Firewood starts out as a tree. It has health issues. It ceases to grow. Then, one day, someone uses a chain saw and cuts it down.
It's loaded into a trailer of some sort, either a flatbed with logs, or a dump trailer filled with chunks crosscut to a length that will fit into the splitter. A splitter is a fixed frame unit that uses a hydraulic system to use a metal wedge mounted on a extendable shaft in a cylinder.
The chunks are split into manageable pieces. Usually six inches wide. They need to be cut open because the wood will decompose instead of dry if it is not split. Wood is very wet.
Knocking Tree Down and Getting Ready to Transport to Home for Splitting and Stacking
Usually the wood needs to be transported. The photos are of a tree that was on the edge of a farmer's field. It was dead, and the farmer was afraid it was going to fall into the field, thus limiting the spot where he was currently farming. Another words, the tree would make it impossible to farm that particular spot.
So, We drove a bobcat and a truck with a dump-able trailer to the spot, used a chain saw to cut the tree down. Then, loaded pieces into the dump trailer for transporting to our home. We cleaned up what branches were broken onto the field and tossed them into the grass surrounding the field. These branches will decompose and return to soil, eventually. What little bark that was left on the tree that fell into the field will be tilled under by the tractor next spring and used as a composted material.
The picture shows the beginning of a row of stacked wood. The ends are started by cross stacking. This helps to prevent the side of the stack from collapsing. It is not foolproof, but it helps keep the pile from tipping over sideways. It will not keep the pile from tipping over towards the stacker.
The ends are cross stacked, and the chunks across the middle are set in a parallel fashion, making sure each piece is placed on the row in a somewhat solid fashion. The pile is wiggled ever so often to make sure it is not tippable. There seems to be a science involved. Gravity may or may not be your friend.
How Long to Dry?
The length of time required to dry the wood depends on what type of wood is stacked. Many of our piles of wood are stacked for at least one year before we attempt to burn them in our house.
This one year drying time reduces the amount of moisture that can be sent up the chimney. Wet wood will make the chimney plug up a little quicker than dry wood. The chimney collects a substance called creosote which is a sticky, tarry liquid, not unlike the brown goo that collects on a baking sheet.
Some woods that have been dead for a while before cutting, have drained their sap and are ready to burn. Certain woods, like ash and cottonwood are ready to burn immediately.