Saturday, March 23, 2013

Post Collapse Wood Cutting

Replying to comments from my last post earlier today reminded me that one of my most popular posts from before I deleted the blog after the farce of our last elections was about post collapse wood cutting. It seems like a good time to re-write that post without all the possibly telling pictures and info I had previously let slip.

Yes rather than wade through each post I just deleted everything to get rid of any pictures or information I did not want getting out. I am not so much worried about Government spies who work for Homeland security as I am locals or extended locals that may have an axe to grind if things heat up. I am just being a bit more careful these days is all. I believe we will come to political blows at some point so I am not going to broadcast my location any more than I have to.


Last Winter I decided to really do an in-depth look at harvesting firewood without fossil fuels or electricity, although technically I plan on having electricity available for wood harvesting in a grid down situation I just wanted to go at it old school.

Right off the bat I had to amend my rules because I do not have a cart broke horse available nor the tack needed to harness such an animal. So I used a tractor to pull my trailer. I have a horse that would easily do the work with very little encouragement but wasn't shelling out the money for a harness right then or going to modify my trailer for draft animal pulling.

The first rule of hand cutting firewood will be never use an axe if you don't have to. Let me tell you the woods will be a much cleaner underbrush free place when people have to start harvesting firewood by hand. Those branches and small dead trees that someone would scoff at with a chainsaw will now become blessings from heaven. Those large dead trees that hold so much wood in one place are not quite the "mother-load" you might think when you have to use an axe to fell them.

The bow saw and the back of your cart will be the most important and useful items in your inventory as long as you have a woodlot available like the one I did.

Basically I finally ended up ignoring the axe and two man cross cut saw and just had my partner drive the trailer around through open paths and roads, crisscrossing the woodlot. I would then harvest fallen limbs and small dead standing trees and cut them to length on the end of the trailer. Any wood that is already on the ground is a huge...I mean huge labor saving bonus. Now I know there are guys out there who can swing a mighty axe and fell a tree bigger than my ex-wife's ego in a minute flat. Maybe someday if I kept practicing I could do that as well but I am not there yet and even if I was I can't imagine by passing a good six inch branch under such circumstances.

Unless you have a very good sized woodlot of course eventually you will run out of dead fall branches. Also the specie of trees you cut becomes a much more important issue without the use of small engines. Trees like blackgum, some oaks, cedars and pines become much more labor intensive without a chainsaw or power splitter. Blackgum especially should be avoided at all costs if splitting by hand is required. Elms, although low in BTU output become important because they tend to die in large numbers at just the right size for saw cutting without undue splitting. Walnut trees are nice because they grow pretty straight and stay at just the right diameter for many years before getting huge. Any tree with a woven grain (like the Blackgum) that is large enough to need splitting is almost not worth the effort. Some hardwoods like walnut and Osage Orange can dull a saw blade or axe in a matter of seconds if they have cured too long as well.

Minor issues that are ignored or go totally un-noticed when using a chainsaw now become very important problems.

Time also becomes an issue. A load that would normally take me about two hours with a chainsaw now took over six hours by hand and that was picking and choosing the size of wood I collected. If I had done the exact same tree for instance I estimate by hand it would have taken two full days of work to get the same amount of wood.

Bottom line. Harvesting wood by hand to run a furnace like I have been running all this Winter would be impossible in a grid down situation. At best I would have to switch to my much smaller inside wood stove and we would be huddled in the living room together under blankets.

The wife would like that :)

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!


  1. The quality of the axe has a lot to do with ease of use. I have one old axe that works exceptionally well and a couple of old beaters that don't. Might as well try to beat the tree down with a sledgehammer as use them. One of them was sharpened on a grinder so I know whats up with it.

    I have a newer fiskars hatchet and it is nearly as good as the old felling axe. Worked so well as to convince me to buy one of their axes. Big chunks o' wood will fly with either of them. They're kind of funky looking and I doubt you could replace the handle, but they do work. Might be worth trying.


    1. Dan - Yes undoubtedly the quality of the axe or any tool would matter. Sadly my axes are all relatively new ones and not anything special so that may be some of the problem. Still even with a good old axe I imagine the amount of effort of chopping down a tree would be too great if you had smaller ones available.

      Eventually however unless you have an unlimited woodlot you would have to tackle those big trees.


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