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Firewood splitting questions from a novice

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by dwsj12, Nov 12, 2008.

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  1. dwsj12

    dwsj12 New Member

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    I have few questions regarding log splitting question. I have four trees that are going to be cut down and I will keep and split the wood for firewood. Somebody estimated I am looking at about 4 cords total – 3 cords of Norway maple and 1 cord of pine. I have never really split wood before, know this will be quite a bit of work, and am up to the challenge. My question are as follows:

    1. Approximately how long would this take to split by hand?
    2. Am I better off just renting a hydraulic splitter for a day?
    3. Is it important that I get the wood split and stacked before the snow comes? Or is it ok if some of the logs wait until spring?

    Any advice is much appreciated. Thanks.

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  2. the_dude

    the_dude Feeling the Heat

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    I can't tell you how long it would take to do by hand. With a hydraulic, you could easily knock it out in a weekend. Maybe one day if you had it all cut to length, really pushed it, and were not taking the time to stack as you split. My wife and I could split and stack about 2/3 of a cord in a couple of hours after work every night last spring. Without stacking, we could probably split a cord every couple of hours. You can store it as log length over the winter. It will not start drying out well until you buck and split it though. If you to get it all cut to length, it would help in the drying process. Me, I would rent a splitter and get it done. But I don't have the back for splitting by hand.
  3. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    I you intend to split it by hand and cannot do it right away, buck it up into double lengths and only make the final cut when you're ready to split it. When wood dries on the end grain, it checks and opens the grain which will cause the axe to get stuck. It is much harder to split wood on the dried end than the fresh cut end.

    I split all my firewood with a 3-1/2 pound axe (and a wedge for the odd stubborn piece) all of my life and just got a splitter a few years ago.
  4. caber

    caber New Member

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    Well, you won't be burning it this winter, so you have between now and April to get it split for winter '09-'10. What's the hurry? Take the time, get some exercise, enjoy the thunk of the maul on wood.
  5. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    Winter is the best time to split wood.

    1. You don't sweat.
    2. Frozen wood splits easier.
    3. Dry winter air dries the wood better.
    4. Wood warms you twice. Once while splitting and again later by burning.
  6. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    It will season best if cut to stove length, (figure that out before you start cutting - if it's to short it's tought to get the stove full, if it's to long you have a major project and will waste a lot of wood re-cutting....) regardless of when you split it. Hand splitting is possible, but a lot of work. Renting a splitter will let you bang out a lot of splits, limited mostly by how fast you can get rounds to it and take the splits away - but I've seen a fair number of posts recently from people hurting themselves w/ rental splitters because they were rushing for production and didn't take the time to be safe....

    You can also do a fair bit of strain and damage to body parts if you overdo the hand splitting. - Take it easy at first and work into it.

    Before and after splitting keep the wood off the ground - many folks use old pallets, another option is to save some of the straighter branches and stack on them. Air circulation under the pile will prevent the logs from rotting as fast, and help the wood season.

    Gooserider
  7. branchburner

    branchburner Minister of Fire

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    5. There ain't nothin' else to do but shovel snow.
  8. Bigg_Redd

    Bigg_Redd Minister of Fire

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    1) I can split a cord of wood by hand in 1-1.5 hours if I'm really humpin'. It depends a lot on the wood. But I'm a big, strong guy who's been doing it my whole life.

    2) That's up to you. I split wood year round and I'm cheap (which is why I burn wood) so renting is out of the question since I already own mauls, sledges, and wedges.

    3) Depends on the wood. The pine will be fine left out. If Norway maple is anything like Broadleaf Maple I wouldn't leave it out for long.

    Tips:

    1) Use an 8lb maul. A 6lb maul requires more head speed and accuracy.

    2) Cut your rounds no more than 18". Rounds get exponentially harder to split as the lengthen.

    3) I like to use a chopping block. I can swing harder and more accurately with the wood off the ground. This also saves your maul or ax the abuse of being driven into the dirt. I like to cut a short round for this duty 14"-15".

    3a) None of my wood burning friends use a chopping block.

    4) When splitting, examine the center of the round and it will usually have a crack starting. Swing in line with that crack - I start on the side closest to me and work toward the center.

    5) If after 3-4 good swings with the maul you detect no progress deploy the wedges.

    6) If you don't have wedges, get them. If you didn't bring them with you chop at an oblique angle to the round "pealing" it like an onion.


    That'll get you started.
  9. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    I tried using a maul once and almost took my leg off. Those things are dangerous if you aren't thoroughly familiar with them.

    What makes them so dangerous is the straight handle puts the centre of gravity high on the head. The slightest amount off plumb and it can glance toward your shins.

    An axe with a curved handle puts the centre of gravity much closer to the cutting edge. The mass of the head tends to self-right it if slightly off plumb.

    A good alternative for a beginner is a sliding hammer wedge. Basically, it is a wedge with a long telescoping handle with mass that slides down as you plunge it toward the wood.
  10. savageactor7

    savageactor7 Minister of Fire

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    That's a lot of wood to thank about splitting all at once...like a weekend for instance. If you rent a gas splitter you'll be working your tail off and as a new guy to wood handling/processing you don't want to hurt yourself...or make it drudge work. Wood processing for the average home owner can be a pleasant pursuit if you manage time and don't over work yourself.

    Take it easy while you're learning the ropes and cut and split a little each day...it'll get done faster than you think even if you plug away 45min a day. Get some advice from a few old timer wood burners in your neighborhood...esp hand splitting. There's a technique to maximize effort without killing yourself or throwing out your back.
  11. Bigg_Redd

    Bigg_Redd Minister of Fire

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    I know what you mean, but of all the near misses I've ever had, none was with a maul. And I think it's because 90% of the time I'm not swinging the maul all that hard. The harder you swing, the more difficult it is to be accurate.
  12. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    I have better luck with a maul than an axe by far. Keep the edge touched up with a file and everything splits easier (despite what some old timers will tell you).

    I have the opposite experience with checks in wood- I find that they are the start of a weakness and aid in splitting if you have to split drying wood. However- fresh/green wood is always easier for me. Plus- a maul is much less likely to get stuck than an axe, though it sometimes bounces off tough rounds.
  13. mayhem

    mayhem Minister of Fire

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    I've been splitting wood for 20+ years off and on and I can honestly say this has never once happened to me, not even as a 10 year old swinging a 6lb maul. If you have a mis-strike and you're swinging a maul its going to go off to the side, not back at you...worst case is you bounce off the round and the head strikes the ground or a rock or somethng and maybe you get some shock coming back up the handle...but no way it can hit you unless you let go of the handle. I can't for the life of me imagine how it could possibly come back at you from the round. I agree that glancing blows do happen with a maul or any other heavy swung object like a sledge or even an axe...but with probably hundreds, if not thousands, of mis-strikes under my belt, I've never had this issue. The only time anything even similar to this has happened to me is when I'm using my sledgehammer and the wedge hits a knot and not much energy is absorbed by the round...the hammer bounces a bit and tends to ceme back at my toes if I'm not holding the handle tightly.

    My axe has a straight handle too, but its a double headed job. I've never noticed a greater tendency towards accuracy on curved handles...I understand the idea behind it thought and it makes sense...I wonder if anyone makes curved maul handles?
  14. Rick

    Rick Member

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    I've had mauls come back at my shins, but only when I missed the wood. I used to use a high chopping block, around 24", maybe that's why? The only thing I can add to the advice given is to make sure whoever cuts it to stove length takes their time and is as consistent as possible. There is nothing worse for a novice stacker to have to deal with one split that is 19", then another that is 14" and so on. I split by hand for years, now i use a splitter. There are pro's and con's either way. Splitting by hand is extremely rewarding and frustrating. Another option for you is to go through your piles and split the easy stuff by hand. When that is all gone you can rent a splitter and finish up the tough stuff. Enjoy the splitting process, I think splitting is easier than stacking. Stacking is such a tedious pain, to me at least.
  15. Got Wood

    Got Wood Minister of Fire

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    I'm a newbie to splitting the quantity's needed for heating the home. I have always enjoyed splitting wood in the winter - a chance to get outside and exercise! The wood does seem to split easier in the cold too. This fall I started seriously scrounging and alot of splitting to do (atleast alot to me). I lucked out in that my nieghbor's bro in law had a splitter he was willing to let me use...and he helped! We banged out close to 4 cords w/o stacking in 2 three hour sessions - we pushed it some but not crazy. I then came across some oak rounds, about 1 3/4 cords worth, that I split w/a maul and wedges. Did this but working at it an hour or so a day, splitting next to my pallets for stacking. I wood split for a while, then stack as kind of a rest period.
    Clearly, you can get alot more done in a shorter time using a splitter than doing by hand. For me the goal was/is to get ahead of the curve (splitter) then work in regular short stints for fun and exercise(maul/wedges).
  16. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    Oh, I could think of two things . . . 6. Snowmobiling and 7. I'm not telling . . . but it may or may not involve a bearskin rug in front of a woodstove on a cold, winter night. :) ;) . . . Now if only I had a bearskin rug. :) ;)
  17. Danno77

    Danno77 Minister of Fire

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    consider your height when determining two things: 1. the need for a block, 2. the likelihood of a miss-swing coming back at you. If you haven't ever had a miss-swing come back at you then it's either because you got good at it while you were short (like a kid) or you are short now. If you hang your arm own while holding an axe, maul, etc and it doesn't touch the ground then you know why it's easier for it to come back at you in swing. If the handle comes up to your neck, then what are the odds that you are gonna be able to swing that puppy back at yourself?
  18. smokinj

    smokinj Minister of Fire

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    I would vote rent a splitter 3 cords of wood one person 4-5 hrs
  19. madrone

    madrone Minister of Fire

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    Another vote for striking the checked end with a maul. Green wood seems more likely to cause the maul to bounce. Checked wood splits easily with one swing of an 8 pounder. I use a 3 pound axe sometimes to split kindling. I also use a short handled 4 pound sledge with my wedges.
  20. backpack09

    backpack09 Minister of Fire

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    My 6 lb maul had an oval hole in the head, so when the straight handle broke the only handle I could get to fit was a curved axe handle. I have been using it for a year, the only problem I see is that it does not take missed blows very well.
  21. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    The height of the chopping block probably has a lot to do with it. My stove takes a 22 inch log so naturally, I have a 22 inch chopping block.

    I never thought to have a shorter one cuz as the snow builds up around it, it gets shorter and shorter anyway.
  22. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    I don't use a chopping block- I find it a lot of work to continually pick up pieces to split and put them back. That was the reason that some folks put a tire on the block- to contain wood and minimize their bending to pick it up.

    I split right on the wood pile, on the ground, and many as they lay (sideways).

    Now the tough stuff... goes to the hydraulic splittah.

    Lligetfa has a good point about snow, however- and I could use more exercise in the winter to be sure.
  23. sublime68charger

    sublime68charger Member

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    If y ou decide to split by hand first thing is take 3 asprin in the morning before you start if your older than 30.
    swing nice and slow till you get a feel for it. Aim Aim Aim is more important that power. If I can hit the same spot at half speed I get better results than a full speed hit 2" either side of the orginal hit. learn what work for you as far as swing styles.

    Start on the outside 3-5" from the edge and work your way around, and around till it small enough to split in half and your done. Dont be afaid to flip it over and try from the other side. also. as you get closer to the trunk of tree general works better to split from the top down. Thats if you saw and split at the same time if you just saw into blocks and then pile well good luck know which is which then. I usual saw 1 tank or 1/2 tank of gas and then split what's been sawed and pile.
    this way you due a little of this a little of that and not a whole lot of any one part all at once.

    good luck sublime out
  24. Wrigley

    Wrigley New Member

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    Really like the grenade style wedges and a heavy sledge -- that combo will split just about anything no matter how large the diameter.

    I split some by hand whenever free time presents itself during the winter .... and use a gas splitter, too. It's enjoyable being the only guy in the neighborhood doing at least some by hand ....
  25. Bigg_Redd

    Bigg_Redd Minister of Fire

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    Seasoned Doug Fir definitely splits easier, IMO. Other species doesn't make much difference for me.
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