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Saplings as fuel

 
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Sorry if this has all been covered before:

I have a small pile of saplings, cut to 2-4 feet, mostly 1-2 inches thick, that have been drying for about 10 months. For about 8 months they were uncovered, stacked vertically against a tree. I am now experimenting with burning them in my Liberator rocket stove. Results are disappointing: they burn, but not robustly, and are not smokeless.

I am comparing them to kiln-dried oak kindling, which seems to be the ultimate fuel, but is costly.

Realistically, what can I expect from saplings? Do I need to season them longer, like a couple of years? Are they not as energy-dense as full-grown hardwoods? Do I need to somehow split them, de-bark them, or cut them shorter, before seasoning? Which species are inferior/worthless at the sapling stage?
 
pollinator
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Yeah, I think they need to dry out some more.  I've got some 12 month old tree trimmings of that size which are still not acceptably dry for burning yet.  Even the twigs are still a bit green!  It's a sycamore (also called a sycamore maple).

To be honest, I burn mostly "junk" wood in my rocket:  elder, willow, alder mostly and these are all small diameter wood such as coppice wood or saplings.  I also burn some of my ornamental and fruit tree prunings:  rose, berberis, laurel, apple, etc.  Depending on diameter, these dry out a bit quicker than the tree wood, I think.  Maybe not the berberis or laurel.
 
pollinator
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I'd get a kindling cracker and split them again. The smaller they are the quicker they'll dry out. Once you split them you'll see how moist they still are inside.
 
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Stacked vertically against a tree = one end on the ground soaking up moisture. I would not be surprised that those are not fully dry. I think you need to stack them in a cradle off the ground, with both ends exposed to moving air and a cover to keep rain off. Then they should dry and be good fuel next winter. Splitting also has a great effect on drying time; water escapes from exposed grain, not as fast as from end grain, but in a long stick it would make a real difference.
 
Graham Chiu
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Stacking vertically is great for growing mushrooms though as it keeps the wood moist.
 
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When cutting regular firewood I leave the smaller branches unsplit.  Unfortunately they take much longer to dry than the split wood.  I'm thinking they'd be properly dry after about 3 years in my climate.  Splitting would take it down to a year-ish.
 
Wullow Still
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Graham Chiu wrote:I'd get a kindling cracker and split them again. The smaller they are the quicker they'll dry out. Once you split them you'll see how moist they still are inside.



Thanks; I had never heard of this device. Now I'm using it.
 
Wullow Still
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Glenn Herbert wrote:Stacked vertically against a tree = one end on the ground soaking up moisture. I would not be surprised that those are not fully dry.



Yep, now that I've split these I can see how the moisture/rot has been moving straight up the interior.
 
Wullow Still
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Glenn Herbert wrote:I think you need to stack them in a cradle off the ground, with both ends exposed to moving air and a cover to keep rain off.



Here's my harvest from the kindling cracker. It's like a gnomes' wood pile. I stacked it criss-cross to facilitate air flow and randomize weight distribution. Flat stones help to buffer the wind:


The next question is: Is it really worthwhile to provide a rain roof over the wood pile?
 
Glenn Herbert
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I would say that depends on your fall/winter climate. If it ends to be dry, okay; if not, a cover would give much better fuel.
 
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Wullow - it's been a few months since you first posted about using kindling in the Liberator. Is it working out any better for you? I am thinking of purchasing one and was also planning on using kindling, pinecones etc. Is it any more efficient than standard stoves?
 
Wullow Still
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Hazel Brand wrote:Wullow - it's been a few months since you first posted about using kindling in the Liberator. Is it working out any better for you? I am thinking of purchasing one and was also planning on using kindling, pinecones etc. Is it any more efficient than standard stoves?



I am happy with the stove. I have written a review that you can read here (it's a work in progress): https://write.as/uuardlauu/the-liberator-rocket-stove

As for saplings as fuel, I think that others' advice to split all the wood is the key. The split hardwood I stacked 8 months ago seems to be ready to burn. Sitting in the yard with no tarp, it's about 15% moisture. When I bring it inside for a couple of weeks, the moisture goes down to 6-7%. I will know more when the weather turns cold and I start burning again. These pieces, of course, are considerably skinnier than what people normally burn in a stove or fireplace.

I would not recommend pine cones, because of the potential of creosote buildup. They also burn very fast. They do make good starters, but twigs and newspaper (the recommended starter) work fine.
 
Hazel Brand
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Wullow I appreciated your review, and also the heads-up on pinecones.
 
The only cure for that is hours of television radiation. And this tiny ad:
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