Friday 20 July 2018

How much wood could a woodchuck

. . . chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood. Woodchuck = groundhog [day] = Marmota monax but I'm not here talking about mammals except insofar as I've dived down a rabbit-hole about measures of firewood.  I'm there because I'm reading Richard Fortey's memoir about 4 acres of woodland in Oxfordshire entitled The Wood For The Trees; the long view of nature from a small wood. Fortey, a retired geologist, bought the lot partly because he was fascinated by the ancient language associated with woods and wood: bodger; spile, bavin. On p.154 he elucidates:
  • bavin is a bundle of coppiced firewood 3ft 4in long and 24in in circumference
  • billet a bundle of ditto 3ft long and circumference of 10in
    • in = inch 2.5cm; ft = foot = 12 inches = 30.5cm
    • thinking about it, a billet could be a single length of wood you could hold in two hands to defend yourself from a highwayman.
  • bottle enough birch-twigs to make a besom = witch's broom
  • faggot a bundle 3ft long and and 2ft/24in in circumference suitable for bakers' ovens [prev on The Charter of the Forest 1217]
  • fascine a more robust bundle, of uncertain dimensions, used for filling marshy ground for a roadway or incorporating into [military] earthworks.
    • obviously related to fasces [which prev] the Latin for a bundle of sticks and adopted by Mussolini's Fascists.
  • tal(l)wood wood cut a bit long: 4ft
    • you can with advantage read the Assize of Fuel 1553 an Act of King Edward VI to regulate the buying and selling of firewood on pain of forfeiture, and/or a session in the pillory with a faggot or billet bounden to some part of his body etc.
That got me thinking about other measures of firewood, the standards of which are:
  • cord - a stack 4ft x 4ft x 8ft of cut and split logs typically 16 in long [prev]
    • only really used in North America it is about 3.6 cu.m.
    • cord is 4ft4in x 2ft2in x 8ft8in in Forest of Dean on the Welsh Marches which makes their cord ~25% more total volume
    • it's damn-fool silly to say 1 cord = 3.624556416 cu.m. because that final 6 is 6 or about a rice grain of firewood and you lose that much overnight from the insect damage
  • rick - aka a fireplace cord is 1/3 of a cord = a facecord if the logs are 16in long
  • stack - like a cord but 3.5ft x 3.5ft x 12ft or about 15% bigger than a regular cord
  • stere = stère = 1 cu.m.
    • although in France they still use a corde or a moule which vary [from 2.06 to 4.9 stère]  according to the region in which you source your firewood: 
    • the French revolutionaries wanted to have a décistère as well for widows and orphans and people with extremely well insulated homes; this later became known as a solive
  • load - a quantity of unstacked wood typically about 50cu.ft or under half a cord
  • favn - how firewood is sold in Norway a volume = 1 alen x 1 favn x 1 favn = 2.2 steres
    • favn (think our nautical fathom) is 6 fot or 3 alen alen is cognate with Latin ulna a forearm which is about the same as a biblical cubit.
Soliciting how firewood is measured in your home-town in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. Bress née as my gran called a bundle gathered out of a ditch or the strand, tied with rope and carried home on her back