There’s a few things that I’ve not noticed over the past decade cutting and splitting firewood to use in my wood stove. Size plays a major role in determining how well wood will burn. Some logs are better suited for starting fires and others will keep the fire going for hours. So how big should my firewood be to get an optimal burn? Do smaller logs burn better?
Smaller logs will usually be easier to light than thicker ones from the same tree, but they burn much faster. Small logs season faster than bigger ones making them reach the optimal burn point sooner. There’s also less overall moisture volume in the log so you can burn off excess moisture faster in unseasoned wood. That’s why it seems so much easier to light smaller pieces of green wood.
Whether or not a piece of firewood is big or small has less of an impact than how well the wood seasoned. A large piece of properly seasoned wood should light faster and burn longer than a small piece of green/wet wood. Continue reading to hear a few tips to speed up the seasoning process and make sure all your wood burns at the optimal rate.
Why Do Smaller Logs Burn Better?
Generally speaking, smaller logs from the same tree will be easier to light than bigger pieces of firewood. That’s assuming that both pieces of wood were split on the same day and stacked in the same manner. So why does it seem like smaller pieces of wood burn better?
It’s mostly because smaller pieces of wood will season much faster than larger pieces. A big 1ft log can sit in the yard for years and it still won’t be ready to burn, while a small 2-3 inch piece of split wood can dry out in a 2-3 months. Regular sized pieces of split firewood typically dry throughout the course of a 6 month summer.
That’s why I like to have some variety when splitting wood. I cut larger pieces to make long lasting fires in the winter and thinner pieces for quick 2-3 hour summer campfires. Smaller pieces will be easier to light and then you can toss the bigger wood on for longer lasting fires. Even green wood will burn if the fires hot enough, but it may be a little smoky.
With that being said, seasoned firewood will almost always light faster than a smaller piece of wet wood. That’s because you need to burn off the excess moisture before the fire will light. Fresh cut wood has a moisture level in the 35-45% range and well seasoned wood gets down to 10-15%. There’s a certain point where the larger piece of wood will have less saturated water than the small pieces of green wood.
Smaller Logs Are Easier To Light
In most scenarios, smaller logs will be easier to light than larger logs assuming both pieces of wood are properly seasoned. That’s because smaller pieces of wood will have less water volume even at a comparable moisture level.
Here’s a basic example with two pieces of firewood one 4lb and the other 8lb that are both at a 15% moisture reading. I will simplify things a bit and ignore water density and a few other factors to make it easier to understand.
An 8lb log at a 15% moisture reading will contain 1.2lbs of water. A 4lb log of the same moisture level will have approximately .6lbs of water content. Even though both logs have the same moisture reading, you need to boil off half the amount of water in the smaller 4lb log.
You would have to increase the 4lb logs moisture level up to 30% for it to burn at the same speed as a 15% 8lb log. In that scenario the smaller log would be about the same difficulty to light and burn down at the same rate. The smaller log would end up burning faster than the larger one because there’s less stored energy.
I recommend testing your wood every once in a while with a cheap moisture meter. Buy the cheapest moisture meter you can find on Amazon, because accuracy isn’t that important. You want the wood to get down into the 10-15% moisture range so that it burns at the optimal temperature. That’s when your wood is easy to light and provides a steady burn.
Smaller Logs Burn Faster
Smaller logs will almost always burn faster than larger logs since there’s less stored energy in the wood. The wood doesn’t require as much heat to reach complete combustion and burn off all the stored energy, so the wood will burn at a much faster rate.
Plan on using smaller logs to start the fire and get a boost of heat. Bark will also give you that sudden burst of hot flame. Larger logs can also be used to start a fire, but they’ll be much harder to light. That’s why I use them to extend the fire and keep it burning over a longer period of time.