The heft and feel of a well-worn handle,
The sight of shavings that curl from a blade;
The logs in the wood pile, the sentiment of huge beams in an old-fashioned house;
The smell of fresh cut timber and the pungent fragrance of burning leaves;
The crackle of kindling and the hiss of burning logs.
Abundant to all the needs of man, how poor the world would be
Without wood.

Everard Hinrichs, quoted by Eric Sloane in A Reverence for Wood


Friday, March 15, 2013

Weekend Warrior for Firewood Improvement

If you're looking to get out and flex your muscles this weekend, and at the same time do something productive, check out this firewood dehydrator project implemented by a young fellow named Aaron Ralby. Aaron is a video poet who apparently takes time from his modern take on Chaucer to get out and swing an ax occasionally to supply his wood stove in Maryland.
Last spring I built this solar wood dehydrator to house the wood for our wood stove. After the epic snows of last winter here in Maryland, I wanted a place to store a lot of wood safely without fear of it getting wet or covered in snow. I decided to create a shed not just to store the wood, but to dry it out as well. I faced the slant of the roof south and covered it with old greenhouse plastic. The front and back were left open all summer for ventilation and only closed this autumn. The shed has been a dream so far this winter and the wood burns exceptionally well.

I especially like Aaron's intent to not only stack the wood nicely, but to dry it at the same time. We've looked at the German solution of this problem, the holzhaus. It takes advantage of wind circulation to remove moisture from the wood stack. One drawback of the holzhaus approach, as I discovered in my weekend meditations, is that you need a fairly large, open area on a windy site to really make it work well. Such a site I do not have on my property, built as it is in the side of a hill. So the solar wood dehydrator (or kiln, if you prefer) is another way to skin the cat. It allows you to construct the wood pile along a property line, as Aaron does in the video, and tap the energy of the sun, in combination with proper venting, to heat the stack and thereby speed up the evaporative dehydration process. Simple, and pretty cheap, although not as inexpensive as the holzhaus approach.

I've been planning one of these for a couple of years now, and I guess I'll just have to get and out build one now. One slight improvement that I'll probably make (and thereby increase the cost of the project) is to buy clear fiberglass panels for the roof instead of the clear vinyl used in the video. Just in case Sarah comes along to judge my pile, I want to impress.

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