If A Tree Falls In The Forest…

We had a fairly strong wind storm last week and one of the trees on my property fell over. From the base, where it snapped off, to the spot where the top broke off as it fell, it measured 75 feet.  I took off all the limbs with a hatchet (and later a chainsaw for the bigger bits) and put them on the burn pile. It was quite the inferno.

There was evidence of some rot right at the root flair and I’m sure that contributed to it falling.  I’m just glad it fell away from the house and not on it.  About 2-3 feet above the root flair, the tree has a 59-inch circumference.  If my high school geometry hasn’t failed me, that means that it is a little under 19-inches in diameter.

My question is, what do I do with it?  I’ve had several trees come down over the past few years and I have always used them for firewood, but his one is a little bigger than those before.  I will have to use the top 2/3 as firewood as it is not really thick enough in that part of the tree to make it worth milling.  However, I could probably get about three 8-foot logs from the bottom that I could have milled.  There are some portable sawmill guys in the area that advertise on Craigslist and will mill logs to order.  I don’t know if it would be worth it for only three logs.  If it were a Maple or a Madrone, I wouldn’t hesitate, but unfortunately that’s not the case.

In the photo below, the tree doesn’t look very big as I used an extremely wide-angle lens.

In a recent wind storm, this tree fell down.

In a recent wind storm, this tree fell down.

I think that the tree is a Douglas Fir.  I checked several online resources and I’m somewhat confident.  A very similar tree is a Balsam Fir, but I think that one has slightly different buds.  If you think it is something else, please let me know.  I’d be interested to hear if I got this one wrong.

A view of the bark.

A view of the bark.

A sprig of foliage.

A sprig of foliage.

The buds on the end of a twig.

The distinctive dark conical buds on the end of a twig.


I have a wood stove in the workshop and use it in the middle of winter if I am going to be in the shop all day.  If I’m only out there for a few hours it isn’t worth the hassle as it’s only just getting warm by the time I’m ready to pack up.  In any case, I’m just about out of firewood and replenishing the wood pile wouldn’t be a bad thing.

I’m not sure what I would do with the Douglas Fir if I had it milled (I’ve already built my workbench), but it seems a shame to miss the opportunity of milling it into useable lumber.  I think I’m leaning towards chopping the whole thing up for firewood because I know I would use that.  What do you think?


– Jonathan White

About Jonathan

I am a woodworker and hand tool restorer / collector. I buy too many tools and don't build enough - I need help!
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7 Responses to If A Tree Falls In The Forest…

  1. Tico Vogt says:

    I think you should hire a band mill operator. You gain a lot of wood knowledge sawing and drying lumber, plus it is a very delightful experience to see the color of the wet wood freshly sawn and to smell the resinous fibers. You can build cabinets, boxes, musical instrument, tables, furniture with drawers, to name a few uses.

    • Jonathan says:

      Hi Tico,

      You’re right about that! I went through that whole process when I had the tree milled that I used to make my workbench. I dried it in the shop for 18 months before I started building the bench. I wrote a bout the process here:

      The Bench Blog Bench

      All the best,


  2. Brian Eve says:

    How about floorboards for your shop? Concrete can be a bit rough on your back after a few hours.

    • Jonathan says:

      Hi Brian,

      I like that idea. I considered putting laminate floor in the shop for just that reason. However, I’ve reached the point where I have so much stuff in the shop that it becomes impractical to add a floor. Some of the cabinets that I have made and installed are mounted to the wall studs and sit flush on the floor. Same story with my lumber storage rack (it sits on the concrete and is bolted to the wall studs). While I would like a wood or laminate floor, the job is so large that it is sort of overwhelming and off-putting. I do wish I had done it before I started the rest of the shop.



  3. Douglas fir is a rather poor choice for firewood for several reasons. 1. It is a resinous wood, so you’ll get more creosote build-up in your flu; too much of that and you end up with a flu fire.. 2. It has a fairly low BTU rating (it doesn’t put out much heat when it burns).

    Looks to be a nice, straight, clear log. Before you cut it into 8′ sections, you might check with any local saw mills and see if they want to buy it for lumber. Could get a few good long beams out of it.

    I have some reclaimed Douglas Fir beams in the basement right now, unfortunately just 7′ long, that are from the old Checkerdome here in St. Louis where the Blues played for years. One of them is upwards of 17″ wide.

    It is good structural wood. Not really good firewood.


    • Jonathan says:

      Hey Ethan,

      I get your point about it’s firewood deficiencies. Doug Fir is the primary tree in these parts and is the most common type of firewood that you will find from any of the local wood sellers. There is no real hardwood around here, well not in any quantity at least. There are some Maples and Madrones, but not a lot. I have one acre and it has one Madrone and one Alder, everything else is Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock, and Western Red Cedar.

      I like your suggestion about selling the log, I might have to look into that.

      All the best,


      • Just make sure and get your flu swept regularly, then, Jon. Flu fires are no joke.

        Too bad about the lack of good firewood, but I guess if you never have it you don’t know what you’re missing? (Sorry, was trying to be encouraging there. 🙂 )

        I like a fire so hot the bricks on the opposite side of the fireplace (our fireplace is in between two rooms but only opened up on one side) radiate heat for hours after the fire is out. Hotter is better because it minimizes the creosote buildup.

        I wouldn’t look for a huge amount of money for it; local Craig’s List ads are rich for good humor with people wanting $400 cash for a fallen walnut tree that isn’t 15″ diameter. But something might be better than nothing.

        Otherwise? Firewood. At least it’s easy splitting!

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