20 Cubic Feet of Firewood


Ken "Oldtime" Bushdiecker, moderator of the CJ-3B Bulletin Board, recently posted some comments about his trips into the woods for firewood in his CJ-3B. This generated lots of interest, and he responded with further thoughts on cutting and burning firewood, and stories about ornery trees and nightime excursions on the Interstate. I thought we shoud save the whole conversation here. -- Derek Redmond

Oldtime: My 1962 daily driver has been extra busy this winter. It's been unusually cold here since December.I load the 3B with as much firewood as will physically fit inside.I remove the front seat and strap my 028 Stihl Super onto the front bumper to maximuze hauling.It rides smooth with a full load and it's still not down to the axle bumpers with a big load of green wood.

Kevin Gridley
Kevin Gridley's "Workin' Willys"
Being small I can get the 3B deep into the woods and pull right up to the tree I'm working on.Just need a 2" space between the rear spare and the driver's door handle and I'm through the tight spots.No room for trailers or pickup trucks where I'm cutting wood.

It's hauled well over a dozen full Jeep loads since Christmas. In fact I'm going out after another load later today.After finishing off today's red oak tree, I have 2 more large white oaks and a big black cherry to get.These local trees were twisted off from last spring's tornado.Oh yeah, I almost forgot about the big one I started on last summer.Never finished it because the trunk is huge and measures a full 6' diameter.I used to log virgin timber here in Missouri (I ran a Timberjack skidder).I've never seen one quite that big around in these parts.I figured it wasn't going anywhere. I'll finish that one later.

Kevin Gridley
Duffer's saws
Duffer: Wow, Ken. Can't you make lumber out of some of that? Maybe time to get the Timberjack again.We have a few old growth Doug Firs that escaped the loggers 120 years back that are 48" + dbh but those only get cut if they are terminal. Most of our timber is more like 24-30" dbh.

No question which brand of saw we like.

Oldtime: Well, I finished up another nice red oak today. Skidded all the big branches uphill in the snow from blowdown brush pile with a stout rope hooked on the Jeep's drawbar.Little Jeep really gets into the tight spots and makes cutting/loading access easy.

This one's a normal size tree, a full 16" diameter at 2 foot up from the butt.Cut up the the whole tree into 24" lengths.I use everthing, down to 2" diameter sticks. Got the whole tree packed into the 3B in only 2-1/2 loads.

24" diameter black cherry tree is next.Tornado broke it off where it forks about 15 feet up the trunk.Likely start on it this Friday.A little too cold tomorrow... wind chill down to 20 or 30 below.And just too muddy around there whenever it gets above freezing.

Wood Culture

Ready for burning
Bob in NC: About how much wood can you stuff in the Jeep? 1/8 cord? How are you splitting it all? I split 4 cords of free wood a local tree company drops off every year. In log lengths so I can cut to 16" to fit in our kitchen stove. Keeps the downstairs warm. I use a heavy maul -- I like the exercise. When we move to NC I'll be cutting plenty of small trees from the 2 miles of ditches I have. Pine and hardwoods.

I guess you are burning a stove? You do have back up heat?

Oldtime: Furnace went out in the 1970's. Been heating 100% with wood ever since.I prefer a cast iron box stove. My current box stove will easily handle 30" long wood, but I prefer to cut 24" lengths.

My current box stove was made by Excelsior Stove of Quincy, Illinois, sometime back at the turn of the last century.Had a real nice old wood cookstove with warming oven and really liked that, but that was taken to my former recluse farm and it eventually got destroyed by vandals.

I'll measure up a full Jeep load. I'll probably cut and load some more tommorrow.

Oh yeah, many years ago I used to have a big homemade log splitter that was run off the back of a John Deere backhoe. Anymore I actually prefer to do it all by hand -- it's actually faster to split by hand if you really know your woods.

Back in the pioneer days, man lived in a "wooden culture." The baby was rocked in a wooden cradle and buried in a pine box. Most everthing in between was made of wood, and lives depended on that knowledge.Nowadays very few people can tell a Shagbark from a Shellbark or American hornbeam from Eastern hornbeam. They go to the woods and they only see trees, they don't see the lost technology.I digress.

Ratchet's '53 CJ-3B "Lucy"
Bottom line is the 3B is a true Universal and it so happens to be an excellent firewood-getter under certain conditions.

About how much wood can I stuff in the Jeep? There's 128 cubic ft per cord.I used to average 80 cubic ft. per full size (8') pickup bed.My 3B averages just over 20 cubic ft. per load with room for my 50-pound Aussie.I remove front seat and Aussie gets half of that spot.

Chain saw is carried in a full case that's attached to front bumper.Need to get my saw off the front bumper so I can mount my Koenig winch up there.Been looking for a good civilian Bantam trailer for a couple years now. They are few and far between around these parts.

Or maybe a Willy bed extension would help out !

Daryl: A bed extension should give you plenty of space.No extra license required or wheel bearings to pack. Plus they are even more of a conversation starter.I have a '47 Ben Hur trailer that really comes in handy when space challenged. I actually tow it more behind my parts runner then by Jeep.My current parts runner is a '99 S10 with a 4-cylinder and almost 300k miles.Easier on some rigs to tow than to carry the weight.

Bob in NC: So about 1/6 cord. Its a tough call, going out to get your own firewood verses having someone drop off logs. The logs I get often are 36" diameter or bigger with some crotch area. The crotch area you have to cut into pancakes to split it. But I don't have to go farther than my driveway. Going to get it like you do, you can probably split these 16" red oaks with a heavy axe. I have a M101 I use behind the Avalanche so I don't dog it up with firewood and such. I use a wheelbarrow now to get the wood from the top of the hill to the bottom of the hill in Philly. All the 3B's are in NC.

Rich Mylar
Rich Mylar
Bob Webber: Do you split the wood prior to putting it in the 3B?I used to use my Jeep to drag firewood to our field from a friend's neighboring property, I would drag them up a creek and into the field so we could cut and split.No brakes on the Jeep, just low range and some crafty use of reverse and the clutch -- I have lots of fond memories with my old man cutting and dragging firewood.He used an '83 CJ-5 that had been previously rolled about 4 times down a hill, with a broken right headlight that still worked. We called it Lion Heart, because it had the heart of a lion and just would not stop working for us. One spot in the creek was so deep I had to put my feet on the dashboard to keep them from getting wet.

We had about 3 wood mauls and would hand split all of it; after time we ended up getting a wood splitter to make more use of the twisted locust wood. Good times.

Oldtime: Yeah 5 or 6 Jeep loads makes a full cord.I normally don't split my logs before loading into the Jeep.Hauling a maul and any extras just takes up precious space.I don't even carry a gas can nor an oil bottle.I can cut a whole lot of wood on a tankful.

If logs are large diameter like 2' or so, I roll them in and set them endwise on top of the Jeep's tool box. Somehow I always manage to keep just enough room in front for my Aussie.Sometime he just has to curl up in a ball.He's a good dog and stays close by but out of the way when trees are falling.

Bruce Isaacs
Bruce Isaacs
Sometimes I partially cut through especially tough knots with the saw before loading the log.Sometimes the logs are so heavy I have to get them up onto the drawbar tongue just to load them.But I rarely split wood until I use it. It's faster to stack up logs than bunchess of split wood.I usually burn any odd shaped pieces and stack up the straight logs for later.I have huge amounts stacked up at all times.Anywhere from 1 to 2 years worth of the good stuff.

Today I went after a black cherry tree. The thing was broke off and hung up 15 or 20 feet off the ground.I's hard to describe the mess but the twister left that snag hung up really good, wedged up into 3 big trees.

I threw my tug strap around it and tried to yank the snagged tops down to the ground. Hooked the tug strap to the drawbar.The ground was just starting to thaw so it was like slick ice mud 1" deep.Not much traction so I'd get a short run at it then hit the end of the tug strap. The first snag came down after putting a twist roll into the tug strap.

On the 2nd snag I jerked it hard about 25 tries.The rear axle of the Jeep would go air born 1 or 2 foot high each time it hit the end of the tug strap.Too bad I don't have a video of it. It was probably hilarious.The rear suspension was fully flexing up and down on both rear springs.No luck on that 2nd snag. Have need for a winch cable -- this Jeep's not winch equipped.

To Each His Own

Bob in NC: You must have wanted that cherry snag awful bad to try that hard. A friend who I buy lumber from owns a large sawmill in TN. A couple years ago we were talking and someone had just dropped off a few cords of cherry firewood cut to length here at the house in PA. He told me he didn't like burning cherry. I asked him what he was burning and he told me walnut. He had a couple walnut trees he had cut down that year and was burning. I like the outside smell of walnut better than cherry but I like the inside smell of cherry better than walnut.

And as far as firewood, I think cherry overall is better than walnut, but to each his own. In my opinion, I like osage orange best, followed by locust then white oak.

Daryl: Out here in Washington you can have your pick of all kinds of trees as long as they are Douglas Fir. Pretty much the only trees we have here worth burning.

Rich Mylar
Rich Mylar
Oldtime: Well IMHO Black Cherry and American Black Walnut are notably different.Both woods weigh in at 39 pounds per cubic foot when dried to 12% moisure content and that's where their similarities end.

39 pounds per cubic foot equals the exact medium weight concerning various wood weights.Other American woods range from 19 pounds/ft (Arvbor vitae) to 58 pounds/ft (Osage orange).Actually though there are two North American hardwoods that weigh even more than Osage.Live Oak at around 72 pound/ft is just not worth burning in my opinion.

American Black Walnut has a natural oil in it that burns really well.In fact most walnuts (dependent partly on its niche) will readily burn when green.I personally prefer the smell of Walnut over that of virtually every other wood.But that smell certainly does not qualify Walnut a good smoking wood.The Walnuts put out a much better quality coal than the Black Cherry.The Black Cherry coals are not dependable. In other words the coals will readily stop burning if the draft is lost.Not true with Walnut coals.

Likely that Sugar Maples put out the most dependable of all hardwood coals.A pile of Sugar Maple coals will burn all night with zero draft.Walnut coals are better than Cherry coals but don't have the same dependability and duration as Sugar Maple coals.The Walnuts are also more rot and bug resistant than Cherry wood is.The Cherries will under certain conditions attract carpenter ants. Sweet Gum for one is very bad to attract various ants and termites.The Walnuts will always be completely bug free.

Canadian hardwood
That said, there are many woods that are far superior to either Walnut or Cherry.And definitely a few woods that are superior to Osage for heating.For one Rock Elm comes to mind. It's a very heavy wood when dry.Unlike the other Elms the Rock Elm will split very well.Rock Elm will seldom ever have any bark on it.That's typically where most of the bugs hide.And anyone who burns wood should know that a full 50% of the ashes comes from the bark. It's a rot resistant wood so it can readily be stored for years.Rock Elm puts out an extremely hot and dependable coal.It puts out little yet pleasant smell.It does not pop but will crackle mildly so you can hear the fire burn when you're partly awake.

Rock Elm also produces very little light grey colored ash.Under extreme cold conditions, wood ash becomes a real concern.It's because the stove overinsulates itself with ashes quicker than they can be extracted.Like Osage it burns with a blue flame. If you want light to read by, try burning Pine.

So there you have it in a nutshell...Availability / Dry Weight / Size / Splitability / Bark or none / Insect resistance / Rot resistance / Coal dependability / Coal duration / Smell / Flame color / Sound / Popping danger / Type and quantity of wood ash.

Oh by the way... was simply having a blast tugging away at the snag. The Jeep was up on its front axle and still tugging.No broken parts.These Jeeps are like Hickory wood... Very tough!

Curtis Hickman

Bob in NC: My grandpop converted an old mill house, built in the early 1700's from a house for two into a house for one. There was basically a divider in the middle of the house. He took that down and made two houses into one. Still it was small. But he got me into splitting white pine because he liked the smell and the sound. The living room has a fireplace at each end so the one room had two fireplaces. He would have them both going holidays. That was cool.

Don't know much about rock elm. American elm -- the streets were lined with them and in the summers you could not see the sun because the elms covered the roads. I split a hundred cords of that if I split one. We had a heavy duty splitter back in dem days.

Beech doesn't leave much ash, and ash you can burn green.

As far as specialty lumber, I like dogwood and yew.

Gary: Oldtime, what an education. Thanks for Firewood 101. All we have here in New Mexico is lots of pine, juniper, pinon and occasionaly black walnut.

Red: I work forest fires and have cut trees since I started the fire biz. The toughest situations are those twisted up messes from windstorms. Lots of tensions and compressions etc. You really have to look it over and figure it all out prior to cutting (what happens if I release this bind; where do I stand so I don't get killed or maimed, etc). I often supervise professional timber cutters as a falling boss on fires. It's a treat watching those guys work though I have sent guys home for poor performance -- that's rare but does happen. I only fear 3 things on fires: 1. Trees falling 2. rocks rolling, and 3. helicopters falling out of the sky. Gravity factors into all three. Dangerous business.

Wish we had more variety of trees than the standard Doug Fir and other softwoods. Only hardwoods we have generally are oaks and a few maples and madrones. I'm probably forgetting a few others.

Red's Jeep
Red's '54 M38A1 and M-100
I use my M38A1 for firewood gathering but always take the M-100 trailer. I bring in 3-4 cords a year, about 1/5 cord each trip. Sometimes it takes the Jeep to get down in there in 4x4 but even if it didn't, I use the A1 just because I enjoy driving it.

Oldtime: Hauled home two loads of Cherry wood today in the 3B.Tree was 22" diameter at two foot up the trunk.I cut it off at ground level where it's like 26" diameter and cut everything down to 2" diameter sticks. Got 6 big blocks from the main trunk that were over 20" diameter at 2' long. Got the whole tree in 4 Jeep loads.

Got into some tight spots between the trees when I was tugging on a snag.Had to make a hard right turn in a very narrow spot between some trees while tugging the snag.So I drove the side mount spare into the side of a tree and pivoted the Jeep on the spare tire. No damage to the tree I pivotted on, nor was there any damage to the spare or the Jeep. That pivoting turn off the side mount spare worked out really smooth.

Bob in NC: Sometimes you get lucky.

2' diameter, 2' long is a heavy chunk of firewood. when I go get firewood, for something like that I would split in half before loading on the trailer. I like to split something like these chunks you are talking about in half, and let them dry like that for a while before splitting them into 1/4 and then 1/8 pieces before burning.

Red -- the end grain on the log on the left looks almost just like cherry. I like burning any kind of wood if it keeps me warm. I like the smell of Doug Fir.

Red: I'm not sure of the species, but we just call it island fir. It's not a Doug Fir, but it's a good burning wood for a conifer. What you are seeing there is just the heartwood, but it does tend to turn reddish for some reason after being cut and exposed to the air.

I remember going to the Carolinas on a fire assignment in the 80s. It was a treat seeing all the hardwoods there. Trees I had only read about -- maples, hickory, various oaks, etc.

Bringing Home a Dauntless

Oldtime: Yeah, we've got like 250 species of hardwoods over here.When I was out in Death Valley it was either Ponderosa pine or Mesquite and was a long haul for most either one.That place was a real Jeeper's paradise.

Occasionally I get a little tired of just hauling firewood. Just to let you know these 3B's do have other winter work to do.So here's my latest diversion for the 3B.

Took a look on Craigslist yesterday and found a 1970 Dauntless 225 that was just listed a few hours earlier.It was 34 degrees out, and was rainy so I called the seller up about 1 PM.The forecasted temperature looked good until nightfall.So I loaded up the dog and headed west about 100 miles on the interstate.

Jeremy Legg photo
1967 Commando
Got there only to find out that the engine was still sitting in a 1970 Commando.The engine was complete, less the air cleaner, and it looked to have excellent potential.I wanted it, so we proceded to pull the engine.It rained the whole time, while my dog watched over us working in the cold garage.

Michael Patrick photo
Knoxville News Sentinel photo
Finally got the engine loaded into the back of my 3B about 2 hours after our arrival.Dog was a little upset because the still-attached exhaust pipe was sitting in his favorite spot over the tool box lid.We didn't linger because it was getting late.On the way back it began to get dark, and we had just passed a neon sign that read 32 degrees.I imagined that ice was ready to form at almost any time.

Justin Hanagan photo
Justin Hanagan photo
About midway back I ran the Jeep at full throttle up a long steep grade. All of a sudden the Hurricane started to sputter and backfire.We had just passed one exit and the next exit was 4 miles away. Tried to nurse the Jeep down the road.

Big trucks began to fly by, so I tried limping down the shoulder. But the Jeep all but gave out, and I pulled it over on the shoulder in near darkness.

Greg Barnette photo
Redding Record Searchlight photo
The dog jumped out to watch me get to work lickedy split.Had no flashlight but I could still see well enough that there was no fuel in the sediment bowl.So I disconnected the flex hose at the fuel tube. Removed the gas cap and blew hard into the tube.

Big trucks were rushing by me at 70 MPH spraying the rain in near darkness.The dog jumped back in and I fired the Jeep up. The fuel obstruction was cleared and the problem was solved.Another 5 minutes were wasted that I could not afford.

We wasted no more time and stopped for nothing but a quick fill up.I hoped that as long as it was raining, ice would not form on the well-traveled roads.By the time I got to the big city the Interstate was real busy but the rain had all but stopped.I kept a close eye out for signs of ice on the overpasses.Finally got across the last river bridge and pulled into town.Got off the main road and then I noticed I was the only one around. Hardly a soul on the road.

IcyJust then the Jeep began to slide sideways.The road now had mostly turned to ice with a few wet spots remaining.I crept the loaded Jeep across town at less than 15 MPH.The two big downhills were kinda scary but I finally got the 3B home. Hurray!

The F-134 Hurricane hauled another Dauntless 225 to its new home.My Aussie also got real happy once again. He's easy to please.He was simply wanting to get inside and see if his dinner was ready.

Doug: I don't know how you do it, Ken. I ventured onto the freeway one time with the B, through town where the speed limit is just 65, and I was pretty sure I was going to die. I dislike the highways just as much. Me and another 3B'er were driving from Boise to Jordan Valley a year or so back and were running close to the speed limit of 65 and the cars and tractor trailers were either 6 inches off my tail or blowing by like I was standing still. I couldn't wait to get off the main roads and onto the scenic byway we went there for.

Red:"...I couldn't get the fuel obstruction cleared.I cranked the Jeep in low gear to get to the overpass.Got out the come along and rigged an engine hoist.Disconnected lines, wires, hoses, exhaust from the F-head.Time was running out.Pulled the fhead and set it on the ground.Built motor mounts and bellhousing adaptor on the spot (don't ask how).Put V6 into Jeep.Hooked it all up except for exhaust.Used hoist to put F-head in back of Jeep.Fired her up and got back on the Interstate.She was loud.Ice had not yet formed...."

Well, with Ken, it could happen, couldn't it? :)

Yes, it probably could!

Thanks to Ken "Oldtime" Bushdiecker for another good story, and thanks to the photographers -- Derek Redmond

See photos of Oldtime's Jeep carrying a 42" diameter log, in An Oldtime Dream From 1964 on CJ3B.info.

See also Ken's story about Tracks in the Virgin Snow.

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Last updated 17 February 2014 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
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