Firewood is hard to come by in my dry Mediterranean climate with a relatively small landholding. We have an ordinary woodstove (a DroLet steel box stove, as I recall, with blower), and neither the budget, energy, or connections to replace it with a rocket mass heater or anything like that which would require hosting a workshop, etc. (I've participated in one....to imagine doing it by myself would turn the house into a construction site for months). Small sticks seem to be accumulating in my firewood stash as compared to larger wood, even though we also use sticks for grilling in the winter season. Are there any ideas about how to burn more small wood in an ordinary stove, aside from kindling, or just heaping it in for a quick burst of heat? I have thought of bundling them with wire, as I do this with paper already, but I don't think this would help them last any longer than thrown in loose.
I have a fairly large house, but it is super insulated and so I have the capability of burning smaller wood. In fact my home thrives on it. In my situation, an American Home as it is, I use pot bellied stoves just installing one this past weekend. A pot bellied stove works wonders because it has a much smaller firebox. My father gets indignant about it because "it does not take a big stick", but in my experience, with my super insulated home, burning a big stick just means I use more wood; my home is still 90 degrees inside.
So if unless your home is cold you may be able to either have a stove that has a smaller firebox by replacing your current stove, or modifying your existing stove. That can be easily done with firebrick, and in $1.50 US Dollars per brick, it is a cheap way to do so.
As for getting smaller wood, I am in the midst of doing this myself, but building a firewood chunker, which cuts and splits long lengths of small diameter wood quickly. Primarily these are saplings and tree limbs. A search on you tube of Firewood Chunkers will show you (3) very different designs that do the same thing. All can easily be homemade.
As a full-time farmer, I do my best work with a hoe, but what does that say about my wife Katie?
I've experimented with bundling twigs and tying them. We have lots of native NZ flax (Phormium tenax) and the leaf fibres are amazing. The best results I've had were with standing dead trees or branches with lots of small twigs. I cut them, left them on the ground in the paddock, and then when they were wet and pliable I tied them as tightly as I could with flax. Then I cut the bundles to firewood length and tossed them into the woodshed to dry.
These bundles act a little more like "normal" firewood, but there's still a lot of surface area and I wind up with a pretty hot burn unless I close down the damper on our fire (a clean-air design mandated in NZ for at least a decade now which avoids smoldering banked fires that smoke the bejeezus out of the town on cold nights). Verdict: more trouble than it's worth for me, and these days all our twiggy stuff either gets used as kindling or goes back to the soil.
You might give it a try this winter when everything is wet and pliable. Bundles don't take long to dry as long as you start with dead twigs. No reason you couldn't just use twine if you don't have flax.
Maybe you could build something like a Bale Press that you put your paper and sticks in and mash them up into something fashioned like a brick of combustible material. this might also eliminate air spaces between the individual sticks. Too much air getting into the fuel, and more channels for air to flow as it burns, are the cause of small fuel burning rapidly. So the more you eliminate air spaces, the longer lasting the fuel.
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Paper pulp could encase the sticks,keep out air and also burn.
But it could pain in the ass to deal with.
And the paper would probably burn faster than the pulp.
Shoving the sticks into a stainless steel container and putting that into the flames is another way to use them while making charcoal at the same time.
How about sticks in mud?
I know this may be a foolish idea, butwhat if we drop them in a mold,layered with moist soil, ashes,paper, what ever.
Let the brick log dry on the stove top, then pop it in the stove or store it for later.
I'm certain the earth or ashes would retard the burn, the question is will it be too much?
I'm doing this with all sorts of biomass - wood chips, twigs, nut shells, floor sweepings, bones, etc. I haven't gone to the trouble or expense of a stainless steel retort yet. I'm doing it on the super cheap with tin cans: Crimp the end of one so that it fits into another one. Fill both with your biomass, jam them together and chuck them in the fire. I do 3-5 tin can retorts at a whack, usually putting them in as the fire dies down a bit and fishing them out later when cold. The cans last around a dozen trips through the fire before they burn out and go into the recycle bin.
One of these days I'll get a few stainless ones fabbed up. I tried slipcasting a fireclay retort and it worked brilliantly for about four burns, then shattered. Too much trouble to try that again.