Cutting your own firewood is VERY rewarding! It’s not only great physical exercise, but it also will save you money. You can even get the whole family involved and turn it into a family outing. There is definitely plenty of work for every member of the family and different jobs require different skills and strengths. Young kids can be loading and stacking wood in the truck bed while dad and mom are felling and bucking!
But, before you jump right in here are 7 essential firewood cutting tips for beginners. You need to think about things like safety, tools, and laws when you go out to cut firewood. I hope you find them helpful and get you pointed in the right direction.
1. Have the proper wood cutting safety equipment
With all the debris flying around while you are cutting firewood, it is essential that you protect your eyes. Eye protection is not expensive and can save you from a serious eye injury. You can choose from safety glasses, safety goggles, or face shields.
- Safety glasses protect your eyes from normal levels of dust and debris. Some people choose them because out of all the choices they mostly resemble sun glasses and are not burdensome.
- Safety goggles form a seal around your eyes, and provide more protection than safety glasses from dust flying debris. Goggles are a better choice than glasses because they keep out the majority of debris flying through the air whether directly at you, from the side, below or above you. They are a bit more cumbersome than safety glasses, but I think you will appreciate the added protection they provide. Choose ones that are scratch resistant and have foam padding and air vents. Another cool feature is that most safety goggles fit over prescription glasses.
- Face shields are great for protecting against chips flying directly at you or above you but since they are open at the bottom do not provide protection from below. This means that dust and smaller chips can still fly in behind the shield.
Continuous loud noise can cause hearing damage. That’s why it’s important to wear some sort of ear protection while running a chainsaw. Chainsaws product a loud noice, very close to our ears and we typically run them for long periods of time. The best protection is from earmuffs. Earmuffs have a hard shell that covers your ears, while the inside is made of foam that absorbs the loud noises made by the chainsaw. Some people just use cheap earplugs, but that is not ideal.
Not a super cheap accessory, but an investment that you will use over and over again. Chaps are worn over your clothes and attach at the waist and around your legs. Chaps are designed to protect your legs in the event your chainsaw comes in contact with them. Like most safety equipment, you will wish you had taken the time to put them on when a serious injury occurs. You may spend around $70 on a great pair, but they will feel PRICELESS when they save your legs from a serious injury and huge emergency bill.
Most injuries while cutting firewood occur from the waist down. That’s why it’s important to wear chaps, but also consider protecting your feet.
Having a heavy log come crashing down on your unprotected feet will leave you in a lot of pain and possibly a broken foot. Steel-toe boots or safety boots have a protective reinforcement in the toe to protect your feet when logs come crashing down on them. The toes are typically made of steel, but not all companies use steel. Some companies use a composite material that preforms similarly to steel.
Steel-toe boots can be pretty pricey, but again this is a piece of equipment you will use over and over again and be glad you made the investment. You can purchase steel-toe shoes as well, but you’ll want to purchase something that comes up high enough on your ankle to prevent wood chips from getting stuck in your socks while cutting firewood.
See more: The Way Forward
Wearing a good pair of gloves is important when cutting, moving, or even stacking firewood. You will find that there are many different options out there ranging from leather work gloves, anti-vibration gloves and even Kevlar lines gloves. All of them will work great, just choose the one that fits your needs the best.
Wearing a helmet while cutting down a tree is important especially if part of the tree is fragile or decaying. Part of the tree could break off and fall on you causing serious injury or even death. You can buy helmet packages that include eye goggles and ear protection.
It’s very important not to cut firewood when you are feeling fatigued. You are more likely to make a mistake and injure yourself when you are tired. Taking breaks to drink water will keep your body hydrated and your mind focused. Don’t think that just because it’s cold outside you aren’t sweating up a storm. It’s just as important to drink water in the winter as it is in the summer.
A way to call for help
It’s best not to cut firewood alone. Practice the buddy system. That way if one of you gets injured the other person can get help or be there to assist. If you are alone, make sure you have some form of communication at your side. This could be a cell phone in your pocket if you are in an area with cell coverage. It could include a walkie talkie hooked to your belt so that you can communicate with someone back at the house or at another area on your property. Whatever you choose, make sure it is reliable and useable. You don’t want to get stuck out by yourself with a bad injury and no way to communicate with anyone.
First Aid Kit and Manual
Carry a small First Aid Kit in your vehicle and leave it there. Also include a First Aid Manual to help you in the event a serious injury occurs. All kinds of injuries can occur while cutting firewood. It’s a good idea to have bandaids and antiseptics on hand to treat minor wounds.
While your body is not a piece of equipment you will purchase, it is essential that you protect your lower back by using your legs to lift heavy logs. A lot of people injure themselves because of improper lifting. Wearing a back brace may help you if your back is not strong already.
2. Have the proper firewood cutting tools
If you are just beginning your search for buying a chainsaw then you already know there are tons of options out there on the market. It can be very confusing to decide which one is best for you. Chainsaws come in electric and gas. All with different size motors and different size bars. Some are quieter than others and some have more safety features than others. Choose the chainsaw that matches you, your abilities and the job you are doing. This will make cutting firewood much more enjoyable.
Bar and Chain Oil
Properly oiling your chainsaw bar will make it run better and longer. Chainsaw bar oil protects the chain and bar against wear, rust and corrosion. Some people have been known to use vegetable oil, motor oil and other home remedies, but it’s best to read your chainsaws user manual and use what’s recommended by the manufacturer. There are different types of bar oil that’s why it’s important to check your manual.
If you are using a gas powered chainsaw you obviously will need to have gas on hand. Check your owner’s manual to find the minimum octane level of gas. You will also need to mix two-stroke/two-cycle engine oil with the fuel. Make sure the oil is approved for chainsaws. If you don’t use the gas within 2-3 months you should add a fuel stabilizer to lengthen the life of your mixed fuel. They make premixed fuels that you can buy if you don’t want to mess with mixing it yourself.
Using a dull chainsaw blade is a very inefficient use of your time. You also put yourself at risk of increased kickback. You will know if it’s time to sharpen your blade if the chain spits out dust instead of chips. It will take about 10 minutes once you are familiar with the process. Follow
the owner’s manual for your chainsaw’s requirements. There are manual methods for sharpening as well as powered sharpeners. If you have been using the same chain for years, it might be time to buy a new one. In general you can sharpen your cutters up to 10 times before needing to buy a new chain.
Wedges will come in handy when felling trees as well as bucking logs and cutting firewood already on the ground. Using a wedge for felling a tree will help it land in the location you want it to. Using a wedge while cutting firewood already on the ground will help prevent your chainsaw from pinching and getting stuck in the wood.
Using an axe is a great way to de-limb a downed tree before bucking or cutting it into sections. Axes are also super important if you plan to split or chop your firewood.
A log jack is a great tool for turning heavy logs and holding them up off the ground for easier and safer cutting. Using one will also keep your chain from hitting the ground and preventing the bar from binding. You might also see them called “log lifters” or a “cant hook”, or also a “peavey”. All are similar with the difference being some have a blunt end where some have a metal spike.
3. Make sure you are legally cutting firewood
The good news is that you can cut down trees on your own property. But if you have exhausted your own resources and still need firewood, where can you go? Most national forests will allow you to cut trees for personal use but first you need a permit. You are not allowed to sell any trees you cut down. The National Forest Service will have specific guidelines for the area you wish to work in. Make sure you always carry your permit with you and adhere to all laws.
4. Cut your wood at the best time of year
It’s best not to wait till the last minute to cut firewood. Depending on the type of wood, firewood is best when it has been seasoned for at least 6 months. If you burn unseasoned wood it will be more difficult to light and produce a lot more smoke than if you had dried it out first.
If you can split and stack in the early spring, your winter firewood will be ready for you. Dried wood will be much lighter and grey in color. Even if you fell a dead standing tree, it might not be dry enough to burn right away. Trees can retain a lot of water if the bark has not been removed.
5. Cut your wood to the proper length
Don’t make the mistake of cutting and stacking all of your firewood only to find out your cut it too long. You will kick yourself for not measuring first. It’s not that difficult to check the specifics on your fireplace or stove. Cut one log and use it as your “measuring guide” while you split the rest.
6. Keep your chain sharp
A dull chainsaw can be more dangerous than a sharp one because it puts you at risk for kickback. Chainsaw kickback is when the front of the saw catches on the wood and the bar is thrown up and back toward you. This can happen at lightning fast speeds and can be very dangerous. Reduce your risk of injury by using a sharp chain. They make chainsaws that include features which reduce kickback. If you are concerned about this being an issue you might want to select a chainsaw with this feature.
7. Make sure not to overload your truck or trailer
It’s best to check the owner’s manual for your vehicle to see what load weights your truck can safely haul. If you overload your truck you may find that your steering, handling and braking are compromised. You can find how much your truck can carry by reading the placard located on the inside of the driver’s door sill or on a sticker located inside the glove box. You can also find it in the owners manual. Look for what’s call the “payload”. Payload includes the weight in the cabin and the cargo.
A cord of wood can weigh up to 5,000 pounds depending on the type of wood and its moisture content. A standard cord of wood is 128 cubic feet. Typically a small pickup (1/4 ton) can carry 1/2 cord, a short bed pickup (1/2 ton) can carry 1/2 cord, a long bed pickup (1/2 or 3/4 ton) can carry 1/2 cord, a long bed pickup with racks can carry 1 cord, and a standard truck (1 ton) can carry 1 1/2 cords of wood. These are typical but you need to check your trucks specifics to be 100% safe.
There is lots to think about when you decide to heat you home with firewood. If you’re not buying it, you need to be equipped to cut it yourself. This includes safety equipment, proper tools, knowing the laws, not overloading your truck and so on. If you are just starting out cutting firewood I hope this article is helpful to you and you picked up some pointers. If you are a seasoned woodcutter please let us know in the comments below what other tips you have for us beginners. Hope you have a great day and keepsmil:)ing!