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Free Pallet Wood for Firewood

November 15, 2015
Pallet Wood

I have found over the years that the firewood sold at or near Ontario Provincial Parks to be lower quality.  I do not think the problem is specifically due to a contract the Provincial Parks have with a particular supplier, as outside stores seem to have the same issues, and I have seen or heard similar complaints in other regions as well.

I suspect the primary reason is that the turnover is just so high, there are not local suppliers that can or are willing to chop down a full season of wood and then sit on it for 1-2 years to let it season.  They want to sell it quick.  This leads to problems and many jokes about the wood quality as well.

I have many times (I would estimate 3/4 of the time I buy wood at or near a provincial park) I get wet wood.  Keep in mind this is not rain wet, it is often stored in covered sheds.  It is young wood.  I normally carry a jug of Citronella oil for some Tiki torches that we have, I am regularly forced to use it as fire starter as the wood is just so wet.  One time the wood was so wet inside that after I finally got it started and burning, every time I would put a new log on, it would sizzle, and you would see bubbles coming out of the ends of the log.

Now living in a region that has restrictions on movement of firewood due to the Emerald Ash Borer, I cannot move ash wood products or bring firewood to Provincial Parks or transport it in or out of the restriction zone.  Most pallet wood is kiln dried lumber, not firewood.  Most pallet wood is not chemically treated with Arsenic or other toxic chemicals.  Most pallet wood is made from Pine or Spruce.  Kiln dried lumber has a benefit, it is very dry and burns very well.

Now some people have concerns about burning pallet wood.  These are usually due to two factors, one is burning inside in a stove with limited ventilation and the other being what the pallets were used to carry.  Since camping fires are outdoor, there is less of a risk if you happen to get contaminated wood, however the more important factor is the source of pallets.  I would never take pallets from Joes Oil Distributor or take pallets that are completely painted, but I have semi regular access to Pallets used to transport computer hardware.

I have found that 1 pallet will provide about the same quantity of wood as a bag of wood you would buy at or near a park for $5-10 each.  Pallet wood does burn faster and hotter in many cases due to the fact that it is kiln dried.

The actual work involved is easy.  For me I just pick them up at the end of the day at work for free.  I can carry 2 in my SUV easily.  I will take them home and cut them up using a reciprocating saw.  I can usually cut up two pallets in about 10 minutes.  It may take more work to transport and cut it then buying it in a bag at the park, but it is certainly far less work then cutting down a tree, chopping the logs and splitting the wood.

There are a number of ways to cut it, but I like quick and easy since I am using it for a fire.  Simply cut the top and bottom slats off by doing a rip cut down the length of all 3 support boards.  Do this on the top and bottom.  This will cut off all the smaller slats at about a 12-16″ length.  It will leave the 3 main supports which I will cut into 3 pieces and gives you a few bigger longer burning chunks.


I do not worry about the ends of the slats and nails left on the supports.  If you are concerned about the nails, after the wood is burned up use a speaker magnet the next morning to fish the nails out of the coals.  These nails can even be recycled for other low importance projects like building a pallet wood wood shed or garden composter.

From → RV Tech

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