How do I buy a log to split myself?
April 14, 2017 8:18 AM   Subscribe

I would like to buy a log, maybe two, so I can cut it, split it, and season it over the coming summer and have reasonably dry wood come this winter. But I have no idea how to find someone who will sell me a log - or even if there is such a person. General advice would be appreciated, and specific advice for the Duluth-Superior area would be amazing.
posted by dbx to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you provide more information? When you say "log", what size, how long, etc? Are you hoping to end up with lumber or firewood? How much? Like, just one log? If you're just looking for a few logs to burn there are easier ways to go about this.

If you have a local Craigslist, check the "for sale / materials" section. People sometimes sell or give away trees that they have taken down.
posted by bondcliff at 8:21 AM on April 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'd go to one of those places by the side of the highway/road with signs for firewood. They likely have logs, wood and other stuff in various states of being cut up, dried, etc.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 8:23 AM on April 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yeah, just go on craigslist. You can often find them for free, or extremely cheap.

If you're doing this for firewood, pretty much anything will do. If this is to be made into lumber, you'll want to pay a bit more attention to the stock.

Also, remember that MN has pretty specific rules about transporting wood [pdf] for good reason, so you'll want to stick to local resources as much as you can.
posted by Think_Long at 8:26 AM on April 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

yeah, came here to say craigslist, usually under materials or the farm/garden categories.

I've also had luck with opening phone book (hah!) OK read your local paper, (oh wait) and calling local tree companies/arborists to see if they'll deliver. Many will because it saves them dump fees, but you may want to be specific about what kind of wood they'll be delivering.

Heck, you can see about 30-40 billets of wood in my driveway on google streetview.
posted by k5.user at 8:51 AM on April 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think the search term you want is "firewood rounds." Some kinds of wood are easy to split, some not so much (looking at you, madrone).

You'll need a splitting maul, or for big rounds, a sledgehammer and a wedge.

I love splitting wood! Even if you buy pre-split firewood, you still get to do lots of fun splitting to make smaller logs that are easier to burn, and kindling (small pieces to get the fire going).
posted by ottereroticist at 9:00 AM on April 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

The species of tree matters too. Oak is good for heat but needs more time seasoning, maybe two years. Pine deposits a lot of creosote which can be dangerous. Make sure your stove pipe/chimney are clean. (All this
assuming you want it for firewood.)
posted by Botanizer at 9:10 AM on April 14, 2017

From the way you phrased your question, it sounds like this is your first foray into preparing your own firewood. The general progression is tree -> log -> rounds (usually 16" long) -> split wood -> seasoned wood. In an area where heating with wood is common (NE for sure, I would assume the Duluth area as well), you should be able to find firewood dealers who will sell you wood at any point in that progression, with the earlier stages being cheaper per unit purchased.

Unless you own a big chainsaw, or you're into pioneer reenactment and own one of these, you will probably want to buy 16" rounds, green. Wood is easier to split green, and dries faster once split. If you buy, split, and stack it now, it will be more or less seasoned by next winter.
posted by mr vino at 9:16 AM on April 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Pretty much any gas station will have bundles of firewood you can buy. Especially as you head out of town - I know the Holiday off Hwy 53 in Pike Lake does. Prolly 4/5 bucks a piece.

One thing to note - if you're planning to use this wood at a state or national campground, you have to buy it within that area and have the receipt on you. You can't bring your own wood. This is to prevent the spread of bugs and disease. The rangers do check, and the ticket is expensive. If you're planning to use this on your own land, it is recommended to use locally sourced wood, for the same reasons.

That link will have approved vendors - you can just buy wood from there.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:20 AM on April 14, 2017

We used to just drive around looking for stumps or other landscaping scrap as a matter of routine. If you keep an eye out for construction, you can often haul away old logs for free. Christmas tree season is good for that but you need an axe to deal with all the branches, plus you never lnow what the tree was treated with before you got it. Big stumps are fun to split becauase they have all sorts of complicated gnarling in there. You'll want the heaviest maul you can handle and multiple wedges, often sourceable on craigslist or freecycle.
posted by blnkfrnk at 10:03 AM on April 14, 2017

Thanks everyone. There's a lot of good info here already but since some folks asked for clarification here are some details:

Im not new to splitting wood; I grew up doing it with chainsaws and spud bars and splitting mauls. Back then we either felled the tree ourselves or my dad procured logs from sources mysterious to me. Turns out they were business contacts and so not very helpful for me now, on the other side of the country.

I think the arborist idea is a good one, because i would need delivery. And thanks for the terminology lesson here, too! That should help me narrow my search. I was planning to get a whole log, but rounds might be a nice compromise.
posted by dbx at 10:43 AM on April 14, 2017

I'll add some extra based on your clarification:

If you need delivery of the logs, craigslist may be hit/miss. There are some selling logs, but not many. There's a lot more of you-cut-you-haul (but free) offers (either homeowner dropped the tree themselves, or didn't want to pay to have it hauled off, but it's sitting in their property).

My billets (I've always heard them called that, never rounds, local lingo YMMV) came free delivered by the arborist, in various lengths (eg had to cut down the 21" lengths to fit in my stove). Keep an eye out for anyone doing tree work in your neighborhood and chat up the workers about it.
posted by k5.user at 11:00 AM on April 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

In Michigan, you can get a permit and get logs from the state woods. I would check to see if MN has this program too, and have someone haul it for you.
posted by chocolatetiara at 11:20 AM on April 14, 2017

Assuming you want dry wood in the winter because you plan to burn it, pay attention to the type of tree/logs you're getting if you're talking to an arborist or some random person on craigslist about the tree they just cut down. Most of the usual suspects are fine - pine, oak, maple etc., but weedier trees can smell terrible if you're burning them. Guess how I know.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:36 AM on April 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have a friend who is an arborist and has offered me free wood in the past, in a "please take this off my hands" sort of way.
posted by freezer cake at 11:47 AM on April 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Please come visit Maine, I have wood that is ready to be cut & split.

I routinely see posts on craigslist\free where people have trees they want taken down. You get the wood, they get tree removed. Or where they have large branches that have fallen. When tree companies take down trees, they often have wood available. You will probably have to pick it up, but they will likely be happy to get it off their hands. .
posted by theora55 at 1:40 PM on April 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Rick's Tree Service? I drive by there all the time up on Calvary there just off Woodland Ave. And since the blowdown in July, there's been a lot of activity, and they've got a huge pile of logs. I know that if you want them to drop off wood chips, they do that, so I'd expect they do the same with big logs.

Alternatively, lots of people have big trees still in their yard since the blowdown as well, at least up in the Woodland area/Hunters Park, and I'd imagine you could find someone who'd be happy to give you theirs for a pittance if you're willing to to figure out how to gain transport. Again, Rick's Tree Service might be a good bet if you need someone to take it to you.
posted by RedEmma at 9:40 AM on April 15, 2017

(So maybe post on Craiglist saying you'd be happy to come get their still-sitting blowdown tree?)
posted by RedEmma at 9:41 AM on April 15, 2017

I mean, there are probably lots of people who couldn't afford to pay someone to clean up their blown-down tree. The only reason we could, is that we had a sister with a chainsaw and a need for wood to heat her cabin. I still see people with trees they obviously haven't got to for whatever reason, and I can only assume it's a cash flow problem.
posted by RedEmma at 9:43 AM on April 15, 2017

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