One recent morning I turned away a Virginia wood seller who had intended to make a delivery at my back gate. He was supposed to be delivering the two cords of firewood that I ordered, for $115 per cord; that is, per 128 cubic feet. I measured the wood stacked in his truck, and it came out to be a little over 1 1/2 cords. He insisted it was two cords and wouldn't negotiate a lower price. So I let him drive away.

That afternoon I read with delight a Home section article about firewood and the business of selling it [Nov. 4]. I called the seller featured in the article hoping to obtain some good wood at a reasonable price. The article stated that Virginia law "mandates that wood be sold by the cord" (128 cubic feet) and that "local sellers usually charge from $120 to $180 for what they call a cord." It also cautioned that "some sell wood in far more imprecise terms, by the rick or rack."

When I called the seller, I was told that these people sell wood for $60 a "rack" stacked, and that a rack was 2 feet by 6 feet by 17 inches (17 inches being the length of the logs). The math indicates that their "rack" is a little less than 18 cubic feet, or about one-seventh of a cord. They offer a price of $185 for four racks, which would be four-sevenths of a cord. To obtain a full cord (which, by the way, this seller does not offer), it would have cost me $323.75. Subtract the usual price per cord of $185 (the high-end price quoted in the article), and that leaves $138.75 for stacking (about a two-hour job by my experience).

The following Saturday a gracious friend offered to take me in his pickup to a local sawmill, where we picked out and hand loaded a little less than a cord of red oak for $72. It was an enjoyable afternoon spent with a good friend.

--Jim Ehlert