Woodcutting When the SHTF: What You Need to Know To Hastily Acquire a Wood Supply

by Jeremiah Johnson, Ready Nutrition:

ReadyNutrition Readers, this piece is designed to help you plan out your woodcutting when the SHTF…because you’ll have to do it on the Q-T and keep your noise signature at a minimum.  Seems easy, right?  Well, it’s not complicated, but there are some finer points to it.  Right now (with half of my state of residence burning) we are not allowed to use chainsaws to cut wood.  Yep, I’ve been hitting it with the bowsaw and the axe…on “low” smoke days.

Bringing me to the next point.  You will need certain tools, to keep the noise down and also to conserve fuel.  Here they are:

  1. Bowsaw, 39-40 inch blade
  2. Bowsaw, 18-24 inch blade
  3. Axe, single-edged (I like anything made by Kobalt)
  4. Hatchet – make sure it is one solid, continuous piece…Estwing makes some good ones
  5. Maul: Preferably 8-lbs or more
  6. Splitting Wedges – assorted sizes
  7. Good Sharpening tool, and assorted sharpening stones

Your ax is going to be used to fell dead standing timber and also to segment large-diameter trees that would take forever with a bowsaw.  None of the methods are totally silent, however, in comparison to the chainsaw, they are.  This is a reason that I place so much emphasis on cutting wood in the “off” season: that is to say, don’t wait until the fall.  Cut wood throughout the summer.

Heating is one thing, but cooking is another.  If you need to prepare food, you’ll need that fireplace or woodstove to be well-fueled.  When you’re trimming branches, if they’re about four inches in diameter or less, use the short-bladed bowsaw.  The longer blade is used on your larger pieces, up to about a foot max.  Then it is up to you to quarter them with your ax, your maul, and your splitting wedges.

If you have a fireplace or a woodstove, you need to measure the diagonal inside length, knock it down a couple of inches, and form a template for yourself.  I use an old 1” x 4” piece for myself.  This way you can use that piece of board to set against the edge of your log and scribe to make a cut for the piece to fit in your fireplace or woodstove.  This will save you a lot of time measuring, and you can keep the template for a long time…just make sure it doesn’t become mixed up in your wood supply.

After the SHTF, you can also bring pieces into your basement to saw and chop away at to reduce the noise.  You want to cut wood at times when there are other noises around to cover your activities.  Early morning before the sunrise or at night is not convenient times, as these are periods of the day when the surrounding noise is subdued.  Your hatchet you want to use to trim smaller branches off of pieces and also to cut small pieces of kindling and tinder.  Make sure you have a tinderbox and a kindling box to use for each of these fire-starting sizes of wood.

Cutting wood in this manner is a heck of a workout.  Please review my past articles on woodcutting.  You want to cut in the early morning hours, and in the evening hours to break up the physical exertion.  You’ll need to stay ahead of the game, as that wood supply will burn up fast.  After the SHTF, you will need someone pulling security, and preferably someone who can rotate into the woodcutting operation.

Ex: John cuts wood for one hour, and Al pulls security.  Then vice-versa

It’s a little different if you’re out in the forest cutting larger pieces to take back home.  Much depends on the weather and how far you have to transport your wood.  Also, the method of transport makes a difference.  When you have 2 to 3 feet of snow on the ground, you’ll want one of those plastic toboggans to drag the pieces back with.  A snowmobile is good for a fast dash, but the engine is a dead giveaway.  You’re also limited as to the size of the pieces that you can drag back.

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