By Susan Schmidlin
By cutting dry wood, logs that have been aged through the winter, spring and some summer months, we are able to avoid a lot of the drying and curing process since nature has done most of that work already. We purchased the gas-powered splitter from OWC because members get a discount from regular retail. Using the Super Split, we are able to easily move the splitter from one area of cut wood chunks to another or into the barn where we bring the wood to it during wet weather.
Our property is farm and forestland, the firewood business is not a full time project. We fit in the different processes of the firewood project just like the way we utilize a small section of each of the three barns, in increments and out of the way of cows, hay storage and large equipment. One barn is for splitting the chunks and loading the cribs, another is for storage of filled cribs for drying and curing, and the third barn is for the actual bundling process.
With the wood split into manageable pieces, dried to be below 18% moisture and moved to the third barn, we begin the bundling. I had the pleasure to practice with some of the Co-op members to get the hang of wrapping. Stacking the pieces of wood into a metal cradle so that the bundle ends up firmly wrapped is a skill that is acquired easily if first shown then practiced. We borrowed a Twister from a member for our first cord of firewood until we decided to purchase our own when we realized that the process by hand was way too cumbersome and the outcome was not a quality, firm bundle.
We purchased the Twister machine also from the OWC used, from a member who didn’t need it anymore. The wrap is also purchased through the Cooperative at much better prices than one can get retail. This machine is electric powered which is why we bundle our wood in the one barn that has electricity.
Here is a great hint for anyone who is trying to bundle firewood. To protect my hands from splinters, I use fabric gloves that have a faux-leather palm. The leather lets me grasp the wrap easily and hold the bundle firm as the arm swings the wrap around and around while the fabric makes it easy to smoothly extract my hand from under the wrap without stopping the machine’s flow. My preferred brand of choice is digz Planter gloves and I found these at my local Bi-Mart store, the fairly thin fabric and leather is best to have the dexterity needed to manipulate the fragile wrap. I keep one pair by the wrapper to be used strictly during bundling process.
By setting the crib of firewood close by with several containers of varying sizes of smaller pieces, one person could load and wrap bundles easily. Most of the time, we are out in the barn as a family so one person can fit wood pieces into a cradle while another slips a filled cradle through the arms of the wrapper to pull the empty cradle away before labeling and wrapping the bundle. A third person pulls the wrapped bundle off the Twister to stack them neatly onto a pallet.
For demonstration, this procedure is how I do the bundling when I am stacking the wood into place and wrapping by myself. The wrap is slipped onto the wrapping arm and bolted into place. The tightness of the bolt is how the tension is controlled. If the bolt is too tight, the wrap will break instead of going around the bundle four times. If it is too loose, the bundle will not be wrapped firm and will fall apart easily.
Wood is stacked into the cradle, in this case I am showing kindling that is needed for the firewood order this particular week. The wood is stacked tightly, I like to jostle it a bit and tamp it down to make sure there are no hidden gaps. The wood is stacked to proper height to get the correct volume amount. For firewood, the pieces are stacked flush to the top of the cradle arms, for kindling the wood is stacked to one inch below the top and with a flat top surface.
The wrap film is unwrapped a couple of feet and tucked around the top of the wood. A foot pedal at the base of the Twister is used to power the swinging arm with wrap. The arm swings clockwise around the bundle. I use my gloved hands to hold the pieces in place as the arm swings the wrap around. I prefer to get one full rotation of wrap around the bundle before placing the OWC label on the top of the wood so I can let the arm rotate three more times before cutting off wrap and smoothing down the edges.
This bundle did not get squared correctly in the cradle. The end result was a more rounded bundle that does not sit flat. It would not stack well on the pallet, in the pickup for delivery or in the store with the other bundles. This bundle was taken apart, re-stacked and re-wrapped for that professional look that is needed for the customers.
Stay tuned for the next in the series of So You Think You Can Wood.