After The Deluge… Part 2: Wood

Wood. The original carbon fibre composite. And still the best. Low energy, clean, green, recyclable, simple to work with and beautiful. Everything to like and universally available.

A few years ago I happened across an old book, “Woodland Crafts in Britain” by an H. L. Edlin. Published just after the end of WW2 it chronicles a world that was, even then, fast disappearing or indeed already a memory to old men. It outlines the basics of woodland husbandry, though sadly not the details, and the huge range of uses for wood, the appropriate species to use, when to harvest and so on. I shall probably dip into this handy little number for a few uses that either appear in Renaissance or will be making an appearance in the later installments.

Our first thought of wood is as fuel for cooking and warmth. Wood as a universal fuel is only practical in a world, such as I have created, with a much smaller population than today that also practices careful and thrifty woodland management. It can be used directly as timber or processed into charcoal where a cleaner burn and higher temperatures are needed. Until the start of the eighteenth century charcoal was essential to the production of iron and steel.

Charcoal burners at work – UK, 1940’s. A traditional charcoal clamp and the workers hut.

A little ditty that will help you when selecting wood for your log burner / fire pit / get away hut in the woods (from Woodland Crafts in Britain pp156):

Logs to burn! Logs to burn!
Logs to save the coal a turn!
Here's a word to make you wise
When you hear the woodman's cries

Beechwood fires burn bright and clear,
Hornbeam blazes too,
If the logs are kept a year
To season through and through

Oak logs will warm you well
If they're old and dry
Larch logs of pinewood smell
But the sparks will fly

Pine is good, and so is yew
For warmth through wintry days,
But poplar and willow too
Take long to dry or blaze

Birch logs will burn too fast,
Alder scarce at all,
Chestnut logs are good to last
If cut in the fall

Holly logs will burn like wax -
You should burn them green
Elm logs like smouldering flax,
No flame is seen

Pear logs and apple logs
They will scent your room,
Cherry logs across the dogs
Smell like flowers in bloom

But ash logs, all smooth and grey,
Burn them green or old,
Buy up all that come your way,
They're worth their weight in gold.

thumbnail Renaissance cover

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