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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  Special Interests - Groups & Societies  |  The American Plainsmen Society (Moderators: Caleb Hobbs, Tsalagidave)  |  Topic: Picking the Right Wood for Your Fire 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: Picking the Right Wood for Your Fire  (Read 2049 times)
Tsalagidave
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Dave Rodgers


« on: February 27, 2017, 02:53:41 am »


Boys, I wrote up an article recently and in it I used a few nuggets that I have in a book I'm working on. Figured I'd use one of them here.  Many of you know this already but many others don't.  I was recently at an event and saw guys step over good deadfall woods like cedar and oak with armloads of resinous, spitting pine.  They spent the evening choking on smoke and complaining how it followed them around the firepit stinging their eyes.  Their tin was blacker than a lawyer's hat and even if they had a good cook amongst them, the resin would undo any good flavor he could put in the pan.  When I got up in the pre-dawn, to stoke my coals and start the day, I looked over and saw a group of cold, tired men trying to re light some fresh sticks with matches and typing paper.  It was forgivable if they were all new to this, but I had a sinking feeling that they weren't so I sat down to write a few words on it.

Although there are times where you have a limited fuel selection and must settle for whatever is on hand, you should still know the difference between the good and poor burning woods.  The advantage of knowing this is to know which woods heat best and and are ideal to last a long cold night adequately.  A clean burning wood with good coals is better to cook on and prevents irritating your lungs and eyes.  Resinous woods also make a mess of your cooking kit and spoils the taste of your food.  When picking up your deadfall or filling your homestead's woodpile, consider these guidelines.

I generally prefer hardwood (broadleaf) over softwoods (conifers) but sometimes broadleaf trees such as the willow are the worst kind of wood to forage.  Generally, you want a wood with a slow burn speed, that generates a good heat output, burns clean, and leaves lasting coals.  The best woods for this are Ash, Beech, Apple, Cherry, Cedar, or Hawthorne.    Some woods that are considered good to medium would include Oak, Maple, or Birch.  These woods still burn well and will serve you just fine in cooking a meal or keeping warm.

In fact, there are many other fine woods to use and many more decent woods in-between but there are also poor woods that should only be used as a last resort.  Poor woods are either too difficult to keep lit, or burn too fast,  smoke, spit, spark too much, and heat insufficiently in addition to not producing a good coal bed. Examples of poor firewood are Chestnut, Fir, Holly, Poplar, Spruce, or Willow.  It’s also important to note that this kind of wood’s ash does not contain enough lye to make soap, clean cooking implements well, or fortify Indian meal.  (Stick to using good burning hardwood ash for this.)

There are other things here to go over like the best way to start a fire and keeping your tin out of the flames but why waste all that opportunity in just one discussion.

Stay warm out there...
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Bibbyman
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« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2017, 06:47:07 am »

We ran a sawmill for 20 years so always had plenty of firewood to choose from. 

One thing you didn't mention is that the ashes resulting from burning wood comes mostly from the bark.  We would sale the slab wood (the outside first cuts) and keep back any cull lumber and trimmed ends for our use. The difference in ashes produced from burning barky wood and now bark is dramatic.

Light woods like sycamore burn quickly and is good for a quick fire on a chilly morning.   Oaks, hickory, walnut,  make hot, long lasting fires. Pin oak, sometimes called wateroak, stinks like howg manure and is to be avoided.  Hickory and walnut will spit sparks more than other woods.

Finer split wood burns quicker. That's why I burn small wood when I'm around to attend it then load with "all nighters" when we go to bed.
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Niederlander
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« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2017, 08:10:11 am »

I grew up with nothing but a wood burning furnace for heat.  Oak and maple were great, and osage orange burned nice and hot but you had to have your fire going pretty well to get it to burn.  Cottonwood was okay for a quick fire but it seemed like you couldn't throw it into the furnace fast enough.  Great thread, Dave!
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Tsalagidave
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Dave Rodgers


« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2017, 11:32:32 am »

Thanks gentlemen.  Bibby you are right about the small cuts burning faster.  I'm trying to do a series of camp craft and I laid that topic aside for crafting the various fire builds to accomplish a variety of different purposes (eg. various types of cook fires, group warming fire, signal fire, etc.)

Also, share more about your statement on how the barked exterior cuts  producing the most ash.  I can see that perhaps in a soft wood but with hard woods, I've split countless trunks and always got a full coal bed out of that and it wasn't the bark.  Are you talking about the core of the trunk how it burns clean while leaving the outermost layers as coals?  The reason why I ask is that the whole point of hard woods is that the higher density body of the wood itself is what becomes the coal bed while disintegrating slowly whereas the soft woods disintegrate quickly leaving inadequate coals for cooking and heating along with ash that lacks the sufficient levels of lye to make soaps, or add to corn meal.  I just want to make sure that I understood you clearly.

Thanks for the feedback.

-Dave
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Bibbyman
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« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2017, 01:08:54 pm »

I'm not addressing coals.  It's the residual ash that is left after the wood is completely consumed.
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Tsalagidave
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Dave Rodgers


« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2017, 01:31:03 pm »

Got it.  Thanks for the clarification pard.

-Dave
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Dave Rodgers


« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2017, 02:49:31 pm »

Niederlander, thanks for your input.  Just a quick question; are you up on sources for a good period stove?  I have a train station pot-belly stove in my workshop but I was looking for something in a more pre-1860's pattern and Lehmans does not have enough selection.  Also good input on the cottonwood.  I barbecued some meat over cottonwood with a friend a few months back and I really like what it did for the flavor.  I think my interest as a grill man did a lot for my interest in primitive camping and roasting meat in the old way.

-Dave
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Bibbyman
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« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2017, 03:58:35 pm »

Around here they take their bbq seriously.   One competitive cooker uses red oak.
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Tsalagidave
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Dave Rodgers


« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2017, 04:31:14 pm »

Around here they take their bbq seriously.   One competitive cooker uses red oak.
Very nice choice.  I have a good mustard sauce for some of that.

-Dave
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Niederlander
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« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2017, 04:48:13 pm »

Niederlander, thanks for your input.  Just a quick question; are you up on sources for a good period stove?  I have a train station pot-belly stove in my workshop but I was looking for something in a more pre-1860's pattern and Lehmans does not have enough selection.  Also good input on the cottonwood.  I barbecued some meat over cottonwood with a friend a few months back and I really like what it did for the flavor.  I think my interest as a grill man did a lot for my interest in primitive camping and roasting meat in the old way.

-Dave
What would that sort of stove look like?  This area was settled primarily in the 1870's and 1880's, but you never know what you find at sales.  A friend of mine (he's interested in Plainsman) does auctions so I can get him on the scout if you can get me some pictures of what you're looking for.
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« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2017, 09:24:42 pm »

My first thought is to the sheep herder stove, which is fairly light, easy to move & set up and works reasonably well as I can attest to a night tending one with poplar wood on a winter's night in Alberta. They are commonly available and plans can be found.

I don't yet know its historical background.

I did find an intertesting article on a burn test by the US Forestry Service;

 https://www.fs.fed.us/t-d/pubs/pdf/hi_res/06511305hi.pdf

P.S. So I googldit;

 https://books.google.ca/books?id=PgvbCwAAQBAJ&pg=PA49&lpg=PA49&dq=history+of+sheep+herder+stove&source=bl&ots=UTybnDMFmp&sig=KGkxnTXAJKXiwSXeuZKNQAUsmOY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj_9vrY3rHSAhVC6WMKHcNbDQAQ6AEIKjAD#v=onepage&q=history%20of%20sheep%20herder%20stove&f=false
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Dave Rodgers


« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2017, 01:17:13 am »

Looking for a good box stove.  Apparently, they go for the same price of a good custom gun. http://antiquestoves.net/dir/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=197&catid=14&Itemid=124

-Dave
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« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2017, 06:31:37 am »

I'll keep my eyes open.  There's got to be one hiding for less than what they're asking.
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Tascosa Joe
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« Reply #13 on: February 28, 2017, 08:44:55 am »

I tried to heat a tipi at -16 F with a 1943 US army tent stove. (Bent's Fort 1978 or 1979) Turned it cherry red but the Jack Daniels still froze.  Dang it was cold
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Tsalagidave
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Dave Rodgers


« Reply #14 on: February 28, 2017, 04:02:24 pm »

The stove I am looking for will go into an auxiliary room I am planning on building on a property I am eyeing in Arizona.  I have enough land there to make a 20 x 30 adobe studio.  The stove will go into a timber washroom that I plan to build as an extension. 

I can relate to the cold Joe. Years ago, I camped with a couple of pards near Franklin Tennessee when there was a torrential rainstorm that turned the ground into a morass; when nightfall came, so did the snow and all those fields of mud turned into sub-zero concrete.  Still sticks out as one of the coldest nights of my life.

-Dave
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« Reply #15 on: February 28, 2017, 04:36:45 pm »

You see those box type stoves around here from time to time and not anywhere near what that dealer is asking but shipping cost to get it to AZ or CA might be a bit steep.
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bear tooth billy
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« Reply #16 on: February 28, 2017, 05:44:54 pm »

I have 2 spots in my shed that I keep my good firewood for my primitive camp. I cut red oak trunk wood at about 12''
and split it 2-3 inch chunk. I fill the 1 section and let it dry for up to 5 years. I can whittle some off with a knife and
have a fire going with 1 match. Then when 1 section gets used up I fill it up and let it dry, while I use the other.
The nice thing about the trunk wood is it will split very easy with just a hatchet. Quite a difference than watching
people dragging wet stuff out of the woods and trying to get it to burn.

                                   BTB
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« Reply #17 on: February 28, 2017, 08:09:52 pm »

I don't do a lot of campfires, but I've heated with wood for 25+ years. Here in the Mid Mo Ozarks, oak is considered the best, but I use a lot of elm and thorny locust, comes as a by product of fence row cleaning. Elm seems to take forever to season-then it turns to punk. BUT! If you find a dead standing elm with the bark fallen off, it makes excellent wood, as long as you can use it without splitting. Trying to split elm with hand tools can be an exercise in futility. Locust makes a lot of heat, but can tend to spark a lot. There's lots of sycamore growing along the creeks here, but mostly it's only good for getting a fire started, they tend to drop lots of small dead limbs. Hard to split and will keep you constantly feeding the stove and cleaning out ashes. Burned a lot of walnut for several years after selling walnut timber, the tops last for years longer than oak tops when left over after logging, but walnut kind of stinks when burned, so maybe not so good for a campfire.
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Sir Charles deMouton-Black
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« Reply #18 on: March 01, 2017, 08:59:06 pm »

Dave; For a permanent set-up, like your adobe or soddy, a cast iron stove would be the ticket. I'm not even sure anyuone makes them anymore?

I found some old, some new on kijiji in Ontario. Check your local online buy&sell store.


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THE SUBLYME & HOLY ORDER OF THE SOOT (SHOTS)
Those who are no longer ignorant of History may relive it,
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With apologies to George Santayana & W. S. Churchill

"As Mark Twain once put it, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
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« Reply #19 on: March 02, 2017, 11:43:38 am »

I used an old sheet iron stove off and on for years as an auxillary heater.  They work ok but don't retain heat very long.  The one I had was used to heat the newspaper office in Yorktown, Texas from the 1900's to the early 1950's.  My mother and aunt bought it from a 2nd hand store.  Their buying trips are an interesting tale.
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River City John
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« Reply #20 on: March 02, 2017, 08:20:18 pm »

I currently have a nice, ornate cast iron stove for sale for only $95.00. Internals work, ash grate works, water reservoir on side.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/475857507/vintage-ornate-cast-iron-toy-or?ref=shop_home_feat_2




RCJ
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« Reply #21 on: March 02, 2017, 10:55:03 pm »

John; For a really tiny soddy.
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THE SUBLYME & HOLY ORDER OF THE SOOT (SHOTS)
Those who are no longer ignorant of History may relive it,
without the Blood, Sweat, and Tears.
With apologies to George Santayana & W. S. Churchill

"As Mark Twain once put it, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
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Dave Rodgers


« Reply #22 on: March 03, 2017, 03:10:54 am »

I currently have a nice, ornate cast iron stove for sale for only $95.00. Internals work, ash grate works, water reservoir on side.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/475857507/vintage-ornate-cast-iron-toy-or?ref=shop_home_feat_2



RCJ

Thanks John, but I must agree with Charles.  I'm a bit too tall for that particular model.

-Dave

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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  Special Interests - Groups & Societies  |  The American Plainsmen Society (Moderators: Caleb Hobbs, Tsalagidave)  |  Topic: Picking the Right Wood for Your Fire « previous next »
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