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Best way to manually split fire wood

Discussion in 'Firewood, Heating and Wood Burning Equipment' started by TKO-KID, Nov 15, 2008.

  1. TKO-KID

    TKO-KID ArboristSite Operative

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    Hey everyone what is the best way to manually split firewood. I kkep reading about a wedge . Do you place this in the wood and then it with the back end of the axe or with a maul.

    I know this questions sounds stupid to most. But I grew up in the city and have never split wood but have recently installed a wood stove.( pics attached) in my garage.

    I have already got one 13-15 inch log that is about 7 inches tall that I am setting the other logs on to split. Tommorrow I will have a 33 inch log to set them on after I cut down a stump from today.

    I have been using an axe so far, But am having trouble getting through some of the wood. I have a maul but it didn't seem to do anything it just bounced of the wood when I used it.
     
  2. milkie62

    milkie62 ArboristSite Operative

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    Straight-grain wood with very few knots will split easily with a 6-8lb maul.Knotty wood and larger rounds will need a couple of wedges and a 10-12lb sledge.It is pretty hard to drive a 6 lb wedge with a 6 lb maul.An axe is way to much work and does not work with knotty wood.You will just get tired.Also you will need to "read" the block that you are splitting.Some parts will take less effort to split than others.
     
  3. TreePointer

    TreePointer Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Using a wedge is like hammering a nail. Start it by tapping the wedge into the log, and then stand back and give it a good whack or two or three....

    Don't use your axe on a wedge--you can damage your axe head. Use the blunt end of your maul or a sledge hammer. For the really tough pieces, the heavier the hammer, the easier it will be.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2008
  4. Stihl051master

    Stihl051master ArboristSite Operative

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    A maul works the best for me, some people like using a wedge and a sledgehammer. I would not recommend hitting the wedge with the maul as most are not designed to be used that way. It depends a lot on what species of wood you're trying to split. If it's a tough splitting wood like elm it's going to be difficult to split no matter what you are using or how good your technique is. You might have some tough stuff there so don't get discouraged. The same goes if the pieces have a twist to the grain or a lot of knots. The best advice I can give you is to use some smaller pieces to practice on to find your rhythm and get your technique and accuracy down, then work up to the bigger ones. It takes a lot of time and practice to become proficient, but it's very satisfying when you do. It's great exercise also. Make sure you wear some good heavy steel toe boots and be careful.
     
  5. jomoco

    jomoco Addicted to ArboristSite

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    And for god sakes wear safety glasses!

    jomoco
     
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  6. chsrd

    chsrd New Member

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    Splitting wood

    I have split countless cords of wood by hand. For large diameter pieces of wood (over about 18 inches in diameter) I use a metal wedge and sledge hammer. Start the wedge in the center of the wood and then pound it in - the wood will split in half. I do this with the wood on the ground. Next I lift the pieces onto a 15 inch tall chopping block. (Each year, I get a piece from the wood I am cutting for the season -this year I have a 36 inch diameter oak block). I split these larger pieces on the chopping block with a maul. Next, I switch to a single blade axe to split the smaller pieces into the size that will burn well in my wood stove. Your hardware store will have the metal wedge, sledge hammer, maul, and axe. I do not use the fancy wood splitting wedges or mauls; they probably work well, but I have not needed them. It is great exercise, and it is enjoyable to be outside working. I really enjoy splitting wood by hand!
     
  7. chowdozer

    chowdozer Addicted to ArboristSite

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    A maul and a couple of wedges is how I've done it for 30+ years. Hit it with the maul, if it doesn't split, put a wedge in the indentation and give it a few taps. Hit it with the backside of the maul.

    In the beginning, until you get used to hitting a wedge with the maul, put a piece of radiator hose over the lower portion of the maul handle to keep from chewing up the handle when you miss. Eventually, you'll get to the point where you never miss. :cheers:

    And buy a quality maul and wedges too.
     
  8. KsWoodsMan

    KsWoodsMan Addicted to ArboristSite

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    All I use is a single bit axe. The technique I use is to turn the round upside down so the biggest end is up. I 'read' the wood to look for possible knots and find the biggest crack radiating from the center of the round. This is the place to start. It is already weaker through the crack and will usually give you the least resistance. The cracks dont always show up immediately. By the end of the day or in a day or 2 they will be easily visible.

    Sometimes when splitting it is easier to go directly through the center of the fork or knot instead of off to the side. When you are cutting you will figure out that it is easier to cull part of the forked trunk. A little practice and you will figure out how much. If all else fails and you cant get it to bust apart on the coldest day of the year you can always resort to ripping it with the saw into managable sizes that fit in the wood stove.

    If I added splitting wedges to the box I would use the same technique of starting in the biggest crack. If the round is hollow I will give the thinnest spot a few good whacks on the 'corner' to get things started. Another good point that was made was to start a spot with the maul for the wedge to go into. Takes less to hold it still so fewer chanbces of barking the knuckles with the sledge.
     
  9. DonB

    DonB ArboristSite Member

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    If you do oak trees, you'll eventually have to rip some pieces with the saw because they simply will not be split.
     
  10. Brushwacker

    Brushwacker Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I just wouldn't recomend the wedge maul splitting. No offense I just think its slow and riskiar in the long run. If you can't find a crack in the wood where you can get an axe or maul through with modest effort, go to your heaviest maul and with the proper technique if it doesnt split across try splitting slabs around the outside. You get to a point it doesn't split with modest effort, get the chainsaw and slice it in halves through the toughest knots until you can split it to size or its small enough. Wedges mushroom and fragments fly off. A freind of mine inhaled 1 while huffing from swinging sledge.
    Before the chainsaw that was the best way to do it probably, todays tools are better and safer but still dangerous and work.
     
  11. willsaw4beer

    willsaw4beer Addicted to ArboristSite

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    :agree2:
    Like KS said, reading the wood is the best thing to do as it saves tremendous time and effort. If I were you I'd get a regular fiberglass handled splitting maul like they sell at Sears (what I've been using since I was 8, 23 now so 15 years of abuse, I can only estimate how many cords I've split with it.) I'm personally not a big fan of heavy mauls, I find accuracy and brute force split better than weight, and over 24'' you might as well use a sledge and wedges anyway. Knotted or twisted pieces you may want to cut shorter, say 12'' to 14'' lengths if you have to. Practice makes perfect, try swinging through the wood instead of just hitting it. I give my wrists a good snap, this seems to give the swing extra velocity.
     
  12. TKO-KID

    TKO-KID ArboristSite Operative

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    yeah I am mostly splitting oak and sweetgum, and a little hickory here and there.

    Yeah the one I am having the most trouble with are ones that the log turn slightly near the end. So when I set it on the log the part I am hitting is leaning slightly.

    I think that is a big part of my problem. I think My maul is a six pounder with a fiberglass handle.

    I think I might get one of these.http://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?action=productDetail&productId=147592-302-1190700&lpage=none or this onehttp://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?action=productDetail&productId=147593-302-1190300&lpage=none
     
  13. grandpatractor

    grandpatractor Addicted to ArboristSite

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  14. turnkey4099

    turnkey4099 Tree Freak

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    You need the entire kit to split manually.

    A good ax

    A good 6-8 lb maul

    At least two metal wedges.

    10-12 lb sledge hammer to hit the wedges with.

    As others pointed out, learn to read the wood. On a big round I start with the wedge(s) to halve it picking out a good clear path (no knots to go through around.

    Usually then, the maul will split blocks the size I want with one or two swings.

    I find that splitting "upside down", i.e. setting the block to be split with what was the top, down works easiest. Then eyeball to 'graze' any knot (don't try to split through one). I can usually wind up on a knotty piece with a 'graze" down each side of a big knot and have it small enough to fit the stove, if not, it goes on the "to be sawn apart pile"

    Get 'handle protectors' from the same place you get your other splittign supplies. They are rubber donuts that slip over the handle down near the head. Even with them, figure you will replace a handle now and then. Without them, you will replace a handle almost every year.

    Harry K
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2008
  15. olive_oil

    olive_oil ArboristSite Operative

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    :agree2:
     
  16. Ductape

    Ductape Addicted to ArboristSite

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    My suggestion is to do what my father did................................. have kids! :cheers:
     
  17. ericjeeper

    ericjeeper Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I prefer to manually split wood

    with a 28 ton maul.Swinging it sideways along a beam being pushed ever so diligently, yet forcefully until the wood is divided into as many pieces as one sees necessary.. Hydraulics are a wonderful invention.,
     
  18. southbound

    southbound AboristSite Guru

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    Last year I used one of those Lowes axes. It did not last long till I broke the head. So this year I went back and got a 8 pound maul again from Lowes..This thing seems to just bounce off the rounds..

    I have had some 30+ inch rounds of maple this year as well as the red oak and white oak and some gum beach and hickory... Now after reading some of the posts here I ordered a FISKARS SUPER SPLITTING.. Wow it is like cheating with this thing!! The price was comparable with the one I broke from Lowes..

    Funny he had 19 or so when I bought mine on 10/23..
    http://cgi.ebay.com/FISKARS-SUPER-SPLITTING-AXE-28-78546984-NEW-7164692_W0QQitemZ230285517722QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item230285517722&_trksid=p3911.c0.m14&_trkparms=72%3A1205|66%3A4|65%3A12|39%3A2|240%3A1318

    Ok so now I do really like the Fiskars. It does great in strait grain. But the handle is kind of short. I am 6 foot 2 and can work with it no problems. I was just betting that something with a longer handle I could get a faster swing.So this lead mo to the helko Vario-2000 2300G Heavy Splitting Axe. This thing has made short work of all the big rounds that the fiskars would not split..I did get the 36 inch hickory handle and got a replacement as well.

    All I can say is the wedges and the 8 pound maul have not come out the shop since these other two have showed up...I have split a pile of mixed species the size of my wife's Suzuki Reno:) Maybe even bigger..

    Good luck and let us know how you do...
     
  19. toddstreeservic

    toddstreeservic AboristSite Guru

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  20. J.W Younger

    J.W Younger Tree Freak

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    I do most of my splittin with a hyd. unit but if I were you I'd noodle the gum or at least saw a groove to set the wedge in.
     

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