If you’re planning to harvest firewood for fireplace fuel this winter, observing several safety precautions will make the chore much less hazardous. A gas-powered chain saw is commonly used to harvest firewood, but operating skill should be developed and caution exercised when using a chain saw.
Proper clothing for working in the woods includes a protective hard hat, goggles, leather gloves and hard-toe shoes. Do not wear slippery shoes or baggy clothing. Make sure you become familiar with a chain saw by thoroughly reading the owner’s manual and receiving instructions from the chain saw dealer.
Other precautions include keeping a protective cover over the chain saw blade when it is not in use. The saw should be kept sharp, since a dull saw increases safety hazards. A chain saw should always be started on the ground where it can be held firmly.
People who plan to harvest firewood on their own should practice operating their chain saw by bucking up small down timber or by felling small trees. Beginners should avoid large, dead trees which present particular safety problems. Beginners should also learn proper techniques for felling a tree such as “notching” and “back cutting”.
Woodcutters should use both hands when sawing and never cut material above shoulder height. The chain saw should be shut off when moving from place to place in the woods.
Other tips on cutting wood for fuel include turning off the chain saw engine while refueling, avoiding gas spills on the hot engine and keeping the gas can at least 25 feet away from the work area. The chain oiler should be checked to make sure it is working properly with an oil supply always available.
Harvesting firewood is hard work. Trees must be felled and bucked to length. Much of the wood must be split, dried and hauled to a storage area. A fuelwood producer must have the proper equipment and knowledge of equipment and maintenance.
Firewood larger than 6 to 8 inches in diameter should be split before drying. A splitting maul and wedges should be used for efficient hand splitting. Hydraulic, mechanical and screw-auger power splitters are also available for large splitting jobs.
Dry firewood in a properly constructed pile for at least 6 to 9 months before burning; drying firewood for one year is preferred. Pile the firewood in an open area fully exposed to sun and wind. The first layer should be placed on top of posts or timbers to allow air circulation beneath the pile. A cover should be used to protect the pile from snow and rain.
Store dry fuelwood in an open shed. A simple pole building with a roof and enclosed on the north and west may be used. Provide some storage near the house to hold a day to two supply of firewood for convenient access during the winter.
Existing woodlands must be managed for continuous fuelwood production. Many woodlands can be improved by removing dead, diseased or inferior trees; these trees are often suitable for firewood. Often such fuelwood harvesting can promote increased growth on the final crop trees which can be marketed later as sawlogs or veneer logs.