Seasoning Firewood Quickly - Striping tree limbs and other tips

By Martin L. Klein

For many of us, the problem has arisen frequently of seasoning firewood as quickly as possible so we can have it burning in the woodstove by winter. Perhaps we pushed the ticket and didn’t get it cut and split as soon as we would have liked to, so we’re crossing our fingers, hoping for a long dry spell in autumn to help us out. I’ve been there way too many times, pondering ways to speed up the process of drying. And unless you kiln dry your wood (which most people do not), there are a few tricks that can help.

One method for seasoning firewood quickly is to split it into much thinner pieces, maybe half the thickness that you would normally split it in the early spring. This will definitely give the process a boost. Another good practice with late-cut wood is to chimney-stack the whole row very loosely with lots of air gaps so that it looks like Swiss cheese from the side and cover the top only on rainy days, leaving it fully exposed when the sun shines.

By now you might be wondering why I titled this article Striping Tree Limbs, and thinking that I put up the title to some other article by mistake…or something worse. But I didn’t. And now that I’ve covered some of the basics on encouraging the drying process, let’s get to the “striping” thing. If trees were all trunk and no branches, it would certainly be nice. We could split everything and not have to worry about the small stuff. But God made branches, and that accounts for a lot of the usable firewood in many a good hardwood tree. The downside to the smaller rounds is that they are downright stubborn about drying out since the inner wood doesn’t get exposed to the air. Especially if it is one of the denser woods such as oak. Placing these pieces at the top of your stack helps, but I have discovered a sure remedy which eliminates the problem for me. One day while making nice stove cuts out of a large and very branchy hard maple tree, the thought occurred to me that all it would take to get these non-splittables to lose their weight by winter was to drag the nose of the chainsaw bar down the length of the branch cutting a slot about ½ inch deep all the way before cross-cutting it into firewood. Thus, each piece now had a dandy stripe down its length exposing the inner wood nicely. The larger rounds get a deeper stripe, say 1 to 1 ½ inches deep.

To confirm the results of my experiment, I placed these pieces randomly throughout my wood-stack from bottom to top. Come that winter, I was pleasantly surprised when, upon examination, these normally doubtful pieces were well checked and perfectly dry. The bark parted nicely from the wood with little effort. My experiment was a success and I’ve used this method ever since. I may miss that hypnotizing sound of a poorly seasoned round sizzling in the stove at night, but hey, now all my wood is good and I can always listen to some nice classical music on the radio instead! ZZZZZzzzzz.

Good night and… Happy Woodburning.

Editors Note
The method of striping tree branches is very effective and works great. However, for an inexperienced chainsaw operator, it is not recommended to use this method. It requires using the tip of the chainsaw bar and is dangerous for people not accustomed to using a chainsaw.

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