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Splitting Hickory

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Haston, Feb 21, 2006.

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  1. Haston

    Haston Member

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    A few weeks ago, I had a large hickory brought down and cut into 16" rounds. The larger stumps, I'm guessing, have a 20" diameter. My plan was to split the rounds for use for next year. Yesterday I though I'd get started on splitting the rounds by using my Fiskar maul. No matter how hard I swung down, the maul would literally bounce off the stump. It was like trying to split rubber. It took 20 whacks to split one of the smaller rounds. What am I doing wrong? Is it even possible to split hickory this fresh? Would a hydraulic splitter be more appropriate? Many thanks if anyone can help me feel less dumb about this. H.

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  2. babalu87

    babalu87 New Member

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    Nothing
    Red Oak is a biatch as well
    I am getting a splitter because I have YOOOGE Red Oaks I want to cut down and I know splitting them by hand would just be a waste of valuable time

    Please, you Elm splitters are cuckoo, I would burn oil again before splitting Elm ;)
  3. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Try working it from the outside first, Haston. With big chunks (especially those from yard trees) the grain gets really gnarrley and can be impossible to split. If you try to whack some thin pieces from around the perimeter first, you can work your way around the chunk. Remember, every piece you're able to split out weakens the overall integrity of that block of wood. When you get towards the middle, the splitting should be easier.

    What's the weight of the Fiskars maul? You should be using at least an 8-lb maul for wood that big. They cost about $20 at the big box stores.

    My only other tip is to go through and split all the wood you can before tackling the big, tough ones. Getting a pile of split wood behind you is an accomplishment. If you try the tough ones first, you'll get discouraged and tired out, and quit. You may well have a few chunks that are basically unsplittable. What I do with those is cut them in half (with the grain) and then take another crack at splitting them.

    Splitting by hand is about 20% muscle, 30% technique and about 50% mental. And yes, it's OK to cuss.
  4. babalu87

    babalu87 New Member

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    50% mental
    Ahhhh, thats why I have no luck
    I'm no engineer after all ROFL
  5. wvstriper

    wvstriper Member

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    For me, a hydraulic splitter is ALWAYS more appropriate! ;-)
  6. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Actually, I was suggesting that if he has a 6- or a 4-pound maul, that he consider an upgrade. But it works either way, just like you said. You need a tool that you can control and comfortably use. Personally, I notice a huge difference between what I can split with a 6-pounder and an 8-pound maul. One-third more weight makes a big difference.
  7. ChrisN

    ChrisN Feeling the Heat

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    Haston, You might want to consider trying a couple of splitting wedges and sledgehammer. I find that this method works very well to get large rounds in half. Good luck and have fun.

    Chris
  8. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    That be a mighty nice looking worm on the end of that thar hook your fishing with.

    CHOMP

    Y'all know I can't miss a chance to whine about splitting elm!!!

    Hickory...I've split Hickory before...It's like butter...

    Red Oak....hah...Like taking Candy from a baby

    Elm...Now that's tough to split. Elm manages to completely absorb the blow by allowing the maul to get stuck in the wood, then you spend 2 minutes trying to get it out! Now repeat 10 times till it cracks, once it splits open a bit, take an ax and cut (not split...cut) through all the fibers. Keep kids, dogs, and beer bottles outside a 10' radius, cause woods gonna fly! Eric's right, technique is key. Don't think of the log your trying to split, but rather a the chopping block. You'll tend to drive the maul slightly differently and through the round rather than trying to hit the top of the round.

    Here's a couple things I've found. Frozen splits easier, so does dry, at least with elm. Not sure about red oak, but white oak that I've done a lot of splitting can really be tough till you try peeling the onion. Then it's not bad at all. Works for elm somewhat also. Wack off a peice on an outside edge, then keep turning the round and wacking off peices.

    Another thing someone here suggested, and I find it a really great suggestion, (I think it was likely Eric) is to cut the rounds into 8" lengths. Then split them into 2 or 3 big chunks. An 8" long round will split a lot easier, then you have a peice of wood that is still roughly stove width in size, just not a typical split shape. After a bit you'll get used to stacking it, just not the same way.
  9. egghead2004

    egghead2004 New Member

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    Both Elm and Hickory, I cut into rounds and stack them in a separate pile in te sun if possible, then let them dry for a few months before splitting. Both are so much easier once the dry out a little, it is worth the wait. Then I stack the splits in their own pile and wait til the end of the burning season before using them. Whatever is left, will be ready for the following year.
  10. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I hope you're aware, Dylan, that stealing railroad spikes is a federal crime.
  11. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    Dylan? Dylan Who?
  12. Sandor

    Sandor Minister of Fire

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    Try to stack the Hickory (or roll them up on dead branches to get them off the ground) and wait for the wood to develop a crack in the center of the log. Once that happens, in a couple of months, put a wedge into the crack and whack away. Should split after 4-6 good hits.

    Once it splits, you can most likely split the rest without the wedge.

    This is what I do and it works.

    And I agree with Eric, an eight pound maul is the ticket.
  13. Haston

    Haston Member

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    Many thanks for the informed replies. I believe my Fiskars maul is in the 4.5 lb. range. It's always done a great job, but with maple and oak-- never anything like this fresh Hickory, which is pure rubber and has plenty of "sap" oozing where the wood meets the bark. I'll take the board's combined advice and store the rounds so that they dry, then have at them with a wedge and heavy sledge, concentrating on the outer edges first. If that fails, then I'll turn to a hydraulic splitter. Again, many thanks. H.
  14. wingnut

    wingnut New Member

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    How you know why they make axe handles out of that stuff.. You cant beet the heat output and the aroma of hickory I use allot of it and will use a splitter most of the time unless the tree is nice and straight without any crotches. But your right Warren elm does not want to give it up even with a splitter it will fight you all the way.
  15. DavidV

    DavidV New Member

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    I will trade my sweet gum for your wussy elm any day of the week. Gum is torture to split, especially green. Elm burns better as well.
  16. JAred

    JAred New Member

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    This is the best wedge one could ever buy

    (huge, invalid link removed by Mo)

    I bought mine at home depot. I bought some regular wegdes too. The wood grenade does just what the name implies grenades the log. I tried mine out the first time on some old black walnut that was in a yard. the regular wedges don't even compare.
  17. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    Note to get together organization committee: Add a most knarly wood to split contest. We'll line em all up in front of Eric, who I imagine to be about 6'4" 280 and able to split 3' across elm in a single blow. See what he can't split in 1 shot.

    :ahhh:
  18. babalu87

    babalu87 New Member

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    < 6" 2" 300 here
  19. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I'm actually about 5'11" and 160 pounds.
  20. fbelec

    fbelec Minister of Fire

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    i got a fiberglassed handled 12 pound maul and can split some knots. but elm forgetaboutit.
    i thru a 16 inch 8 inch round whole log of elm in the stove yesterday for two reasons.
    1. i hate splitting elm or i should say swinging and unsticking

    2. and the best reason not to try to split that baby. it could fit thru the stove door


    i hear ya warren.
    no no no no don't like elm
    have you tried yellow birch?
    another fiberous wood. but nice burnin
  21. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    If you think normal elm is tough I have some un split American rock elm here. Soo tough
    one does not have to worry about sticking and pulling the maul out it bounces off.
    I should have known why nobody wanted it Does burn good. Reason still unsplit is self explainitory
  22. wahoowad

    wahoowad Minister of Fire

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    elk, does your 110V electric splitter split this elm OK? I am keeping my eye out for one of them used after your hearty recommendation. Curious what it's limits are.
  23. babalu87

    babalu87 New Member

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    "Please send me immediately one of your Chopper 1 wood splitters. I have used a friends and it is amazing. It splits 12-16" oak logs like toothpicks, and it even does quick work on elm which I have found to be the toughest wood to split so far."
    --John, Manitoba, CAN

    See the Chopper 1 thread in the gear section
    John says it'll split Elm!
  24. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    I had a 10 round by 16" long of American rock Elm Put in in the 4 ton Ryobi nothing Cut it down to 8/10 again nothing 8lb maul bounced off the 8" long rock elm. Tried a few more times nada. Brought it over the to 16ton Electric paused for a monent kicked down to a lower gear and pushed threw. Then tried a 12/16" same elm same deal kicked down but pushed threw. If we ever get together I will bring the splitter and some ELM. The smart approach is to split in quaters or thirds if, thats the size you need. Makes no sense pushing the splitter to the limit and breaking it. So far it has handled everything I have feed it. Good for up to 24" rounds and 20" long. If you lived near by you could come over and demo it and see for yourself. Had a guy do just that a few weeks back,, with 18 /20 oak, he went home and ordered one. I meant it has limits, if doing it comcercial then get a monster gas driven one, but 6 cords a year intermittently like me its perfect. Probably do quadruple that no sweat.

    BTW the Ryobi 4 ton is the best 4 ton unit I have used. will handel 12/20
  25. DavidV

    DavidV New Member

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    I have a used northstar 30 ton splitter with 10 HP tecumsah engine. that chunk of elm would give way no problem. Gum too, if you can lift it up there. but the elm will require a bit more work because the fibers don't completely give way....you still have a little choppin to do when you are done splitting elm. it's hideous stuff.
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