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The concept of drying wood

A standing tree contains much water, and the amount of water will vary due to variety of wood and season of the year. A tree felled in May when its leaves are out and a higher demand for water is required by the leaves will be much heavier than a tree felled in December when it is dormant.

Timber holds two types of water; Free water and Bound water. This is water held in the cell cavities and water held in the cell walls. Looking under a microscope the fibres of the tree will be made of cells and in cross section they look like tubes. These run from the base of the tree to the top, and they take moisture to the required parts of the tree mainly by capillary action.

When a tree is felled it is the water inside the tubes (free water) which is the first to be lost. Once this moisture has been lost the timber has reached what is known as the fibre saturation point. The moisture content at this stage will generally be somewhere in the region of 28% to 30%. After this stage the bound water can now be lost. It is from this stage that a degree of shrinkage will be noticed as the cell walls lose moisture.

Wood burner “user manuals” generally advise people to burn wood with a moisture content no higher than 20%. Unless you buy kiln dried timber this is a fairly unrealistic instruction.

To get beyond the fibre saturation point the wood will find its equilibrium moisture content. Moisture content in timber is heavily reliant on temperature and relative humidity. The higher the temperature and the lower the relative humidity the quicker and more wood will dry.

Also, wood is hygroscopic. If a moisture reading is taken in the middle of August of 20% with the temperature being 20 degrees Centigrade and a relative humidity of about 60%, that same piece of timber will obtain a moisture content reading of about 28% in January with the temperature at 4 degrees centigrade and a relative humidity of 95%.

In short, wood will absorb moisture as well as lose it. With the climate we have here in England it is very difficult to keep wood below 20%, unless you have rather a large humidor!

If you'd like to know more, please send us a message using the contact form below.

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The benefits of burning dry wood

To increase the efficiency of burning logs there is only one main element. Or rather the lack of one element! Water. We dry our logs by two main processes.

The first is time, and the second is by splitting the wood open to increase the surface area open to the air. There are four main advantages to dry logs:

  1. Improves storage capability.
    (no mould or degrading)
  2. Increase in energy density
    (calorific value).
  3. Decrease in transport weight.
  4. Reduction in ash and emissions.

In an earlier era it was normal practice to burn wet wood. Firewood was in plentiful supply and dry wood burnt too quickly in the huge open fires. And thus people from years ago became keen observers of how different types of unseasoned wood burned. Hence the old rhyme that ends “…But ash green, or ash old is fit for a queen with a crown of gold.”

The fact is, this is nonsense in the context of burning dry wood. When logs are fully seasoned, the differences all but disappear.

Also, to run a modern closed appliance of today efficiently and with fewer maintenance issues, the wood must be dry. With wet wood you get a degrading of combustion efficiency, which means your fire produces a dense pall of smoke containing unburned tars and creosotes. The human response to an under-performing fuel is to over-run the stove which significantly increases heat-loss to the chimney.

If you persist in burning wet wood you will incur several penalties. Firstly you will burn more wood. Secondly, you foul up your chimney which produces a fire-hazard. Thirdly, over-running a stove shortens its life by subjecting it to excessive heat along the flue path. And fourthly, you lose control because the fire will go out or slumber unless you run it continuously at full throttle.

One useful check on the moisture content of your fuel, dare I say it, is to run your stove for a short while on a box of kiln dried logs. If the performance of the stove is transformed, then the wood you have is wet.

If you'd like to know more, please send us a message using the contact form below.

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The benefits of burning wood

Burning wood is better environmentally because all carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere throughout the burning process is equal to the amount absorbed by the tree during growth.

In addition, all the wood we sell is from FSC certified suppliers, so we are using a product from sustainable, carefully managed woodlands which in turn means there is very little contribution to ‘Global Warming’.

With the increase in demand for logs as a fuel we could see the return of many small and forgotten woodlands coming back into active management with benefits for wildlife and local employment.

Also more woodlands could be established to supply the larger markets that exist today.

The Forestry Commission has recently recommended that 30,000 Ha (74000 acres) be planted, which would increase the total woodland cover of the U.K to 16%.

And let’s be honest, we would all rather see a planning application for a wood that another oil refinery!

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What we aim to deliver

Hardwood logs are the type of firewood we supply. Predominantly beech with a small percentage of ash, sycamore and oak is what you will find in your load. All our firewood has been sourced from FSC woodlands and will have been felled for more than 12 months.

The logs we supply are not from freshly felled trees. All the firewood we sell is originally delivered to us in three metre lengths and vary in diameter from 100mm to 600mm (that's 4” to 24”).

At the point of delivery, the wood is graded into two heaps. One with timbers that have a diameter of less than 200mm (8”), and one which has greater. The larger timbers are then split down the three metre length into halves or more and then restocked outside with a sheet over them.

This allows us to reduce the drying time dramatically and get the wood through our processor easily.

If you'd like to know more, please send us a message using the contact form below.

We offer free delivery to customers within
15 miles of Chicklade, Wiltshire, by road.

Deliveries outside of the area marked below may incur an additional delivery charge.

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For the technical mind

The heat locked up in a fuel is expressed as its ‘calorific value’. Now, a laboratory will tell you the calorific value of wood is around 8,600 Btu’s /t. They would have used a bomb calorimeter to burn a sample of wood completely whilst measuring the amount of heat produced.

This is all very academic and bears little relation to what occurs when you throw a log on the fire. However, the results nevertheless are interesting in that there is a very close correspondence between the calorific value of all types of wood fibre, as stated in the ’Burning dry wood’ section.

In other words, whether you are burning beech or balsa wood, they match each other very closely in terms of calorific value.

What does change is the density. So although different species of wood produce similar calorific values when seasoned, their bulk quantities will vary drastically. For example, to obtain a similar heat output from spruce as beech, you will need an extra 50% of storage by volume.

This is the main reason we stick to hardwood as our fuel supply. The volumes and storage space required by you, the customer, are lower, which in turn results in fewer deliveries and less handling by us and you.

If you'd like to know more, please send us a message using the contact form below.

A sequence of photos illustrating our method of firewood production.