Seasoning wood as a fuel
Seasoning reduces the moisture content of the wood. Wood felled during one winter should be seasoned until the next and preferably a second winter before it is burned. Trees felled during the Spring/Summer will have a very high moisture content compared to those felled in late Autumn/Winter. Therefore, whilst a log first cut in January may be ready to burn within say, a year, it's necessary for a log cut in May to be seasoned for at least two years.
Whilst seasoning, it should preferably be stored under cover in an airy place such as an open sided lean-to. Wood should be burned when the moisture content is below 25% - 'air-dry'. You can tell if a log is dry because the bark will come away easily in the hand and the log will have splits across the grain. Ideally, logs purchased should be no more than 10cm thick. Any that are more than this will need to be split again to ensure that they burn properly.
Which wood is best as a fuel?
In terms of what type of wood to burn, it's worth bearing in mind that the heavier and therefore the denser the wood, the higher its calorific value and therefore the longer it will burn. Hardwoods tend to be denser than softwoods such as pine and spruce. However, some of the very dense hardwoods like oak and elm can be very difficult to burn, so it is usually best to burn them with another type of wood as well. Softwoods tend to be easy to light and burn quickly (making them very good kindling).
Some species like spruce and horse chestnut spit badly, making them a hazard in an open fire.
Some of the best woods to burn are ash, beech, hornbeam, hawthorn, crab apple and wild cherry.
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