My husband has designed his own firewood chopping block for the best way to split wood efficiently for us. If you split firewood, then you know the value of efficient wood splitting tools. My husband and I both enjoy splitting firewood. We find it kind of a relaxing chore. Of course, he would say it also provides great exercise.
My Papa said, “Chopping firewood will warm you twice, once when you split it and once when you burn it.” Even though we enjoy splitting firewood, we also want to do it efficiently. The right wood splitting tools can help make it safe, fast, and cause little or no wear on our bodies. I’ve (which really means we’ve) put together some tips over the years to hopefully provide your wood-burning cook stove or masonry stove with plenty of fuel, efficiently.
First, you have to have the right set of tools for the job, which include a wood splitting axe, maul, wedge, sledgehammer, and a surface to split your wood on. Some people use hydraulic wood splitters, but we don’t. Since our move to northern Idaho, we’re splitting 16-inch rounds of Tamarack Pine instead of the oak we split down south. This wood splits so easily it doesn’t make sense to us to use the gasoline it would take to run a wood splitter. The best way to split wood for us is by hand. The way we do it is fast enough to stay on top of the wood stove’s hunger and we only have to split wood once a week. Did I mention we really do enjoy the exercise and relaxation that comes from splitting our own firewood?
Any time you split wood, you should make sure you wear the appropriate safety equipment. This includes safety glasses, earplugs, work boots, and gloves. By working safely, you save time in the long run by avoiding costly injuries easily avoided with the correct safety equipment.
Depending on what you’re cutting, you may have to sharpen your ax once every 3 months. We sharpen ours once every six months. Remember, every time you sharpen an ax you are removing a little bit of steel from the blade. It doesn’t need to be as sharp as a kitchen knife to do the job.
If you’re looking to buy a wood splitting axe or a maul, we would suggest a “wood splitters maul” because of the advantage of the wedged shape. We’ve found it’s much less inclined to stick in the wood when splitting. The steep slope of the maul creates more outward pressure on the wood splitting it better and more efficiently. Wood that splits easily or with little difficulty, can be split faster with the maul which avoids the necessity of using a sledgehammer. Keep your wedges on ready for the knotty and gnarly logs.
Depending on the size of your muscles (it’s hard to find mine), you can go with a six, eight or 10-pound model of the maul. Keep in mind, the velocity of the maul is more important than the mass in producing results. You want the maul head traveling as fast as safely possible when it strikes the wood to produce the biggest results. As you gain experience splitting, you’ll find you don’t have to use all your energy for the best way to split wood properly. If you have to use everything you’ve got to split every piece of wood, you’re either trying to split rounds which are too long for your muscle mass or you’re using a maul or ax that’s too heavy for you. It takes a very strong person to produce the right amount of velocity with a heavy maul to split for any real amount of time. This would be J, not me!
You want the round you’re about to split to be on reasonably hard ground. If the ground is soft, the force of your blow will be absorbed by it instead of the wood and your energy will be wasted. You also want your swing to be level when you make contact with the round.
J found the best way to split wood for him was to build his own chopping block. He took an old tire, eight screws, and four rounds to build his wood splitting platform at the right height. He chose rounds the correct height for him and screwed the tire to them. He then used a strap to keep the unit a little more secure.
The tire holds the round in place as you go around and split it into the desired size. This saves you time and effort since you don’t have to bend over to preposition the wood after almost every strike. The base also stores easy when not in use. He simply takes it apart, splits the base and stores the tire and screws for next season. You can see it in action on our YouTube channel.
When you’re ready to strike the round, examine it for existing cracks and align yourself with these as your targets. Also, avoid striking where there are any knots or gnarly parts on the round. The most effective strike is to hit near the edge of the round, instead of the center. The round is more likely to crack if you strike it at a 90-degree angle to the growth rings. Once you’ve got the split well started, strike on the opposite side of it to split the round in two. Once a round starts to split, the rest of it will split easier and faster.
Accuracy is something I still struggle a little with, but if you can strike within a quarter-inch of your intended spot, you should be good enough for effective wood splitting. I’ve learned part of my problem is I change my grip in mid strike and that changes the impact. Like I said, I’m still working on it.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and measure the distance to the round. Do this by placing the head of the ax or maul on the round where you want to strike. With your arms fully extended, take about a half a step back. This will give you room to lean forward a little and strike with your arms fully extended. I’m told this adds power to your swing. Make sure you flex your knees and bend slightly at the waist as you swing the maul overhead and keep your focus on your intended strike point. At the very last instant before the maul head strikes the wood, pull it back toward you slightly using your abdominal muscles and legs. This will increase accuracy and make the blow much more effective.
I know it sounds all complicated and likely you’ll find your own way, but we chop all of our wood without back injury or pain using these tips for the best way to split wood. As you can imagine, I’m an occasional wood splitter, J usually does the splitting and I help with the stacking. If you don’t have a wood stove there are many choices available to you from cast iron to soap stone, and even masonry stove plans are available on line now. We like using wood because it’s a renewable energy source. I think there’s just nothing as warm and cozy as a wood fire.
Do you have special tips on the best way to split wood? Please share them in the comments below.
Safe and Happy Journey,
Rhonda and The Pack