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Fire Wood the easy way or….


Log 01

Your looking at an interesting picture. It shows a number of things.

What you see on the left is my GMC/Izuzu medium duty truck fill to capacity with firewood.

Log 03

A closeup so you can see just how full it is. At the other side of the photo at the top is the tree trunk of a tree that the wind storm of a couple of nights ago blew down across the road. Someone cut it off where the limbs began and pushed it off the road. Given that it’s Sycamore, is saturated with sap and that my 4500 lb lift gate had a hard time picking it up, I’d say that it weighs a couple of tons.

What these two have in common is that I barely exerted any work. Good thing, as I’m mostly disabled and can’t work more than a few minutes at a time before I’m completely breathless and totally trashed.

The Truck

The truck full of wood is the craziest story. Not only did I not have to pay for it, I didn’t have to cut OR load it. Government-paid workers did that for me. I won’t mention when or where to protect the innocent from persecution.

Contractors were clearing off an area for new construction. As usual with the really crazy stuff in this area, the Forest Service was involved. Seems that it’s against the contract job rules for civilians to cut up and gather the wood from the trees that were being felled for the project but it was OK for the paid workers to do so!

All I had to do was pull my truck up to the site. A nice worker jumped up in the truck and another operated a BobCat skid-steer loader, bringing over loads of already-cut wood. The guy in the truck took the wood out of the loader bucket and stacked it nicely into my truck.

I just couldn’t stand by and watch this guy work for me so I helped a little. I was quickly zapped plus a government boss showed up and so I had to quit helping, lest they get caught letting me work on the site.

Even crazier

The back story is even crazier. Had they not found people to come along and haul off this wood, they were going to have to load it up, haul it about a mile and then burn it. We still haven’t figured out why the construction site wasn’t suitable for burning. That the wood would have to be hauled to a different site for disposal was in the bid solicitation so the the cost was figured in. in other words, y’all are paying to heat my cabin for about 2 years, maybe more. I figure there is between 2.5 and 3 cords of wood in that load. I burn about a cord a year, maybe a little more if we have a hard winter.

I don’t know if this is worse than those $600 hammers but it’s gotta be close.

The Tree Trunk

This is a separate but equally interesting story, something that I actually do quite often. My truck has a lift gate that folds out to form a platform with a sharp edge on the rear end so that hand trucks and stuff can be easily rolled up on the bed. That sharp edge is also great for getting tree trunks!

The night before the above story, I spotted this tree trunk on the side of the road. The wind had knocked it down and someone had cut it at the beginning of the bough and pushed it off to the side of the road. I was cruising around looking for such downed trees when I found it.

Now the usual method of retrieving such a hunk of wood would be to cut it into fireplace-long hunks, load ’em in the truck, unload ’em when you get home, split ’em, let ’em cure and then burn ’em. That’s not John’s Way. First off, it’s more work than I’m capable of doing, health problems and all. Second, it’s not using yer brain.

log 02

In this photo you can see that the far side of the trunk has been beveled, the black looking area. I used my little electric chain saw (that runs on an inverter in the truck) to cut the notch. I rolled the log so that the notch was on the ground side.

I then put my lift gate down, unfold the platform and the sharp edge and drop it all the way to the ground so that the edge digs in a little. I simply back up the truck so that the edge slides smoothly under the trunk, that bevel easing the way in. I back until about a third of the trunk is laying on the lift gate. Then I simply lift.

As the gate rises, so does the end of the log. When the end hits the truck frame, the far end starts lifting off the ground. I continue lifting until the trunk is firmly pinched between the frame and the platform.

I tack on a red warning light so someone won’t run up on the tree trunk, attach a couple of safety chains by wrapping them around the trunk and attaching to hitch bolted to the truck bed and drive off.

Back at the cabin I normally pull up to where I split and stack the wood and saw up the trunk while it is still pinched between the gate and the frame. In this case I didn’t have time, as I had to jump on the free wood the next morning. I’ll repeat the above process and saw the trunk as soon as I get this other load unloaded. Praise the Lord for neighbors with teenagers! :-)

By the time I reach the edge of the lift gate with my saw, about a third of the truck remains. I have a cheap portable electric winch (Harbor Freight, about $50) that I attach between a tree and the trunk and pull it almost all the way off until just the very end is pinched. I raise the gate again, pinch it and finish sawing.

Note that up to now I’ve not laid a hand on this wood. I use a Peavy to turn it over but that’s no work at all.

I have a Stickler wood splitter that I purchased in the mid 70s. Given the current lawyer-infested world that we inhabit today, I’m shocked and amazed that they’re still in business and still making the Stickler. And still have a very reasonable price.

What I do is jack up my Caprice and remove one wheel. I screw the adapter plate to the lug studs and then screw the Stickler to the adapter. I block the opposite wheel and put a log under the axle so that the point of the sticker is about a foot to 18 inches off the ground. I put the car in low and set the throttle to about 1200-1500 RPM.

I tip up one end of the log and touch the side of the log to the point of the Stickler. The Stickler screws into the log, splitting it into 2-3 pieces. This works on exactly the same principle as trying to screw too large a screw into a piece of lumber. It’s about twice as fast as the fastest hydraulic splitter I’ve ever seen AND I STILL don’t have to pick up the wood.

I simply set up near my pile of wood, roll it over with my boot, pick up one end with one hand, tap it against the Stickler and Viola! split wood. At this point I can either pick up the split pieces or more usually, my handy teenager does it for me.

In this whole process I have never had to handle the full weight of a whole log, only roll it around with a boot.

I have another trick that I use when I don’t have any help. I can’t lift more than 10-15 lbs because of a ruptured disc in my neck. So again I use my noggin.

I have some military surplus stainless steel netting of the type they anchor vehicles and other hardware to platforms that are to be dropped out of cargo planes. This looks just like fishing net except that it is made out of about 3/8″ stainless steel wire rope.

I lay this netting under the axle that has the Stickler mounted so that the split pieces will fall onto the net. When a decent pile builds up, I use my winch to pull all the eyes together, hook ’em to a cable and drag them either with my 4WD van or winch to where I want to store the wood. There I unhook all but a couple of eyes and yank the net out from under the wood. The result is a pile of randomly stacked logs which is fine since I live in the country and the pile is in the woods next to my house.

I use a hand truck with large wheels to haul 4-5 sticks of wood at a time inside my cabin. As soon as I locate a couple of small parts, I’m going to motorize even that part. I’m going to put electric propulsion on the hand truck so that I won’t have to pull on it, only keep it balanced.

Slick, eh? I’ll post some photos the next time I run the Stickler which should be next week.

Posted by neonjohn on November 17th, 2008 under BBQ and Food, Cool Stuff, Energy, Government

3 Responses to “Fire Wood the easy way or….”

  1. Aaron "wood splitter" Smith Says:

    Nice work! And here i am busting my hump cutting down the tree, cutting into 24 inches pieces and then using an electric wood splitter. You found the “pot of gold” for those of us who use wood to heat our homes etc. Thanks for the post!!

  2. Pete Says:

    Thanks for turning me on to the Stickler wood splitter. With a little ingenuity it seems that thing could be run several different ways.

  3. Says:

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