Note: most links in the article are links to our pictures of the wood

As I've mentioned previously, we really like our woodstove, and since we've used the gas less than I thought, I decided to get some more wood, and so I found a guy on Craigslist, who had a decent price for delivering, and stacking, so we bought it, and it arrived today.

In the process of looking for that, I found a guy who cut up an old stump for someone, and he cut and split into large pieces, and then I cut and split it so it would fit in our woodstove.  The tree was a black locust, which turns out to be the hardest wood I've ever seen, and is near the top of the list for hardest known wood.  What that means is that it feels like a rock: when lifting it, splitting it, and when burning it. The picture shows the wood collected from the stump - it must have been the biggest stump I've ever seen - I estimate that there is about 28 cubic feet, around 1/4 of a cord, which is pretty good for an old stump.

But, I got the larger pieces of the stump split and cut (note the safety goggles when chainsawing in the picture...)  And when we burn it, it doesn't really light at first, but then tiny little pieces burn for hours.  The other day I tried to start a fire with tiny kindling pieces of locust, and one larger piece of cherry.  It took forever to get started, and the only reason it finally started was the large cherry piece caught, and then lit the kindling.  The kindling lasted for much longer than the log.  I am hopeful that now that we have locust, our fires will be able to make it through the night, as the cherry only burns strong for four hours, and then has a couple of hours of low burning, on its way out.

The wood we got today is approximately a third locust, a third maple, and a third elm, with some cherry as well.  The maple is softest we've had, so I am probably not going to like that as much.  And they tell me that elm makes lots of cresote, even though it is a hard wood - I haven't looked that up yet, but that doesn't sound good.  They also said the elm burns hotter than most woods.  The maple is supposed to light the easiest, so if we can keep track of which is which, maybe we can simply use the maple for starting fires, the elm for having nice hot fires during the day, and the locust at night.

The firewood guys were the first people that were surprised how little wood we've burned so far (under a cord); they said most people they knew were close to their second by now.  We do use a little gas sometimes, so that might make up for some of it, and since our stove is smaller, it probably takes us a longer time to burn the same amount of wood.  One guy guessed that we had good insulation, but this is the second house (two for two) that doesn't have any insulation to speak of.

They had a good price for stacking, so I got them to do that too (I helped too) and it is nice having four people stacking together - the 2+ cords we got this morning was off the truck and stacked in less than two hours.  And the final result:

In other wood news, we bought a gate that surrounds the woodstove, designed to keep babies away from it.  While all of our kids are careful with the woodstove (I think I'm the only one who has been burned (while putting logs into the stove)) when we had some friends over, the boys were rough-housing and were kind of close, and the mom was pretty concerned about it, and then a cheap/used gate came along, so we bought it, and my concerns (sticking out into the room too much and being a pain when adding wood) about it were unfounded.

Posted by Jon Daley on December 19, 2009, 2:44 pm | Read 20390 times
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And I guess I should mention - the wood stacks are held up by this nifty little devices (though they are plastic - I wonder if they'll crack when it gets cold...). You simply buy some 2x4s, and make the racks whatever size you'd like (I made them 12' by 6' which is longer and taller than the manufacturer recommends, but since most of the additional weight of the wood isn't adding more stress to the plastic pieces, I figured it'd be alright.) The stacks are much more stable than what I could stack on my own, though the firewood guys stacked the far right stack, and his stack is much better than mine, so it probably just takes some practice.

Posted by jondaley on December 19, 2009, 3:18 pm

Love the pictures. Aunt P. is really happy about the gate. :) I see you've started on the Christmas presents....

Posted by SursumCorda on December 19, 2009, 4:07 pm

we have the same gate, and have never regretted it. we didn't even fasten it to the wall; it just stands there, and even when asher was learning to walk and pulled on it to stand up, it never fell over. part of our concern is that our hearth is raised about 12" off the floor, so really easy to crack a noggin on, or trip over.

i don't think it's all that attractive in our living room, but it's fine for this season of life. and it's great for little visitors who aren't as careful with the fireplace as our own children would be.

we heat with wood full-time, only letting the fuel oil furnace come on in the mornings less than a dozen times, and i'm pretty sure we've barely gone through a cord. we do have some insulation, which is nice.

Posted by serina on December 20, 2009, 5:44 pm

Yes, we haven't fastened it to the wall as well - it seems pretty sturdy. I do wish it were shorter - and the door wider - I need to see if they make a door piece that is wider - it is in my way when working on the fire, particularly if other people are trying watch/help/stay warm at the same time.

Posted by jondaley on December 20, 2009, 9:52 pm

We really like our wood pellet stove, which is our main source of heat. I just dump a bag of pellets in the top and it starts up automatically using a thermostat. The pellets are just compressed sawdust. A $5 (40#) bag lasts a day when it's cold or several when it's less cold, so it's a lot cheaper than gas. There's a fan that blows hot air into the room using a heat exchanger so all the smoke goes outside. The stove doesn't get nearly as hot as a conventional wood stove (which is good for safety, if less good for getting warm), and it requires electricity, but it heats the house, gives a nice feeling of having a real fire, and it's pretty easy.

Posted by Peter V on December 21, 2009, 12:48 pm

We did think about a pellet stove a little, but decided for a regular wood stove in order to have an easier supply of wood, and the flame is nicer to look at.

Ours doesn't require electricity, though it is much more efficient with the blower running (probably same sort of air compartment like yours to keep the air separate), and also I couldn't burn it as hot if the blower were off.

Posted by jondaley on December 21, 2009, 8:01 pm

Oh, I think I didn't mention, I have a goal of getting a microcontroller to control the fan, damper and display historical temperature graphs on the web...

Posted by jondaley on December 21, 2009, 8:02 pm

Our current heating costs (for the last two months) per day are:
Wood: $2.6
Gas: $1.9
Electric: I don't have an average, but the maximum possible is $0.19, and probably the average is 75% of that or so.

Its pretty crazy that our daily average is still that high for gas, when we don't use it most days at all, and only a little bit when we do use it. (The woodstove *could* heat the house from the 58 nighttime temperature (if the fire goes out), but it would take it a long time, so it is more pleasant to run the electric space heater (at $0.06/hour) or the gas (at $1.40/hour) though obviously the gas is heating the whole house, vs. one room for the space heater))

Posted by jondaley on December 21, 2009, 8:17 pm

Their is nothing quite like a log fire smell. What makes it better is Sandalwood.

If you place a couple drops on a hard log, let rest for 48 hours or longer, and if you of course like the smell, it results in an amazing aromatic experience.

Make sure to pick up eco-friendly Sandalwood however, as the tree population is depleting (Santalum Album).

Posted by Andy on December 22, 2009, 7:38 pm

I wonder if it would work in the new woodstoves - one thing I've actually missed about burning wood is that we don't have any of the wood smell...

I wouldn't mind having a little smell, though my parents' house sometimes gets too smoky.

Posted by jondaley on December 22, 2009, 9:49 pm

I wouldn't worry too much about the creosote. According to the all-knowing wikipedia, creosote refers to several things, one of which is unhealthy (see the links at the end of my blog post touching on creosote), but that's not the one you will get from burning wood. I think what the elm will make is just soot buildup in your chimney, requiring more maintenance, but that's it.

Oh, and do post historical temperature charts on the web. I'd love to prove to Janet that our apartment is warmer than y'all's house! ;-)

Posted by Stephan on December 25, 2009, 3:12 am

The wikipedia article does say, "The term is also used to refer to the buildup of carbon materials in chimneys from wood-burning fires", but there isn't anything else about it.

So far, all I've seen in our chimney is soot that wipes off easily, but my parents' furnace gets this blacky, goopy stuff that hardens as it cools - I'm not sure what you call it...

It's pretty likely that your apartment is warmer, since we tend to be on the cold side of most of our friends (though the woodstove does tend to make the living room hotter, since some times it gets quite hot (I consider anything over 69 "hot").

When we were using gas, we had it set to 67 degrees during the day, and 60 at night. With the woodstove, we have a larger range, and a larger range throughout the house, where the living room and dining room are around 67 to 72 through the day, and those rooms can drop to 55 at the lowest at night, though usually stay above 58.

The rest of the house is at least a couple degrees colder than the living room, but I haven't measured it to know exactly.

Posted by jondaley on December 25, 2009, 5:40 pm

Janet may be like me: If I have a source of heat to warm up with, like a fireplace, stove, or electric heater, I can be quite comfortable even when the rest of the house is quite cold, but evenly-distributed heat tends to seem cold to me. I'm tempted to buy a portable electric heater, set the thermostat to 55 degrees, and cart the heater between the bedroom and my office. The only other room I spend significant time in is the kitchen, and when I'm there I'm usually heating it up with the stove.

When you think about how much your gas heating costs, how do you separate it from your cooking and water heating?

Posted by SursumCorda on December 25, 2009, 6:52 pm

I just compare it to the summer time gas usage, which I'm assuming is accurate enough. I'm not sure if that is a good assumption or not.

Posted by jondaley on December 25, 2009, 7:38 pm

Our thermometer usually reads around 19°C, or 66-67 °F, so our temperature is similar to yours during daytime, but the nighttime drop is not nearly as bad. I'm suspecting we have better insulation, because I don't think the heating's on at night. Also, we're above other apartments who all heat, which means we heat very little, but I don't know if I can put a number on it.

Posted by Stephan on December 26, 2009, 5:32 am
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