Gas, Electric or Manual, Part 2

Now about burning pine, as I mentioned in Gas, Electric or Manual, Part 1. Yes there is, long term, a creosote issue, yet in doing some research, that risk is all but eliminated by two things. A damper in the stove pipe to control oxygen flow to get a total burn, and the creosote burn logs that are on the market. Of course, a regular check will keep you ahead of any build-up to begin with.

Most people in the South, at one time or another, are almost forced to burn pine just because of availability. According to one BTU chart I researched, ‘pitch pine,’ which I will take is Southern Yellow pine, has a rating of 17.1 BTUs per cord. Red and white oak come in at 24 BTUs for that same cord. That makes pine 71 percent as efficient as red or white oak for home heating. Where I live it is also about 10 times more available, is almost always free and can be had year around. In some rare instances, someone may even pay you to take it away. Even people who do not heat with wood, if they lose a huge oak or hickory tree on their property, in most cases around here, it is for sale, not for free.

What cooking I will be doing will be on the flat top of a wood-burning stove. My beef stew really isn’t all that concerned about what makes the stove hot, and since it isn’t an open campfire, no wood flavoring will be imparted by whatever I shove into the maw of my stove.

I have a $35 splitting maul, six wedges that get the job done that cost me less than $12 each, a older single bit axe I had and a 8-pound sledge I already had. And to make it even better, they have no moving parts, will never (at least in my lifetime) wear out, they do not use gas, oil or anything else that costs me money. I managed to get really smart and break the handle on my maul and found an $8 replacement mattock handle that worked just fine with a little shaving and fitting.

Now, not everyone knows how to split wood manually. Well understood. There are tons of videos and things on (ugh) YouTube that can walk you through the process. Physically challenging to be sure, yet if you are physically able, or your son or grandson is physically able, do yourself a favor and just look into doing it all the really old-fashioned way.

Consider this little tidbit: Before I started splitting wood and doing this homestead thing, I had a fairly sedentary job. Once I fully retired and really started getting into the physical side of wood splitting, several things happened. My blood sugar, once at a level at which my doctor was calling me borderline Type 2 diabetic, came down to an excellent level. Not good, excellent. And yes, I was eating differently yet I personally feel even with the change in diet, my blood sugar would not have come down like it did. I have more stamina, feel better overall and can now wear my skinny jeans from a few years back. And for the younger generation out there looking at this, you can drop your gym membership when you start doing this.

My one heavy expense was an expensive chainsaw, and believe me, not slamming the big box stores, I shop there all the time, yet chainsaws are best bought from a reputable dealer than can also offer repairs when needed – and they will be needed. Also check out your personal need for a power chain sharpener. Or are you also willing to check out doing that little chore by hand? Not hard to do once you get the hang of it, just time consuming. You can also check out getting the place where you get your saw to sharpen your chains if they offer that service. Mine does and for $6, I used to get my chain sharpened when it was needed. I also have two chains for my saw so I am not stopped if I hit dirt or the blade gets dull in the middle of a long cut session.

My saw (a Stihl MC251C) has a factory 18-inch bar and it is the only saw I own. I have watched some videos where some people own five or six or even more chainsaws, and they are not professional arborists, nor are they cutting wood for a living. And I am not fanatical about the lengths I cut my wood. If is is all straight grain and fairly free of knots, it will average 16 to 18 inches in length. If it is gnarly and full of knots (like a lot off pine can be), I cut to where it is splittable by hand.

Would this make a case for a powered splitter? Maybe, yet once more we get into economics versus need. Would it be nice to have a mechanical splitter? Sure it would. Do I manage without one? Absolutely.

Fortunately for me, I live in the South, so I spend a great deal more time collecting and splitting wood than I do burning wood. I am also looking long term as best I can. I am hoping that I can split and stack for enough years that once I reach a point where I am unable to, all my wood will be already finished. Perhaps anyone reading this can enlighten me on the storage capabilities of wood. If I split more than I burn over the next few years, how long can I reasonably expect split wood to store, if covered and protected from most of the weather? I can even accept a certain level of loss to rot as this process continues.

Then I can grow mushrooms! Thank you all for reading, hope my little novella here gave some of you ideas of your own. If any of you have any suggestions or comments about any of my endeavors here, feel free to comment below or email me at

  • Published on May 13, 2015
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