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The Wood Shed

December 06, 2022

By: Lee LeFever

I write books and run a company called Common Craft. I recently moved from Seattle to a rural island. Here, I write about online business, book publishing, modern home construction, and occasionally, dumb jokes.

The post below was sent as an issue of my newsletter, Ready for Rain.

The first time we had wood delivered was in 2018 and we were living in the yurt. We had never really used that amount of firewood before and looked around for where to store it. We found a decaying old frame sitting by some trees that was apparently for stacking wood. It seemed odd at the time. Would we really keep wood out in the rain? Shouldn’t it be, like, dry?

Not knowing what else to do, we moved the frame into the garage and against the wall. This way, in my mind, it would be dry, safe, and sound. When the wood arrived, Ed Stone, one of the island’s wood entrepreneurs, was surprised I wanted to keep it in the garage. He said, “I don’t know why, but firewood does better when it’s left out in the elements.” By that time, I already had wood sitting on the frame, so that’s where it stayed for the season.

After that interaction, I started to notice other homes’ wood sheds. They were all very similar: A small roof, a floor with wide gaps, and no walls. In some cases, a tarp was used on top of the wood instead of a roof.

With the house built and fireplaces in action, I needed to learn more about the raw material: firewood. What does wood need or want? What can I do to treat it well?

Along with local knowledge, I consulted two books:  Norwegian Wood and  The Wood Fire Handbook. This put me on a course to making the most of our wood and one big idea stood out: we needed a wood shed. Firewood burns hotter and cleaner when it’s dry and dry wood comes from wood that can breathe. That’s why it was weird to keep it in the garage. By being out in the elements, it could naturally release moisture or “season”. In fact, rain isn’t a big problem as long as moisture isn’t trapped where it can create mold and decay.

The clock was ticking. We had two cords sitting in the garden, which was fine in the dry summer weather. It couldn’t stay there long in the wet winter.

Dump truck with wood
One cord, delivered

We started to consider what kind of shed we wanted and learned that our friends Paul and Erika recently built a very nice shed that seemed to fit the bill. In fact, they used free plans by Fine Homebuilding  that we could adapt to our needs.

A couple of weeks ago the work started with a shovel and pick. The shed needed to be level and that meant leveling the ground under it. Digging is always hard, but our ground is probably equal parts soil and rocks. One minute you’re digging, the next, you hear and feel a THUD and realize that a 20 pound rock has to be removed to keep going.

We dug holes, placed concrete piers, tried to get them level, and then realized the fence line we used to line them up wasn’t square. We shook our fists at the sky, and then started over. Leveling and squaring those damn piers was painful. All along I kept reminding Sachi that it was only a wood shed.

We finally got it set and the fun could begin. That meant setting the floor with space for air flow.

Then we built the walls all at once and slowly applied them.

Next was purlins, which are boards that sit vertically under the roof. I had never driven 5″ screws through the thin side of 2X4s, but it worked surprisingly well.

With a few more supports and some galvanized roof panels, the shed was ready and we could finally stack the wood that had been sitting in a pile for a few months.

After years of being on Orcas, our wood finally had a home that should last our lifetimes.

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