If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Getting Wood

In January 2009, I built a log store in my back garden. I like doing stuff like that, but there was a good reason behind it.

We had installed a Morsø Squirrel multi-fuel stove in about 1997. This was supposed to burn everything from wood to coal, and even peat, and we had visions of free heat from burning the tons of wood that we could pick up on any walk with half a mile of the house. Of course, wood isn't free at all. It needs to be cut down, and cut to length, and split, and dried, and stored - materials: free, labour: lots. In the end, it was always easier to order another ton of anthracite and promise that next year we would really start to 'get wood', as it were.

Now, the thing lasted 12 years, so I can't really complain, but eventually the acids, formed when the stove was idling at a low temperature overnight with a bellyful of Onllywyn Colliery's best, had eaten away at the boiler seams and it started to leak. I took the stove out to see if I could replace the boiler, but the iron casing was damaged by the rust and it was beyond repair.

The stove was a brilliant performer. Running non-stop from October to March, it consumed about one tonne of coal. We got the version with a small boiler fitted above the firebox and this was plumbed into our domestic hot water cylinder, so that for the whole of winter we had more hot water than we knew what to do with. We decided to replace it with an identical stove. The stove died in November 2008, and it was mid-January before we could source a new one, so that was the coldest Christmas I can remember in a long time, but eventually it was installed and good to go.

This time, we were determined to run it on wood alone. We found a local source of seasoned firewood, and I started to build a store in the garden. It took me about a week, and when it was finished it looked like this:

It's made of treated timber with an all-weather Onduline roof, which is similar to corrugated iron, but made of a bituminous substance that is supposed to last for ever. It has three bays, each able to hold about 2.5 m³ of timber. My calculations suggested that I would get through about 6 tonnes a year, so this is barely enough. The ideal would be to have three times that amount - one unit being filled, one with wood seasoning, and one in use. But that was clearly too much for our little plot, so we settled on about 7.5 m³ capacity and a willingness to buy wood in as needed, if our own stocks ran out.

We bought our first load, which was delivered in a pile on the driveway. I spent an afternoon with Anna's grandchildren getting the logs stacked in the first bay. By tea-time, they were stacked neatly and I was very pleased with myself. In the morning, to by dismay, the logs had spilled out onto the grass. The weight of the wood had collapsed the rear structure of the store and dumped the wood out of the front. I couldn't face another back-breaking day of moving the logs to the next bay (and there was no guarantee the same thing wouldn't happen there), so I decided to wait until the wood was almost used up and then tackle it.

That was a year and a half ago. Eventually I got some more wood delivered and put it into the third bay, but this time tumbled rather than stacked, so that the weight would be better distributed. This one seemed to hold. Eventually, I cleared out the collapsed end and used it to store garden furniture and the incinerator. But the collapsed part of it always troubled me.

This week, I decided to tackle it, as the weather has been reasonable and winter is approaching. In the end, it took me less than a day. I stripped out all the floorboarding and jacked up the cross-pieces to their correct positions. Then I cut some massive rounds from an old telegraph pole that Western Power had left in the paddock and wedged those under the framing. Finally I tied all the joints together with heavy-duty metal angle brackets. Originally, I had fastened the joints together with 3" woodscrews, but these had sheared off with the weight of the timber. 2.5 m³ of hardwood, I now realise, weighs about 1½ tonnes. Hah. If I had bothered to rebate all the posts and fit the framing into the rebates, I am sure the thing would have held together fine in the first place. But, as usual, I wanted to get it finished and took the quickest way. I never learn.

Anyway, it's all fixed now - square and straight and ready for the next delivery of timber. To cut up the telegraph pole I had to get the chainsaw out of hibernation, so now the mood is upon me to start cutting my own timber. There's plenty around me. I've got to fill the mended part with something, fast.

There's only one question left to ask - why the fuck did it take me nearly two years to get around to doing this?


  1. I am impressed Richard. My wood store is now a chicken coop. I found that log suppliers are unreliable, especially during the winter. We had a Morso Squirrel on our narrowboat and it kept everything toasty. It would also slow cook a casserole. Our only source of central heating is a woodburner, but for the moment, it is running on coal derivatives. Sadly, my current physical condition does not run to lumberjack activities.

  2. Sorry to hear that, WW. My health isn't great at the moment, but needs must - wood is free and coal is expensive. And it's carbon-neutral. Not that I care much either way, but it does give me smugpoints with the envirotwats.


Comment is free, according to C P Scott, so go for it. Word verification is turned off for the time being. Play nicely.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...