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routine for splitting wood with a maul

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by szumbrun, Nov 4, 2010.

  1. Kenster

    Kenster Minister of Fire

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    That brings up a good point, Master. Virtually all of my wood is oak and hickory. Mostly water oak. The hickory seems much harder. When I give it a might whack it tends to send the splits flying off several feet or more. If I don't hit it hard enough my 8 pounder barely made a dent in it. The oak, on the other hand, stays pretty much in place when I split it. Do different species of trees have different.... elasticity? (for lack of a better word?)

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  2. gyrfalcon

    gyrfalcon Minister of Fire

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    Heh. Well, my child....

    I'm not any kind of master at this, I've just asked one heck of a lot of questions on this forum over the last several years. I figure if I keep pestering people here, I hope to become an Inferno before I die.

    If Battenkiller is around and sees this, he can speak to your question with great specificity. Best I can do is say some are definitely harder to split than others, but whether that's due to elasticity or some other factor, I don't really know. In the hardwoods I have some experience with, it does seem that the higher BTU the wood is, and therefore the denser, the harder it is to split-- with the exception of Rock Maple. Rock Maple's saving grace is it has a nice straight grain, so when you do pop it a good solid one, it comes right apart. But just why it's so tough to make a dent in I have no idea. Hotter-burning stuff like Black Birch and Beech can often have very twisted and gnarly fibers, too, which is really a pain. Although I've burned some Shagbark Hickory and Hophornbeam given to me by a generous neighbor, I haven't tried to split those, but they sure look like they'd be tough.

    We've also had debates here from time to time about whether dry wood is easier or harder or just the same to split as green wood, and I wonder whether that's something that varies from wood to wood, too. The country folks around here are sure convinced at least the Rock Maple is a lot harder to split when it's dry, and I tend to agree, though I haven't done a careful experiment with it to eliminate some of the variables.

    Just a suggestion, btw-- if you never have, try a 6-pound maul if you can borrow one and see what you think. After using a 6-er for a few years and getting comfortable with it, I got an 8-pounder thinking it would make splitting the tough ones easier and found that it doesn't. It's just more weight to waste energy hoisting. It's not the weight of the maul head or even muscle power that does the splitting, it's the momentum of the downswing. My physics is rusty, but I believe that after a certain point, the extra weight actually adds very little to the applied force by the time it contacts the wood if you're swinging it right.
  3. stevetford

    stevetford New Member

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    I'm glad you spoke up, I was reading this topic and thinking to myself I have never had any piece fly across the yard what am I doing wrong. All of my splits fall no more than 1" on either side of my maul when it hits the ground with some splits having to be manually pulled apart. Untill this wednesday I have been using a 8lb maul, but I also jumped on the bandwagon and bought a Fiskars super splitting axe. I'm poor so I never had the luxury of using a hydraulic splitter and split all my wood just as Backwoods Savage described, sit it on the ground and hit it till it splits.
  4. gyrfalcon

    gyrfalcon Minister of Fire

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    Just curiously, what type of wood are you splitting? The only stuff that flies several feet away for me is the Rock Maple. Everything else politely just falls down a few inches away.

    I'lm really going to have to spring for one of those Fiskars. They just sound too wonderful to pass up.
  5. pshking

    pshking New Member

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    I like an old 6 pound maul that my dad bought back in the 70's. It has a little different shape to the head than today's maul's.

    On the bigger rounds, start on the edge and work your way in. It is easier to split along the natural cracks.
  6. quads

    quads Minister of Fire

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    That sounds just like my maul. It's well over 30 years old, and had the same handle on it for over 25 now. This winter I might just have to break down and put another new handle in it, it's getting kind of ragged after all these years. If I had known that I would have to put a new handle in it every 25 years, well....darn it! HA!

    Here is another short sample video of how I split with it:
  7. gyrfalcon

    gyrfalcon Minister of Fire

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    No doubt, but that only works for those of us with good enough hand-eye coordination to be able to reliably hit those cracks. I've gotten fairly good at splitting with a maul over the last several years of practice, but coming close to hitting where I want to except by pure accident isn't something I can do, alas, and even an inch away from one of those cracks doesn't do the job.
  8. stevetford

    stevetford New Member

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    Mostly red/whit/pin oak some maple and very little hickory. Honestly my 8lb maul was all I needed but would really wear you out after a few hours. I read so many great reviews on the Fiskars and really liked the lightweight of it so I decided to buy one and find out for myself. I was a little worried about the short handle length but after using it these past few days I have not one complaint. This thing does everything my heavy maul does but without the workout. I can honestly split wood all day now and am actually looking forward to spring time when I begin splitting for next winter. There was no retailers anywhere near me who sold the Fiskars ss axe so I ordered it from Amazon and had it shipped to my door for $41.95
  9. northwinds

    northwinds Minister of Fire

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    This is a long thread that I haven't read word-for-word, but I think a key point is that less can be more. Quads is
    hitting the wood in such a way that he's just barely getting through the round, and then it doesn't blast away in
    different directions. No wasted effort. On the first couple of hits through the bigger rounds, I make a point not to
    split all the way through the wood. Let a few fibers ( or more) hold the round together. As one gets works around
    the round, those partially split pieces usually fall away from the round anyway.

    The point that different wood behaves differently for hand splitting is a good one. If I blast through red oak with a maul,
    I can get the wood flying across my processing area. With elm, it usually takes several hits anyway to get through a split
    with the fibers hanging on to dear life all the way through the cussing that's taking place.
  10. Kenster

    Kenster Minister of Fire

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    From reading, and watching Quad's videos, I've come to the conclusion that I'm doing it all wrong. I've always tried to power through the split - to drive the maul all the way through the round in one swing. I'm thinking now that I'm relying too much on my own strength and not letting the maul earn it's keep. I'll have to work on my form... once I get over this broken ankle. (maybe before that if my Bride's not around to stop me.)
  11. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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  12. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Yes, they do. But if those splits go flying, it has something to do with the way you are splitting. I've simply never had that problem so it is difficult to explain or know what you are doing or how you are splitting.
  13. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Steve, the only reason I purchased a hydraulic splitter is because of an injury from an accident forced the purchase. I always did enjoy splitting most wood. I would just do a bit at a time. Some days maybe split 5-10 logs, other days more and some days none at all. It is a great way to warm up during the winter months. Take the coat off and split a few rounds and you no longer are cold.

    As for the Fiskars axe, I've looked at them in the store. That was enough to convince me to not buy one! I guess it works well for some folks but I do not even want to try one.

    btw, I do occasionally do some splitting by hand yet; it is just very minimal and usually in the woods when the log is just too heavy to lift. Then I split it using a splitting maul. I have never, nor do I ever intend to ever noodle a log.
  14. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    One thing that stands out about how quads handles the maul. I've seen videos on this forum that show someone splitting and notice they never change their hand position on the handle of the maul. Watch how quads will slide his hand up the handle to lift the maul and then as the swing starts, the hand naturally slides down towards the end of the handle. That is how it should be done and when folks learn to do this they will find they have been doing it the hard way and wonder why they haven't tried it this way before.

    Thanks for the video quads.
  15. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    gyrfalcon, while hand-eye coordination does come into play, we've found that those who have a hard time hitting where they want to are just madly swinging that maul as hard as they can. While you do need to supply some power, you also need to guide the tool rather than just try to power through. Practice and remember that you do not have to put all of your power into the swing. Again, watch quads and just imagine how much power he is supplying. I can guarantee he is not swinging with all of his might (with his size, the maul might end up in China!).
  16. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    And you will also find that the power you supply to the tool can vary a lot depending upon the wood you are splitting. Again, this will come only through experience.

    Again, I can't visualize how folks are making the splits fly all over the place...but I can imagine the cussing.
  17. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Kenster, you are well on your way to doing some efficient splitting. When you buy a tool (maul or axe), you get that tool so you don't have to work as hard. Therefore, one needs to learn how to properly use the too.

    Now about that ankle, that sounds nasty. I hope you heal fast.
  18. gyrfalcon

    gyrfalcon Minister of Fire

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    That's a good point, Backwoods, and there's no doubt you're right. However, that's not an issue in my case. As a female not built for upper-body strength like you guys, I don't even have that option. It took me about three ineffectual whacks the first time I picked up a maul to understand that I have to rely on the momentum of the swing rather than muscle power because that's something I simply don't have. I've gotten more accurate with the tool as I've learned how to use it over the last several years (ie, I rarely miss a split altogether anymore...), but real precision requires a perceptual/coordination ability I just lack. I suck at tennis, too.
  19. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    gryfalcon, I did realize you are a female and therefore you can't have the upper body strength that most men have. One more reason to go with hydraulics! I suck at tennis too.
  20. gyrfalcon

    gyrfalcon Minister of Fire

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    Yeah, but the hydraulics are nowhere near as much fun. I have no woodlot, etc., so I have to buy my firewood c/s/d, but with the very small stove have to split down further most of the splits I get. Can't begin to tell you how much pleasure I get out of doing it, especially on cold winter days. And as a profoundly lazy person who hates exercise for the sake of exercise, a couple hours a few times a week of whacking the firewood has been incredibly good for me physically.

    I have noticed over the years that some of you Y-chromosome people try to use more muscle power to do stuff rather than thinking it through because you have that muscle power available. The guy with the hammer thinks everything is a nail, yeah? Can't tell you how much I sometimes envy that built-in easy strength. But when you don't have a hammer, you have no choice but to figure out another way.
  21. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Well, I do think the hydraulic thing is fun! I was amazed because I did not think I would like it when I bought it but really fell in love with it within just a few minutes. Now that I've split a couple hundred cord, I still like it just as well. However, in your case, I do not think it would be wise to go with hydraulics because you are buying the wood. I would simply be unreasonable to buy a splitter in your case.

    I agree on the exercise. Much better than doing repetitious exercises in the house. In fact, I think the other word for aerobics is boring, or something like that.

    You are also correct on some of the men who think muscle power is the do-all. But the wise ones still figure things out so as not to have to use all that muscle power. Then there are injuries and age factors that cause you to reflect on how some things are done. No move of the "Don't force it. Just get a bigger hammer" ideas.
  22. gyrfalcon

    gyrfalcon Minister of Fire

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    Oh, I agree the hydraulics are great fun, like any good machine. But I'll take the cold, clean outdoor quiet punctuated by the smack of the maul and the feeling of the blood rushing through your body any day over the noisy, smelly, fussy fun of a machine doing all the work for me and slicing through tough wood like butter any day. There are days when I really, really, really don't wanna go out there and do the work and have contemplated getting one of the smaller electric splitters, but once I drag myself out and start, I have a great time.

    Aerobics, treadmills, forced marches around the block, all of it, yech. If the energy expenditure doesn't actually result in something concrete accomplished after you're done, I can't make myself do it.
  23. quads

    quads Minister of Fire

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    In your case then, a lighter short handled tool might work better for you. Something like a Fiskars might be just the thing. My wife is kind of tiny. Not that she ever helps with the firewood though, but one of the rare occasions that I got her to go out in the woods with me, I had her take a few swings with my maul. She can't handle it, it is too much for her. If she was ever inclined to split wood though, I would have her use one of my axes, or possibly get her a little Fiskars SS etc. It would take her longer and more swings to split wood, but would make it possible for her, I think.

    And I of course have a video of that too:
  24. gyrfalcon

    gyrfalcon Minister of Fire

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    Oh, man. Does your wife know you're posting video of her doing this while you laugh in the background? Did you edit out the part where she turns around and whacks you a good one with the Fiskars?

    After reading so many rave reviews of the Fiskars here, I'm intending to pick one up and give it a try when I have a few extra bucks to spare, but I confess I'm a bit dubious. The shorter handle reduces the momentum of the swing I rely on to do the work, doesn't it? I can certainly get greater accuracy if I choke up a bit on the maul handle, but then I can't generate enough force to make much of a dent most of the time because of the shorter swing. It's the equivalent of a bunt in baseball, no? That's where the lack of muscle power really seems to come in for me.

    Also, I note that even your tiny wife has to bend over to smack the split sitting on the ground. Makes my back tired just watching it!
  25. quads

    quads Minister of Fire

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    Ha ha! Oh yes, she knows. Actually she watched me post it this time too. We still laugh about the fight with her hat! You should see some of the videos she takes of me, which fortunately you never will because she doesn't know how to post them!

    I guess the shorter handle would depend on how heavy it is? If it's lighter you can still swing it as fast with the short handle? I don't know, but I do know that the short-handled axes I have, I do not like. But maybe if I was my wife's height it would be ok?

    I'm not sure why she was bending to use my maul. I guess because she is afraid to take a full swing and is trying to 'tap' the round with it? Or simply because the six pounds out on the end of the full length handle is just too heavy for her to lift up high enough and gain the momentum. Anyway, we'll never know!

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