How to Use Russian Olive Trees for Firewood

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Russian olive trees make dense, slow-burning firewood.
Russian olive trees make dense, slow-burning firewood. (Image: firewood image by Leonid Nyshko from Fotolia.com)

Russian olive trees were recommended for many years as natural windbreaks, but have fallen out of favor in recent years. Some find their odor offensive, while leaves and fruits are messy. In natural settings, they quickly become invasive, crowding out other native species. They are considered noxious plants in some states, such as Colorado. In these states, selling or planting them is often illegal. Using Russian olive trees as firewood is a good way to consume unwanted trees, with a few caveats. The wood is dense and difficult to cut, and the bark is very coarse and uneven, making stacking a challenge.

Things You'll Need

  • Chainsaw
  • Axe
  • Protective eyewear and gloves

Felling the Tree

Clear the brush around the Russian olive tree and plan an escape route.

Cut a horizontal cut one-third of the way through the trunk with the chainsaw. Make this cut 12 to 18 inches from the ground on the side of the tree you want to hit the ground first.

Make another cut at a 45-degree angle above the original cut, so the cuts join, creating a notch in the wood resembling a wedge of watermelon.

Make a horizontal cut with your chainsaw through the opposite side of the tree 1 to 2 inches above the original cuts. As the chainsaw reaches the middle of the tree, the tree will begin to fall due to the hinge you originally cut.

Step away from the tree at a 45-degree angle once it starts to fall.

Preparing the Firewood

Cut off the limbs with your chainsaw. Remove the limbs from the bottom of the trunk first, followed by the top limbs, advises the University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension website. The limbs in the middle of the tree usually rest on the ground, providing stability. Remove them last to prevent the tree from rolling.

Cut the trunk into pieces about 4 inches smaller than your wood box.

Cut the wood by splitting it with an axe or log splitter. Russian olive wood tends to warp and crack as it splits. Split each log into two to four pieces, depending on the log size.

Stack the wood in a dry, protected area. The gnarled, twisted nature of this wood makes creating a tidy stack of wood difficult. A wood box helps contain it.

Season the wood to remove any moisture for one year before burning it.

Burning Russian Olive Wood

Hit the wood against the wood box or ground before bringing it indoors. The dense, deeply creviced bark makes a perfect hideout for spiders and insects.

Lay small pieces of Russian olive wood in the fireplace with other types of wood.

Build the fire slowly, using a combination of Russian olive wood and faster-burning wood, such as pine.

References

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