Pile of firewood also an art form for Arnie Rosenbach of Heatherstone Road in Amherst

Last modified: Friday, December 18, 2015

AMHERST — Calling it a spiritual activity that gives him a good workout, Arnie Rosenbach spent the past several months turning 90 logs into thousands of pieces of firewood that will feed his wood stove this winter, producing nearly all the heat for his Heatherstone Road home.

“Everything here is hand-cut and split by hand,” Rosenbach said, pointing to the long, neat woodpiles that surround his property.

But this fall, instead of building only conventional piles where the firewood will dry, Rosenbach worked with neighbor Mike McDermott to meticulously stack the pieces into a landscape depicting a mountain range and other images — a woodpile that is both functional and a work of art enjoyed by people passing his home.

“It’s like all great art. You leave it up to the viewer to interpret it,” Rosenbach said of the pile in his front yard, referring to an arch-like design the evokes the rays of a setting sun, and a sun or moon that sits in the sky over the mountain range.

The idea of making stacked firewood art — using the various colors of the wood and carefully stacking different-sized pieces to create images — came from an article in a newsletter that both Rosenbach and McDermott picked up at Atkins Farms Country Market during the summer.

With his front yard at that time still filled with 14- to 15-foot-long logs ready to be cut and then split, McDermott suggested to Rosenbach that they work together to find a unique way to stack the wood.

They began by installing footings to provide a level building surface, and two trees in the yard serve as the end posts for the woodpile.

As he began putting the pieces of oak in place, McDermott first created the semicircular opening, positioning the lighter-colored lengths of wood at angles that form the arch of the “sunset” design. McDermott used other logs to hold those pieces in place and prevent them from toppling.

The tree at the center of the design is formed from pieces of wood standing both upright and sideways.

“The hard part was figuring out what parts to use for the tree and stacking them so the pieces don’t fall down,” McDermott said.

Finally, they completed the mountain range and the sun or moon, which is made from the only oversized piece of wood in the pile. Rosenbach cut the circle from a piece of wood that measured about a foot wide.

One thing they determined in the course of stacking the logs was that the design at the front had to be carried through to the back side, to ensure stability.

There are no nails, glue or any other adhesives holding the woodpile in place — only the weight of the wood and gravity.

“We wanted to keep everything natural, no synthetics,” Rosenbach said.

They estimate they spent about 15 hours of additional work to stack the wood — a chore that might normally take around five hours. But McDermott said his children were excited to help with the project, coming over every weekend from October through mid-November.

“Mike and I had a great time doing this,” Rosenbach said. “If you love what you’re doing, it’s not work.”

Rosenbach noted that the woodpile will continue to function as a means of drying the wood, as wind will continue to pass through the stack. And unless this winter brings sustained severe weather, Rosenbach does not expect to begin dipping into the artistic woodpile this season.

Rosenbach’s wife, Renata Pienkawa, said her husband loves wood and thought this would be an attractive way to present the supply of home heating fuel.

“A lot of people are stopping by,” Pienkawa said.

Rosenbach said he is finding that he has built something special that neighbors and passers-by enjoy. And, he said, he and McDermott may try to be more creative if they build an artistic woodpile in the future, sketching out designs in advance.

Still, he appreciates hearing the buzz about their work.

“People have been commenting all over town about this,” Rosenbach said. “People have really been enjoying it.”

One fan is state Rep. Ellen Story, who passes the home on her walks. She said the images in the woodpile are both pretty and uplifting.

“I have made friends walk up here just to see it,” Story said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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