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New to Maul Splitting Questions.

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by mbcijim, Jan 16, 2009.

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  1. mbcijim

    mbcijim Member

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    I'm cutting up wood that was cut down in April-May 2008. The logs are anywhere from 5' - 20'. So now I am cutting it up to rounds, and trying to split. I've never really done this before other than a few hours every couple years. My logs are mostly maple and some locust (I think). Some of them are up to 24" diameter.

    So I bought a maul. Not sure on it's weight. I'm early 30's & 210 lbs. I wouldn't call myself strong, just average. I am having a heck of a time splitting most rounds.

    The diameter seems proportional to the number of times I have to hit. Sometimes I am hitting them 5-7 times and not getting a crack in the log. I throw them to the side then. Most rounds are not even cracking on the first hit, unless they are small 6-10" diameter. I cut a short round to use as a base, and put all my rounds to split on top of it. I am trying to split right after I cut it from a log to a round. I am not getting much split. And I am getting frustrated.

    Am I doing something obvious wrong?
    Do rounds usually split on the first hit?
    Should I be letting the round dry for a while before I split it?

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  2. Heem

    Heem New Member

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    I'm around your age and only a little bigger, I also don't consider myself stronger than average for my size, and I split with my 8lb maul usually on the first swing, unless I miss :)

    Now, I've read that wood splits easier when it's fresh cut.. I dunno, I just can't wrap my head around that, I find it easier to split when it's dry.

    Just remember you gotta swing that thing hard and fast and follow through. make sure you are on solid ground.
  3. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Hmmm.... Lots of stuff to figure, some of it hard to explain online.

    1. Don't hit for the center of the round, especially for the first split. Try for a couple inches in from the edge, on a tangent so that you are taking off a slab, then keep turning the round to knock off "corners".

    2. If you hit it a few times on one end and don't get anything, try flipping the round over and hitting the other end.

    3. Try to avoid splitting into big knots, especially on the first split - take a chunk off on each side instead.

    4. Avoid bounce or shake - you need to be on a solid base, if the round you are hitting moves when you hit it, you are wasting energy.

    5. Don't have the end of the round up too high. Opinions vary, but IMHO you don't want it above mid thigh - optimal is maybe an inch or two above your knee down to about knee level.

    6. Old martial arts school technique - don't aim for the top of the round you want to split, aim THROUGH it and try to hit the splitting block..

    7. Consider the way of the wedge - especially on the first split - get 2-3 (at least) steel wedges and use your maul as a sledge (or purchase a sledge) - this can get you better results on the gnarly chunks or the initial split, which is often the hardest...

    8. Get AND WEAR safety gear - minimum is safety glasses and steel toe boots, preferably high ones that will give you some shin protection

    9. Warm up and stretch out before splitting, and don't overdo... Remember that this kind of work is hard on your body, especially if you aren't used to it, and in good shape to start with... You might even want to think about getting a splitter BEFORE you start blowing out joints the way I did...

    Gooserider
  4. jotul8e2

    jotul8e2 Feeling the Heat

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    The deciding issue when the thin end hits the log is force. Force = mass X acceleration. So, if you can't swing your maul fast enough you can't apply enough force. I simply cannot swing a heavy maul very fast - so I use a six lb. maul. I could swing an eight lb. one for 20 minutes or so, but then my aim gets pretty bad. Those guys who can handle a 12 lb. maul can really bust up the firewood.

    The trick of slabing wood (nibbling around the edges, if you will) does not work with all woods, but it should work with maple and locust. I don't like to do that with a maul myself - I prefer to use an ax for slabbing. Split from the bottom end of the tree; that way you are not trying to blow apart crotches and knots, but will allow the split to follow the grain. Consider cutting down your log length. Just because your stove will take a 24" log does not mean you can manually split a 24" long, 24" diameter piece of locust. Try maybe 18" lenghts and see how that goes.

    Others may have different opinions, but it seems to me that wood is the hardest to split while it is drying. When green it usually is ok (the only time to split elm, in my experience), and when really dry it will usually split just fine. But it always seems harder to me when I've cut up pieces and had them laying around a month or two. This probably depends upon the species as well.

    Mark
  5. Bigg_Redd

    Bigg_Redd Minister of Fire

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    1) No

    2) Never


    EDIT - Buy a Fiskars super splitter.
    No advice here will match experience gained the hard way. Keep swinging. Try different things. You'll get a feel for it.
  6. Max Headroom

    Max Headroom Member

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    Lot's of good advice so far. I try to make sure that I use my whole body. Bend you knees a little as you bring the maul down. This takes some pressure off the lower back. A little flick of the wrist on contact seems to add a something too. Also, learn to just walk away from some rounds. I've wasted way too much time and energy being stubborn.
  7. Risser09

    Risser09 New Member

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    The maple should still be pretty easy to split, but the locust might be dry enough to where is is extremely tough to get through. It is a very dense hardwood.

    1. The branches/knots should point at the ground.

    2. Try to split as soon as you cut the logs to length next time.

    3. I just had a bunch of hackberry that was impossible to do manually. Make a cut with your chainsaw and few inches downward on top of the log, then aim to get your maul into the crack. This helps get your maul to the point where it gets to the angled part of the wedge, providing a head start to actually split the wood apart.
  8. mayhem

    mayhem Minister of Fire

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    How are you swinging the maul? I've seen alot of people who hold it in front of them and just lift and drop it without really applying much technique to maximize the force applied through leverage. I see some people just holding the handle at both ends and just tap the wood with it...you couldn't even break skin with that, let alone bust opena big piece of wood.

    I hold one hand at the very end of the handle and snug the other up against the head. Begin my swing by moving the head around to my side, effectively putting the head behind my back at about a 45 degree angle to my shoulder, hand still at the head to maximize my leverage for raising the business end as high as I can get it (which allows maximum distance to accelerate the thing). When the head reaches the upper peak of my swing I start to accelerate it down toward the wood...apply alot of effort to the arm holding the head and as it accelerates downward I smoothly slide it down the handle towards my other hand, whihc has not moved at all. By the time the head is around shoulder height its moving damn fast and both hands are at the end of the handle.

    I found an example of what I mean by technique in this video at tiem index of about 1:15. At the beginning she is about halfway there because she's swinging it behind her back in an arc but not using leverage. Plus its cool to see an attractove woman splitting wood.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYBqy68k0O0

    Sometimes when I'm cuting though I find that some pieces of wood simply will not split while frozen. My maul just bounces off and I get nothing but tired...if I get nothing after 3-5 swings I toss it aside and move to the next round.

    Also consider using a splitting axe...sometimes when i get a piece of wood that the maul just bounces off of I take out the axe and darn if that thing doesn't go through it in 1-2 swings.

    Good luck.
  9. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    I never used a maul but splitting with an axe I always found that fresh cut frozen wood split the easiest. I agree about the karate thing... you have to focus your contact point further down into the round. Pulling the axe in toward you speeds up the travel on the head, like a figure skater pulling their arms.
  10. gerry100

    gerry100 Minister of Fire

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    I concur with most of the above.

    Splitting becomes easier and much more efficient with practice.

    When you develop a smooth swing, you'll get good impact and impact angle. It will also be much less fatiguing.

    When you can dleiver the blow to the same 2-3 times you'll also be doing more splitting and less "beating" of the wood.

    As you see more rounds, you'll develop a feel for where to hit it.

    I'd start with a 6 pounder and practice,practice, practice.

    Sounds tedious, but when you learn it splitting wood can be come relaxing and a good workout.
  11. ansehnlich1

    ansehnlich1 Minister of Fire

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    My wood splitting equipment consists of 2 axes, 2 mauls (one 6 and one 8 pounder), one sledge hammer, 3 wedges, and "the blaster" (a triangular piece of steel that came off the end of an old HEAVY DUTY MAUL), HEAVY DUTY GLOVES, and chainsaw.

    If it don' split with the maul, I get the sledge and wedge, drive the wedge into it, if that don't do it, drive another into it, use the third if necessary, use the BLASTER as a last resort, use the chainsaw to make a vertical starter cut if it's really being a BZTARD.

    Split the straight stuff first.

    Don't waste energy tryin' to split stuff with a maul that you need a sledge and wedge for..... tires you out too quickly.

    CUSS, YEP, if nothin' else works, CUSSIN' helps, er, better yet, when swinging the maul, make believe the round you're about to pound on is your ex-wife, ;-P

    OOOOO, BUT WAIT, I'm 49 years old, and last year I hooked up a 3 pt. hitch splitter to a decent sized Ford Tractor and split 5 cord pretty easy :)
  12. Heem

    Heem New Member

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    I like to think of it like the carnival game where you swing the hammer to try to make the bell ring. I also find that referring to my maul as "The Great Hammer of War" tends to help.
  13. Got Wood

    Got Wood Minister of Fire

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    Get a Fiskars Super Splitting Axe. Just got mine and it makes splitting ALOT easier than using a maul. Your body will thank you.
  14. karri0n

    karri0n New Member

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    Same premise, but I find "HammerTron 5000" works really well.
  15. hensonconst1

    hensonconst1 Member

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    When I have a round that is tough to split I use a sharp one sided axe to start it then drive it in with the back side of my maul. After that if does not split I uses wedges this always works for me.
  16. ken999

    ken999 New Member

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    +1 on the splitting the easy stuff with the maul...save the gnarly stuff for the sledge/wedges, break out the chainsaw when necessary.

    I like to 'roundhouse' with the maul and wedge. I get ALOT more power than lifting the maul above my head.
  17. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    Shame on you. There should be a special prison for people that abuse their axe like that. Using the poll as a sledge or beating on the poll with a sledge will distort the eye and cause the handle to get loose.
  18. karri0n

    karri0n New Member

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    I think they DO have a special prison for axe murderers.
  19. RobinJoe

    RobinJoe New Member

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    I highly recommend a "star" wedge. They go in to the wood much more easily than the traditional wedges, and do a phenominal job. These will almost always complete the split for you, but if it doesn't, it will provide some cracks for inserting the traditional wedges in to.
    http://www.amazon.com/Wood-Blaster-.../ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top/188-7325317-5600400

    Also, I would not strike the wedges with the maul. I have ruined two mauls doing that.

    Once the large rounds are split in half, then I'll use my Ludell maul. I had bought a Truber maul from Baileys http://tinyurl.com/3hzyku , but hated it. The blade was too fat. You can see photos of them side-by-side here:
    http://www.hearth.com/econtent/index.php/forums/viewthread/24388/P15/

    The Ludell has a tapered shape that just slices through the wood. It may not be as nice as the Fiskars models, but it's a lot cheaper (at Home Depot). The one I have is at the bottom of this page:
    http://www.royalunited.com/ludell_splitting.html
    It works great, but you can't use it as a striking tool. The steel head will split at the handle-hole.
  20. cannonballcobb

    cannonballcobb Member

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    When I was a kid, I would say "what about that tree dad?"

    "Nope son, if it's not Oak, I don't want it".

    As an adult, I learned what my dad meant. He only cut Oak because it was so easy to split.

    Now Oak is all I ever bother with as well, everything else is too difficult to hand split.

    Good thing they rent hydraulic splitters.
  21. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    IKWYM
    One year I procrastinated and couldn't get my fav Black Ash because the Winter roads got soft too soon from a mild spring and I had to settle for Elm later. I was sure glad I had a hydraulic splitter cuz I had to fight that stringy Elm all the way. Ash will just pop with the ram pushing the wedge in less than an inch but with Elm I had to push the ram all the way through and then still had to rip the pieces apart. I couldn't image trying to split it by hand.
  22. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    I have one of the cone style wedges (got mine at TSC, but same idea as the amazon wedge you mentioned) - I didn't find it that much better or worse than my conventional design wedges - at least not so as to notice a consistent pattern - some logs split easily, some didn't, just like with my other wedges. It did make slightly more cracks than my standard wedges, but I never had a shortage with the standard wedge. I found either would bounce out of some logs, etc... One downside is that it is harder to insert a second wedge along side a cone wedge, but I don't do that very often, so not a big deal. Never hurts to have an assortment of wedges in the "arsenal" but I don't agree with those that claim the cone style wedges to be a "miracle tool" - or any other wedge design for that matter.

    As to hitting wedges with the back side of a tool - seems to depend on the tool... Absolutely you shouldn't hit the back side of an axe or hatchet, but mauls can be a different matter.

    I have an 8lb maul purchased from either Home Despot or the local True Value (I forget which), I think it's a Stanley, which is clearly intended to be used as a sledge, and I have done so quite effectively w/ no problems.

    OTOH, I have a 12 lb. Monster Maul clone, which is clearly labeled with warnings NOT to use the back side as a sledge...

    A big part of the difference is presumably the exact alloy of steel used to make the tool, and whether or not it has been heat treated appropriately for the job...

    Bottom line is it depends on the tool design and manufacturer's intent, which should be indicated by labelling. If you don't have labels, I'd look at the design of the potential striking surface and the handle attachment... A surface intended for striking will usually NOT be painted, and will be rounded on it's edges to discourage "mushrooming". A sledge head will also typically have very thick walls all around the handle hole, while a non-strike head may be much thinner.

    Gooserider
  23. hensonconst1

    hensonconst1 Member

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    My dad always said I didn't know how to take care of my things. Which is why I always buy cheap stuff. Thank you for the lashing. Always good to feel like I am being yelled at by my father.
  24. ken999

    ken999 New Member

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    "cone wedge"...ala wood grenade...

    That's my best wedge. When I bounce that out with a full roundhouse from a 12 lb sledge, it's 385 Husky time...
  25. hensonconst1

    hensonconst1 Member

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    What does it take to split a round? Whatever it takes If you are not in the situation to have money to by a splitter which is a luxury do what you have to to keep your family warm.
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