Nothing beats a real log fire, especially on those chilly winter days that seem to last for more than 24 hours. You can always buy your firewood ready split, but the best way to save some cash and practise your chopping technique is by splitting your own. Let’s find out how to do it.
Introduction to Splitting Firewood
There are plenty of different ways to split firewood. You can bust it apart by hand using a splitting maul, spend some cash on a hydraulic splitting machine (like the Forest Master FM5), or try out one of the hundreds of different ways to process logs into useable firewood.
What to Look for in your Firewood
Whether you’re splitting logs by hand or by machine, you need to know the best spots on the log to aim for. If your firewood is properly seasoned, there should be cracks in the end grain. Aim for these natural splits because that’s where nature wants it to break apart. It’ll be much easier here.
Look out for knots in the wood or twisted growth patterns. These natural features in your firewood will be much harder to split, so either aim for the middle of a knot or try to avoid it completely. Some species of wood will be much harder to split than others.
Splitting wood can be dangerous. Swinging heavy axes or blasting apart logs with sledge hammers and wood grenades needs to be approached with an eye on safety, just like any DIY project.
Always wear eye protection. When splitting wood with an axe or maul, I also like to wear gloves to protect against blisters, and they come in handy when handling split firewood as well.
Wear tough clothes and long trousers that will protect you against flying pieces of split wood. A thick checked shirt is associated with lumberjacks for good reason! A decent work shirt will protect your upper body.
Sturdy boots with steel toe caps are essential. You don’t want to split wood in your slippers, after all. They’ll keep your feet protected against falling logs and wayward axe swings.
If you’re using a wedge and hitting metal on metal, ear protection is also necessary.
Like any task in the home or garden, you need the right tools for the job. Using the right type of axe or splitting gadget will make the tough task of splitting wood a lot easier, faster, and safer.
READ NEXT: The Best Log Splitters
Although it might sound like a villain from a sci-fi film, a splitting maul is a very simple and effective tool for breaking up logs into firewood. Shaped like an axe, but with a much thicker profile and heavier head, it’s probably the most tried and tested way to process logs.
Channel your inner woodsman and get limbered up because this simple method takes practice to achieve the right technique. Choose a splitting maul that you can comfortably lift above your head, it’s better to use a lighter maul with better technique than struggle to swing a heavier one.
Once you’ve picked the right type of maul for you, hold the shaft in both hands and lay the head of the maul on the middle of the log you want to split. You should now be the correct distance away from the log. Lift the maul up over your head and bring it down onto the log. With any luck, it will split apart.
READ NEXT: The Best Log Splitting Axes
Wedges and Wood Grenades
Another popular way to split logs is with a wedge. It performs the same task as a splitting maul by getting in between the wood fibres and splitting them apart.
You’ll need something to hammer the wedge in. A sledge hammer or decent size club hammer fit the bill here. Start the wedge in the end grain of the wood with a couple of taps, then stand back and hit it like you would with a splitting maul.
The wood grenade, also known as a diamond wedge, is like a regular wedge on steroids. Specifically designed with flanges and a spiral shape, it’s a brilliant tool for busting open logs. The only drawback of using wedges is when they get stuck in the wood.
Firewood Drill Bit
Don’t want to break your back swinging a big hammer? This handy little tool is a real time saver so long as you already own a drill. Looking something across between a corkscrew and a step bit, it’s a wedge shaped drill bit with a sharp point and deep threads for splitting wood fibres.
Most versions of this drill bit come with three different shank types; A round fitting for normal drill chucks, a hex shank for impact drivers, and a square shank that fits beefy SDS-type drills.
It’s best suited for working with well-seasoned wood, and isn’t going to bust apart huge logs, but it’s a handy gadget that works well alongside a splitting maul or set of wedges.
Log Splitting Machine
The daddy of all log splitting tools, a log splitter uses mechanical power to break apart your firewood. There are lots of different types of log splitting machine out there, ranging from small benchtop machines for the garden shed up to huge industrial units for commercial firewood production.
The most common type of machine uses a hydraulic ram that either forces a wedge into the wood or forces the wood into a static wedge. They’re easy to use, incredibly fast, and much less strain on your back and arms.
Powered by electricity or petrol, these are ideal machines if you have a huge pile of wood to split and you don’t feel up to swinging a maul. However, they’re more expensive than manual methods, take up a lot of room, and require annual maintenance.
You could always rent a log splitter for the weekend if owning one sounds like too much hard work.