Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Of axes, oaks and woodstoves


Because of Isabel's birth, I have been able to take some serious R&R as well as get things done around the house that need being done. The thing about the latter is that I can, during this time off, not feel rushed in the process, do it my own pace, and so enjoy the work moreso than I would normally.

Today, I bought a new axe from Lowe's for splitting wood. Unlike a traditional maul, it has a winged axe head, so you have the wedge qualities of a maul, and the cutting qualities of an axe. Moreoever, the winged axe is 4 pounds lighter, which makes cutting large amounts of wood far easier.

I just got back inside from splitting 15-20 inch sections of white oak (about 14-15 inches in diameter) with relative ease. I am most impressed with the winged axe's performance and have been trying out the different woods I have gathered in my woodstove.

We have been running the stove for the past few days now to take the chill out of the air and get a feel for the heat output. So far it has been remarkable.

This is what I mean. Last year, I ran the woodstove at Clare's parents all winter. It got to the point that I could get the catalytic converter to kick on in two minutes, which, if you knew this thing, is saying something. It means that the fan turns on to help spread the heat from the stove to the rest of the room, but it has to be hot enough to do that.

Anyway, this thing ate wood like no tomorrow. It's an old stove, and they tend not to be too efficient from what I know. I am sure there are exceptions, but, that being said, it burned what it burned, and that was it.

Now enter the Jotul 3, supposedly, according to the company, the best-selling wood stove in the world. I have no idea, so I'll just take their word for it. The thing I like about it, though, is that it creates a very slow, slow burn. Once you get a white hot bed of coals, you can add a small log like once every 4 or 5 hours, and you get lots of heat.

I mean, I am so impressed by this baby, the way it helps your wood to burn slower than it would normally. So for the wood-splitting individual, that means your word splitting time is reduced significantly, time that you could spend enjoying your woodstove. Now, here are some observations of the wood I've been burning, none of which has been "seasoned," other than being dead for a long time:

American Elm: Easy to start, this hardwood burns fast and hot. It's a good wood to start a fire, but because of how fast it goes, not the best for a sustaining fuel.

Black Locust: According to some chart I found, Black Locust is actually the hottest burning wood out there, burning at .057 BTUs (British Thermal Units). As my friend and woodsman extraordinaire Jason Banaszak noted, however, Black Locust may burn [just a little bit] hotter than white oak, but it does not burn longer or cleaner. Point noted, and after putting the two to the test in my stove, I definitely agree.

White Oak: The ideal wood, the powerhouse. It burns slow, white hot, and clean. It yields that classic smell you think of in fall and winter when driving by a house heating with wood. As previously stated, it burns slow and long. It's the ideal wood to heat your house, though it is quite pricy to have it seasoned, split and delivered by the cord. Only Shagbark Hickory burns as hot, but Shagbark Hickories, as my olde friend and farmer Gerald Austin asserts, Hickories are too nice a tree to burn.

Silver Maple: I just chopped a dead one down in my yard, and I have to say, I am rather surprised and impressed by the amount of heat the wood puts out, and for how long it burns. Kudos to the silver maple. I have got a bunch of these at work to chop down, so that means more wood for me.

Boxwood Elder: This is a shit wood. On the list, it is down a good ways in terms of the amount of heat it puts out, and it's a pain to start. I don't recommend this stuff unless you are in the same straits as Poe once was, reduced to burning his furniture in order to survive the winter while at the University of VA. Anyway, Boxwood Elder is for the bonfire pile, not the cord pile.

Over and out,


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wood rules.