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More on splitting wood

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by Backwoods Savage, Nov 14, 2010.

  1. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    For several years now we see all sorts of positive comments about the Fiskar's splitting axe. We also see other posts about people wanting to buy one because they hear how easy it is to split wood with them (at least most woods).

    I have wondered about them from time to time but most of my wonder is why people like them so well. I think I may have hit on one reason but please check me if I am wrong (I can be wrong a lot!). It seems to me that most folks want to sit the log up onto another log or onto a stump before splitting. It seems to me that might very well be the only way to split using a Fiskars axe because of the short handle it has. What do you think?

    Now some posts are popping up about accidents when using the Fiskars and also there have been some very close accidents when using them and it appears it is mostly due to the short handle on the axe. Let this be a warning to the new splitters!


    As for me, if I split any wood by hand (very little any more), I want a full length wood handle for splitting and chopping. I split by hand using axe and/or sledge and wedge for many, many moons so I have done a fair share of splitting. I'll still take a regular single or double bit axe for the splitting or a splitting maul.

    I also simply split the log while it is sitting on the ground. This goes right along with my theory on using a hydraulic splitter. Picking up every log to sit it on top of something just makes more work on an already hard job. Why lift it if you don't have to? In addition, if the log is on the ground you actually gain in splitting power by making the stroke longer. If the axe goes into the log, say, at waist height vs knee height, there is a huge difference in power applied.

    I do use the axe for some trimming of small limbs in the woods and also use it to mark where to make the cuts (16"). I do try to keep the axe sharp and believe that is the best way. For the handle, I coat it with linseed oil every other year or so; sometimes every year. Those handles last a long time. They seem to last longer now that our sons have grown and left home. Their aim was not too great at times, but then, I've been known to miss every now and then too. It seems only too easy to misjudge as I have only one good eye and a sore aching body. Still, I can usually hit where it needs hitting.

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  2. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    Look out, I see a Fiskars firestorm headed your way
  3. Pagey

    Pagey Minister of Fire

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    The handle is relatively short, but I've always split on top of another round. At 6'1", I am just too tall to split directly on the ground. It's pure hell on my back and knees to do it any other way than using a round as a base. I have split by hand with both the Fiskars and a 6 lb. maul, and I found one no more dangerous than the other. Out of the box, the Fiskars is hella sharper than the maul was, so that might initially be a factor?
  4. quads

    quads Minister of Fire

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    +1

    Like I have posted many times before (so much in fact that I have it in a Notepad file so all I have to do is copy and paste):

    1) Do you intend to split your rounds out in the woods, on the ground? Yes = splitting maul.

    2) Do you intend to split your rounds at home, on a designated splitting block? Yes = splitting axe.

    I've heard that they both split firewood just fine, but work best in different situations.
  5. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Pagey, you are exactly 2 1/2" taller than I am. To me though, pure Hell on my back would be lifting every piece up onto that splitting log. I simply stand them up on the ground.

    Have you also noticed that if someone is splitting a log that needs to be into 4 splits; first they split it into 2 pieces, then then bend over to lift one of those back up onto the splitting block. Split that one and then lift the other one up onto the splitting block. Lots of unnecessary bending and lifting it seems to me.
  6. Jeff S

    Jeff S Feeling the Heat

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    Hi Dennis,I use the the Fiskars exclusively but not for the reasons you have stated.

    As far as the short handle,like anything else there is a learning curve after using it for the first time I never gave it any more thought.

    I never lift my logs up on anything that would be a total waste of time and energy in fact if I am splitting a lot of straight wood Like all these dead Ash we have out in the woods I wont even stand the logs up that are under say 8" but simply roll them with my foot from one side or the other from where they were bucked and split them while straddling them with very little effort.The bigger and tougher ones simply get stood up on the ground.

    The Splitting Axe comes in 2.25 lb and 4.25 lb sizes,I use the lighter as much as possible before switching to the heavier one.

    The Fiskars is made of Quality steel that holds a nice edge and has a gentle flare to spread the wood on its way through,I believe I read on the Fiskars Web sight that the edge was 55 Rockwell to hold a edge and the body was 45 Rockwell for toughness.

    All though I really like the Fiskars and it splits wood easier than anything else I have ever used there is nothing magical about it,if you have a tough piece of wood it is going to be tough for the Fiskars as well.I cut my wood in the 16" - 20" range and there have been plenty of times after splitting up a bucked up tree that I will crank up the chain saw to cut any logs in half that I have to take more than 3 or 4 swings at to split or at least peel of a side,I have yet to have trouble splitting a 8" - !0" log.Needless to say I do have a nice pile of shorties for the shoulder season.

    I enjoy all phases of wood processing,Felling, Bucking,Splitting and Stacking but I will confess that Splitting is my favorite especially when you have straight wood that cracks open easily with one swing.with these Ash trees that have grown in the wood with little limbs I can generally split up a tree in a fraction of the time that I can buck it up.

    Jeff
  7. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Jeff, I always liked the splitting too. On the ash, that is the ultimate for splitting. Heck, my wife is so ornery all she has to do is stare at one log and it starts splitting itself.
  8. Jeff S

    Jeff S Feeling the Heat

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    Dennis ,I have nothing against a using a log splitter,But for now I want to split by hand if for no other reason than to help maintain a healthy heart.I had a 75 yr old neighbor that split all his wood by hand until he got lung cancer and passed away.My first year heating with wood was 3 years ago and it was tough getting started with less than seasoned wood but after taking your advice about getting ahead I am now approximately 6 yrs ahead and there is no rush to get my wood chores done last minute before winter instead I can now do all my wood processing at a more leisurely and enjoyable pace.
  9. Needshave

    Needshave Member

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    I purchased a Fiskars Super Splitter axe after reading about it on this site. When it will not split the log I use a sledge and wedge. I'm glad I bought the Fiskars.
  10. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Jeff, it sounds like you are doing things right! Congratulations to you.

    As you know, I also enjoyed splitting wood before hydraulics. Now I just enjoy it with the hydraulics. Sometimes Nature deals you some hard blows and you can no longer do some of those things you used to enjoy. While I am not yet 75, I do split a little when it has to be done. If I can't do it that day it simply waits until my body can handle it.

    For sure the first few years of wood burning can be tough because it is hard work; much harder work than a lot of folks realize. It is also very time consuming. That is why it works out well if it becomes a hobby because then you enjoy it more. For me, I've always enjoyed working in the woods and burning wood so it is a no-brainer for me.

    I'll leave you to your Fiskars though and wish you well.
  11. golfandwoodnut

    golfandwoodnut Minister of Fire

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    Dennis and Quads, you have to try it before you can knock it, otherwise you guys are just surmising. I have a Monster Maul with a long steel handle and the Fiskars SS and a regular old 8 lb maul with a wood handle. I was a skeptic myself originally. I split about 90% of the wood on the ground, and Quads, the Fiskars is great to take in the woods. Light weight and easy to handle. I would never think of picking up a 36 inch diameter Oak round. Quads I don't think you even have any that size in your woods from what you have said. I use the Fiskars to split them easily down to size and get almost a full load on one or two rounds. I am 6' 2 1/2" so I am not a shorty, it is like anything else, you adjust. As you know by my name I am a golfer, a driver is a lot longer than a pitching wedge, you just move in closer based on the size of the club. And as most golfers know a pitching wedge is easier to hit than a driver.

    I never even use my old 8 lb maul, it just collects dust. I use the Fiskars on 90 percent of the work and the Monster Maul on the tough stuff. I never use a wedge or sledge hammer and I probably only have about 6 rounds I could not split out of 19 cords.

    I think you guys are the greatest, and most knowledgeable on the website. But do not guess, try it before your make any assumptions. Believe it or not I tried to get Fiskars to send a sample to Quads, I wrote them an email, but it must have fell on deaf ears.
  12. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Golf, you are absolutely correct and sometime I do expect to be able to give one a tryout. Might it change my mind? Possibly so I would never rule it out completely. At the same time, I see the dangers and have tried splitting with short handles; it does not work well at all. Yet, as stated, I will try one if I get a chance. Until then.....
  13. Jaugust124

    Jaugust124 Feeling the Heat

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    +1


    I always thought that the reason for splitting a round on another round was because you needed a solid surface to be effective. My assumption was that the ground is usually soft and some of the energy generated in swinging would be lost driving the round into the ground rather that being firm on another round. Also, don't you take the risk of swinging your splitting tool into dirt and rocks, thus dulling the blade or causing chips in the edge?
  14. Lumber-Jack

    Lumber-Jack Minister of Fire

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    My son cut his hand with the Fiskars, but it had nothing to do with the short handle, he was holding the split while chopping kindling. It was simply bad form. He was wearing gloves at the time, but the axe made a nice slice right through the glove, in fact he took the glove to school to show his classmates what the cut under his bandages looked like since it was almost a perfect match.

    I don't think the Fiskars is a perfect splitting axe, I do think it is well made thought and would like to see a larger head built into the Fiskars design.
    I like using a chopping block as a backstop for splitting to stop the maul head from hitting rocks or, in our case where we split on the paved driveway, ashpalt. For this to work well though you need a very large (wide) splitting block, not just another standard size round to sit the round you intend to split on. The way I split, and the way I taught my kids, is to make sure the maul head force goes straight down and doesn't swing through through towards your feet or chins. That way glancing blows, that aren't stopped by the chopping block, are deflected off to the side rather than in a curving arc towards your feet.

    Also we have a method of splitting bigger rounds that doesn't always work, but when it does it saves a bit of work bending over picking up and repositioning the splits. The method involves deliberately not splitting all the way through the rounds with the first chops. If you do it just right you can put splits into the rounds several times to divide up the round and on your final chop you put more force into your chop and shatter the round into all the pieces you have previously separated. This technique might not work with different types of wood because it requires a bit of stringiness to the wood.
    And it doesn't work very well at all with the Fiskars because it doesn't have the width or the bulk to the head required for that final blow force to blow all the pieces apart.
    We have used the tire method too, and after seeing Bogydaves inverteted ATV tire post I have been meaning to try that.
  15. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    You are correct. However, now we see people placing a splitting block on the ground (soaking up the soft ground and stealing energy) and another log on top of the splitting block (giving just a tad more give and stealing energy). On top of that, you can not take the full swing that you could if the log were sitting lower. That makes 3 thieves of all that energy.

    As for risk of putting tool into dirt and rocks, with practice you rarely would do this. If you dulled an axe by hitting dirt, they sharpen rather easily.


    I am not totally against the Fiskar's axe but have not yet been convinced. As for the various splitting mauls, some of those are just too darned heavy to be that useful. If it takes so much energy just to swing the tool, the tool will spend lots of time being unused.
  16. golfandwoodnut

    golfandwoodnut Minister of Fire

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    Carbon I agree that any kind of maul when you are splitting on pavement you should have some wood underneath, unless you are absolutely sure you are not going the whole way through. I do have a couple of small blocks that are only 6 inches high and 20 inches round for that purpose. It is a nice feeling when you go through the wood and have the maul stop on the block. With the Monster Maul it is not as big a deal as it has no edge and I am more afraid of cracking the concrete. I guess alot depends on the type of wood you are splitting. Most of the Oak I split I do as you described where I split down the middle, almost all the way. Then start quartering the halves. I do find the Fiskars is big enough to give a good wack at the end to finish the division. Sometimes I just hand pull them apart. Now if I split Sassafrass the wood almost splits itself and will go through with minimal effort. I imagine pine can be different. I always figured pine would be easy to split, I really never burn it, but I did get some recently and was amazed how difficult it was to split. I heard some people waits for it to freeze, I think it is hemlock.
  17. Lumber-Jack

    Lumber-Jack Minister of Fire

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    G&W Nut
    I think a lot of types of pine are pretty tough to split because either lots of knots, or the wood is very stringy (interwoven grain) or both. The Lodgepole we mostly cut is fairly straight grain, but perhaps a bit stingier than say Oak which seems to be very straight grain and easy to split (from what I've seen from quads videos). The chopping blocks we have are Ponderosa pine rounds though, and that stuff is a lot harder to split (one of the reasons I don't like using it for firewood), and it makes good chopping blocks because it doesn't split very easy when the maul travels right through the splits and is caught by the block.
  18. Llamaman

    Llamaman Member

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    Fiskars likes some wrist action on the downward swing - works awesome on oak and pine - lot less wear and tear on body next day than using heavy maul
  19. pshking

    pshking New Member

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    It really does not matter to me wheather it is on the ground or block. If the ground is getting soft, i like to use a block. My wife has been learning to split wood and she feels more comfortable using the block at this time. I think it gives her some extra confidence that if she misses, it just hits the block.
  20. Jaugust124

    Jaugust124 Feeling the Heat

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    My only experience in splitting wood is with a Fiskars or a sledge and a wedge. I have never tried using one of the heavier mauls. One reason I like the Fiskars is for the lightweight and ease of swinging. However, I have had thoughts that another pound or two on the Fiskars might make it easier to get through the tougher stuff.
    Thinking about my splitting habits, I am short - 5'7" and I think with the shorter handle of the Fiskars I'm not sure if I would get a good swing with the round on the ground. I think I would have to bend over more. I will have to test it out.
    What seems to be the most comfortable for me (and I think that is the key to whichever method you use) is to have a round that stands about knee level to place the round I am splitting on top of. I notice if its much higher I don't get a good swing.

    One other thought. Suppose you are pounding a nail into a 2x4. Would you want the 2x4 lying in the dirt or would you want it on a hard surface? I would want it on a hard surface, seems to me that splitting a piece of wood uses the same type of energy as pounding a nail. Some of that energy has to be lost pushing down into the ground.
  21. Lumber-Jack

    Lumber-Jack Minister of Fire

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    True you will lose some impact energy if the ground is soft, but it takes work energy to lift the splits up off the ground and place them on the splitting block, only to have to pick them up off the ground again after they split and fall over and put them back on the block again to split them again, and so on, and so on. I can see the logic of splitting the rounds on the ground if you are splitting them right after cutting the logs, and you can split them on the ground easily enough anyway.
    It all depends on your system. For me I cut the rounds in the bush and bring them home in my truck and off load them, usually in a stack where they often sit for a while till we get around to splitting them. When we do split them, they come off that stack down onto the splitting block. I'm not gona throw them on the ground to split them.

    It's nice having a stack of un-split rounds and a quiver of mauls and axes to go putter away at, splitting a few rounds now and then for fun and exercise.
    [​IMG]
  22. havermeyer

    havermeyer New Member

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    Nice pic... that's one big chopping stump!
  23. Needshave

    Needshave Member

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  24. havermeyer

    havermeyer New Member

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    Just got finished chopping about a cord of wood with my Fiskars yesterday. I think regardless of what axe I would of used, it was tough work. I'm by no means an expert in chopping (growing up it was always dad's job to chop the wood) but I found the Fiskars easy to use and didn't have any issue with the short handle (I'm 5'9"). I just made sure I had a pretty wide stance. I think the biggest challenge for me was getting used to swinging the axe a lot faster than a maul... my aim tended to be a bit off the faster I swung.

    -Andre
  25. Jaugust124

    Jaugust124 Feeling the Heat

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    Yeah, I'm still getting my swing down. I tend to swing a bit to the right, so I try to aim just to the left of the spot I actually want to hit. More than once I've just clipped the right side of a round. Can be a bit scary.
    About 2 weeks ago I was using the wedge/sledge combo and the wedge went through the round and whacked me in the shin. I still have the lump. Lesson learned. Guess I'm still an amateur.

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