Roger Cook has some advice for first-time firewood users
Our new old house has a working fireplace and we’re looking forward to the occasional cheery blaze this winter. But this is our first time burning wood. Any pointers?
—Sharon Lundin, Woburn, MA
Basically, all you need for a good fire—one that burns with gusto and not much smoke—is dry hardwood split into big pieces that can be carried with one hand. Lots of folks will offer to sell you “seasoned” firewood, but there’s no way to be sure in advance that’s what you’re actually getting. The only practical way to make certain that your firewood is up to snuff is to season it yourself.
Start by ordering your firewood—or doing your own cutting and splitting—9 to 12 months before the start of the burning season. With that kind of lead time, even the greenest logs will lose most of their moisture and become great fireplace fodder. The split wood should be piled in a neat stack that’s raised off the ground and protected from rain and snow. A well-ventilated shed makes an ideal place to season firewood, but a pallet with a properly secured tarp over the pile will also do.
If you buy your wood in bulk, you’re likely to find a few big pieces that need to be split again. A splitting maul, like the one I’m using above, is the perfect tool to chop them down to size. You’ll also find a bunch of skinny pieces. Don’t toss them; they’ll make great kindling to get your fires started.
Shown: Standing in a clear area where he has solid footing, Roger Cook demonstrates the right way to split firewood by hand; he makes sure the splitting maul’s blade hits the log squarely at the end of the swing.