Which Wood?

  • Hey Guest, For sale we have Hultafors Outdoor Knives with Firesteel PLEASE LOOK HERE for more information or use the Pay Now button in the sidebar

Wander

Settler
Jan 6, 2017
546
608
Here There & Everywhere
There's nothing like a fire, eh?
But I get keffed off with the sticky black stuff that clags pots.
Some sticky black stuff is inevitable, but I was wondering - what (commonly available to South East UK) wood produces the least amount of tar and horridness?
My wood stock is a bit low and I'm going to replenish stocks tomorrow. And I want to get the least messy wood.
 

slowworm

Native
May 8, 2008
1,179
213
Devon
From a domestic fire point of view, something well seasoned and dry. It's wet wood that causes tar in a chimney and I'd have thought that would be the same for a camp fire?
 

Billy-o

Native
Apr 19, 2018
1,581
673
Canada
There's a few clean burners, and I am going to say Ash

But, I’d add that in one house we lived in we were lucky (unlucky) enough to live in an area where there were loads of very mature flowering cherries. They were all getting ill and being felled quite regular. Two came down at the end of the street, so we just went and grabbed the wood. We moved soonish after, but got one winter of cherry tree fires. If you can find an orchard, it’s got to be worth a trip to see if they have any fruit trees recently cut.
 
Last edited:

Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
4,095
3,262
Mid Wales
This is my own table of burning quality based on my own trials. I am well aware that it doesn't agree with some other views and published info and that may be down to seasoning etc. As I know your are aware, nearly all hardwood must be seasoned fully to get the best out of it - even Ash.

I have been burning seasoned Hawthorn and Hazel in the log burner recently and the heat output is exceptional.

AlderReasonable, burns reluctantly, may spit
AshExcellent, burns green (but smokes), long burn, good heat
AspenPoor, little heat
BeechGood, burns bright, burns fast
BirchVery good, burns fast (too fast?), good heat
BlackthornVery good, slow burn, good heat
BoxVery good, slow burn, good heat
CherryGood, burns slowly, good heat, nice smell
CrabGood, slow burn, good heat, nice smell
Elm(s)Very good, slow burn, good heat, some smoke
Field MapleGood, good heat, little smoke
HawthornExcellent, burns slow, burns hot, good coals
HazelGood when fully seasoned smokes otherwise
HornbeamVery good, burns hot, little smoke
Lime(s)Poor
Oak(s)Excellent, burns slow, burns hot
Poplar(s)Poor, smokes
RowanReasonable, burns well, some smoke
Scots PinePoor, low heat, spits
Willow(s)Poor, very smoky
 

Nice65

Full Member
Apr 16, 2009
4,985
1,540
W.Sussex
Whatever is well seasoned and dry will soot less. Hawthorn is good, so is Beech.

Ah, good info above, cheers Broch
 

TLM

Native
Nov 16, 2019
1,336
565
Vantaa, Finland
The energy content of wood is almost the same regardles of species per kg. Ecxeptions are woods with high resin content, they have slightly higher.

Tar is the result of resins burning at low temps or otherwise badly. Birch bark lets out a particulary sticky version.

Also dry wood has a tendency to burn clean but I have found very dry old logs from buildings to be bad fuel, just does not want to burn at all.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Erbswurst

Erbswurst

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
2,074
778
Berlin
Is pine really so bad?

We usually avoid it because it throws sparks. But really dry in the oven I think it heats relatively well. Short but hot I mean.
 

Wushuplayer

Member
Aug 16, 2020
47
11
39
London
If you can also be bothered, you can coat the bottom of your pots with a thin film of washing up liquid before cooking with them on the fire. It's usually much easier to clean then.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Robson Valley

C_Claycomb

Mod
Mod
Oct 6, 2003
6,051
1,072
Bedfordshire
I find that birch, even without bark, and really well dried, still puts out quite a lot of soot.

At times I have run a little Bushbuddy wood camp stove. Those things really soot up a pot, much more I think than an open fire does. They might burn without smoke, but they certainly throw soot, even with tenderly prepared, very dry and split ash, hazel and birch wood. How much soot you get on an open fire is going to depend on wood species, moisture content, fire construction, and where the pot is placed.

As a rule I would say that woods that burn slow and hot are going to be best. Things that burn fast seem to throw off a lot of carbon particulates and cannot get enough air in to burn them, like their ability to throw soot out paces their ability to draw in fresh oxygen.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Erbswurst

TLM

Native
Nov 16, 2019
1,336
565
Vantaa, Finland
Well, the preferred wood to warm smoke saunas is alder because several hundreds of years of experience has shown that it gives out the least soot and the smoke and the smoke is less acrid than others. What that means is that it is better than birch which is the practical alternative. Conifers are a nono there.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Erbswurst

C_Claycomb

Mod
Mod
Oct 6, 2003
6,051
1,072
Bedfordshire
Are alder widespread enough anywhere to use it exclusively for fuel? Since the original question was about South East England, I am more interested in information about the UK, with interest growing as you move south and east ;). I see the occasional alder, but wouldn't be able to tell you for certain where my nearest ones are. That is in contrast to ash, oak, beech, hawthorn, hornbeam, maple, willow, poplar, both chestnuts, and birch, which are all over the place, or in significant concentrations in some of my local areas.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Dave Budd

TLM

Native
Nov 16, 2019
1,336
565
Vantaa, Finland
Here it is. But I think that the situation on the Misty Isles is very different and comparable to the continent close by. I remember reading that beech was often preferred as firewood but there might be several reasons for that.
 

Wander

Settler
Jan 6, 2017
546
608
Here There & Everywhere
Are alder widespread enough anywhere to use it exclusively for fuel? Since the original question was about South East England, I am more interested in information about the UK, with interest growing as you move south and east ;).

Yes, it is.
I walked passed a lot of it today.
Mind you, it's not the biggest tree, compared to an oak, ash, or beech. So you'd get through a lot more of them and, therefore, clear them out quickly. So it wouldn't be a good choice to solely rely on it.

As for my wood collection, I collected some lengths of oak from a branch that fell a few years ago, so hopefully will be well on teh way to being seasoned. I'll cut it up into smaller pieces to speed up the drying process.
 

Billy-o

Native
Apr 19, 2018
1,581
673
Canada
I can't figure out what the moisture has to do with the soot ... I don't disbelieve the evidence of my own eyes, obviously. Just can't reason it. Is it the fire burning cooler?

Yellow pine burns lovely, I've found (never used it indoors though). Cedar, no matter what you do in terms of drying it, it is going to be fast and smoky. However, if you want a kind of slow-burning smudge fire for the mosquitoes, the yellow pine bark is just great
 
  • Like
Reactions: Erbswurst

Nice65

Full Member
Apr 16, 2009
4,985
1,540
W.Sussex
Are alder widespread enough anywhere to use it exclusively for fuel? Since the original question was about South East England, I am more interested in information about the UK, with interest growing as you move south and east ;). I see the occasional alder, but wouldn't be able to tell you for certain where my nearest ones are. That is in contrast to ash, oak, beech, hawthorn, hornbeam, maple, willow, poplar, both chestnuts, and birch, which are all over the place, or in significant concentrations in some of my local areas.

It grows around the Midhurst area in large quantities. So much so that the old walking stick cutters would move on to Alder after the Chestnut was cut and felled Alder to send up to the Scottish Armouries for charcoal production for gunpowder.
 

C_Claycomb

Mod
Mod
Oct 6, 2003
6,051
1,072
Bedfordshire
Cheers. I see Midhurst has quite a bit of water around. I usually see alder when I am walking near rivers, but even so, it hasn't been a common sight in the places I visit.

Billy-o,
Yeah, damp wood burns cooler which encourages incomplete combustion, soot and creosote type deposits. There are lots of sites that explain the stages of wood combustion for wood stove use. An open fire in the woods has the same issues, and then some, since it loses heat in all directions and has no chimney to help with draft. That said, I have had less soot and more creosote from open fires than from small camping wood gas stoves.

Putting a metal pan full of cold water right in the flame, where the combustion is still happening, can only take heat out of the reaction and promote deposits, it seems reasonable that putting the pan higher in the flame column, or where it gets radiant heat rather than flames, would keep it a little cleaner.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Billy-o

chimpy leon

Full Member
Jul 29, 2013
420
75
staffordshire
I get hold of a lot of leylandii logs from my job through the year. Far from the best burning wood with regard to heat output, but I get it for nothing. Once seasoned properly it does burn quite well. The longer you can dry the wood the cleaner it will burn.

Aside from selecting non-toxic wood, moisture content is the most important thing when burning. Less than 20% is considered good to go. Moisture metres are a handy bit of kit.
 

Hultafors Outdoor knife for Sale

We have a a number of Hultafors Outdoor Knives with Firesteels

You can see more details here in this thread OUTDOOR KNIVES

The price is £27 and you can pay via the paypal button below.