Last week, as the weather took a decided turn for the arctic and America grappled with its transition to a Trump presidency, our Associate Publisher Katharina Bielenberg sought refuge in that most elemental and essential of activities: wood stack construction. Luckily, as the publishers of Lars Mytting’s Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way, we know exactly what to do when a heap of beautiful cherry tree logs happens our way. Here, Katharina describes the ideal antidote to cold weather and a world gone mad:
The rounds and logs of cherry wood delivered by our tree-surgeon friend beckoned through the hours of last week’s grim Friday. Yet another South-West London householder had hoovered out their basement, damaging the roots of a cherry tree in the garden next door, which, weakened, became infested with an invasion ants which had set up a community in the trunks core. The events of last week had messed with my head, so I decided to spend part of the weekend messing with my hands.
There are few activities as satisfying as constructing a wood stack, storing up warmth for the next season’s burning. I planned to build mine against a fence, where I can see it – and enjoy it – from a window on the turn of the stairs. So, a three-quarter round stack. I use some short beams to keep the base logs a little off the damp ground, and lay the first round of split logs, settling and them into place one by one.
I have never laid hands on freshly felled cherry. Each split log is a revelation, such extraordinary variety in wood and bark – colours from poached salmon to Cornish sand and Brighton rock, like rashers of bacon or some unidentifiable veined animal flesh. No wonder it is prized in furniture-making. I intend to keep some rounds for slicing and seasoning, to make into chopping boards for next year’s Christmas presents.
The bark is still resilient, doing its job of protecting the wood. New wood can spring apart with the right axe and the right blow, but the tough bark of this cherry needs to tear, and detaches with difficulty. I set some aside for the canopy.
The stack grows quickly, barrowload by barrowload, and I throw some logs into the centre, both to keep the stack stable, and because the knotted forks are not easily split, and so not easy to stack.
Thinner logs can be more easily split when laid flat on the block. I have learned most of what I know from Lars Mytting’s Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way; one trick he illustrates is to use an old car tyre to keep thin logs stacked together upright and in place as you split them. Now I’m waiting for some ailing walnut, promised for next week, to finish the job.
A step-by-step guide to the making of a round stack can be found in the Norwegian Wood Activity Book (Lars Mytting, with illustrations by Adam Doughty), published on 10 November.