Lessons of Cutting Wood

Read this narrative about how a man learned about cutting wood, and the pains he felt along the way from his back to his pocketbook.


| December 1991/January 1992



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With a nudge, his pile of chopped wood rolled down the hill. He would learn to stack it differently.


ILLUSTRATION BY DAVID COULSON

Scrap 2-by-4s were our main fuel the first year we had a woodstove — square wood being easy to stack and carry. I know it isn't proper fuel for a woodstove, but it did keep us warm.

When all the construction scraps were gone, I decided to do the logical thing and buy a chain saw to take advantage of the “free” firewood growing on our property. (When I say “buy a chain saw,” I really mean I went to Sears for a chain saw and came out with a brand-new Craftsman 20”, a scabbard to protect the chain on the saw, an electric saw sharpener, heavy gloves, orange hard hat, safety goggles, earplugs, fuel and a fuel can, two kinds of oil, and this heavy apron/chaps thing to protect my legs.)

Soon after, I mounted my sawhorse and was ready to joust with the trees in my quest for the lost cord. As a novice, I only picked on fallen trees. I figured it was pretty hard to get squashed by something that's already lying on the ground. Before long, I was surrounded by stack after stack of neatly sawn 18 inch logs.

At the end of the day, when my saw and I were both out of gas, one of my neighbors came over to see what all the noise was about. When he saw my woodpile, he smirked.

“That's no way to stack wood,” he laughed, giving the nearest pile a nudge with his boot. As if proving the domino effect, the first pile of logs toppled, hitting the second pile, and on and on, leaving me before long with only the realization that I own very little level land.

“You need crisscross cribbing on the ends for stability,” he said. “Take a look at one of my piles next time you drive by.”





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