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help with splitting big oak logs

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by kjolsen, Mar 16, 2009.

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  1. kjolsen

    kjolsen New Member

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    I am a new poster to this forum, which I have found very helpful. I've done a bit of splitting with a wedge and a cheap axe. But now I have some very large red oak logs (see picture). The biggest are 24 inches across. I've tried with a twisting wedge and a sledgehammer, but can't get any purchase. The wedge just bounces out of the bigger logs

    I could try and rent a gas powered splitter, but would love to know if there's a way I can split them by hand. Any suggestions on the feasibility of this, and the appropriate tool? I looked at the Fiskars 28" splitting axe, which has been well received on this forum, but frankly it doesn't look up to the task. The store also had some heavier axes with a wedge-like head. Surely I need weight?

    And are they easier to split when green?

    Thanks for any suggestions.

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  2. ansehnlich1

    ansehnlich1 Minister of Fire

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    Man, I'd set them bad boys up, fire up the chainsaw, and cut a groove in 'em down as far as necessary. I've done it several times in the past, cut down into it about the depth of the bar, then start your wedge in there, and she'll bust open for you then!
  3. rphurley

    rphurley Feeling the Heat

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    I would recommend renting a splitter, maybe you could bang those out in half a day. If the splitter is only horozontal, then having a friend help will make your life easier.
  4. bobfeather

    bobfeather Member

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    good sharp wedge & a 10 pound sledge
    other guy had a neat idea about cutting a groove so wedge has somewhere to start
    also try splitting off the sides first don't go for the middle of the round off the bat
    bob


  5. Darl Bundren

    Darl Bundren Member

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    I've had some rounds like yours that will tend to bounce the wedge out. Here's some things that might work.

    Look closely at the surface of the sawn face to see if you can see any radial cracks starting. Try starting the wedge there.

    Use a wedge with a fairly acute taper to start with, then bring the bigger wedge(s) in when the skinny one is pretty much buried.

    Leave the rounds so the sun will start to dry them a bit--that starts the radial cracks more quickly.

    On a few I'd tap them in and get them started using a three pound hammer (baby sledge). The control is better for me. Then start with "medium power" hits with the sledge or maul to drive them in a little more deeply. Then, start hammering away.

    When you start in with the sledge, stand so the wide part of the wedge is directly in front of you. If the wedge comes shooting out of there, it'll probably go off to the side.

    There's other folks on here who have much more experience than I do, but these techniques seemed to work okay.

    Good luck.
  6. johnn

    johnn New Member

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    Hi Nicholas!! Welcome to the Forum!!! Click on Forums,,and go to "The Wood Shed", there is where you will find many threads discussing types of splitters and weights and many recommendations. you might have to go through a few pages to find the Info, but its there! Chain saw i a new one for me , and I`m sure it will work well. Once you get them bad boys started you will learn what to listen and look for! I sometimes walk around striking the grain at different angles until there is no bounce and the tool trys to stick. Thats where I find it will more likely work with a couple wedges.
    John
  7. johnn

    johnn New Member

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    I see your in the right place now,,,Sorry,,,
  8. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    Maybe it's different out west, but that don't look like the Red Oak around here. Anyways the Red Oak I've split is very easy and with bigger rounds you can just work around the sides towards the middle.
  9. Hurricane

    Hurricane Minister of Fire

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    I split red oak rounds like that pretty regularly. I use a maul and I think the trick is most people try to split the log in half first. I take off a slice a few inches deep first. Try to stay at the edge of the heart wood with the first split. Once you get a piece off it tends to get easier when you work your way around the log.
  10. wellbuilt home

    wellbuilt home Minister of Fire

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    I agree with hurricane . start around the edges and work to the center. I use a 15lb maul for large rounds i can break a 30" chunk of oak in one swing . Cutting the rounds to start a wedge works real good also. John
  11. rdust

    rdust Minister of Fire

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    x2, this is what I do when splitting bigger pieces by hand.
  12. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    It's oak. It'll pop pretty easily once you get a crack opened up. Work your way around the edges with a maul or sledge and wedges.

    Try bending your knees a bit when you come down with the maul or sledge. Many people tend to jerk up a bit just before contact. This cancels out a good amount of the swing's energy.

    Matt
  13. madrone

    madrone Minister of Fire

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    If it were me, I'd use a pair of wedges, sharpened, at the outer edge on either side, driven with a 4 pound/18" sledge. Or some variation on that. Once halved, it will split more easily.
  14. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Welcome to the forum Nicholas.

    I've split too many of those by hand over the years (I now have a hydraulic splitter). Definitely the easiest way is to use a maul and wedge or wedges. (When I use wedges, I always have 3. That way if I hang one up I can drive another right beside it to loosen it.) As others have stated, I usually start splitting about half way between the heart and the outside of the log. Also, I do not place the wedge in the center of that line, but place the wedge about 1/3 in from the edge. If you use two, then put one closest to you and the other on the opposite side. Drive the wedges evenly and you wont' have to drive them very far at all before it splits right off. It looks harder than it really is. You don't have to swing that maul as hard as you can either.

    Just take moderate or even light swings. Let the maul and wedge do the work instead of you. Once you place the wedge, your job is only to lift the maul and basically guide it to hit the wedge. Remember, they are tools; let them do the work. Once you get the hang of it, there will be much satisfaction to you.

    As you split more and more wood, you'll find that some wood splits best through the heart and others from the sides.
  15. Redburn

    Redburn Member

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    I have about 8 wedges all different sizes and use the small ones and hit them in near the edge as it cracks toward the center I bang in the bigger ones and they pop open ........ good luck and happy splitting.
  16. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Thats what I was thinking.
  17. karri0n

    karri0n New Member

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    Some good advice in this thread. Like others have said, it's probably best to try splitting the outsides off rather than trying to split it right in half. Try putting the wedge parallel with the outside of the round rather than perpendicular and about 3-4 inches in from the edge.
  18. TKeller

    TKeller New Member

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    Are you sure you are dealing with red oak!!!! That bark doesn't seem to have any furrows at all. Unless it might be pin oak which both stinks and can be hard to split. I let big oak rounds sit on their sides after cutting green and left them dry some and hopefully open a crack. But they can be a pain and I can have three wedges and a sledge going to try to open them up. If they have deep knots inside the chainsaw may be the next option. Good luck with that. Tony
  19. Wood Duck

    Wood Duck Minister of Fire

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    I'll chime in to say that, like a few others who have already replied, I think those could be split with a maul. Sharpen the maul, and try a few different spots until you find one that gives a little. I find my maul bounces off wood mainly when I hit twisted grain caused by a branch or burl. If this happens I try the other end of the piece.
  20. northwinds

    northwinds Minister of Fire

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    I hand split some nasty oak this winter that was similar in size. The suggestion to cut a groove in the round for the wedge is an
    excellent one. That did the trick for for me. I also split around the edges when I can, but some of rounds would just
    chunk off the first couple of inches off the edge without cracking the round. No problem at all once I made the groove
    with the chain saw.

    It's hard work. After finishing up the last of it, my right arm was so sore that I couldn't pick up my 15 pound dog.
    When you pound on a round that just doesn't give, it's very frustrating.
  21. Risser09

    Risser09 New Member

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    Isn't oak supposed to be fairly easy to split? Some of the tougher woods I've experienced have been sycamore, sweet gum and hackberry.
  22. myzamboni

    myzamboni Minister of Fire

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    I just split some oak this weekend and fortunately had the help of a splitter. I was sure glad to have access to the splitter. I'll try and get a pic later to post . . .the grain was so twisted I called it Birds-Eye Oak.
  23. Chief Ryan

    Chief Ryan New Member

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    I agree. It doesn't look like the oak i've seen around here. Anyway, the big stuff i start around the edges. If you go right for the middle sometimes the axe bounces right out. I sometimes use a splitting axe then hit it with a sledge, but your better off hitting a wedge. If you miss the end of the axe you can ruin your axe handle.
  24. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    tsk, tsk

    That sort of abuse can quickly ruin an axe.
  25. stockdoct

    stockdoct New Member

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    another option, although not a great one....

    I've found a 23" round that's 20" deep is impossible for a middle aged guy with a bad shoulder like me to split. But a 23" diameter round that's only 10" deep is quite easy. Makes "chunk" wood rather than nice long splits, but it burns all the same I spose. Chainsaw those rounds to half their depth and splittings no problem.
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