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Best/safest height for splitting - recommendations

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by Jerry_NJ, May 26, 2013.

  1. Jerry_NJ

    Jerry_NJ Minister of Fire

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    I usually use a round for a splitting table. I had in the past used one that was cut to the length I want my firewood to be, about 16". But, the last time I used one at least 24" long and I think I like it better. I am 6' 5" so the 24" round comes up to about my knee. Thus when I place a 16" round on top, the splitting edge is about 3.5 feet above the ground. I can't say I've concluded anything about the splitting being easier on the taller round, but I think it could provide a more powerful strike and be safer. I think the 3.5' above ground point is closer to the "Horizontal" in my splitting arc, thus less likely to send the axe heading toward my foot if the hit is badly placed. Also if the split is lower, the arc is past the horizontal and I suspect losing velocity and starting to move in a direction toward my feet.

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  2. paul bunion

    paul bunion Minister of Fire

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    My ideal setup allows me to drop my knees an inch or so while still maintaining that horizontal that you describe, thus bringing the point of impact a subtle bit lower. Allowing for an extra inch of gravity to work in my favor and to put that arc just a little further out and away from my feet and legs. My wrists are also lower than my target when I hit, so that arc is again pushed out and away with my knees still dropping as I hit.
  3. Jerry_NJ

    Jerry_NJ Minister of Fire

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    Thanks, about how high is the surface you are setting the to-be-split round on? It sounds similar to mine, and I am just guessing 24", it may be higher. Simple enough to measure, but I haven't.

    You show a Quadrafire 4000i, an insert I assume. I have a 4100-I insert which has been my "wood stove" since 2008.
  4. Big Donnie Brasco

    Big Donnie Brasco Feeling the Heat

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    I have been splitting on a 24" round, BUT .... yesterday I split LOTS of large oak rounds with them flat on the ground and I LOVED the extra 24" I had to generate head-speed with my Fiskars X27 !!!
  5. KaptJaq

    KaptJaq Minister of Fire

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    I also like my maul handle to be just about horizontal when the head finds the wood. My splitting area is on a slight slope. Based on the length of the round, I move around the splitting block till I feel comfortable with the height. Bending my knees a little fine tunes the height adjustment. It is almost an instinct, not a measurement.

    After years of splitting with a maul I find that as the handle hits that horizontal position (and the round at the same time) I no longer apply any force with my arms, I just guide the maul and keep it under control. In cases when the round splits too easily, rather than continue an arc that would come towards my feet, I let the maul's head go straight down towards my splitting block. I have buried the maul in the splitting block many times.

    KaptJaq
    paul bunion likes this.
  6. paul bunion

    paul bunion Minister of Fire

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    You are 7" taller than me so you probably are going to be working on a little higher table. I'm working at 32", 16" on 16". Just get that subtle extension of your body in as you raise the maul and then drop at your knees as you haul is down and let gravity be your friend. The drop will help prevent that head of you maul from finding your feet.

    I must have 10 or 12 years on my Quad now, buring it 24x7. Time for some new bricks.
  7. Woody Stover

    Woody Stover Minister of Fire

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    I use a low block, a gnarly trunk piece that won't split apart if the ax goes through the round easily and still has some speed when hitting the block. I cut a block that's only about 8" high; Like Donnie says, the more arc distance you have, the more speed you can build. When I start down, the ax handle is at 90* to my forearms, and the head weight will automatically pull the handle in line with my arms by centrifugal force by the time the head gets to the wood. Grip lightly, and you'll maximize head speed and reduce the shock transmitted to your hands and arms.
    Shane N likes this.
  8. Big Donnie Brasco

    Big Donnie Brasco Feeling the Heat

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    YUP.... I completely relax my grip just prior to impact!
    Shane N likes this.
  9. wesessiah

    wesessiah Burning Hunk

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    i like having my splits just about flat to the ground. but i guess i cheat a little by standing downhill from my splits, so the split is lined up a little higher on me, and the maul stops before it would come around towards me. i pretty much exclusively use an 8 pound maul instead of switching from lighter to heavier, so i always swing over shoulder with a closing grip... but i notice it seems like people that use a splitting axe seem to mostly swing overhead... does it work better that way with a splitting axe?
  10. ansehnlich1

    ansehnlich1 Minister of Fire

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    I split with the round at ground level, usually on a cut stump that's in the ground, or on a 2 or 3 inch pancake of some stuff laying around, but NEVER at any significant height.
    Ralphie Boy and Backwoods Savage like this.
  11. Shane N

    Shane N Feeling the Heat

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    I also use a short block that is "unsplittable" (twisty box elder here, I swear it self-heals). The block is 4-6". Makes it easy to get rounds on, adds just enough height, and protects the maul head.
  12. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    I like the point of impact to be about belt height, or slightly lower. Easier to achieve with the maul, than with sledge and wedge. What you set the round upon makes a huge difference in energy transfer. Find a well-rooted flushed stump, and you won't believe how the maul sings thru splits.
  13. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    The OP mentioned he thought a more powerful stroke would be with the log higher. To get the most powerful stroke, sit the log on the ground so your swing is much longer. As for fearing a miss and hitting my foot, that is one thing I never gave much thought and split wood by hand close to 30 years using axe, splitting maul and sledge hammer with wedges. Most of the wood was split using a double bit axe.

    Another advantage of splitting the log on the ground is that you do not have to lift every log before splitting. Also, I'm sure many of you have the log tip over at times and have to stand it back up or lift it back up on the block. On the ground, you can stand a log up just using an axe so you don't even have to bend. This is very important for old guys like me or even young guys with questionable backs.
  14. Hills Hoard

    Hills Hoard Minister of Fire

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    I like the idea of splitting low because you dont have to lift the wood, and i find splitting higher up you tend to get splits of wood turning into projectiles across the yard...

    But i will follow this thread with interest because I'm still un decided on which is easier for splitting hard wood.
    Backwoods Savage likes this.
  15. Paulywalnut

    Paulywalnut Minister of Fire

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    I do better with my chopping block about 6 or 7 inches. Rounds generally 16".
    Its just less distance to bend over to put the round back on the block again.
  16. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    My chopping block is a big old cedar stump, too full of branch knots to ever split itself. When I was swinging a lot, like 1 - 2 years ago when I was doing a cord or two per month by hand, I was getting to the point where a round rarely fell off my chopping block. I could bring that maul down with just the right amount of English to kick the split piece off the stump, and keep the piece I wanted to continue working on, much of the time.

    I never did get used to splitting right on the ground, although I did have to do it with the occasional odd round. I always felt like the soft earth was absorbing too much of the impact, and I always felt more likely to hurt myself with the round sitting so low.
  17. bogydave

    bogydave Minister of Fire

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    about 12 " was right for me.
    (Back in the day) :
    102_4123.JPG

    now about 2" :
    100_7718.JPG

    :)
    Mitch Newton and albert1029 like this.
  18. Waulie

    Waulie Minister of Fire

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    When I process in the woods, which is often, I tend to just split on the ground. When I bring the rounds to my stacks to split, I use a 12" high round as a splitting block. I find there are two nice advantages to using a splitting block. One, is you do indeed get more downward force if you hit the round at horizontal. There's just no way around physics. The other advantage is that it keeps the splits cleaner and the ground doesn't absorb so much of the impact. It depends on your ground, but frequently a small round might be driven a couple inches into the ground when you whack it. That can make for dirty splits and costs you a lot of energy.
    Joful likes this.
  19. MrWhoopee

    MrWhoopee Minister of Fire

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    Before a particularly energetic session of oak splitting gave me tennis elbow, I used a low cut stump (still rooted in the ground) in my wood cutting area. It took about a year for the pain to subside. Now the splitter does the talkin'.
  20. Ram 1500 with an axe...

    Ram 1500 with an axe... Minister of Fire

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    I agree w BWS, the longer the stroke, the more time you have to pick up speed, the speed is the biggest component with the amount of weight you are swinging. Usually faster is better than slower and heavier is better than lighter....usually, there are exceptions...
    Backwoods Savage likes this.
  21. USMC80

    USMC80 Minister of Fire

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    I've only been using the fiskars for a couple weeks (mostly use splitter). I have been splitting on a 16" block but starting to think that might be too high. All my wood is cut at about 18" so thinking maybe ill drop down to a 12" block see if it makes a difference
  22. Waulie

    Waulie Minister of Fire

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    You're right that speed and weight are good. Force = mass * acceleration. Momentum = mass * velocity. Much more important, though, is the vector of those forces in relation to what you're hitting. The important force is the down force. If you don't hit with the maul perpendicular with the round, your resultant force in the important direction is much less. You lose more force than you gain by an increase in momentum (which is actually negligible if any).

    Imagine standing on something that put you 2 feet in the air with a round in front of you. Besides killing your back, you're going to have a heck of a splitting that round even though you have a longer swing.

    It's not a huge deal though. Whatever works!
  23. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Totally wrong analogy there Waulie.

    It might be interesting to you and others to do some actual measuring to see how much the angle changes between a block being split on the ground vs. one standing 12" higher. You will no doubt find that the angle is not a factor at all. In addition, it will make a big difference in how you are holding the tool while doing the splitting. I've watched many folks split and there is a tremendous difference in how they hold the tool and do the swinging too. Then, of course, is the other reason and a big one for me. Why should I lift every log before splitting it when I can just stand it up with no lifting? I make an attempt to not be too lazy but I also can see no sense in making the work any harder than necessary.
  24. Waulie

    Waulie Minister of Fire

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    Well, the angle does change quite a bit. It really isn't a deal breaker either way, but if you want to get the most out of your swing, hit the round with the maul horizontal. This isn't my opinion, it's physics as sure as an apple falls down from the tree.

    You're totally right about the technique being a more important factor than anything. That's why a 12 to maybe 16" splitting block is about the max you'd want to go even if you're 7 feet tall (unless of course you had a longer handle and stood father back). I'm 6'4" and don't like to go more than about 12" even though it's not quite horizontal when I hit. It just feels better (and that's the most important thing).

    I'm with you on working smart. Since I've been splitting mostly ash, I've been doing most of my splitting in the woods. I fell the tree, buck the tree, then split. Splitting consists of standing every other round right where it lays after bucking and split it right there. I load that out, then do the same with the remaining splits. Ash splits so easy that what I lose in power, I gain in efficiency. Everything is a trade off. Why would I lift every round or log and tote those somewhere to be split when I can do it right there?

    If I do bring rounds to the stack area(usually due to access issues for splitting), then I'm lifting them out of the trailer anyway. At that point, might as well set them on a splitting block to get the most out of my swings, keep from digging up my processing area, and keep the ends of the splits clean. That will also vary if you're splitting huge rounds. As in all things in life, it just depends.

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