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Keep in mind these tips about the woods that burn best:
Seasoned Wood:The secret to a good fire, say the experts, is wood that has been seasoned for more than a year. In the case of oak, you’ll want to season the wood at least two years, sometimes longer. Much of the wood for sale now is actually green, and needs another year to season. Often this year’s wood is really intended for next year’s fires.
Seasoned wood burns better than green wood, because it produces more heat and less creosote build-up in the fireplace. Green or unseasoned wood, on the other hand, is hard to light and difficult to keep burning. If your wood smolders and burns poorly with little heat, it’s probably green wood. That’s because unseasoned wood has a lot of liquid inside. In fact, one fresh-cut cord of oak is said to have enough water to fill as much as six 55-gallon drums, according to mastersweep.com.
You can tell if a wood is seasoned by looking at it. On the outside, seasoned wood probably looks gray and dusty from sitting around for a while. But on the inside, it’s often dry and white, usually lighter than on the outside. New wood, on the other hand, looks like it came fresh from the lumber mill with the same color throughout the wood.
If you can’t get your hands on seasoned wood, then look for ash or fir. These woods will burn better than many while still rather green; although they all will burn best when seasoned.
Hardwood versus Softwood: For the serious fire lover, you may want to invest in hardwoods like madrone, live oak, ash, hickory, walnut and fruit trees like apple or cherry.
Hardwoods are denser woods that burn hotter and longer than softwoods, but you’ll need to let them season more than a year. (Ash is an exception, and can be burnt a bit earlier although the wood burns best when seasoned.) You’ll find that hardwood is more expensive to purchase than softwood like pine and fir. But the hardwood burns longer so you’ll need less wood.
If you just burn a fire every once in a while, try a seasoned softwood like fir. You’ll like how easy it is to get started and the smell is wonderful. But these softwoods won’t keep burning as long as hardwoods, and you’ll need to keep feeding the fire.
My friend, Dave Emberton, is a professional carpenter and furniture maker, who really knows his woods. He kindly allowed me to photograph his amazing hardwood collection. And from the looks of his woodpile, Dave should be all set for roaring fires for many years to come. When cutting wood for kindling or small logs, especially for campfires, my husband likes the convenience of the easy-to-carry Fiskars® X7 Hatchet, and how well it cuts without much effort. The hatchet comes with a sheath to protect the blade.