How to spilt large pieces of wood with an ax?

corwise

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Last year's big ice storm in OKC brought down several of my trees. I used a chain saw to cut them into foot long chucks, and have had some stacked seasoning all year. I finally got around to buying a full sized axe to split them with, my fireplace is pretty small unfortunately and I can't stick a 8in log in there. However, what the heck am I doing?
I figured it'd be pretty straight forward, hit the flat spot of the log (lengthwise of course) a few times, axe goes in, wood splits. :) Unfortunately, not quite working that way. Of course, I usually don't hit the same spot every time, or I've carved out the entire middle and still haven't "split" the wood into anything useful for the fireplace.
Most of my wood is oak or hickory, nice hard wood. I also have some willow pieces at least a foot wide, and I'm just getting nowhere with those. The oak and hickory takes a long time, but at least it usually splits eventually. Any thoughts and/or suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks.

Dave
 
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A maul and 2 or 3 wedges.

No maul? If your axe isn't a double bit axe, but has a flat side to the head, that'll work like a maul in a pinch.

Use it to pound in a wedge. Drive in another wedge a little further. Drive the first wedge in even deeper. Repeat until the wood splits.
 
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i was put in a similar situation with all the wood from the OK ice storm, but most of the wood i ended up with was pecan and was easily split in one or two strike with the maul.
 
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Logs have a sweet spot that lets you split them easier.
Stand the piece on end and look for the widest crack or line running to
the center of the wood from the edge....hit there with the axe and splitting will
be easier.
 
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Well, the not hitting the exact same spot every time will eventually cure itself with practise, but I can tell you that when splitting big hardwood rounds as a kid - we used to get 2-3 foot diameter oak logs and they don't split easily at all - I would just use a couple of wedges and a sledgehammer. It can be done with an axe but it takes a long time and some prying!

I find that USUALLY if I swing an axe hard and fast I can bury the bit and get a good "crack" out of the wood and it will pry apart at that point - but then for one I haven't tackled one of those big old oak rounds in fifteen years and for another I am twice the size I used to be. It's possible that I would not find them very hard to split any more, but also possible that I would still need the wedges.

Anyway if you are working with very knotty wood you may find the wedges better. I like to put medium rounds - say not more than sixteen inches in diameter - on top of a large round and just swing really hard and fast. You can often shatter a knot if you are hitting hard enough.

But then I have been chopping wood since I was a little kid; I don't know if this is good advice for people without a lot of aim that built up over twenty years. Wedges are probably a safer approach.

One thing about wedges: keep an eye on the striking surface. Over time the steel mushrooms out to the side and becomes brittle, and I have been cut on the cheek by little bits flying off when struck with a big sledge. If you took one in the eye you would probably be pretty unhappy! So make sure to grind them off regularly.
 
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I use a Maul to split. Works much better than an axe.

I hesitate to recommend wedges and a sledge to someone who isn't practiced enough to hit the same place with an axe. A glancing hit on a wedge can be quite dangerous, depending on which direction it gets slung.
 
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In North Dakota you hit them when it's 30 below zero and the split pretty darn easy. I use a wedge and sledge if they don't split easy with the ax. You could always get some of these big knife to chop with fans out there to help you.
 

WhitleyStu

Keep'em scary sharp!!!
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Dave,
I always resplit our delivered fire wood by hand so it would fit in our small firepalce at our old home. When we would have several trees downed due to storms I would rent of borrow a log splitter and make a big job easier. Now we just have a gas stove...:thumbup:
 
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if you dont have a maul, get a sledge hammer and a couple of wedges, you can easily split them just start a crack and keep driving the wedges. then wedges and maul should not cost you much.

alex
 

corwise

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Thanks for all the advice. I do have a single wedge, have to grab a few more and a large sledge. I thought about renting the splitter, but figured I'd try and see if I can do it myself first. Might have to go that route eventually though.
Thanks much, hope everyone enjoys their weekend.

Dave
 
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G'day Cornwise

..... Of course, I usually don't hit the same spot every time, or I've carved out the entire middle and still haven't "split" the wood into anything useful for the fireplace.

Sounds like you are trying to split the log in half (ie down the middle).

As alreadt mentioned, Mauls and Wedges will work.

If it's not essential to have the log split down the middle, try splitting the log from the outside in (a bit like you are trying to square off the log). It's a hell of a lot easier to split a tough log up by taking chunks off the sides and work your way in, rather than splitting it in half :thumbup:.

Hope this helps

Kind regards
Mick
 
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Thanks for all the advice. I do have a single wedge, have to grab a few more and a large sledge. I thought about renting the splitter, but figured I'd try and see if I can do it myself first. Might have to go that route eventually though.
Thanks much, hope everyone enjoys their weekend.

Dave

I used to heat my house with a wood stove. In the long, cold New England winters, (-20, -30) that takes a bit of wood. I had a nice wood lot on my property, and would cut and buck 5-6 trees and let them season for a year. The first year I tried splitting myself using a splitting maul and wedges. After two years I rented a gas powered splitter. By the fourth year I began buying my wood cut, split, delivered, AND stacked.... I really enjoyed heating with wood after that! :)

Stitchawl
 
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Husky 3120 XP with 404 pitch chisel grind chain. cut lengthwise and make lots of "noodles" for drying and using to start your fire.



nuff said.
 
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If yo wanted another woods tool you could buy a splitting maul, its kinda lije an axe and a sledge had a baby, I don't know how big a guy you are but these usally come in either 6 or 8 pounds, the bigger the better. these do not need to be really sharp, if they are to sharp they get "stuck"

don't try to split the chunk of wood where a branch has been trimmed off.

trying to spkit acooss a crotch of a log is very difficult, but splittong off the sides isn't to bad

Once you get a piece split in two, the axe may work better, for me after you get 2 pieces, you can go from a power swing with the maul to a speed swing with the axe. alittle faster and lighter weight tool

if you get a splitting maul let the wight of it do the work, you can still put some power behind it but it is better and safer to have enough control to hit close to where you are aiming.

if your pieces are olny a foot long find a big one, square on the ends to use as a chopping/splittling block sometimes your power seem to be about thigh high and this also may give you a more solid hit.

its work, its fun, be careful Pat
 
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(This maybe off topic or maybe not)
I have a few regular sized axes but i just bought a Marbles Double-Bit hunters axe, Vaughan Sub-zero and a Cold Steel Trailhawk.
I'm pretty impressed with the Marbles and the Cold steel. The vaughan needs some work done before i can really test it out.
The thing is i'm re-considering the whole issue of what the ideal handle length is according to head weight.
Then i read this article which is a little extreme but a totally cool splitting wood experiment!
"Tiny Hatchets Part Two-Splitting Wood"

http://www.oldjimbo.com/survival/tinyhatchets2.html
 
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In North Dakota you hit them when it's 30 below zero and the split pretty darn easy. I use a wedge and sledge if they don't split easy with the ax. You could always get some of these big knife to chop with fans out there to help you.

haha this is like canada, man its unreal up here some times. I had a 28" wetterlings with 2.5 pound? head. good axe split ever time.
 
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G'day Cornwise



Sounds like you are trying to split the log in half (ie down the middle).

As alreadt mentioned, Mauls and Wedges will work.

If it's not essential to have the log split down the middle, try splitting the log from the outside in (a bit like you are trying to square off the log). It's a hell of a lot easier to split a tough log up by taking chunks off the sides and work your way in, rather than splitting it in half :thumbup:.

Hope this helps

Kind regards
Mick

+1 on the "squaring off" technique
 
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Have to split Ozzie wood with the squaring off method and with a maul at that, bloody awful stuff to split, especially Iron Bark, it burns great though!
 
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Thanks for reminding me of my childhood in hilly southern Quebec, north of the Vermont border.

:)

We'd burn TONNES of wood in the winter, in a kitchen stove and a wood-burning furnace.

The kitchen stove required the wood to be quite small (I can't now remember the size of its firebox--maybe 15 inches long by 12 or so deep by 10 wide), and we'd have to do the splitting in our cellar, ceiling clearance of about, oh, 5 feet (!).

Built strong back muscles, and character!

Matt
 
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I know I'm weird, but that reminds me of growing up in New England. We were dirt poor and had no electricity for several years (yeah, people really live like that). I loved the heck out of chopping and splitting wood. At first my dad only allowed me to limb and then buck them into smaller pieces with a bow saw. Then I got to quarter rounds (split the ones he'd split in half), and I was a real man the day he let me start using the maul. I got to where I really looked forward to chopping wood all summer. I also loved raking leaves in fall and spring -- there was just something about the smell of it all.


But I think one of the best reasons to do manual labor like that is the exercise. Man does it make you strong, and it strengthens all the support muscles that never get hit at the gym, plus there's no gym membership fee! Oh, and I think I always got mroe admiring looks from women when they saw me splitting wood than I ever got in the gym. Something to consider.
 
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