To me, campfires are one of those things that are key to having an enjoyable, relaxing, retreat. It’s one of those things that provides heat, is the center of where people gather, and tell stories. The last several months I have been working on figuring out how best to fell trees, skid logs, section them up, and split wood. Surprisingly, my winter work to gather firewood, is for the summer. Not much for the winter as I am already working different solutions for that.
There are three things that many people use to gather firewood:
- Tractors for skidding logs
- Electric winches attached to tractors or ATVs to draw out trees
- Flat land where wood is available
I don’t have any of that. Heavy equipment would be ideals for doing this type of work, but for now, the retreat doesn’t have financial resources required to do that. So while some equipment is going to be required, we are going to have to make do less, much less. The winch is going to be required, but I don’t have enough electrical around to use that. Another issue is many of my trees are down the slope of the mountain, and are already down. So even if I had a tractor, I wouldn’t be able to use it to drive over to the logs, grab the logs, and bring them back to the camp. A winch will be required. The issue of needing a winch, not electrically based, needed to be addressed first. I had tried the idea of using my truck to skid the logs, and with the more delicate soil up there, and the poor tires on the truck… it just left a bunch of holes in the earth and logs still in the same place.
Eventually, I settled on a PCW5000 gas powered portable winch. There are a few things I liked about this:
- The power required is fulfilled by a gas engine: while these are more expensive, and require gas, its better than me dragging around large generators or batteries into the backwoods.
- Portable: the winch is light enough for me to carry it by the handle with one hand.
- Smart anchoring: If you don’t have an anchor like a tractor or an ATV where do you anchor it? Well, there are some good anchor straps that came with it. This has allowed me to anchor it to trees, the recovery mounts on the truck, and also the hitch on the car.
- Rope: Cable systems are… well really dangerous when they break. While very rare, they can cause people to lose limbs and cause fatalities. This system is using low stretch double braided polyester, and is more than strong enough. This has a tensile strength of 17,000 lbs (7,700kg). The other nice thing, I can have much much longer lines than what cable offers.
- Pulleys: Because this is rope based, I can easily grab some carabiners, and some pulleys to gain better angles. If I need some serious leverage, I can add a block and tackle system to gain greater leverage.
The only drawback, It only has a 2,200 lb drawing force. While I don’t plan on handling logs that heavy, the forces of friction and gravity also add into this. Occasionally I do have to cut down logs smaller than I like to ensure that I can get them where they need to be.
One thing that I am adding to the mix is a nose cone to reduce friction. The nose cone is attached to the front of the logs to allow them to hit rocks, trees, and rough ground and keep going easier.
Log skidding is pretty simple at this point. Get a tree cut down (this one was in the way of the fence line) and wrap the choker chain around it.
Here is the gas powered winch drawing a log across the field, with the dog inspecting whats going on. Note how the red choker is is opened away from the nose cone. This is so it can tighten around the log.
At this point, run the choker chain through the nose cone. Then hook the rope onto the chain at the front of the nose cone.
And here is a smaller log being drug across the field. It could easily handle larger than that, and has, but I don’t have any video of that (pictures of larger logs later).
If you notice, this particular winch is a capstan winch. The rope is fed around the capstan multiple times, increasing “potential friction” (I just made up that term). However, there is no actual friction yet. The rope will freely spin until you pull on the rope, tightening the rope and creating friction. Pull on the rope (lightly), and you start drawing the load toward you. Emergency situation, just drop the rope and everything stops.
So once the logs have been skidded across the fields, and into the correct area, well its time to start cutting. I am cutting my logs into 18″ sections, and using the Mingo Firewood Marker.
This guy is pretty useful tool, and simple. The wheel on the back is exactly 18″ inches long. Run the wheel on the log and every 18 inches, it sprays a spot of paint on the log. That’s where you want to make you cut. The result, perfectly uniformed sized logs.
I have been using the LogOx as a timber jack to try and lift the logs a bit off the ground while cutting. Turns out, that getting your blade into the earth significantly dulls the blade. Anyway, this day I was using the electric chainsaw, and sectioned up these logs.
At that point, I threw a bunch of the logs into the wagon, and brought them over to the wood stack. This was extremely heavy; I estimate at least 400 lbs.
Eventually, I decided it was just easier to skid the logs right to the wood pile; yes, that was much easier. Not sure why I didn’t do that before. These logs were sectioned up here, until the electric chainsaw broke. I will have to write an article on that later. Here it stayed until I got the gas powered chainsaw up and running (more on that later too).
But at least at this point I had a good amount of wood stacked and drying.
About two months later, I came back to this pile of wood and started the final process. Splitting wood. Unfortunately, I don’t have a log splitting machine, so we are doing this the old fashioned way… with an axe.
I really like the Fiskar’s log splitting axe line, and I know I’m not the only one. I have owned them for a few years now but I like them because the handles are lightweight and comfortable, the blade is durable, and the axe design is nearly perfect for splitting wood.
At this point, it was time to start splitting wood. Nothing fancy here, put a stump, on a stump, and take a whack at it.
Make sure that all furry friends a safe distance away.
Anyway, at this point its just about splitting up the wood. Grab a log, put on stump, split. Take the split, put on stump, split again. Grab other split, put on stump split again. Place all firewood into wagons.
At this point, keep doing this until wagon is full.
I wanted to make sure that the wood doesn’t rot. Pro:tip, put down two treated lumber 2x4s. The firewood will have room to breathe, but the lumber won’t rot due to the treatment. Anyway, now that the lumber is down, time to start stacking.
Unload wagon, stack. Cut more wood, fill wagon. Move wagon, unload wagon, stack. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
That’s how much wood I was able to process before eh, I had other things to do and I got tired. Not a ton, but there is more to go.
Next time I am out there, I will work on this pile. So, what did I have to go do next? Enjoy the beautiful sunset and get ready for nightfall.