To paraphrase an old saying: How much wood should a Prepper prep, if a prepper should prep wood?
Author’s Note: This article was started in early December 2020 when from today’s standpoint lumber prices were reasonable.
I think 2020 and 2021 will be the years that many of us might realize that wood, primarily as in lumber, should be added to our preps. I suppose for those who live in areas prone to Hurricanes having some wood on hand might be normal to board up the home when a storm approaches but wood has many forms and hence many uses. 2020 has also shown us that like ammo, canned food and Toilet paper, wood can also be in short supply and in large demand.
Why store wood?
If you think back in time before everything in the world was made of plastic, many of the of items that are now plastic used to be made of wood. Some examples include kitchen spoons, handles on kitchen utensils, knife handles, knobs, tool handles, and others. In a long-term grid down society (TEOTWAWKI) wood will recover its domain over plastic. As humans scurry like ants to rebuild their colony that’s been kicked (note: there are no lone-ants) wood will be in high demand and in some instances low supply. In past SurvivalBlog articles, I have espoused the need to stock up on different types of hardware for long term grid down scenarios (See “Sundries for Survival” published February 15, 2019), but the utility of that hardware may be limited if you don’t have wood. As our modern-day conveniences disappear, so will our “free” time. Our time will be spent on basic human needs that focus around water, food, heat, shelter, sanitation and security. (See “Time and Planning” published on March 8, 2019).
So, if you find yourself needing a 2″x4″ for a post-TEOTWAWKI do-it-yourself project, you have four options. Cut down a tree and saw it or hew it yourself, which will take hours of your time along with tools and skills; trade with someone who has one which will cost you some of your barter goods; scavenge/salvage wood from debris or structures, this will take more time than you think. I recently tore apart a deck to salvage the wood. The process took a lot longer than I thought it would, as nail heads couldn’t be found; nailheads broke off or I couldn’t get a bite on some of them even with a cat’s foot nail puller. The issue of transportation is also a variable in that you may have to travel miles to find wood to salvage. The last option is to store lumber which will require at least one of the primary prepper resources, storage space.
Uses for wood post-TEOTWAWKI
One of the obvious uses for wood is to repair damage caused by the disaster. Thinking about post-TEOTWAWKI life here on the homestead I think about having an influx of people who have skills and personalities that will help start rebuilding society. Our home can accommodate a few more people but at some point, the barns will have to be used. I have considered the need to build wooden bunks or even sleep boxes/bed boxes. These boxes were used to help retain the body heat of the people sleeping inside them as well as protecting them from critters.
We have a septic system but it will not accommodate the additional use for long, nor will one bathroom be enough so wood to construct outhouses will be needed.
As society’s fragile food production and distribution system disintegrates in post-TEOTWAWKI, our society will scramble to revert back to its agrarian roots. Rolfe Cobleigh’s book “HANDY FARM DEVICES AND HOW TO MAKE THEM”, is full of devices that will come back in vogue. Some of the devices in his book include a corn crib, hand cultivator, vegetable bin, cheese press, butter worker, and a shaving horse. The common material needed to construct these devices is wood. A stockpile of wood will be handy to build cold frames, hog sheds, and chicken coops as well. Even if you are Blessed with these devices and structures already a wood stockpile will be handy to make repairs or to expand the current ones or to build additional structures to accommodate a larger number of animals.
A wood stockpile will be useful in securing your homestead as well. Homemade spike stripes could be put together and placed in areas that you don’t want people (don’t do this before TEOTWAWKI). Wood will also be useful in constructing and improving defensive positions and listening/observation position by shoring up the earthen walls and helping to build overhead cover on those positions.
These are just a few examples of projects post-TEOTWAWKI that wood can be used for. The usefulness of wood is really only limited by one’s imagination.
Acquiring a wood stockpile
I have learned over the years that having a few extra 2×4’s and some plywood is very handy. When I buy wood for projects, I always buy a little extra and if I don’t use it, I add it to my wood stockpile. I also buy rough-cut lumber right from an Amish sawmill about 2 miles away from my home. Besides, lumber I keep a small stock of dowel rods in various diameters. The dowel rod stocks have come in handy when I needed a new wood handle for one of my corn sheller that I was restoring and when I decided to make a fire piston. This lumber stockpile has come in handy more than once while working on a project that found myself needing one more 2×4 for one reason or another. I currently store the majority of my wood stockpile in my barn loft. The wood I recently salvaged from the deck is stacked outside since it was pressure treated. Acquiring new wood at the local lumber yard is probably obvious but there are other ways to acquire wood.
Rough cut isn’t so rough on your wallet
We are fortunate that we have several Amish sawmills around us. As lumber prices climb to insane prices, I have found that the prices at the Amish sawmills are still very reasonable and offer a wide selection of thicknesses, widths and lengths as well as the ability to have custom cuts. There are a few minute issues with rough-cut lumber including that the wood is rough and splinters are a possibility if you are not wearing gloves. The other issue is the wood is not kiln dried. You may get some that is air-dried but most I have bought has a good amount of moisture in it. If shrinkage is an issue in your project then try to buy dry wood or as I did once, I place the wood in my basement and put two dehumidifiers in the room with “stickers” placed between each row of wood. This method isn’t really feasible post-TEOTWAWKI but again if you are building prepper infrastructure now this is a possibility. Wrapping your woodpiles in black plastic can help to dry out the wood too.
I can’t begin to tell you how much wood I have received free, over the years. Pallets, wood shipping crates, wood from torn-down structures and leftovers from someone else’s projects. Some of the wood shipping crates that I have received were so nice that I didn’t even disassemble them. I have been given wood from family and friends just to “get it out of here”.
Do it yourself timbers
In my early 20s, I helped my stepdad build an “elaborate” woodshed. The shed had a second floor with a gambrel roof for storage. My stepdad decided to save some money and hand hew the beams to support the second floor. With board axe and adz in hand, we attacked the ash logs. During this process, I developed even more respect for my forefathers. While we certainly saved some money, we certainly didn’t save any time. As laborious as it was, that shed with its hand-hewn beams still stands mightily to this day after 30 years.
DIY Saw Mills
While I don’t have very many trees on my own property, I have thought about getting an “Alaska” chainsaw sawmill just to have one hand if we would ever need to resort to having to make our own lumber. There are other types of sawmills out there that will cost more like the band sawmills. When I was going to college one of my summer jobs was helping our neighbor build his log cabin. Both his property and my parent’s property had, at one time, been a nursery and had acres of very straight and tall pines. We cut many of these trees down and my neighbor had a man come in with his portable bandsaw sawmill and make boards and beams out of those trees.
Just another prep
We should add another “B” to our preps so we can say, Beans, Bullets, Band-aids, and Boards. Just like the other “B’s” in a post-TEOTWAWKI we will need Boards (wood). Having a small cache of lumber should be part of our preps if we have the requisite space. We have a barn that is getting renovated starting in June and one of the ideas I had for storing plywood sheets was to screw them up on the loft trusses. When I need a sheet, I can go up and un-screw a sheet. Yeah, it will have a few small holes but that is a small price to pay to store it without taking up a lot of room. Just like many of our other preps, for wood to be useful we will need to compliment it with hardware, tools, and knowledge. ‘
There is a lot more to building something than cutting a board and pounding a few nails into it. Having good squares, levels, and chalk lines are equally important. Knowledge and experience in working with wood will also be priceless in post-TEOTWAWKI. Knowing that a piece of hemlock can split rather easily if you nail too close to the edges is learned by doing. How hard a wood variety is as well as, what different wood species are good for what types of applications will also be useful. So, when lumber prices come down to a reasonable price add a few pieces to your preps. If nothing else a few 8-foot long 2″x4″s and a few sheets of plywood will allow you to make some hasty repairs or to help build some handy devices.