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peterlyn 11-16-2010 12:11 PM

Maple or Arbutus (Madrona)?
I can get either of these woods and both are rated well for burning and low smoke. If the cost is similar, does anyone have any input on a preference for one over the other?
I could get oak too but for 40% more.

SableSprings 11-16-2010 12:50 PM

Re: Maple or Arbutus (Madrona)?
I'm in Roseburg, Oregon and have been using Madrone (the local name for Arbutus) in my oven for the last 18 months. I prefer it to oak because I get a better/hotter fire with significantly less ash. The only thing you have to be careful of is burning the smaller twigs and branches while cooking. The smaller stuff seems to initially burn with an "off" smell...maybe it's in the thin bark since I don't notice that smell with older, split and seasoned Madrone pieces.
Hope that helps, Mike

lwood 11-16-2010 01:56 PM

Re: Maple or Arbutus (Madrona)?
Either will be fine. The madrone may be a little hotter than maple.

Neil2 11-16-2010 03:54 PM

Re: Maple or Arbutus (Madrona)?
Go with the Maple. You have to split the wood down to 3-4 inch diameter pieces. Arbutus is a bear to split.

Also remember that these ovens are not fussy and that all firewood has the roughly the same BTU per pound. Buy the cheapest stuff by weight that is also easy to split and will season quickly. I use mostly Douglas Fir and alder.

peterlyn 11-16-2010 09:01 PM

Re: Maple or Arbutus (Madrona)?
Thank-you both for your input. I will take it into consideration.
We burn alot of Doug fir in our firepits as we have it on our lot but according to the burning charts (and our experience) it can be smokier than the others. Then again, if our oven chimney/vent draws very well, will extra smoke matter....? Hmmmmmm. I'll let you know what we get.


Wiley 11-16-2010 11:32 PM

Re: Maple or Arbutus (Madrona)?
I would vote for the madrona (arbutus, if one is speaking Canadian). Here in the Pacific Northwest we have several varieties of maple and their characteristics are a great deal different than the maples that grow in the east. The varieties I have tried (vine maple and western curly) are alot less dense and do not produce hot long lasting coals like the madrona. As for ease of splitting: the western curly is a real pain compared to madrona, vine maple is about on par with alder. Neither IMHO are on a par with madrona with respect to being the best wood for hot long lasting coals (if that is your goal).

Another common wood hereabouts is wild cherry which is comparable to the madrona for density and burn characteristics although very hard to split by hand power regardless if it is wet or dry (one has to cut the bark lengthwise otherwise it acts like barrel bands). If your wood supplier offers that it is worth considering.

Since you are inferring that you are purchasing the wood I would personally go for the madrona. That depends a bit on any price difference between the two. And since (if) you are purchasing most likely the seller will have cut it to some nominal length and split the wood prior to stacking it into a cord (regardless if he's selling it wet or dried).

It is a common sight to see people selling wood loaded in the back of pickups where I live....they call it a "cord" and the practice of people getting ripped off by "short cords" and "face cords" is so bad the listing in the Classified adverts has a warning to buyers to make certain they understand what they are buying and what the seller is selling before purchasing. Unless one uses alot of wood it is very hard to look at a pile of wood and know it it is a cord.

Reputable sellers hereabouts have a yard with stacked wood and one looks at and pays for a given stack of wood. The stacks are usually measured cords. It is then delivered or one collects it themselves. Otherwise it is best to forget the idea of a cord but rather one accepts that they are paying so much for a certain load of wood.

Fortunately, I have never had to pay for fire wood, I cut my own.

Hope this helps,
on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington

Neil2 11-17-2010 10:43 AM

Re: Maple or Arbutus (Madrona)?
To get to the temperatures you want, any wood you use has to be well seasoned and dry. Good wood management and a well ventilated woodshed will help in the success of your oven.

peterlyn 11-17-2010 05:55 PM

Re: Maple or Arbutus (Madrona)?
Thanks, Wiley. That was certainly helpful and has swayed me. In my research, I did notice that not all maples are alike and perform quite differently. Not being tree experts, I doubt that we'd be able to tell the difference between, say, a silver or a sugar maple. I think I will go for the arbutus. It may be difficult to split, but this isn't a worry since we split a fair amount of fir already - we have the tools, set-up and man-power with adult sons around!
I appreciate your input on the cord/Craigslist issue. Luckily, my contractor husband has purchased alot of wood over the years (we used to live in Oregon and had a wood-burning furnace) and he has a keen-eye for the capacity of his dump trailer and 1-ton truck. The size of a cord (4x4x8) was probably one of the first construction dimensions our sons learned (as well as stacking wood "as tight as a duck's arse"!).

Neil2: You're right, of course; the wood will only burn as well as it is seasoned. We are taking this into consideration when comparing loads/prices. Hubby's plan is to load our 16' dump trailer with the wood and then park it in one half of the workshop as we don't have a wood-shed specifically. We'll have to carry it from there, loading some under the oven, but it will be dry at least.

Thank-you both.


Mike D 11-17-2010 06:18 PM

Re: Maple or Arbutus (Madrona)?
So an Arbutus is a type of tree in the same family as a Madrona (it is also called a strawberry tree). There are different types of madrone type trees, most a very hard. They are not hard to split when they are wet (2-3 weeks old max). After that, the wood hardens up and is not fun to split by hand. I am an arborist and get too much wood to use. As long as it's dry, it should be fine.

peterlyn 11-18-2010 07:23 AM

Re: Maple or Arbutus (Madrona)?
Thanks, Mike. Will add that gem to the info I've mined.
(Strawberry tree - nice!)


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