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burning wood

updated thu 31 jul 97


John Baymore on sun 6 jul 97

I'm not knowledgeable enough to comment on smoke and the air quality of the
world but I can say that living AND dead trees are becoming an endangered
species world-wide.

The reason trees are becoming endangered (if that really IS true) is that
there are just TOO MANY PEOPLE, not because the potters are burning them
all. Not even because campers are burning them all. Nor home woodstove
and fireplace users. Housing construction and paper products consume the
vast majority of the timber harvested in this country. You want to save
the trees, get on the population control bandwagon. People want houses to
live in and paper to write on and use in the bathroom. Less people, less
housing starts. Less housing, less lumber. Less lumber, less scrap wood
from the mills. Less scrap wood from the mills .............. and I have a
problem ....g.....

The wood which I use to fire my noboeigama pretty effectively ALL ......
every scrap........ comes as the by-product of the lumber / construction
industry. You know what many of the mills and factories are doing with the
stuff which I don't use? It goes to a town dump. You know what they do
with it? They BURN it in big piles. The guys I get to supply me with wood
are GLAD it is going to some good use. They know they generate a lot of
scrap wood.

There is one mill in this area that a number of the local woodfire potters
use. The wood is ideal.... thin strips and very dry pine and hemlock. To
my knowledge that single very small company is covering the wood needs of
about 4-5 wood kilns. It might be more. All of us collectively don't even
TOUCH their junk wood production. They produce more in a week than I could
burn in a year=21 They wish we would take more...... they pay a tippage
charge to dispose of it at the dump.

So ........ is it better to burn it uselessly in a pile at the dump or to
burn it in a kiln (at much higher temperature.... less pollution) to make
pots. Let me think about that one........ hum......... But you know what
is going to happen? The potters will be prohibited from burning the wood
in their kilns. So it will all then go to the town dumps, and they will
burn it, but that will be OK..... cause it is the government taking care of
making sure the potters don't burn it and cause pollution.

Now.... if NOONE BURNED IT........ you would not believe how huge the piles
of this stuff would become in a year=21=21=21=21 They burn it because there=
is no
other good way to get rid of it. As ash, it takes up little room. The
landfills are already bursting at the seams....there is no good place to
put this stuff. Noone uses it for anything else except kindling for
woodstoves in the winter.

Some of the wood waste from mills is being chipped for mulch. So that wood
is going to some use, making some landscaping look nice (although bark is
more in use than wood chips). It sells very, very cheap. Why? Cause
there is a really limited demand for woodchips as mulch.

Some of the larger mills are selling some of the chips to the big haulers
who take and sell it to the prople who make particleboard. A WONDERFUL
environmentally sound product that will allow the entire next generation
to breathe formaldehyde and other fumes in their houses for their whole
lives. Some is destined for the people who package it up into pellitized
wood for the high-tek wood stoves. But even this use is not enough to
drive the price of wood chips up...... so it sits there.

Much of this woodchip mulch is not sold by the mills. It rots in big
piles, and when it rots enough to become compressible, they spread it
around on the grounds in the mill yards and it becomes the surface of the
wood storage lots where the large logs are piled. It eventually enriches
the soil there that the tractor trailer trucks drive around on.

Rotting wood gives off the same amount of CO2 and heat that burning the
wood does. Both are oxidation. Environmentally, no particularly high net
gain, although some methane producing insects are fed (producing methane in
their gut...... another environmental problem).

To be absolutely truthful (confession time here), I do cut an occasional
tree. I have 3 acres of land. I occasionally cut down the small
understory saplings (mostly sugar maple) which keep proliferating in order
to keep the land somewhat open so I can see the river and to let the larger
trees mature well. These small trees, (1-2=22 in diameter or so) I cut to
length and I do burn them up in the kiln. This total wood might equal 1/5
of a cord a year or so. Sustainable growth is figured at a cord an acre a
year...... so I am still growing far more than I cut.

If I didn't have the kiln, I still would cut these little trees..... they'd
just rot on the ground or I'd burn them in my wood stove in the house. So
I really don't cut any trees JUST for the kiln.

I cannot particularly advocate the wholesale cutting down of trees
specifically to fire a wood kiln in light of the fact that there is SO MUCH
scrap wood being wasted every year. Consuming this wood for a useful
purpose is a reasonable solution to the wasteful discarding of it which
happens frequently and in widespread localles.

The campground was in a =22forest=22 where ALL the trees had ALL of their
branches broken off at the height of around 8 feet. There were NO fallen
trees or twigs, NONE for an area of about 5 square miles. This wasn't a
forest=3B it was a park with no grass, just dirt, live trees, no birds, few
insects and campers hungry to burn wood.

I'll take that observation as another item justifying my thoughts that
there are far too many people in the world.

In fact, they do have an end, either in the pulp mill, fires, or in your
I think they look better rotting in the wild, growing mushrooms and
sheltering animals. Wood fired kilns are an extreme luxury. Lets make
some REALLY GOOD POTS for these kilns.

Yes..... wood fired kilns ARE a luxury. So are gas fired, oil fired, and
electric fired kilns for the type of things we make. We make non-essential
products, and very inefficiently at that. Ceramic industry with it's
continious type kilns is FAR more energy efficient than we are with our
periodic kilns. (The problem is what they put INTO those kilns as a
product, not the technology.) Our studio type electric kilns are woefully
underinsulated, and as we have already discussed, only about 10=25 =
in using the planets resources.

I hope we are making really good pots for all our kilns, no matter how they
are fired.

The article in CM went on to say that they used some 8 tons of red pine to
fire these kilns. I'm of the opinion that not many pots are worth this.

I'd venture to say that I don't think that many pots are worth consuming
1000 BTU's of the planets' resources to get 100 BTU's of useful heat, and
then put that 100 BTU's into a kiln that has terrible insulating qualities
and wastes a significant portion of the pitiful remaining energy.

Electric kilns are just as much of an extreme luxury.



John Baymore
River Bend Pottery
22 Riverbend Way
Wilton, NH 03086 USA


Dannon Rhudy on mon 7 jul 97



Thank you for reasoned and thoughtful remarks regarding
wood-firing. It is useful to think about things in
whole instead of in part, and to consider them in the light of
substantial information and experience. It is possible that many
do not have knowledge of the amount of wood scrap that is wasted,
burned in city and county dumps, and/or left lying about in
heaps and piles - where it does in fact "burn", but slowly.

While at Hay Creek, we did several wood firings. For the most
part, we used (local) sawmill scrap. There was more than
sufficient downed wood in the surrounding forest, but it was more
convenient and less laborious to use the sawmill scrap, so that is
what we used, along with other scrap wood. Furthermore, in the
cold of the night, we had large bonfires, using even more scrap
wood. We enjoyed the warmth more than we would have if we'd
waited for the wood to burn (decay) naturally...(sorry - the devil
made me say that).

I could go on at length, agreeing with you on a number of points,
but, in the interest of brevity, I won't.

Thanks again, John.

Dannon Rhudy