Woodcutting When the SHTF: What You Need to Know To Hastily Acquire a Wood Supply

ReadyNutrition Readers, this piece is designed to help you plan out your woodcutting when the SHTF…because you’ll have to do it on the Q-T and keep your noise signature at a minimum.  Seems easy, right?  Well, it’s not complicated, but there are some finer points to it.  Right now (with half of my state of residence burning) we are not allowed to use chainsaws to cut wood.  Yep, I’ve been hitting it with the bowsaw and the axe…on “low” smoke days.

Bringing me to the next point.  You will need certain tools, to keep the noise down and also to conserve fuel.  Here they are:

  1. Bowsaw, 39-40 inch blade
  2. Bowsaw, 18-24 inch blade
  3. Axe, single-edged (I like anything made by Kobalt)
  4. Hatchet – make sure it is one solid, continuous piece…Estwing makes some good ones
  5. Maul: Preferably 8-lbs or more
  6. Splitting Wedges – assorted sizes
  7. Good Sharpening tool, and assorted sharpening stones

Your ax is going to be used to fell dead standing timber and also to segment large-diameter trees that would take forever with a bowsaw.  None of the methods are totally silent, however, in comparison to the chainsaw, they are.  This is a reason that I place so much emphasis on cutting wood in the “off” season: that is to say, don’t wait until the fall.  Cut wood throughout the summer.

Heating is one thing, but cooking is another.  If you need to prepare food, you’ll need that fireplace or woodstove to be well-fueled.  When you’re trimming branches, if they’re about four inches in diameter or less, use the short-bladed bowsaw.  The longer blade is used on your larger pieces, up to about a foot max.  Then it is up to you to quarter them with your ax, your maul, and your splitting wedges.

If you have a fireplace or a woodstove, you need to measure the diagonal inside length, knock it down a couple of inches, and form a template for yourself.  I use an old 1” x 4” piece for myself.  This way you can use that piece of board to set against the edge of your log and scribe to make a cut for the piece to fit in your fireplace or woodstove.  This will save you a lot of time measuring, and you can keep the template for a long time…just make sure it doesn’t become mixed up in your wood supply.

After the SHTF, you can also bring pieces into your basement to saw and chop away at to reduce the noise.  You want to cut wood at times when there are other noises around to cover your activities.  Early morning before the sunrise or at night is not convenient times, as these are periods of the day when the surrounding noise is subdued.  Your hatchet you want to use to trim smaller branches off of pieces and also to cut small pieces of kindling and tinder.  Make sure you have a tinderbox and a kindling box to use for each of these fire-starting sizes of wood.

Cutting wood in this manner is a heck of a workout.  Please review my past articles on woodcutting.  You want to cut in the early morning hours, and in the evening hours to break up the physical exertion.  You’ll need to stay ahead of the game, as that wood supply will burn up fast.  After the SHTF, you will need someone pulling security, and preferably someone who can rotate into the woodcutting operation.

Ex: John cuts wood for one hour, and Al pulls security.  Then vice-versa

It’s a little different if you’re out in the forest cutting larger pieces to take back home.  Much depends on the weather and how far you have to transport your wood.  Also, the method of transport makes a difference.  When you have 2 to 3 feet of snow on the ground, you’ll want one of those plastic toboggans to drag the pieces back with.  A snowmobile is good for a fast dash, but the engine is a dead giveaway.  You’re also limited as to the size of the pieces that you can drag back.

If the ground is bare, you can use one of those garden carts that hold up to 800 lbs. of weight.  I’m not recommending to you anything I haven’t done: I told you guys and gals about permits from the national forest to cut dead fallen and dead standing timber.  I dragged wood back to my place with the cart and with the sled, and a lot of it.  You can too if it hits the fan.

When you stack your wood, stack in layers and use your larger pieces as barriers to protect your house and make a hasty firing position if you need to defend the home.  Before you cut wood in this manner, make sure you drink plenty of water beforehand, and even load up on supplements such as BCAA’s (Branched-Chain Amino Acids), and Creatine to facilitate recovery afterward.  One EMP and everything goes back to the Dark Ages.  You can make it less dark and more habitable with a good wood supply that you cut without everyone knowing it.  Stay in that good fight!  JJ out!

Jeremiah Johnson is the Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne). Mr. Johnson was a Special Forces Medic, EMT and ACLS-certified, with comprehensive training in wilderness survival, rescue, and patient-extraction. He is a Certified Master Herbalist and a graduate of the Global College of Natural Medicine of Santa Ana, CA. A graduate of the U.S. Army’s survival course of SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), Mr. Johnson also successfully completed the Montana Master Food Preserver Course for home-canning, smoking, and dehydrating foods.

Mr. Johnson dries and tinctures a wide variety of medicinal herbs taken by wild crafting and cultivation, in addition to preserving and canning his own food. An expert in land navigation, survival, mountaineering, and parachuting as trained by the United States Army, Mr. Johnson is an ardent advocate for preparedness, self-sufficiency, and long-term disaster sustainability for families. He and his wife survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Cross-trained as a Special Forces Engineer, he is an expert in supply, logistics, transport, and long-term storage of perishable materials, having incorporated many of these techniques plus some unique innovations in his own homestead.

Mr. Johnson brings practical, tested experience firmly rooted in formal education to his writings and to our team. He and his wife live in a cabin in the mountains of Western Montana with their three cats.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published October 21st, 2017
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  • Howard Brewi

    I have a one man crosscut saw with a 36″ blade and bowsaw like teeth that would probably handle some what bigger wood than the bow saw if necessary. Mark your log lengths with electrical tape on your bowsaw and your ax handle. It saves packing around more stuff. If you don’t have too far to go it is often easier to haul “pole wood” out on your shoulder in log lengths and cut them in the yard on a saw buck which is much easier with a bow saw. Also cut bigger logs in as long of pieces as you can handle and bring them home to split with wedges and then buck up with the bow saw.

  • IM Sayldog

    A few points:
    If you absolutely need wood for heating and cooking fuel most likely so will everyone else. You won’t need to “hide” your woodcutting, you won’t be able to because everybody and their brother will be out there cutting too. The trick will be to get it home and stored securely.
    If you don’t learn to minimize your wood consumption you will run out. The way to assure that you will run out is by thinking you are going to heat your whole house. Pare down the heated space to include just a group sleeping area, and the rest of the time your body will be warmed by the hard labor that such a time will require.
    If an area is reduced to absolutely needing wood for fuel, there will be little “noise cover” at any time. No traffic, commercial activity, household appliances, etc. Mid-day will be as quiet as early morn or late evening.

    If an extended blackout has happened requiring wood use for fuel, people will start dying shortly from a myriad of associated causes. This will leave an easily tapped wood and materials resource. Deconstruct the McMansions, stockpile what you will and burn the rest.

  • Mic Roland

    We’ve got the bow saws (good for branching), hatchets, maul, etc. For felling and bucking, I’ve been liking our two-man crosscut saw. (48″) It’s got big teeth (Tuttle, IRC) so it’s pretty quick, but does require the two people to get into a rhythm. Still, taking down a tree is a lot of work. Bucking into stove lengths is likewise a lot of work. Maybe not any more than swinging an ax, but it is less hard on the joints. Nice, too, to share the work with another. Splitting with a maul and wedges is just hard work, regardless. Some wood splits easier if it’s set out all winter. Others seem to turn rock hard as they dry.

  • Howard Brewi

    I got mine from Woodcraft they still carry them, I checked on line.

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