By rediscovering the everyday tasks that were the hallmarks of American life centuries ago, we are able to take more control over the resources we need. Chris Peterson and Philip Schmidt provide 30 projects that can help you get started with these everyday tasks and begin to lead a more self-reliant lifestyle in Practical Projects for Self-Sufficiency. This excerpt, which provides instructions for building a firewood shelter to keep your supply, is from Section 2, “Homestead Amenities.”
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Everyone knows that wood burns best when it’s dry. But properly dried, or “seasoned,” firewood isn’t just about making fires easy to start and keep burning. Seasoned wood burns hotter and cleaner than unseasoned (“green”) firewood, resulting in more heat for your home, reduced creosote buildup in your chimney, and lower levels of smoke pollution going into the air.
Seasoning freshly split wood takes at least six months in most areas, but the longer you can dry it the better. The best plan is to buy firewood (or cut and split your own) as early as possible and stack it in a well-ventilated shelter with a good roof. This shelter will keep your wood covered through snow and rain while providing ample ventilation and easy access to the stack. It also looks better than any prefab shelter and is easy to modify with different materials or dimensions.
An optional feature is a storage locker at either end of the structure, perfect for storing your axe, gloves, and other tools and supplies. A simple bin or locker at the other end can hold kindling or provide more protected storage space. The roof trusses add some custom detailing and actually simplify the construction. You can top the roof with fiberglass panels, as shown, or any other type of roofing material. The shelter is sized to hold a half-cord of split firewood cut to 16-inch lengths, and stacked two deep. If you use shorter logs, you can stack them two or three deep. For longer logs or to accommodate a whole cord of wood, you can easily modify the shelter dimensions to fit (see Resizing Your Firewood Shelter).
• Tape measure
• Carpenter’s square
• 4-ft. level
• Circular saw with wood- and metal-cutting blades
• Reciprocating saw or handsaw
• Cordless drill and bits
• Socket wrench
• Miter saw (optional)
• 8d galvanized siding nails
• Deck screws, 2 inches, 2-1⁄2 inches, 3-1⁄2 inches
• (16) 6 x 3/8-inch carriage bolts with washers and nuts
• 7/8-inch roofing screws with neoprene washers
• Joist hangers (for 2 x 8) with recommended fasteners (2)
• Joist hanger nails
• Rafter ties
• 16d galvanized common nails
• Fiberglass roofing panels
1. Assemble the frame with 3-1/2-inch deck screws driven through the side beams and into the ends of the end beams. Install the floor center beam using joist hangers and joist hanger nails or screws. Measure from diagonal to diagonal in both directions to make sure the frame is square, then temporarily screw a board across two corners to hold it in place. Set the floor frame on a flat, level surface, on 1-inch-thick spacers.
2. Position the posts so they extend 3-3/4-inch beyond the ends, to leave room for the 1 x 6 slats. Clamp each corner post to the outside of the frame, check for plumb and square, and then screw it in position with two screws through the 2 x 8 (remember to leave room for bolts). Drill two 3/8-inch holes through the posts and side beams, angling the drill so the bolts go from the middle of the 4 x 4 to the open part of the 2 x 8. Anchor each post with two carriage bolts.
3. Mark the center line across the floor beams, then position and screw down the deck boards, starting 3/4 inches to each side of the center line. Space the boards 1-3/8 inches to 1-1/2 inches apart and fasten with 2-1/2-inch screws. Overhang the beams about 1/2-inch on each side. Check and adjust the spacing as you get close to the ends—pressure-treated wood can vary as much as 1/8 inch in width, depending on how dry it is.
4. Clamp each roof beam to the opposing corner posts so that the top edge of the beam is 3-1/2 inches below the top ends of the posts, and the ends of the beams are 3/4 inches in from the outside faces of the posts. Hold the beams in place with a 2-1/2-inch deck screw at each end, then drill holes and fasten the beams to the posts with 3/8-inch carriage bolts.
5. Enclose the openings on the ends of the shelter with 1 x 6 slats secured to 2 x 2 cleats mounted to the inside faces of the posts. Install the cleats 3/4-inch back from the outside faces of the posts so that the slats are flush with the post faces. Space the slats roughly 1-3/4 inches apart.
6. Miter the end cuts on the top chords at 30 degrees on the miter saw. Mark the ends of the bottom chord at 60 degrees with a speed square, then cut with a circular saw. Hold the center post of the truss in place and mark it for cutting. Build the trusses on a flat surface, fastening the top chords to each other and to the bottom chord with 3-1/2-inch screws. Use 2-1/2-inch screws to fasten the center post.
7. Mark the outside faces of the corner posts 3-1/2 inches down from their top ends. Clamp the two outer trusses to the posts with the bottoms of the trusses on the 3-1/2-inch marks, then fasten them with 16d galvanized nails.
8. Position the remaining two trusses on top of the roof beams, spacing them evenly, and screw them to the roof beams using rafter ties.
9. Nail the purlins across the rafters on both sides with 8d nails. Make sure the rafters are spaced evenly before you nail. The ends of the purlins should extend 3 inches beyond the outside trusses.
10. Cut sections of clear roofing sheets to the desired overhang. Clamp the sheets to a solid base and cut with a thin-kerf fine-cutting carbide blade (or a ferrous metal-cutting blade for metal). Sand or file sharp or jagged edges. Fasten the roofing to the purlins using roofing screws with neoprene washers. Overlap the sheets and screw through both pieces along the joint. Install ridge caps using the same screws.
A cord of split and stacked firewood measures 4 x 4 x 8 ft., or 128 cubic ft. Standard log lengths are 12, 16, and 24 inches, with plenty of variation in between (they’re logs, after all, not trimwork). Sizing your shelter depends on the length of your logs, how much wood you want to store, how you want to stack it (two-deep, three-deep, etc.), and how much roof coverage you’d like extending over the sides of the stack.
Modifying this shelter design is simple. First determine the floor platform size and the height between the floor and the roof—these dimensions give you the overall wood storage capacity. The rest of the structure can be sized and built as you go, as all of the other elements are based on the spans between the corner posts. For a significantly longer shelter design, add full-height intermediate posts and additional trusses to strengthen the roof assembly; for a much deeper (more square-shaped) structure, use intermediate posts and/or larger lumber for the trusses and roof beams.
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Practical Projects for Self-Sufficiency, by Chris Peterson and Philip Schmidt, and published by Cool Springs Press, 2014. Buy this book from our store: Practical Projects for Self Sufficiency.
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