What part does wood or paper ashes play in either composting or soil building? The wood is trimmings from cherry hedges, the papers are old bank records, mostly black ink.
These would be browns. Very high C:N ratio.
Wood ash and paper ash are two very different things because anything of value in wood is removed in the papermaking process. Wood ash is a very alkaline product with some minor minerals but mostly Calcium Carbonate in a very soluble form. Wood ash can very quickly change a soils pH, but the effect may not last very long. When my parents were young the soaps they used were home made and the ash from the wood stove and sometimes the parlor stove was put in a barrel and water was poured through it to obtain lye to make that soap.
Today, no one that has done good research will tell you to add wood ash to your soil until after you have done a soil pH test and determined if that ash is needed. Adding wood ash to a compost pile is also discouraged and unnecessary since the high pH of that ash can slow the digestion process, it creates an environment the bacteria that do the digesting do not like.
I do burn papeer such as old bank statements, and similar material and since the quantity is fairly small those ashes do go into my compost, but I am not concerned about those paper ashes pH. We could shred those papers and add them to the compost and not expends our energy in watching them burn, however, except burning does not use electricity.
You would be better off shredding the wood and paper and composting it.
A little OT, but ...
After making the mistake of spreading unfinished compost in the garden, I was knocked over by the smell. Sprinkling fireplace ashes over the compost worked like a charm!
magnoliaroad, even unfinished properly made compost should never smell putrid. If at any time during the composting process there is an unpleasant odor eminating from that compost there is a problem that can be corrected. Compost, in a properly put together mix, will always have a pleasant, rich earth odor, never one of ammonia or a putrid, sewer like, odor.
Wood ashes can slow down a pile quite a bit. Ashes should be looked on as an added nutrient to your compost rather than part of it. It's best to add it to finished compost rather than into an active pile.
I add ash to some of my finished compost when going on just my grass. I usually put it down lightly, with out issue.