Hobby Farms

THE BEST & WORST Choosing the right kind of firewood is an important decision to ponder. Just as some types of wood aren’t suitable for making some products — it’s not a good idea to make a cutting board, for example, from softwoods such as pine or fir —

- —J.KeelerJohn­son

The BesT

Oak. the best-known firewoods are white and red oak trees. the wood from these oak trees is prized for its strength and density, and that density makes it one of the best at producing heat.

hickOry. the wood from the hickory family of trees, which includes pecan trees, is also very dense and prized for use as firewood, being of similar quality to oak.

Black lOcusT. the species has a fairly limited range, growing in just a handful of states through the appalachia­n Mountains and into Missouri and arkansas, but it produces a strong, dense wood famous for making fence posts.

sugar Maple. Not quite as good as oak and hickory, but it has a good reputation for burning with few sparks and less smoke than what’s produced by other woods.

WhiTe ash. It weighs less than most other types of quality firewood and is easier to split into burnable logs.

Birch Tree. the bark of some mature birch trees can be quite flammable, making it good for easily starting fires.

The WOrsT

cOniferOus Trees in general. as a general rule, most coniferous or “softwood” trees — the types of trees that have needles rather than leaves — are not well-suited for use as firewood. as their “softwood” nickname implies, coniferous trees usually have softer, less-dense wood than deciduous trees, which have leaves, meaning softwoods provide less fuel for the fire and usually produce less heat. you can certainly burn it, but the wood from coniferous trees also contains pitch and is notorious for creating creosote buildup when it burns. Creosote can stick to the walls of your chimney and become a fire hazard. these woods also tend to produce more sparks and smoke, which can spoil the mood that you want to generate by starting a nice, cozy wood fire.

heMlOcks in parTicular. one coniferous tree you probably don’t want to burn at all is hemlock, as it’s roughly akin to burning a rock. the wood of hemlock trees (not to be confused with the poisonous plant of the same name) features extremely hard knots that make the trees difficult to split into burnable logs. even if you get hemlock wood to the point where it can be burned, it produces sparks sure to discourage you from ever burning that type of wood again.

sOMe DeciDuOus Trees. Some deciduous trees also don’t make good firewood. aspen, basswood and willow trees all have very soft wood of generally poor quality for burning and producing heat. that said, this wood is a little better than that of most coniferous trees because it doesn’t spark as much.

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