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Increasing unseasoned timber sales discussion

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I'm starting this thread as someone who's always had an interest in firewood production, used to do it on a hobby-esque commercial basis (ie, had the equipment, with the processor, forklifts and space, but always hated selling logs) and no produce the raw material with the forestry operations.

I've had loads of discussions over the years with more serious producers about the details of firewood production and the area where I always differ with most is that I feel a lot of people who purchase logs have the capacity (albeit not the inclination) to dry their own. I feel that most of the costs associated with supplying logs relate to the drying stage and the storage and multiple handling issues. For instance the specialised equipment to produce logs is the same whether you are supplying green or dried, which include:

 

  • Firewood processor, forklift or forestry tractor, delivery vehicle and other associated tools.

 

This isn't something that you typical customer is going to have access to and the actual production of logs isn't something that most can do. 

 

However, most have space for a modest wood store (a compartmentalised 4x2x2 metre store is within the realms of of what most people can accommodate) and require nothing more than a woodstore and time to dry their logs.

 

To illustrate the labour saving, the process for delivering unseasoned logs would be:

 

  • Cordwood loaded to log deck, processed to the specification of the customer and conveyed directly into a tipping trailer and immediately delivered. No further equipment required.

 

And seasoning firewood:

 

  • Cordwood loaded to log deck, processed to most likely specification required in 12-24 months time, conveyed into log storage containers that must be accommodated for 12-24 months, attempting to keep them dry, paying for the storage space. Box rotators required, or method of loading builders bags, or just manual labour.


Also worth considering that seasoning timber requires the investment of capital that is tied up for the duration of the drying cycle. 

 

I enjoy producing firewood so long as it's on a decent firewood processor and the wood being processed is fairly straight. What I always detested was the effort required to season and store the bloody stuff. 

 

Given that logs seem to average about £100/cube for hardwood presently, would you make less money selling unseasoned at £70/cube? I just love the simplicity of processing straight into the trailer. No handling, no storage no fuss. Maybe the customers would get on board if offered a 25-30% discount for unseasoned, especially if they can specify the size (and possibly species) of the logs.

 

There doesn't seem to be much of a market on the continent for ready dried logs, so why is it so different here? If I was buying my logs, I'd much prefer to save the money, buy early and know that I'll have enough when the weather gets harsh and when delivery is potentially impaired.

 

I'm criticising anyone's business model I should stress, I'm just genuinely interested in log retailers making more money and logs being more affordable for those that buy them.

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I try to talk all my larger consumers into buying green logs and dry them on site but very few buy into this idea. I don't know why the resistance is there but it is. I suppose quite a few of our customers are upwardly mobile and may not be in the same house in 12 months but most are. Maybe they don't like spending money on something that they won't see the savings for for nearly a year. Not got to the bottom of it but found the market for green logs very small. I think if you sold log stores as well it might help but wouldn't count on it. We only do 2 cube loads and sell those for £140 delivered as opposed to £210 for the same amount seasoned.

Edited by Woodworks
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For some reason, people would rather buy "seasoned" wood from a bloke with an advert on gumtree/facebook, then moan about the fact it is soaking wet, then do the same again next year? O.o

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Ps don't want to sound like a snitch as it's none of my business, there's someone I've seen advertising hardwood logs on gumtree. I split the wood for him, and there was a lot of softwood in the pile!

 

Now I like a mix of hard and soft, but you'd hope to get what has been advertised.

Edited by scbk

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I think it is the way we are these days.  Everything is now.  You may be able to find a market for unseasoned firewood but I think it may be a bit niche.  Having said that niche is good if your competitors are not in the same market.

 

Innovation is good and may pay dividends.

 

I think the other big problem with firewood businesses is having to deliver.  For some this can be sidestepped but not practical for all of course.

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I've tried selling some wood fresh before but apart from the odd farmer who's used to drying their own wood no one seems interested. I think regular customers don't have the space and the occasional customers don't mind paying a bit more for convenience. 

 

The other issue is that drying isn't a huge cost for us. It's easier to cut and have every size ready than cut straight before delivery so no labour saving and charging £70 a cube instead of £75 isn't enough to convince people. It would be nice not have the huge cost of wood sitting there but you get used to it. 

 

It would be nice to sell it fresh and customers dry it themselves but I think most people want to phone up and have the convenience of ready to burn unfortunately. 

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Hi all, new member posting, when I saw this thread it was enough to make me sign up to comment. Apologies if this is lengthy but hopefully is relevant. I'm new to Wood burning this year having moved into a place on the edge of Exmoor that had a log burner fitted. Sadly not a fit and healthy one, and after conversations with my sweep back in October I invested in a Woodwarm stove and a large pallet of kiln dried Birch and Oak. I've so enjoyed the whole process that I've started to look at buying green timber and doing my own splitting/drying as I have room to develop a decent sized log pile for future use. I'm really struggling however to find anyone locally that can sell me either single species unseasoned logs or better still my ideal would be Ash or Oak logs 3ft 6 in length anywhere between 8"-14" round. I've tried speaking/ messaging some of the local guys that sell logs with no joy and have two other options left (one forestry contractor and one sawmill) before I give up and resign myself to forever buying in pre dried logs. As ever, supply and demand is king and it would appear that people like myself are in the minority and the vast majority want the convenient solutions that don't involve time/effort for potentially a small saving. Should anyone have any thoughts or potential solutions for me I'd be more than happy to hear them. Happy New Year.

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Welcome Durruti, my only comment (and being NI based and conifer burning, I know nowt about Exmoor hardwood availability) is that your preferred specification is rather tight(and will therefore likely be priced accordingly), and why single species?

What I can say, is that for preferred your log size spec, conifer will be a better, or more likely supply option, and conifer/softwood will burn absolutely cleanly in a stove, providing it is properly seasoned/dried.

And once split it is fast drying.

You will soon get a "feel" for whether your logs are wet or dry, but a decent moisture meter is a cheap investment for your early day doubts.

Having felled, cut, split and burned Sitka Spruce and Lodgepole Pine for 20 years without any problems at all.

Yes, you will need to store and bring in a greater volume due to the lower density,

BUT the one key fact to remember, is that almost regardless of species, hardwood or softwood, has the same calorific value per dry weight, except most hardwoods are "heavier".

The internet is full of data re the various conversion factors for volumes and weights of firewood, of all species.

good hunting

marcus

 

Edited by difflock
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I personally think we as a country are too damn lazy. We want our wood now and we want it dry. Theres no thinking 12-24 months in the future. And as such the space most folk have only allow for the coming season. They simply dont have the storage space for this season, next season and maybe the season after. '

 

If we as a people started stacking freshly felled logs in late winter ready for the following burning season like they do in Norway then it would be a different matter. But no, we'll continue to call the first chilly day and demand seasoned logs and not worry about the 30% additional cost.

 

Thats my take on it anyway.

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You want the customer to carry out the part of the task you detest, but seem surprised they don't want to.

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