How to Make Firewood Logs from a Fallen Tree

Ed Wike
Written by
Last update:

Hardwood vs. Softwood: Which Type is Best For Firewood?

Firewood oftentimes comes in cords. A cord is a volume measurement, but not all cords are equal. There are specific constraints on what items the wood is allowed to contain and the wood must be stacked to a standard height.

If you are using wood to heat your home this may not be an issue for you, but it's still better to know about it. The measurement of wood in a cord is not an immutable, inviolable set of numbers. It's a guideline based on what the firewood industry has decided is most appropriate for their products.

The size of the logs is another factor to consider. The smaller the logs the faster they turn into carbon dioxide and water. Larger logs will take longer to burn off but they burn up more quickly.

Softwoods weigh about 35 pounds per cubic foot, and hardwoods weigh about 45 pounds per cubic foot. The rule of thumb is , if you want to burn your wood quickly and in a relatively small space, use softwoods like pine. If you want to use your wood log for heat for an extended time, or put it into a large wood burning stove, you may want to consider using hardwoods.

What You’ll Need to Break Down a Fallen Tree

A fallen tree can often be handy as firewood, or to create a path, but it can be a real pain to extract. You'll need to remove the trunk from the ground, a big job for a small website of effort. Here's how to do it.

You will need a heavy duty axe, a saw to cut the trunk sections to size, a chainsaw, and a lot of sweat. Start by removing the smaller branches and cutting the trunk into manageable logs. The size of the logs will depend on your requirements, but anything offering more than a few hours of burning will be worth your while.

Next, you've got a few choices. The easiest method is to get a chain saw. This will enable you to quickly and easily cut up the trunk into workable pieces. You may not like the idea of a chain saw for the purpose, but the noise and the reality of this particular option demand its use.

If you're nervous about using a chain saw, then you can cut the trunk into sections with the axe and the wood saw. This is a lot easier than using the axe alone, so it's strongly recommended. If you're thinking of cutting small sections and using them for kindling, then this could take you a long time.

The Right Tools

Before cutting your firewood logs, you must first have the right tools. Many of us have a long-handled axe, that does the trick for small jobs. But this is not a good tool for heavy work. Many people have found they have damaged their backs and had to take a break from working.

For longer logs, the best tool to use is an ax. If you don’t have one, go to your local hardware store. Pick up a great one that will last for years. For shorter logs, an ax can also be used for this job. A good splitting wedge will make cutting the logs much easier.

When you are building firewood from the top of the tree, you’re working a lot harder than you realize. The log is big and heavy. It is difficult to control, and you will have to swing it over your head and carry it to your truck.

Use your ax to remove the bark from the top. While you are cutting the log, make sure you only cut enough to split the log into manageable pieces. You do not want to cut it completely through.

Use the ax and wedge to split the log in half first. This will be easy to do if you took the bark off the top. Next, cut each of those logs into smaller pieces. Just the right size.

Preparing Yourself For The Job

When it comes to felling large trees, the first thing you must do before you start cutting down a tree is get yourself prepared. When cutting down trees it is imperative to wear tough and protective clothing, and the best kind is the kind that allows your body to move as freely as possible. It is also important to wear goggles or a full face shield to protect your vision from sawdust. Never forget to wear the appropriate grade of steel-toe boots so that your feet remain safe and unscathed by any sharp pieces of wood.

Prior to cutting down a tree, its critical to know its weight and height, as it makes a difference. If the tree falls the wrong way it could kill or injure you, or flatten your house. Therefore, having knowledge of its weight and your own weight leads you know how much wood can be harvested, and will also let you know what kind of mechanical help you will need to fell the tree.

If possible, you should locate the leaning tree’s weak spots and avoid these areas when cutting down the tree.

Safety Tips

Although making wood logs from a fallen tree might sound like magic or alchemy, it really is a pretty straightforward procedure. I’ll explain the best way to go about making firewood logs from a fallen tree in very little time and for less trouble than you might think.

In order to build firewood logs, you will need to have a fallen tree somewhere. Then you will need to prepare your entire area so that you can process this tree into nice long logs.

First of all, avoid doing this in the winter, and don’t try to process a tree that has been growing for a long time as those may have very hard wood. If you have a fallen tree in your yard or back yard, that would be the best option.

If you want to do it in the woods, be mindful of the people around you in case they are getting ready for the hunting season.

Once you have found a nice fallen tree, then you are ready to make firewood logs.

How to Break Down a Fallen Tree

A fallen tree can be used as a source of firewood. Large trees and branches can be chopped into firewood with an ax or chainsaw, or by a professional service.

The first step to making firewood from a fallen tree is to set up an area to work. This is important when using a chainsaw and when chopping with an ax. Be sure to chop in the direction of the tree's fall and down. Using a chainsaw involves cleaning up the wood. Utilizing all the wood can be done easily when the bottom of the tree lies on the ground. If the trunk is not flat on the ground then it is best to cut the branches off first.

After cutting the branches off, then cut the trunk into more manageable pieces. To make a log carrier, use a flat, sturdy piece of wood to carry your firewood in your hands.

Once your firewood has been cut into logs, it is ready to use and enjoy. It is suggested that your logs be air dried for at least a year to ensure that it will last and not catch on fire.

Your Splitting Stance

Before you fire up your wood stove or outdoor fire pit for the first time of the season, there are a few things to consider. Nobody wants to get under an ax and split logs. However, you do want a fire that burns hot and clean. The best way to achieve this is to split your firewood into manageable sizes with an ax. Here are some tips for a safer splitting experience.

Use the correct tool for the wood you are chopping. Your ax or splitting maul should have a fat, long handle, so you can comfortably hold it steady over your knee as you split.

Get a good grip on your splitting tool, and find the perfect splitting stance. You'll be splitting lengthwise to the way the grain runs, so think of it as facing the tree's grain, with your legs at a V shape and your log in front of you.

As you chop, hold the ax at a 45 degree angle, and have the front of it facing your body.

Split thicker logs in stages.

Take a break often and rest your arms. You'll be more efficient as you chop, if you take frequent breaks to give your arms a rest. Make sure to put the wood you have split inside your home or near your fire pit to stop bugs and debris from getting in, and start your fire as soon as you can.

Tips for Increased Splitting Efficiency

When you are out in the woods, clearing a new trail or adding to an existing one, it can be fun to look around for small trees that have come down and are small enough to split easily. It can also be a great idea to scavenge dead wood for firewood in the spring, as it can be a good way to make sure that you are prepared for the upcoming cold weather.

When a tree falls, it often splits in two at the end and makes a perfect firewood log. You can easily carry the logs home from the forest with a bag over your shoulder. Before you try to split the wood, however, remember a few basic things.

First, take a few minutes and check over the log carefully to confirm that it really is completely dead. Look for mold, rot, and soft wood, which may indicate that it is still alive and that a potentially harmful pest may have made its way inside. All of these concerns can make the wood dangerous for your stove or fireplace.

Another thing you should keep in mind is that one end of the log will likely be a little bit lighter-weight than the other. If it is not really large, you can choose to split them in half first and then cut them each into quarters.

Using a Wedge to Make Splitting Easier

If you can find the right log, firewood splitting can actually be fun. It can also be a valuable exercise to help get your wood pile ready for winter.

Logs need to be dry to be split easily, so if your logs are green, allow a little extra time to let them age.

The best logs to split are green maple, poplar, elm, and locust. You can also dry hardwood oak and hard maple for burning but they are difficult to split.

Before you start, you will need to make sure that your wedges are in good condition—it's easy to chip the edge when you're swinging the sledge hammer. Nicks or chips in your wedge will interfere with its ability to go through the wood properly.

Choose a log that is straight. When splitting logs you want to choose ones with straight grain so they will split best. The further apart that bark is, the better the natural angles for splitting.

Start by driving a wedge in with a maul into the grain of the wood, and then using another wedge in the same grain to split it apart.

Using wood wedges can help you to split wood as you would with stone, by taking advantage of the natural way that wood separates along the grain.

This way of splitting does not require the same amount of weight as splitting wood with a sledgehammer.

How to Stack Your Firewood

The correct way to stack wood for drying is to build a pyramid, with the biggest pieces on the bottom and the small ones on the top. This assures good air circulation, which is essential to quick drying.

Just like a stack of firewood, your camp cot should have a good airflow to keep you dry and comfortable. It also must be stable enough to stay upright in harsh weather. A well-made cot is specifically designed for sleeping outside and it will last through years of hard use.

A camp cot will most likely come with a storage bag. It's a good idea to also keep the cot in a travel bag. A durable travel bag will provide good protection from the elements. Lighter-weight cots can be easily stowed under your bed or can fold up to a not-too-large size to fit just about anywhere.

Zip cots are a space-saver. They usually come with a vinyl cover which you can take off and wash when the cot is in use.

When you go shopping for a cot, consider where you plan to use it.

The thick canvas cots, like the military model, are good for a camp site and offer double durability, but they aren't the best bet if you are backpacking or traveling.

How to Store Firewood Properly

Wood burns differently based on its moisture content. Even the same species of tree can burn differently from place to place due to differences in environment. Wood that has been cut and stored too soon will be low in moisture and, if dead or green, it will quickly decompose in the firebox. These factors will increase the risk of creosote buildup and result in a chimney fire.

Stack your wood several feet from the house and garage if possible to prevent creosote contamination.

Keep large woodpiles away from the house and other buildings. Woodpiles should also be away from the motor of your chippers, tractors and trucks. This can reduce or prevent the spread of forest fires.

Keep firewood away from combustibles, such as walls and fences.

Keep your firewood away from your home, vehicles, and any other combustibles and away from the house.

By storing your firewood offsite, you can take advantage of the help of your friends and family rather than doing everything on your own.

If you have the space, building a raised platform for your firewood is an easy way to keep you, your family, and your home safe from firewood mishaps.

When stacking your wood, be sure to give the wood space to breathe.

“Stack” your wood in a rectangular shape with no more than 25 pieces per stack.

Final Thoughts

Here is something that is very simple that most people don't think to try. If you have gotten there in time, it is possible to turn a dead tree into some firewood.

Trees are not just a nuisance. If a tree falls next to you, you can make some of the most amazing fuel for your firewood by even a small branch. Just pick up a lot of small branches and stack them. If the tree falls off in a storm, it is even easier to carry the branches to the wood pile.

The wood will quickly season and become a amazing alternative to your regular wood.