When is Waste Not Waste?
If you handle waste wood as part of your process, don’t just consider it waste. Instead, turn it into a viable renewable natural resource and profit center.
By Bryndon O’Hara
This article appeared in the December issue of Waste Advantage Magazine
Wood Beaver Model 16 Bad A** Beaver. Photos courtesy of Resource Recovery Systems and Wood Beaver Forestry
Left: The business end producing valuable firewood. Right: The business end, where cutting and splitting occurs.
Processors aren’t really “new” technology, but it is technology that is just coming into its own. What is a “processor?” In the simplest terms, it is a machine where a log goes in one end and cut and split firewood comes out the other. Like most machines, the prices and capabilities are all over the map, starting around $8,000 and reaching above $150,000. They can generally be broken into 4 diameter categories—up to 13″, 16″ and smaller, 20″ and smaller, and larger than 20″. The pricing on the last two groups typically makes them something only large commercial firewood producers would buy. The 16″ size is by far the most popular size because of pricing and best uses of the wood overall. The 13″ group is often referred to as “homeowner” models, but plenty of commercial operations use them as well. Use the rule of 80/20 to determine what size fits your needs—if 80 percent of the pile fits through a 16” hole, a 16” machine is probably the best choice. You’ll need to consider how much firewood is going to be produced. A cord of wood is a 4′ x 4′ x 8′ pile (128 cubic feet). Processors can be found that will do anywhere from one to three (or more) cords per hour. A word of caution—be careful with production claims. Watch videos and time what is happening. Most manufacturers are pretty fair in their claims, but there are some that are prone to exaggerate. Most also make those estimates with wood nearing the
Sawing and Splitting
Probably the most important decisions come in the saw and splitting. There are two types of saws available, chain and circular (slasher) saws. Chain saws have lower initial cost, lower maintenance costs and a higher margin of safety. Slashers can offer faster cutting times with other tradeoffs in cost. Splitting has two elements, speed and piece count. Splitting speed is often the slowest portion of the overall process. Consider this when you think about the saw—a one-second cut with a six-second split cycle gains you nothing. Most processors have splitter cycles in the six to 10 second range, while the fastest ones on the market are under four seconds. Splitting speed generally should be a close match to cutting speeds; it really sets the pace for cords per hour of production. Piece count is how fine you want to split. Most 16″ units come standard with a wedge that can be adjusted for splitting two or four ways and be adjusted for height to split at or near the middle of the piece. Many also offer a six-way or even an eight-way option for making smaller pieces.
It is Not Just Waste
So, to wrap it up into a nice little package and put a bow on it, if you handle waste wood as part of your process, don’t just consider it waste. Yes, some will still go through the grinder, but there is no sense in taking a valuable resource and destroying it. Especially not when there are people that are willing to pay you for something you may be paying to dispose of. Are you ready to take what was once waste and turn it into a viable renewable natural resource and profit center?
Bryndon O’Hara is General Manager of Resource Recovery Systems and Wood Beaver Forestry (Hartford, WI). He has been involved with firewood in some way for over 40 years. Now he gets to help people take the backache out of firewood. He can be reached at (800) 569-6813 or (262) 673-6801,
e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.woodbeaver.net.