the se­cret to stack­ing wood like a nor­we­gian

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents -

We meet a Kiwi block holder who has be­come a lit­tle ob­ssessed with cre­at­ing beau­ti­ful stacks of fire­wood.

The book that in­spired Ja­son Price to write a fan let­ter isn’t glam­orous. It doesn’t have a fa­mous au­thor. For most peo­ple it’s a pretty dull topic. But Ja­son’s favourite book is about chop­ping, stack­ing and dry­ing fire­wood. Ef­fi­ciently.

There’s some­thing about tak­ing fire­wood and mak­ing it beau­ti­ful that has a strange ap­peal and Ja­son isn’t alone in his fas­ci­na­tion. Half a mil­lion peo­ple around the world have bought and loved Nor­we­gian au­thor Lars Myt­ting’s book (see page 18) about fire­wood. It in­spired Ja­son, who spends most of his time work­ing at a com­puter, to start what he now freely ad­mits is a fa­nat­i­cal ob­ses­sion.

“I had three big gum trees and had some pro­fes­sion­als in to fell them prop­erly. I’d never owned a chain­saw be­fore. I got a chain­saw! A friend who worked in forestry said ‘I’ll help you with the first one’.

“We did that kind-of mas­sive un­der­es­ti­ma­tion of look­ing at some­thing and go­ing ‘yeah, we’ll clear that in a few week­ends’, and then spent most of last year chop­ping up gum trees.”

When you have the huge vol­umes of fire­wood that come out of the re­mains of three 20m-high gum trees, you need to stack it and dry it. Like most peo­ple, Ja­son had only ever stacked fire­wood in rows, but the pro­fes­sional ef­fi­ciency ex­pert was wowed by a clever tech­nique Lars Myt­ting writes about, called the Nor­we­gian round stack.

“I thought I’ll have a go at that be­cause that looks like one of the eas­i­est to build. But what’s quite en­gag­ing about the book is he’s fo­cused on the sto­ries of in­di­vid­ual peo­ple. The whole sec­tion on the Nor­we­gian round is an in­ter­view with a guy who built one on his lawn. He’s not just say­ing ‘this is how to build a round wood pile’, he’s telling you the story of the guy.”

Ja­son ad­mits when he moved from the hilly, leafy sub­urbs of Welling­ton to his dream block a cou­ple of years ago, he had a lot to learn. For ex­am­ple, if a big, turnof-the-last-cen­tury villa in a damp val­ley with high rain­fall has two wood burn­ers, they’re prob­a­bly not for show. “They’re the only heat source… it’s no longer a lux­ury fea­ture, it’s ac­tu­ally my pri­mary source of heat­ing the house.” He re­alised it was time to get se­ri­ous about fire­wood. Myt­ting’s book fanned the flames of his un­usual new pas­time. “I think the thing I found quite sur­pris­ing about it is I wasn’t ex­pect­ing it to be fan­tas­tic! Peo­ple were say­ing this is a great book, you have to read this. Any­one who owns a chain­saw will ap­pre­ci­ate it. There’s a re­ally sub­tle sense of hu­mour runs through it, it prob­a­bly ap­peals to the nonon­sense Kiwi at­ti­tude, and if you’ve ever stood there in front of a wood burner won­der­ing why it’s not burn­ing like it should, it’s tech­ni­cally use­ful and in­ter­est­ing. “There’s a whole sec­tion on a guy who’s about 90 who’s been chop­ping wood

Any­one who owns a chain­saw will ap­pre­ci­ate it

down all his life. Now he can’t chop the wood down any­more so he’s bought a log split­ter and car­ries on. You’ve got this sea­soned ad­vice from wiz­ened old men about how to get the best out of wood.”

Ja­son learned quite a bit from his first at­tempt at build­ing the Nor­we­gian rounds that are dot­ted about his block. Round 1 sits in a shed di­rectly on the ground. As he now knows, it was a bit too small and it has a damp bot­tom.

“The mech­a­nism for build­ing it is you get some pal­lets, four small pal­lets and you make a big square. I’m now al­ways on the look­out for pal­lets, go­ing past places think­ing ‘oh, that would be a re­ally good pal­let.’

“You just lay out a cir­cle with wood blocks and you just wind the thing up, layer by layer. The first one was a bit too small so as it was get­ting bigger and bigger, it tended to bow out at the top. As the wood sea­sons, it shrinks so it’ll have a bit of col­lapse now and then, it slides, it slightly leans. For the sec­ond one I went another half a me­tre wider and it’s much bet­ter.

“I build up to the point where I can get out safely, then build it from the out­side so you’re just build­ing around it. Then all the awk­ward bits, the gnarly-shaped bits, you just chuck in the mid­dle as you go so it’s nice and sta­ble.

“Don’t let it lean out (as you build) be­cause as it shrinks it starts to lean out.

“When you’re build­ing you have to keep stand­ing back and look­ing at it and go­ing round and mak­ing sure it’s in a cir­cle, but that’s half the fun.”

What’s amaz­ing about build­ing a round wood stack is how much room you save com­pared to stack­ing your fire­wood in straight lines. Ja­son’s three mas­ter­piece rounds sit on a cor­ner of un­used land as you come up his drive­way. Each one con­tains most of the wood from a 20m-tall gum tree.

“If you’re short of wood shed space and you want to store it, I just think it looks great, it’s a talk­ing point. That space on the drive wouldn’t be used for any­thing else, it’s out of the way un­der the trees, it’s a dead space, I can’t do any­thing with it, so why not put three trees worth of stor­age on it?

“I work in cus­tomer ser­vice and busi­ness ef­fi­ciency so it’s all about per­for­mance im­prove­ment and ef­fi­ciency. I look at it from a slightly nerdy, tech­ni­cal point of view, go­ing ‘now that’s a re­ally ef­fi­cient way of stor­ing wood’.”

Case in point is Ja­son’s life be­fore he got a chain­saw. His orig­i­nal fire­wood sup­ply was 4m³ he bought from the lo­cal sawmill. “It was stacked in tra­di­tional rows and it took up half the garage. Now I’ve got a round and it’s sit­ting in half of that space but it’s neatly packed and it prob­a­bly con­tains more wood. I reckon you could work out if you use some ba­sic school maths… it’s 4-5m³ of closely packed wood. It’s not thrown wood, so you’re prob­a­bly get­ting the equiv­a­lent of 6-7m³ of thrown wood stacked in rows. “You could get two, two and a half years’ wood sup­ply in your city garage; you could buy wet wood for next year, buy the cheap­est wood one year ahead, and then dry it your­self.” There’s a strange beauty in a Nor­we­gian round and it af­fects peo­ple, even those who deal with fire­wood all day long. “Ev­ery­body who has come up has said ‘that looks re­ally good’. You get the pro­fes­sional wood cut­ters com­ing up say­ing ‘that’s awe­some mate’. “You could have one in the gar­den as a talk­ing point – it opens up the wood store that you’d nor­mally want to keep out of the way.”

I look at it from a slightly nerdy, tech­ni­cal point of view, go­ing ‘now that’s a re­ally ef­fi­cient way of stor­ing wood.” there’s a strange beauty in a nor­we­gian round

Ja­son’s week­ends are now very dif­fer­ent to his city days. They con­sist of him as­sess­ing pal­let suit­abil­ity when he’s out driv­ing, and dream­ing up ways he can use his chain­saw. He’s al­ready watched enough videos on carv­ing to think he wants to turn stumps into art.

“Peo­ple joke about life­style blocks be­ing ‘no life­style blocks’. I deal with con­sul­tancy projects and there’s a lot of stuff where you can’t re­ally see the re­sult, so it’s re­ally quite nice to get out of the of­fice and think ‘al­right, I’ve got to chop some wood, and then build it’. Ev­ery day you go down the drive and see it, it’s that sense of achieve­ment from build­ing some­thing. You’re out­side and you’ve got days of sun­shine and the dog is sit­ting around help­ing you. That was the point of mov­ing some­where ru­ral, it’s some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent to the of­fice job.

“Now I’m look­ing around this block and I think I haven’t got enough trees. I want to cut down another tree and put another round up so I’m go­ing to have to start a plant­ing strat­egy or buy a bit of the neigh­bour’s pine for­est block!” ➤


Ja­son Price and Cor­po­rate Dog Bella are very proud of their Nor­we­gian rounds.


Dur­ing the week Ja­son Price is a man­age­ment con­sul­tant and ef­fi­ciency ex­pert. At the weekend he be­comes a chain­saw-wield­ing, fire­wood-stack­ing ninja who also likes ef­fi­ciency.

Round 1 was a bit too small and as the wood sea­soned and shrank, it has had small par­tial col­lapses.

Cross sec­tion af­ter a col­lapse, show­ing the tricky shaped pieces that fill the mid­dle.

Round 2 was bigger, and is sit­ting on pal­lets so is stur­dier, and has a dry bot­tom.

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