If you swing and hack away, you will eventually reduce a chunk of wood to its desired dimensions for use in your wood stove or fireplace. But, if you hope to split a lot of wood and maintain your endurance throughout the project, you will need some skills and the right tools. The following article will provide a beginner’s overview to splitting wood manually.
Your project will begin with the wood you gather. Many people prefer splitting wood when it is still green. Greenwood is not only easier to split, but will dry out in time and avoid having to stack your wood twice. Dry wood can also be split, but you will find the task is a little more challenging.
A chain saw is the tool of choice for reducing logs and larger limbs to pieces of wood between 15” and 20”. 15” logs are also much easier to split than 20” logs.
Mauls & Splitting Axes
Most people assume a hatchet or axe will be the logical tool for splitting wood, but this is not the case. What you really need is a traditional maul or innovative splitting axe. A regular axe is great for hewing your wood, but it’s thinner sharper blade will easily become lodged in the log you are splitting and require extra effort to complete the task. The wider cheeks and duller design of the ponderous maul is the perfect tool for splitting obstinate lumps of wood with minimal effort.
A maul is typically 7 to 10 lbs and features a flat-faced hammer-like face on the other side of the blade. If buried in an especially tough wood like ash or oak, this hammer face can be struck with a sledgehammer to drive the maul deeper into the log and make that satisfying split.
Splitting axes are lighter than a maul, and this makes them a versatile tool for a variety of tasks, including splitting logs and removing limbs from trees when gathering firewood.
A metal or plastic wedge can make the task so much easier. When the blade of your tool has become embedded in a log, the split you just made can close again when you remove the axe or maul. To prevent this from happening, insert a wedge into the split you have made to hold it open and lengthen the split with your next stroke. Wedges can greatly reduce the strokes and exertion needed to split wood and finish the task.
It is safer and more energy-efficient to place your wood on a chopping block12” to 16” off the floor. It is also best if the block is a few inches wider than the wood you will be splitting.
Splitting Wood with an Axe or Maul
When working with especially heavy tools like the maul, it is important to remember that the heft and shape of the maul or splitting axe does most of the work. Your primary concern is exerting as little force as necessary to complete each stroke successfully. With a little forethought and strategizing, you will find that very large tasks can be done very efficiently.
You can maximize the efficiency of your effort by assuming the correct posture and fine-tuning your execution of the swing.
Measure the distance to your target by touching your objective with the center of the blade, arm extended. Now that you are a proper distance from your wood, spread your feet apart shoulder’s distance. Take a second to loosen the hips. The real secret to a low-effort swing is moving your hips with the motion.
In the starting position, your dominant hand will be gripping the handle just below the blade and your other hand toward the base of the handle.
With your eyes fixed on your target, raise the maul or axe above your head and allow it to drop gracefully downward. No need to force in this motion as this is an unnecessary expenditure of strength.
As the maul drops down, your dominant hand will slide downward toward your other hand at the base of the maul.
Here is where your hip action will add considerable force to this downward motion. As the maul falls, bend your knees, swing your hips and stick out your butt as much as you can. This motion is what will make the difference between depleting your energy levels quickly and quickly completing your task.
Final Notes on Splitting Wood
Planning your swings and how you will take apart a large log is a good way to reduce your efforts. Always work from the outside of a large log to the inside. Because wood is weaker at the edges, this will shave a few swings from your task and improve your efficiency.
Remember, this is a potentially dangerous task and should be practiced with extreme caution. Make sure no one in the vicinity could be struck with flying pieces of wood. Placing an old tire on your chopping block can help to catch this flying debris.