Wednesday, February 8, 2023

How much benefit to cutting stove-wood into shorter lengths?


A European Hazelnut with a large number of two-year-old suckers
We intuitively know that shorter lengths of firewood dry more quickly than longer lengths.

We also know that unprotected grafts are very vulnerable to drying out before the graft heals.

There is very little data on the internet that quantifies how sensitive drying times are to length-of-stick or the ratio of surface that is cut-end and surface that is covered-by-bark

Seven, 28" stems were cut from the 2-year-old suckers between approximately 48" and 72".

Each subsection of stem was further divided as follows:

-The first 4" (100mm) closest to the bottom was identified as "A"

-The second 4" was identified as "B"

-The next 16" (approx 400mm) was identified "C" on four stems and "D" on three stems.

-The last 4" was also identified as "B" such that each 16" section contributed to the population of "B" from both upper and lower end for a total of 14 "B" segments.

The "A" Team

The seven, 4" segments identified as "A" will be kiln dried to determine starting moisture content. The initial weight of "A" Team was 297 grams or 10.61 grams/inch. The reason to know the initial moisture content is to know when to terminate the "run" for each population. In this case, I will use a target of 20% moisture, by weight.

The "B" Team

Will provide a data point in how quickly sticks dry when the ratio of cut-end to covered-by-bark is high. The initial weight of "B" Team was 517 grams or 9.23 grams/inch

The "C" Team

Will provide contrasting data to "B" Team and provide data of how quickly sticks dry when the ratio of cut-end to covered-by-bark is low. The initial weight of "C" Team is 598 grams or 9.34 grams/inch.

The "D" Team

Is identical to "C" Team except the cut ends were dipped in melted paraffin to essentially model a stick of infinite length that is totally covered in bark. The initial weight of "D" Team is 422 grams or 8.79 grams/inch

The samples will be placed on a pallet which will rest on the ground. The pallet will be placed in an open area where it will be exposed to the elements. I need to work out some kind of wire mesh basket so precipitation can drain away freely.


The shorter pieces "B" will dry out significantly faster than the longer pieces "C" which will in turn dry significantly more quickly than the longer pieces with the ends coated "D". I expect each population to take approximately twice as long to reach 20% moisture as the previous class.

I can already report an initial finding. Toasting hazelnut wood smells delicious!

Second initial finding, dry-weight of "A" after kiln was 147 grams so water comprised 50.5% of the samples as-cut.


  1. Good science...wait, are we allowed to do good science anymore?

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  2. Interesting, and not surprising.

  3. Joe you have way too much time on your hands. But very interesting. Woody- Like your work and stories.

  4. I’m not sure I understand the usefulness of coppice would for fuel in the northern two thirds of the US. My understand that in places that traditionally use coppices the main purpose is basketry and fencing. Small diameter stuff like you are showing would be fine for outdoor cooking in summer but not suitable in a stove. I have read about binding hedge trimmings together in faggots in places the use hedges as fences. Just wondering?

    1. This is about the diameter of wood I use to start the fire in the living room insert. While I was cutting the "small wood" I started to wonder how quickly it dried. One thing led to another.

      If you had very little wood you might shrink down the amount of space you were heating and you might end up with a very small stove burning very small wood.

      If you are curious, there are "shepherd stoves" and tent stoves and "ammo box" stove images on the internet.

    2. If you build a well insulated home with some variation of a rocket stove (a rocket mass stove setup) you only need sticks to heat. Certainly can be added to a home, but if built into a new build (or substantial reno) will work better.

      At 5000 ish BTUs per lbs of dry wood (very rough estimate) a well insulated house with appropriate mass to heat and then release the heat overnight might need 50k to 200k BTUs per day, meaning 10 lbs of wood in a rocket mass stove per day. Hugely rough estimate, but bc you capture much more of the escaping heat in this kind of setup you might irl see 15 to 20 lbs per day actual usage in cold temps.

      This all rough, but 20 lbs of small sticks (or split to sticks logs) may be a lot easier for people to grow and use in a copppice situation vs growing and harvesting logs.

    3. ERJ sure, start up sticks it would be fine, so would “squaw wood” as in small dead wood gathered from dead wood in the woods. I am used to stoves in the Catskills of N.Y. and Alaska which have enough mass hold heat a while even when the fire goes down. The tent stoves you mention might be good for a small room. I know some places they use masonry stoves that use a fast fire and then emit heat over hours, I have never seen one. Most people are working with prebuilt homes and are trying to maintain some sense of normalcy! I’m not sure what Spartan considers cold temps but I’ll take six inch logs in my air tight cook stove at -40 or -50!

    4. Spartan lives about 30 miles from me so he has approximately the same weather I do.

      One of the knees in the "how warm" curve is to not let the basement of the house get cold enough such that the water pipes freeze. One most days, that does not take much heat because there is not a huge differential between outside temp and 35-40ish inside temp.

      A few days each year there can be significantly greater temperature differential or there can be strong winds and then much greater BTU/hour is required.

    5. Just to not be misleading to people reading: I live in a normie house and have only used ad hoc rocket stoves for fun heating and wood trash disposal. I think a more normal cooking stove or radiant heat setup is probably better for most purposes and cost/benefits, but rocket stove and sticks is a tool to have in the drawer.

      Rocket setup has very low input/maintenance requirements, but requires a setup catered to it if, for example, you plan on using a cement
      under floor as the mass hest storage device it means you need substantial under-flooring insulation. This means your pipes aren't going through a basement/crawl space, a susbtantial annoyance (among other annoyances).

      But for a camp/cottage setup I think it is a strong contender for best-in-class. You're not there fulltime so maintaining a proper wood pile can be more of a chore (or a substantial expense if the answer is paying). Not having a basement isn't as big of a deal, if not a benefit at a camp because you're just perm. preventing basement/crawlspafe leaks. You probably only have 1 or 2 bathrooms and they are likely close together making the plumbing issues easier to resolve. Downside is the initial heat is going to be a bit annoying, but not having to pay/cut a high poundage log pile at camp could be worth it.

  5. Time for a piece of wood to dry is a function of mass vs surface area. Another factor is the relative humidity of the air. A smaller piece has more surface area per unit of mass for moisture to transpire through. Here in the Great Basin desert where relative humidity in the summer is usually below 20% and often single digits and the wind blows often properly stacked wood dries very quickly. So getting wood seasoned to burn is not a problem. Othe places may require a couple of years more for wood to adequately dry.

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