it alongside?
Or, is the point for the wood to float downstream, off your
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