Firewood Warms Body & Soul
Whether you buy or cut your own, these tips will keep you from getting burned.
Folks who cut their own cordwood know firsthand that Thoreau’s oft-quoted words that wood warms you twice don’t tell the whole story. Wood warms you many times, as anyone who has split, stacked and carried firewood knows. Stoking the stove or fireplace is also a warming experience depending on how far it is to the woodshed.
In our first country home, I believed everything was charming and romantic. When my husband came in from cutting trees, chopping logs or spitting wood, he took a seat in front of the fire we both watched like sports fanatics tuned to ESPN. But more often than not, before I had a chance to uncork the wine, my sweetheart was fast asleep on the couch.
One night, while watching my exhausted weekend woodsman sleeping, a spark of wifely wisdom ignited. Or, maybe it was just the wine. Regardless, the next morning, I called a local firewood supplier and had a cord delivered and stacked about 20 feet from our back door. From then on, buying firewood was a regular part of our fall routine.
Firewood by the measure
In the United States, wood cut from trees too small, or otherwise unsuitable for sawing into lumber, has been sold by the cord since at least the early 17th century. The measure was then defined as 128 cubic feet (including air spaces) of 4-foot-long logs stacked in a unit 8 feet wide and 4 feet high. Early American cordwood cutters discovered that firewood was easier to sell if pieces were short enough to fit into stoves, so the 4-foot lengths were often halved for a price, but the cord remained a 4-by-4-by-8-foot stack. Today, most firewood is cut into 2-foot long pieces, but a cord is still 128 cubic feet of neatly stacked wood.
Although it isn’t as tightly regulated now, you should insist on purchasing firewood by the cord or fraction of a cord. Be wary of sellers offering so-called face-cords of wood unless you know how long the individual billets are. A face-cord has come to mean a stack that is 4 feet high by 8 feet long – no matter the length of individual pieces. If the billets are 2 feet long, then that hypothetical face-cord amounts to a half cord. If they are 16 inches long, it is even less. No matter how much you trust your firewood supplier, you never really know what you get until it is stacked neatly. When purchasing cord wood, you can expect the price to include cutting and splitting, but not necessarily handling and delivery. You can often save a little money by hauling your own, but many firewood suppliers have automated cutting and loading systems that make it attractive to pay for delivery. And in many cases they prefer to sell it by the truckload.
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