When I got ready to move into the Secret Lair about nine years ago, planning to heat it with wood, I looked around at all the dead juniper everywhere and saw an embarrassment of riches – I really thought I had that part nailed. Because, as has so often been the case, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
And what I didn’t know was a) as firewood goes, juniper is lousy firewood. It’s generally very porous, the pores are full of dirt, and it never burns very hot. Also b) my free woodstove was very poorly suited for the purpose – in hindsight I really think it was designed to use forced air – and between it, the 8-inch stovepipe and the juniper it was a terrifying chimney fire waiting to happen. Because it produced smoldering, smoky, relatively cool fires that may as well have been designed to deposit creosote rather than, you know, heat my cabin.
So I got a new boxwood stove near the start of my second winter in residence, and gradually began my tradition of collecting old pallets and scrap wood through the summer. Can’t say I don’t burn any juniper, because of course I do and anyway the stove and pipe are more squared away than they were at first, but to the greatest extent possible I burn old lumber. And that’s why my principal woodcutting tools are a Sawzall and chopsaw and my chainsaw hasn’t been out of mothballs in years.
Cutting up pallets for firewood turned out to involve more of a learning curve than I expected – there are right ways and wrong ways – but I think I’m getting it. Today I did eight in a little over an hour.
This is the biggest and most complete of the morning. It was the sixth of the day and the blade was getting worn so it was also the most time-consuming. I decided to see just how long each took, with my improved tools and technique…
And reducing it to that pile on the table took me a little under eight minutes. I changed the blade and the next one went much quicker.
Speaking of blades, other than gasoline that’s my only monetary outlay. They do wear out rather quickly and unlike chainsaw chains you can’t sharpen them. I wouldn’t go near a pallet with a chainsaw, though – too many nails. Chains are far more expensive than recip saw blades, which are designed to cut nails.
And that’s the pile at the end of today’s session. More like it – and after it goes through the chopsaw it’ll make more than I really want to stack in one go anyway. Stacking turns out to be the hardest part on my back.
But I probably won’t cut it up tomorrow because first I have to give some attention to the woodshed floor, which has been largely undermined by rats in the past three years. Turns out my hardware cloth/sand/stone floor rather did the opposite of keeping the rats out. Some found it quite inviting.
And as much easier as the woodcutting has gotten in the past few years, I’m still a stiff old man and I won’t say it isn’t a workout…
Anyway, now that that and the chicken chores are done, I need to wash up and start baking bread.