Processing your own firewood saves you money and offers an abundance of fuel for your fire. Trees cleared on your property can be processed into copious amounts of firewood.
There are a number of great ways to make splitting wood easier. Whether you choose manual log splitting tools, a chainsaw, or an automatic wood splitter, you’ll find something in this article to make your job easier.
What You’ll Need
If you already have seasoned wood ready to split, then your job will be much easier. If you have greenwood, you can still split it to help season wood faster.
If you’re not sure if you have seasoned wood, inspect the wood to see if it is dry and has any split that begin to form along the face of the cut. Non-seasoned green wood will contain moisture and smell sappy.
I recommend that you cut your logs to be in the range of 16 to 20 inches (40 to 50 cm) long. Shorter wood is easier to split and wood that is 20 inches or below also fits in standard sized wood stoves. Obviously, for smaller backpacking wood stoves the size needs to be significantly less.
If you’re ripping your logs with a chainsaw, there isn’t a specific length or width requirements. Just make sure your bar is greater than or equal to the diameter of the log.
Splitting mauls are one of the best manual log splitting tools for splitting wood fast. They have wider heads that pack a greater punch for splitting wood. A good maul will weigh around 8 lbs – 10 lbs.
Splitting mauls are great at splitting large rounds of wood with one or two hefts. Most splitting mauls also have a flat face on the back used for driving splitting wedges into particularly tough large hardwood logs.
Splitting axes are great for popping apart smaller rounds of wood. Compared to a regular axe head, splitting axes have a wider head that exerts more force than narrow axe heads. Splitting axes pack plenty of muscle and are light enough to speedily process wood piles. They won’t have the pure muscle that mauls pack, but they make up for it with speed and sharpness.
Splitting Wedges & Hammer
Whereas splitting mauls and axes can get stuck in large hardwood rounds, you can use more than one splitting wedge on a log.
If a large round is giving you trouble and you’ve got a wedge stuck, add another one and hammer it home to free it and split the log. Saves you a lot of labor compared to having to get your axe unstuck from a troublesome log.
Using a Hatchet
For splitting small logs around the campsite, a hatchet will work great. As long as your round is no larger than 5″ in diameter, a hatchet is great for processing firewood around the campsite.
Hatchets are very portable and a lot easier to carry around than other manual splitting tools. Just make sure your hatchet is sharp by touching it up with an axe sharpener before you venture out in the woods.
Using a Chainsaw
Ripping a log with a chainsaw is only limited by the length of your chainsaw bar and the horsepower of your chainsaw. Chainsaws are great for taking care of long logs with diameters too large for splitting manually.
Mechanical Wood Splitter
If you want to split wood fast, consider investing in a mechanical wood splitter. These machines run on gasoline or electric power and use hydraulics to split even the toughest hardwoods apart with ease.
Every model works differently, but the concept is the same. Load a log, hit a button, and your machine will automatically split your logs into great firewood. All you need to do is move the cords of split wood to your firewood rack.
If you’re using manual wood splitting tools, you’ll want a chopping block as a solid backstop. Chopping blocks support the log off the ground to make chopping easier and prevent damage to your splitting tool from swinging into the dirt.
If you’re ripping a log, you don’t need a chopping block.
If you’re ripping a log with a chainsaw, you can either use two chopping blocks or place two logs on their side underneath your large log to support it off the ground. If you’re using a mechanical splitter, you don’t need chopping block either.
A choice backstop would be a large flat log from the trunk of a tree. Anything that is 18 inches or larger in width and 6 inches in height will do.
Chopping blocks raise the wood off the ground to reduce the strain of splitting wood and help catch glancing blows from your splitting tool. Using a chopping block will also save the edge as you won’t be hitting into the dirt and damaging the tool.
Personal Protective Equipment
Safety should be your first priority when approaching the chopping block. Eye protection, leather gloves, long sleeve shirt/pants, and steel toed boots are a must no matter your splitting method. If you’re using a chainsaw or log splitter, use ear protection as well. Prevent irreparable sensory and bodily damage by employing good safety practices.
Keep a buddy around to help watch out for any dangers. Your safety spotter can also help with splitting wood.
Placing logs on the splitting block, carrying split wood to the firewood rack, and switching off when you get tired of splitting are all things that will greatly speed up the process. If a medical emergency arises, they can call for help in case your incapacitated.
Setting Up your splitting station
Set your chopping block near your pile of logs in a clear area with no overhanging branches or debris.
Your splitting site should have solid level ground with no hazards to trip over or fall on. If you’re using an axe, you axe head always has he potential to come flying off the handle, no matter how good you believe it is hung. Be safe and practice cautious.
Splitting Wood Using a Maul/Axe
- Stand your first log in the middle of your chopping block.
- Grip your splitting tool with both hands and take your mark.
- Raise the tool above your head, keeping an eye on your mark.
- Firmly swing down while sliding your top hand down the shaft the guide the tool.
- The log should split apart with a few good strikes.
- If your tool gets stuck, rock it back and forth to free it and try again.
Work your way through your woodpile and before you know it, you’ll have a pile of split firewood ready to season.
Splitting Wood Using Splitting Wedges
- Stand your first log in the middle of your chopping block.
- Tap the wedge into one the log’s pre-existing cracks using your sledge or mallet.
- Grab your sledgehammer and take your mark.
- Raise your sledge above your head and keep your eye on your mark.
- Firmly swing down while sliding your top hand down the shaft to guide the tool.
- The log should split apart with a few good sledges.
- If your wedge gets stuck, hammer another wedge in the same split to free it.
Ripping Wood Using a Chainsaw
- Lay your log across a support log to keep it off the ground.
- Use a chainsaw to cut along the full length of the log.
- Drive a wedge in the cut to pop the log apart.
- Clean up the cut with a hatchet to separate the two halves.
How to Split Knotty Wood
It’s likely that some of your wood is knotty or has a twisted grain. These deformities make the knotted/curved grain wood significantly harder to split than straight grain wood.
Wood with curled grain and knots is also more dangerous to split, as your tool could deflect off at unpredictable angles and cause bodily harm.
- Set your knotted log on your chopping block.
- Try to find any pre-existing cracks to work with.
- Take your mark on a pre-existing crack.
- Raise your tool above your head while keeping your eye on your mark.
- Swing your tool down with force in a controlled motion.
- Keep hitting the same split under the log pops in two.
- For smaller pieces, split the log halves using the same method.