Best Wood To Use For Heat

When folks burned chestnut trees in appalachia

The Deer Hunter and I only have to worry about wood for our heat. When Pap was a boy, wood was needed for heat in addition to every time you cooked, washed clothes, took a bath, and the list goes on.

I’m sure you’ve heard the old joke-in fact Kenneth left a comment about it a few days ago-where a man says he thought his name was Git Wood until he was nearly grown.

What wood works best for heat


Pap said when he was a boy some folks planned ahead and cut wood for the future with it ricked up in cords around their house and barns. When they needed wood it was already cut and stacked ready to be used. Other folks, like Pap’s family, got their wood from day to day. They had a wood pile near by, but someone had to go out and split what was needed for the day and carry it in the house or at least onto the porch.

Best wood to burn for firewood


There were still native Chestnut trees when Pap was a boy-not living ones-but skeletons of Chestnut trees that were killed by the blight. Pap said wood from them would burn even if it was wet with no kindling to get it started. Women especially liked chestnut wood because it was so easy to start a fire with it. Back in those days, Pap said, every once in a while he’d come up on a big dead Chestnut back in the mountains. He said he always thought they looked like white ghosts shining through the woods.

Much like today, when Pap was a boy, oak was one of the top choices for wood to burn. Oak burns hot and doesn’t burn too fast. Other top choices when Pap was a boy were locust, hickory, and just any other wood that was handy.

The Deer Hunter likes to use locust-which is almost impossible to find around here, oak, and hickory. He thinks poplar burns too fast to do any good and pine is full of creosote.

A few months ago someone had me ask Pap what was the best wood to burn for heat. Pap rattled off a list much like the one above and then said “But the answer to that question really depends on how cold you are.”

What wood did you or do you like to burn?


I decided to share this old post about Pap with you today, because the last week has been pretty tough on Pap. He wasn’t feel too spry to begin with then a case of bronchitis really put him under the weather.

Pap spent last night in the VA Hospital at Oteen. Sometime today they’ll do a heart catheterization to see if there’s a new blockage. If you’re a praying person we’d really appreciate it if you said a quick one for Pap and the docs/nurses at the VA.


This post was originally published here on the Blind Pig in 2012. 

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    November 18, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    Just now reading this post…saying prayers for Pap!

  • Reply
    Ferne K
    November 18, 2014 at 2:29 am

    Tipper, I didn’t read your blog until late tonight, and was sorry to hear that Pap was in the hospital. My thoughts and prayers are with him and all your family. I hope his doctors figure out the correct thing to do as soon as possible.

  • Reply
    Kenneth Miller
    November 17, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    Praying that all goes well for you Pap!!!!

  • Reply
    Deborah Catoe
    November 17, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    Tipper, I have put Mr.Wilson and your family on our prayer list. I sure hope every thing goes well for him.

  • Reply
    Darlene Debty Kimsey
    November 17, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    Please tell your Daddy I’m praying for him and your family. Love ya’ll.

  • Reply
    Beatrice Bland
    November 17, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    Prayers and best wishes for Pap.Hope he is toasty warm with this mighty cold spell we are having.

  • Reply
    Kerry in Ga
    November 17, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    Ringing the prayer bells for Pap & your family. God Bless you all.

  • Reply
    November 17, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    Hi Tipper,I’m telling you a story in our family about a wood pile back in the early 1900,s.the owner got tired of someone stealing from it, so he put gun powder in a piece.It was my Uncle Freds stove lids that blew off.You never know whats hiding in the wood pile.Prayers for Pap and hope this story gives him a smile.God Bless.

  • Reply
    Lola Howard
    November 17, 2014 at 3:16 pm


  • Reply
    Lola Howard
    November 17, 2014 at 3:16 pm


  • Reply
    Lola Howard
    November 17, 2014 at 3:16 pm


  • Reply
    Rooney Floyd
    November 17, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    We are sorry to hear Pap is not well. Marolyn and my prayers go out for him and all the Blind Pig Family.

  • Reply
    Annette Casada Hensley
    November 17, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    We readers have kinda adopted your entire family as part of our own. Prayers are going out for Pap, all his family, and his medical care givers. God bless you all.

  • Reply
    Peggy Lambert
    November 17, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    Tipper.I’m praying for Pap that he will be healed soon and back to good health.
    Peggy L.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    November 17, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    Lots of Prayers for Pap.
    I had three fireplaces in PA and decided at my age I did not want to do the wood thing anymore. Oak was the best.
    I now have a gas log and gas stove. Always good heat and can cook when the power is off.
    Retirement is great!!!

  • Reply
    November 17, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    I like the odor of cherry, cedar and walnut. Growing up we burned everything out of need. Our favorites were oak and hickory. Pap is a little older than I am. I never saw one of the dead chestnut trees still standing. I saw many of them lying in the woods in Graham County when I was younger. Most were still higher lying down than I am tall now.
    I pray Pap comes through this ok.
    For Krystee, The hedge apples are good for keeping ants out of your house. Put a slice in a jar lid against the kick plate in the kitchen and bathroom.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    November 17, 2014 at 11:37 am

    My prayers are going up for Pap in his hour of need.
    My favorite wood to burn is Hickory, Oak and Birch, but I have some whole, dry Locust. If you leave the Locust real big it won’t burn out your stove, cause that stuff really gets hot. I
    designed and helped build my
    stove back in 1980 and it still
    works great.I love working in the

  • Reply
    November 17, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Tipper, I’ll have a word with The Almighty for Pap.
    I heated with wood for years and the best I found was red oak. Hickory’s OK but it doesn’t seem to have the heat content that oak does. Sweet-gum works well if you split it and let it season for about 6 months, and pecan makes a pretty hot fire but does not last as long as red oak.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    November 17, 2014 at 11:34 am

    Praying for Pap & family.

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    November 17, 2014 at 11:13 am

    Best wishes to Pap for a speedy recovery!

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    November 17, 2014 at 11:03 am

    Praying for Pap and your family.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    November 17, 2014 at 11:02 am

    My dad liked to burn oak and hickory.
    Praying that your dad makes a speedy recovery from his illness.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 17, 2014 at 10:45 am

    “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” I can’t claim to be righteous but I hope my prayers can help a little.
    I prefer to burn oak for heat because it is easy to work with but it needs to be seasoned before it is used (just a little salt and pepper-ha.)
    One species, which I will not name here, can’t be brought in the house because even if dried for a year, it still smells like somebody kicked over Grandma’s potty. It is good heater wood but you’ve gotta keep it on the porch til its ready to go in the stove.

  • Reply
    November 17, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Prayers are on the top of my list this morning for Pap. I have always been taught that oak was the best hardwood for burning. That is what we saved from trees taken down on at this house. If we lose electricity, then wood burning becomes our next bet. God bless your day!

  • Reply
    Bob Aufdemberge
    November 17, 2014 at 10:22 am

    As from so many others, my thoughts and prayers for Pap’s recovery.
    I agree with the comment about the best heat coming from Osage orange or “hedge” trees. I too am a little hesitant to cut them but for a different reason: they’ll dull up a chainsaw in nothing flat.

  • Reply
    November 17, 2014 at 10:07 am

    Hoping for a speedy recovery for Pap!

  • Reply
    November 17, 2014 at 10:00 am

    Keeping Pap and the rest of you in prayers. Also for the doctors and nurses at the VA.
    Most folks around here use oak, but also pecan, hackberry, etc.
    The Osage orange, aka bois d’arc (pr. bodark, long o) makes great fence posts, bows for hunting and natural fences when ‘trained.’ The fruit can be sliced and dried to make ‘flowers’ in dry arrangements when mounted on wire. Had always heard the fruit would keep bugs away when placed in the corners of a room—tried it, didn’t work. Wildlife like to eat the fruit; squirrels eat past the meat to get to the seeds inside.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    November 17, 2014 at 9:54 am

    Tipper–While I can’t tell Krystee Ervin any uses for hedge apples, there are certainly multiple uses for the wood of the Osage orange or bodoc (a localization of the French, bois d/arc).
    It is an incredibly hard or dense wood (that explains why it burns so hot) and thus difficult to “work.” However, its strength has made it a favorite for handcrafted bows for centuries, it is lovely and has a lovely sound when turned as trumpet yelpers for turkey hunting, and I’ve seen wooden vases turned out of it which were truly eye-catching.
    Jim Casada
    P. S. Squirrels will, in desperate times, eat the big seed inside the hedge apples, but it takes them a lot of gnawing to get to the “goody.”

  • Reply
    Dan O'Connor
    November 17, 2014 at 9:50 am

    Prayers for Pap and those attending.

  • Reply
    Charles Fletcher
    November 17, 2014 at 9:46 am

    Hang tough PAP. The Marines never give up. I’ll have you in my prayers
    Your Friend,
    Charles Fletcher

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    November 17, 2014 at 9:33 am

    So sorry that Pap is not feeling well. We are praying for his fast recovery.
    I made a big pot of chicken noodle soup for our sick family members yesterday. All had aching colds and bronchitis. I used the whole chicken, cooked, boned and chopped in pieces. Completed the soup with celery, onion, carrots a few green peas and some noodles. Thyme, bay leaf and just a pinch of sea salt. Our son is on permanent low sodium due to heart/lung issues..
    I think homemade chicken soup cures about anything…LOL
    I got a call later, that the soup hit the spot and they are feeling better today.
    Like my grandmother said, “Look for sickness, when the weather changes in short order!”
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…If I could I would send you and Pap a pot of homemade chicken soup!
    PS(2).. We cut “hickry” out of our woods, as well as Oak for firewood. Hickory has a higher BTU as well as Oak.
    PSS…Since we are a lot older, we burn TVA nowadays. A lot higher but easier to cut, chop and stack!

  • Reply
    November 17, 2014 at 9:19 am

    Prayers being sent Paps way. We always feel so powerless when our loved ones are ill. I so enjoy reading your stories and listening to the music every morning. This is my first post.

  • Reply
    George Long
    November 17, 2014 at 9:16 am

    Here in WV we burn oak, hickory, wild cherry, ash and locust. Locust is more common here in some areas and not hard to find and some prefer it. We use the straight sections for fence post, the rest for firewood. Prayers for Pap and your family and wish him a speedy recovery.

  • Reply
    November 17, 2014 at 9:10 am

    Praying for Pap and all of you.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    November 17, 2014 at 8:56 am

    Tipper–Jerry will certainly be in my thoughts. Our family owes him and Paul an eternal debt for singing at Dad’s funeral.
    His thoughts on the American chestnut are interesting ones. My Grandpa Joe was a hickory-tough old man seldom given to shows of emotion. However, any time he got to talking about the mighty chestnut and its demise he would get a catch in his voice and his eyes would tear a bit. The tree was a way of life for mountain folks like him–acid wood for cash money, fence rails, roof shakes, building material for barns and cribs, mast to fatten hogs, a source of income by selling the nuts to city markets where chestnuts were roasted by street vendors, and food for the family in forms such as dressing and chestnut bread and soup. Add to that the fact that various critters, most notably squirrels, were present in great abundance thanks to the nuts, and you had something of a miracle tree.
    Jim Casada
    P. S. We’ll have chestnut dressing, never mind that it relies on an inferior substitute in the form of Chinese chestnuts, for Thanksgiving. It’s something Mom and Grandma Minnie made every year, and I like to keep culinary traditions going.

  • Reply
    November 17, 2014 at 8:53 am

    When we had a wood stove, we liked oak best. Maple and apple burn well too. We burned maple when branches fell off our tree, and apple when my mom’s apple tree died. Sweet gum is worthless. They’re good shade trees but the wood doesn’t burn well and puts off little heat. We had to buy wood, and when our wood man retired and it became expensive in our area, we put a propane parlor stove in the living room. I am praying for your Pap. It’s hard when you have a sick parent. My mom had a cardiac catheterization last year and she came through fine. She did have some blockages and the worst was fixed when she had a new aortic valve put in. She’s 92.

  • Reply
    Lisa Snuggs
    November 17, 2014 at 8:50 am

    A freak, five-minute storm in June of 2013 that was later determined to be a micro-burst left our whole county with hundreds, if not thousands, of downed mighty oaks and hickories, so that’s what we’ll burn for years to come. Unfortunately, the red oak is bothersome to my eyes and sinuses, but that’s the price we pay for heating with wood. It’s worth it. Pap is my prayers.

  • Reply
    eva nell wike, PhD
    November 17, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Tipper: Your request for thoughts and prays will certainly be a part of of my day! We will wait and hope that tomorrow will bring good news.
    As a child, carrying in stove wood was my job. My daddy was the best wood ‘specialist’ in the world! Beginning in early fall, he would bring down a sled loaded with logs which he had cut up in the cross-tie hollower. These days that hollower is covered with beautiful homes! Oh well?
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Cheryl Soehl
    November 17, 2014 at 8:36 am

    My sister’s husband, Lowell, is one of those planners — his woodpile is a site to behold. Almost every time I would visit before winter he would be cutting, splitting, stacking. Since it was so hard to get up to Maggie during the winter, I didn’t see if he was working as hard on it then, or just enjoying the fruits of his labors. Your Pap is on my prayer list.

  • Reply
    November 17, 2014 at 8:34 am

    Well, I don’t pray much, but I said a prayer for Pap. I’ve burned wood for heat and cooking all my long life. Pound for pound, all wood has about the same amount of heat in it, but of course light wood burns too fast. And if it’s not thoroughly dry, a lot of heat will go up the chimney in the steam that has to be cooked off. Now I like white oak (not red oak) to hold a fire overnight, or hickory for a good bed of coals, but I like to have a little yellow poplar for fast heat and to start fires. Also, if it’s big enough you have to split it, I avoid elm and gum!

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    November 17, 2014 at 8:34 am

    Pap will definitely be in our prayers, Tipper. The respiratory ailments are especially tough. We will also pray that the news from the catheterization is good.

  • Reply
    November 17, 2014 at 8:24 am

    Holding up ‘Pap’ in prayer.
    Here in central MD we have an abundance of Locust. We use it for fenceposts that last through generations – it just doesn’t rot easily. When burning wood, I don’t like to use locust because it is such a hot fire. I suppose it’s ok otside at a csampfire, but inside it is too hot. Cherry is a nice hot fire. We have Hackberry but never burned it. I noted the comment about biscuits cooked with a Hackberry fire. The best all-around inside burning wood is good seasoned oak. I always liked to throw in an ‘all-nighter’- one so big aroundIi could barely lift. It would burn evenly all night and into the next day. My choices ar oak and cherry. We stockpile the wood since you can’t even find it when the snow is deep.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    November 17, 2014 at 8:18 am

    Tipper, I am praying for Pap.

  • Reply
    Nina Chastain
    November 17, 2014 at 8:15 am

    Praying for Pap. certainly missed him in Church. Praying for the Drs also , hope he is well and back home soon. Keep those fires burning , going to get colder , they say .

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    November 17, 2014 at 8:12 am

    First of all, I’m imploring the Lord for mercy and healing on dear Jerry Wilson, “Pap” and those who care for him. How we enjoy his clear tenor voice and those fingers that make marvelous music on the guitar! May he soon be strong and well again. And about wood–we cut what we had in our woods round about–but oak was one of our mainstays, mixed with others that could be cut or needed cutting. I can remember when we’d harvested all the gaunt, ghostly chestnut trees that the blight had killed. That was a sad commentary to wood-gathering. In addition to getting enough wood for the long winter season for fireplaces, heaters and the wood cook stove, another “gathering-in” came after laying-by time of the crops when my Dad, who made sorghum syrup for at least six weeks in the fall (our own ribbon cane and that of many others in the community at his syrup mill) with the long boiler heated by wood gathered far in advance of the syrup-making season. That was a hot time, gathering the “syrup wood” as we called it in August! And what a lot it took to last the furnace for six or more weeks! Sometimes, though, we had some left over at the end of syrup-making, and could cut it in lengths for the home fireplace or wood heater or kitchen stove! We didn’t think much about these jobs–just did them–because they had to be done for our welfare! With the predicted low temperatures of the next days, I hope everyone can stay warm, with whatever means of heat you have! Thanks, Tipper. Your posts are wonderful!

  • Reply
    Dee Parks
    November 17, 2014 at 7:55 am

    Tipper, I said a prayer for your father and your family. I must have missed yesterday’s blog with the girls playing Midnight on the Water so I just listened to it and it is beautiful!!

  • Reply
    Krystee Ervin
    November 17, 2014 at 7:48 am

    The best wood for heat is osage orange, or hedgeapple. It has a really high BTU. But I love to see that strange fruit so much that I just can’t cut it. How about an article on uses for hedgeapples? I don’t really know anything you can do with them, except look at them. Praying for Pap.

  • Reply
    November 17, 2014 at 7:45 am

    Praying ardently. 🙂

  • Reply
    November 17, 2014 at 7:27 am

    This is the first time I’ve commented on your blog, Tipper, but I read it every day. I’m sorry to hear about your Pap and want you to know he has my heartfelt prayers for a speedy recovery. I know how difficult it is to see our loved ones ill like that.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    November 17, 2014 at 7:12 am

    I am praying for a speedy recovery for Pap.

  • Reply
    November 17, 2014 at 6:37 am

    Tell Pap he’s in our prayers and also the family, it effects everyone when a love one is sick.. I was raised on wood, then when my wife and I got married we used wood for a long while.. Oak, and hickory is mainly what we used, a little ash occasionally, Dad said his Dad loved his biscuits cooked with hackberry.. The hickory burns so hot we would just add a stick or two with the oak..

  • Reply
    Garry Ballard
    November 17, 2014 at 4:30 am

    I’ll certainly pray for him Tipper, his voice blesses e so much.

  • Reply
    November 17, 2014 at 4:16 am

    Tipper, I’ll certainly be keeping Pap and your entire family and the VA folk in my thoughts and prayers. Bronchitis can really knock the stuffing out of a person, even without other issues. But better to find out about any other issues, if the docs decide to run tests, too.
    (And I’m writing at 4AM because I just fed the stove: red oak.)

  • Leave a Reply