One might be excused for thinking that quick satisfaction isn’t a factor in forestry when one considers the possibility of having to wait decades or generations to realize forest goods from their family woodlot. Splitting and storing your own firewood may be an exception to this long-term project. The process can be quick and pleasurable if you get into a routine, especially if you have assistance. Unfortunately, a lot of people believe that splitting wood is a brutish activity best accomplished with force. In actuality, successful wood splitting requires both the ability to “read a log” and the development of safe, effective movements over time.
Getting Ready To Split
The secret to preparing firewood effectively is to handle each piece of wood as little as possible. You can organize your friends and family into teams of buckers, splitters, and stackers to create an effective assembly line if you are able to skid full-length firewood logs to your processing location (ideally right next to your woodshed). When dividing when working alone, take it slow and switch to stacking when you start to feel fatigued.
Ax Or A Maul?
You must choose between a splitting ax and a maul if you plan to split wood by hand. A splitting ax is different from a maul-mounted chopping ax. The cheek of the splitting ax, which relies on a wedge to split the block, is dull to the touch. A splitting ax has the advantage of being substantially lighter than a maul, typically weighing only a
Only 3 to 5 pounds, compared to the 6 to 16 pounds that a splitting maul with its massive head might weigh. Of course, a maul’s benefit is that it has more weight, which means the head does most of the job.
The Block That Separated
The splitting block has a number of uses. By enabling your ax or maul to travel through the firewood and land securely in the splitting block below, it first guards against damage. In addition to increasing the likelihood that the wood will ricochet off a rock, splitting on the ground requires you to stoop even lower to set up and gather the wood.
The Science Of Slicing
People frequently use an ax or maul to split wood while swinging it over their shoulder. Although it can seem intuitive, this approach consumes energy and is imprecise (hitting the same spot twice). As an alternative, hold the ax or maul in perfect alignment with your body and raise it precisely over your head. Make sure the ax doesn’t drop behind your head as you elevate it because doing so will make it harder to maneuver and provide no further mechanical benefit.
Aim for “hanging steel,” which allows the bottom corner (heel) of the ax to protrude over the edge of the block rather than the center of the block. Working the outer edge will help a split develop. A “slabbing” approach, in which you work your way around the outside of the block cutting off long slabs, may be helpful if you have a very large block. The block will start to form corners as you do this, which you will separate off in later rounds.
Use a chainsaw to cut a shallow X in the top of the block, providing the wedge with a spot to start the split, in the event that your wedge or ax pops out while attempting to split a tough, resistant block. Alternately, breaking a block in half and splitting each shorter part will make it simpler to separate.