How To Prep Cedar Trees for Cordwood Building
Since school let out, we have spent nearly every day working on our property prepping trees! Any time NOT spent working on the property has been spent working on school stuff for next year, practicing/gigging, or spending time with our adorable little boy. Or doing all of the above!
We’ve been steadily prepping our cordwood for building. We are using all Eastern Red Cedar for the walls, cut to 16 inch lengths. A typical workday looks like this:
1. Scout out a suitable tree. Here, we’re looking at it being a reasonable size (not too small) and reasonably located (we can get to it to remove it with the truck, not covered by brush, etc.)
2. Clear the area around the tree. This is mostly for safety. If the tree starts to fall in a different direction and you need to run out of its way, you’d better be sure there isn’t anything for you to trip over along the way. Here’s Mark clearing some brush around the tree with a machete:
3. Cut down the tree. This is Mark’s territory. He assesses how it is likely to fall and then cuts it methodically with his chainsaw.
4. Limb the tree. Using the chainsaw, remove all of the branches and top of the tree. If any branches are a few inches in diameter, remove the little branches/twigs from it and save it for use.
5. Drag the tree to the work area. We loop a chain around the end of the tree and attach the other end to the hitch on the truck. We then “tow” it to the work area. Here it is in all its glory!
6. Start peeling the log! This is important to do as soon after felling the tree as you can. Once it is down, the sap will start drying and will act as a glue, holding the bark tightly to the tree. When it is freshly fallen, the bark will practically peel itself. We’ve been using a tomahawk and a knife with ease. If you debark the tree soon enough after felling it, you won’t even need to use a drawknife or power tool like the Log Wizard.
7. Cut the tree in equal segments. We’ve been propping the debarked trees up on the older logs to get them off the ground while we cut. We chose 16 inch cordwood walls, so my job has been to measure each segment, mark it with a knife, and then let Mark cut it with the chainsaw. We also use this as an opportunity to clean the log up from any stick-ups or spots of sap we missed during the limbing process.
By our best estimates, we have almost half the number of logs we’re going to need to complete the walls. The logs then have to spend a period of time drying to about a 12% moisture content. We measure this with a simple moisture meter like this one. Several of our earliest logs from only a few weeks ago are already to this level because of how hot, dry, and windy it’s been. Other newer logs are closer to around 20%. They tend to be around 35-40% when they are first cut. According to many others, Eastern Red Cedars tend to dry quicker than other species of wood, and so far that seems to be true.
The next step is to start the excavation, which we’re told should begin next week as long as the weather holds out (no thanks, Tropical Storm Bill). Can’t wait to show Anthony the big dozer that is going to level our land for building!
Thanks for reading! Stick around for more building updates!