Splitting wood is among the manliest activities one can engage in. There’s nothing quite like using muscles and testosterone to cleave felled trees, then burning those trees to warm yourself and your brood. Though you might think that splitting wood is embedded in your manly DNA, that’s not quite true. Like all things, splitting wood requires the right technique and plenty of practice. Learning how to split wood quickly and safely will help you build roaring fires for years to come.
Select Your Weapon
As a fledgling warrior of the woods, your first task is to select the appropriate tool. Axes have thin, sharp heads, making them ideal for chopping across the grain of living trees; however, axes are not as good for splitting logs along the grain. A maul is a better (and cooler sounding) tool for splitting wood. This beast has a thicker, heavier head that’s designed to dig between wood grains and apply outward pressure. Imagine a sledgehammer with one sharp, axe-like edge — that’s a maul. A 36-inch long maul with a 6-lb head should be able to handle most logs. Fiskars makes one hell of a splitting maul.
Take Safety Measures
Safety may not seem very manly, but it’s still a good idea. Before you start splitting wood, put on your safety glasses and a pair of heavy boots. You should also wear a pair of work gloves, no matter what season it is. Your gloves should be warm, but not so warm as to compromise your grip with sweat. Be sure to choose an open space for splitting, and give yourself plenty of space in which to swing your mighty maul.
Prepare the Wood
You’re best off splitting wood on a splitting block; preferably a large, horizontal section of tree. Your splitting block should be no higher than your knee and placed on flat, solid ground. Be sure to place your soon-to-be-split wood on the far side of the splitting block — that way, there’s less risk of splitting your shins in case your swing is off. You can split wood on solid ground in a pinch, but this will cause early fatigue and may increase your risk of injury.
Split the Wood
Now it’s time to split your log. Dry, freezing weather is best for splitting most woods. Though splitting green wood is more difficult than splitting seasoned wood, it’s a good idea if you want your wood to season more quickly.
- Place your non-dominant hand near the bottom of the handle and your dominant hand near the head of your maul.
- Keep your legs shoulder-width apart and bend your knees slightly.
- Aim for the far edge of the log — splitting logs from the middle can be tricky.
- To help with aim, place the tip of the maul on the part you intend to split.
- In one fluid motion, swing the head of the maul back above your shoulder and deliver the thunder.
- As you bring the maul down, slide your upper hand down so it’s just above your other hand.
- Remember the words of your little league coach — keep your eye on the ball, er, wood.
- The maul should be even with the middle of your face by the time you’re finished swinging.
There are a few tricks you might try to make log splitting go a lot quicker. For example, you could place an old tire on your splitting block, set the wood round inside the tire, then go to town on it as you normally would. This will keep your wood in one place while you’re splitting it so you don’t have to keep setting pieces upright. If you don’t have an old tire around, you can always wrap a bungee cord around the base of the log. This will perform essentially the same function.
Additional Splitting Tips
- You don’t need to bring the fury of Thor down on your wood. You’ll get fatigued that way. Instead, let gravity do most of the work.
- Be sure to split around knots, as they are damn near impossible to split.
- If you’re having trouble, consider using the sledgehammer side of your mauler to drive a wedge into the log.
- DO NOT swing the splitter with one hand while holding the log with the other hand. You will cut off your hand and/or fingers.
- If the maul gets stuck, pull up and down on the end of the handle. If it’s really stuck, turn the maul and wood upside down, then slam them against the splitting block.
- Save the scattered wood debris for kindling.
There you have it. With a little practice and the fortitude of a lumberjack, you can tear wood asunder like your ancestors have for millennia. You can then build warm fires by which to boast of beasts felled and lovers known.