How To Split Wood
Whether it is for your campfire or for managing a felled tree, cutting or splitting wood is an important skill that the man of the house should be able to perform. Turning fresh wood into a good source of heat can be quite risky if you don’t know what you’re doing. It can also be challenging without appropriate tools in hand. When you’re looking for the best way to split wood, you’ve got to focus on two things: the right tool and the correct technique.
It is important to distinguish the difference between splitting and cutting or chopping; although they almost mean the same thing. When you cut or chop wood, you go across the grain. When you split wood, you go along the grain of the wood. This is a very important distinction since you will want to use the correct tool for the job.
The splitting axe is the principal tool to get the job done. Most people call it the maul. This is an axe that features a thick and heavy head complete with a blunt edge on the other side. Keep in mind that splitting wood is not about the sharpness of the blade. The maul forces wood fibers to separate parallel to the wood grain. The dull leading edge of the axe exploits the crack that is already present between the wood fibers. As the V-shaped head moves through, it cracks the wood apart.
You can still use an ordinary axe, but this is more for cutting or chopping. A standard axe will have a slimmer head and a sharper blade. It’s perfect for chopping or cutting across the grain of the wood.
Wedge And Sledgehammer
If you don’t have a splitting axe, then you can try using a wedge and sledgehammer. A wedge is a great tool to have when splitting wood. It serves like a very thick and stubby nail that you drive through the wood using the sledgehammer. The problem with this approach is that it is more time-consuming that using a splitting axe.
It’s best to set the piece of wood that you’re going to split on larger block of wood. This will help raise the height of the wood so that it’s a lot easier to split. On the average, a height of about 6 inches is sufficient.
You might not think about it, but wood splinters and other debris can go flying with each blow to the wood. And if your reflexes are not that quick, you might end up injuring yourself. Hence, safety glasses are an absolute must whenever you’re working with wood.
You’ll need to hold the handle of the axe very well. You don’t want to swing it and let it slip off of your hands. A pair of gloves will help provide the necessary grip on the axe’s handle. This will also help protect your hand against calluses.
These are the fundamental tools that you’ll need in splitting wood. However, you may also need a wood saw, in case you wish to cut the firewood in equal length. Don’t expect to use this tool for splitting wood, however. Remember, splitting is all about dividing the wood along the length of its grain. Chopping or cutting divides the wood across its grain.
Some may also feel the need for a wood file. This is to help remove protruding wood sections as well as smoothening the edges or surfaces of wood. This way, you will not injure yourself when it comes to carrying the wood.
As already mentioned, there are at least two ways you can split wood. One is the use of a splitting axe or maul and the other is a wedge and sledgehammer.
Prepare The Wood
It is best to prepare the wood first. In this case you may want to use a wood saw to cut the wood into 16- to 20-inch long logs. Keep in mind that the shorter the log, the easier it will be split. But then, you have to make sure that you’re cutting the wood in the correct length that you’re going to use it in. You can also use chainsaw if you have one.
Using The Maul
Place the first piece of wood on the chopping block. Make sure that it is stable and not wobbly. This is important since a glancing blow can send wood debris flying off like a projectile. In worst cases, you might swing and hit your leg instead. Place the block as near dead center as possible.
Look for hairline cracks in the wood. These are your targets. Aim the leading edge of the maul on these cracks. Make sure to follow the direction of the crack. Now, look at the side of the log and notice large knots. Avoid splitting the wood through these sections.
With your target decided, stand firmly with your feet at least shoulder-width apart. You want to establish a solid and stable base. Using your non-dominant hand, hold the maul’s handle. Use your dominant hand to hold the maul’s head. Lift the maul’s head straight over your head, flex your knees a bit, and extend your arms straight. Now, bring your hands down and let gravity do the rest. Remember, you’re using a very heavy maul. You don’t need force to drive it through the wood. The weight and gravity will help you split the wood.
If the wood doesn’t split the first time, pull the bit of the axe and resume splitting.
Using A Wedge And Sledgehammer
You will need several splitting wedges for this. Place a sharp wedge on a crack in the wood. This will help initiate the splitting process. Drive the wedge through the wood with the sledgehammer. Once the crack is wide enough, use a blunt splitting wedge to finish the process.
Splitting wood is all about using the right tools and the correct techniques. With a simple tool like a splitting axe or a wedge and sledgehammer, you can have your fire logs ready in no time.
- The Best Way to Split Wood Efficiently – Countryside Daily
- How to Split Firewood – Art of Manliness
- How to Split Wood Like a Lumberjack (With or Without an Axe) – The Manual