The Burning Properties of Wood
Below is a list of the most common woods for burning, there are more. It is worth remembering that ALL wood will burn better if split.
There is an old saying, “before starting a fire – collect the right wood.” It is worth learning which wood is best for your fires as it will make life a lot easier. A natural result of tree recognition is to learn the burning properties of their woods
- Alder: Poor in heat and does not last,
- Apple: Splendid/ It bums slowly and steadily when dry, with little flame, but good heat. The scent is pleasing.
- Ash: Best burning wood; has both flame and heat, and will bum when green, though naturally not as well as when dry.
- Beech: A rival to ash, though not a close one, and only fair when green. If it has a fault, it is apt to shoot embers a long way.
- Birch: The heat is good but it burns quickly. The smell is pleasant.
- Cedar: Good when dry. Full of crackle and snap. It gives little flame but much heat, and the scent is beautiful.
- Cherry: Burns slowly, with good heat. Another wood with the advantage of scent Chestnut. Mediocre. Apt to shoot embers. Small flame and heating power. Douglas Fir. Poor. Little flame and heat.
- Chestnut: Mediocre. Apt to shoot embers. Small flame and heating power.
- Douglas Fir: Poor. Little flame or heat.
- Elder: Mediocre. Very smoky. Quick burner, with not much heat.
- Elm: Commonly offered for sale. To bum well it needs to be kept for two years. Even then it will smoke. Vary variable fuel.
- Hazel: Good.
- Holly: Good, will burn when green, but best when kept a season.
- Hornbeam: Almost as good as beech.
- Laburnum: Totally poisonous tree, acrid smoke, taints food and best never used.
- Larch: Crackly, scented, and fairly good for heat.
- Laurel: Has brilliant flame.
- Lime: Poor. Burns with dull flame.
- Maple: Good.
- Oak: The novelist’s ‘blazing fire of oaken logs’ is fanciful, Oak is sparse in flame and the smoke is acrid, but dry old oak is excellent for heat, burning slowly and steadily until whole log collapses into cigar-like ash.
- Pear: A good heat and a good scent.
- Pine: Bums with a splendid flame, but apt to spit. The resinous Weymouth pine has a lovely scent and a cheerful blue flame.
- Plane: Burns pleasantly, but is apt to throw sparks if very dry. Plum. Good heat and scent.
- Plum: Good heat and aromatic.
- Poplar: Truly awful.
- Rhododendron: The thick old stems, being very tough, burn well.
- Robinia (Acacia): Burns slowly, with good heat, but with acrid smoke.
- Spruce: Burns too quickly and with too many sparks.
- Sycamore: Burns with a good flame, with moderate heat. Useless green.
- Thorn: Quite one of the best woods. Burns slowly, with great heat and little smoke.
- Walnut: Good, and so is the scent. Aromatic wood.
- Willow: Poor. It must be dry to use, and then it burns slowly, with little flame. Apt to spark.
- Yew: Last but among the best. Burns slowly, with fierce heat, and the scent is pleasant.
The above is taken from Ernest Thompson Seton’s American handbook, The Birch Bark Roll section on Outdoor skills: Campcraft online at The Inquiry Net.