Last updated on January 15th, 2022 at 10:23 pm
Splitting wood is great fun especially when you know How to split wood with an Ax. This article will help any outdoorsmen who love to split wood for a campfire and for someone who wants wood for heating houses using wood stoves.
There are 2 ways you can split wood either by electrical and mechanical machines or opting for the traditional method using axes and mauls which we will be focusing on, in this article.
Worth reading the article as we will be discussing the best technique to follow and the tools required to get the job done efficiently. We will also be focusing on how to keep yourself safe during the process as you don’t want to break your back while splitting.
Tools required for splitting
These are the few tools one needs for splitting.
- Axe /maul/hatchet
- Solid Chopping block
- Safety glasses
Selecting the Best Axe for Splitting Wood
This is a very important part of the process to know what ax is best suited for the job at hand. Important points to consider before selecting any type of ax hatchet or a maul.
- Your physical strength
Axes come in different sizes and weights so it’s important to know how much weight you can handle to allow you to split for a longer duration.
- Height of the splitter
For a taller user, the preferred ax would be the one with long handles so that they can have a full swing with power.
- How hard or big are the logs
If you are splitting tough and big logs then it’s wise to use axe with long handles to generate power and with a sharp head to penetrate through naughty logs.
“You can use mauls for this as they are heavy and with long handles generate the power you need.”
How to Split Wood with an Ax?
Here are the important steps you need to follow to split like an expert. These steps are tested by experienced woodsmen who are splitting wood for ages.
Things to consider before swinging axes for splitting.
1. Selection of tool if you are splitting hardwood make sure to use a wedge or a maul. The mauls are wedge-shaped axes with more weight and a sledgehammer at the back of its head for pounding.
Splitting Wedges are made of metal that is driven into the hardwood with sledges and then you can later use axe for chopping the wood.
2. Cut the bigger logs first Ideal size for a log for fireplace and the stove is not more than 50 cm. Make sure you cut the log first as the smaller logs are easier to split and enable you to stack and transfer them to your desired place easily.
“You should cut the wood end square and flat so that it’s easy to place them on a chopping block /Deck for further splitting.”
3. Setting the workplace – select the place wisely where you want to start the splitting process. Don’t ever try to split on hard surfaces like concrete or on the ground as it can cause damage especially to your feet or toes. Make sure there are no scattered pieces of wood where you can slip and get injured.
4. Setting the chopping block or Deck – Block is nothing but a large section of a tree trunk. Firewood is always chopped on a solid deck which should be of moderate size, not too tall or small. You can select the deck as per your height and comfort. Normally a block with 6 inches off the ground would be considered ideal for splitting.
The Deck should be the thickest and the naughtiest part of a tree trunk. The toughness of the deck can also be judged on the number of knots present in the wood. Normally 2 to 3 knots are preferred.
5. Wearing protective gear – There is nothing more important than your safety so make sure you wear safety glasses, shoes, and gloves to avoid any safety hazards.
Steps to follow for splitting efficiently with an ax or maul.
1. Install the deck or chopping block–
The chopping block should be placed where there is no debris or scattered pieces of wood underneath, to provide it a solid base. Remember the working surface of the deck should also be clean and flat so that it can’t beat the axe or hatchet and to avoid any damage caused by mishits.
Tips “pulling an old tire over top of the deck will make sure axes edges don’t get chipped.”
2. Placing logs on a chopping block
Logs on the chopping deck should always be stable before splitting and your target point should be focused.
3. Grab or hold the ax properly
You need to make sure that you follow the best technique to grab and then swing the axe for hitting targets. We have discussed that in detail later in this article.
4. Finding a potential crack in the logs
Experience chopper always looks for the cracks to target because if you hit the crack it would be easier to split even the toughest blocks. Once you find the split line with the least no of knots starts hitting that with an axe or maul.
Different wood has different structures, some are easy to split from the center, while for others you need to target the edges to make splitting easy and effortless.
5. Split and stack
You should keep on swinging the axe until the desired size of the logs is achieved. Logs are first split into half and then to smaller pieces of around 15 to 20 cm.
6. Stacking the wood
Always make sure you stack the wood properly and we already have a complete article written on how to season wood that you must read to make the most out of your stacked wood.
7. Save your time and energy
A well-organized workplace will save you time, especially when stacking, lifting, and loading firewood.
Best Technique for Splitting with Axe
Stand with the feet placed evenly and they should be shoulder-width apart. One might stand with one foot in front of the other slightly but they should not be too wide, this allows you to generate power through your hips with good balance.
2. Holding an axe
You should grasp the axe with both hands and your dominant hand should be holding it from the top and the other hand should be placed at the lower end of the handle. Once you swing the axe your top hand will slide down to the other hand to ensure power behind the strike.
3. Raise the axe above your head
Raise the axe about your head to give it a great swing to generate power. You can also lift the axe above your most dominant shoulder and swing it from there.
4. Bend your Knees
You should bend your knees and pull your hips back while the axe drops down on the target. This technique will help you generate a more powerful swing and keep you splitting for hours.
5. Aim the target
Your target should be the crack or a split line that you see in the block, that’s the area where you should be hitting the axe every time until it gets split. Long logs should be targeted from one endpoint where they already have been cut.
Chopping Block for Splitting Wood
Well, people often think that splitting wood is not a big deal it’s just simple common sense but that’s not enough. Talking about the chopping block it’s one of the basic things you need to have and there are a few tips and tricks that help to take the most out of your chopping block.
A good chopping block will save your time and energy for sure and provide great benefits described below.
- Safety first – you always need a solid chopping block to make sure the final resting position of your axe is further from your feet. The technique of using old tires with the block will certainly reduce the chances of backaches.
- Protects axe’s bit – While splitting on a block there are no chances of axe hitting the stones or solid ground as it only gets contacted with the wooden block. Your ax’s bit will not be damaged and the handle will be safe as well.
- More Power – when using a chopping block the ax gets in contact with the wood at the point where it generates more power.
- Manageable – if you place an old tire to the top of the block it will create a buffer that ensures the wood doesn’t get scattered and help to control the swings of an axe.
How to select the Best Chopping Block
Block is just a big tree trunk that is solid and can be extracted from any species of tree. Normally the elmwood is good for a chopping block as it is split resistant. If you can’t find the block of elm then the general rule of thumb is to get the trunk having 2 to 3 knots in it to ensure its toughness.
The chopping block should be around 12 to 16 inches in height and several inches of diameter to place the wood safely on them for splitting.
Homemade splitting block
Although you can buy a splitting block from stores like amazon we will guide you simple process of making your own and saving some money.
Steps to follow
- Get the log that is large enough to hold the tire and broad enough to accommodate the rounds you are willing to split.
- Instead of finding you can cut your own block from the tree as per your requirement with several inches in diameter and up to 16 inches in height.
- Make sure the block you cut is level from both sides and flat surface to hold the rounds firmly that you are splitting.
- Place the tire on top of the block that can fit perfectly and tight it with a screw. 2 to 3 screws will do the job of holding the tire firm on the chopping block.
You fill the tire with 2 or 3 rounds of wood at a time and after the strike, the tire will hold them tight and make sure they don’t fall over.
Tips “you can move in the clockwise direction while striking this will make sure that the axe handle don’t hit the other rounds”
How to split wood with a wedge
If you are splitting big logs or rounds of wood then it’s always wise to use a wedge. Wedges are great as they also compliment axes and mauls during the splitting process. Wedges split the wood once they are driven into the wood and makes the job easy for axe and mauls later.
- Place the wedge on the existing crack on the block
Look for the crack or a split line where you should place your wedge to drive in.
- Use the hammer or a maul to drive the wedge
Hammer or a maul with a hammer at the back end is used to keep pounding the wedge until it drives into the wood.
- Using the axes for further splitting
You can use more wedges or a splitting ax to split the wooden block into smaller chunks.
How to split wood without an Axe
Wood splitting tricks and tips
- Always look for the seasoned wood as it has low moisture content and is not dense to split. Remember some wood types are easy to split immediately after filling like black birch black oak from California foothills.
- Don’t twist the handle of the axe once it gets stuck in the wood as it will break the handle or the head will get loose. You can pump the handle up and down in the direction of the blade to get it dislodged.
- Inexperienced users should always opt for an ax that is made of fiberglass or metal as they might break the wooden handles through repeated mishits.
- Often the wood gets stuck onto the axe head, don’t try to lift both over your head as it might get fall.
- Don’t try to use a sledgehammer on your axe as it will loosen the handle.
- Take the rest when needed don’t overload yourself, there are chances that you might get injured.
- Safety equipment like glasses, gloves, and boots should not be compromised at any stage.
- Always take advice from your seniors to avoid miss-hits as it can cause damage by twisting your wrist.
- Try to use a lightweight but sharp axe as it will swing faster and generate more power.
- Use old tires and put the logs inside them as it will hold the logs for further chopping.
- Make sure your hands or palm are not sweating.
- Once finished splitting make sure to cover your axe or hatchet with a protective sheath.
- Keep yourself at a distance from the place of the strike
Benefits of Splitting Wood by Hand
You might be wondering why we want to split wood by hand. The very first reason that comes to mind is to have a good exercise and secondly to breathe in the fresh air outside.
Some other solid reasons that may compel you to split wood are:
- Get Smaller wooden chunks that fit in the woodstove
- Split wood gets dry quickly
- Wood burns well
How to Split Wood with a Hatchet
Hatchets are very handy and they are very much similar to axe. The main difference between axe and a hatchet is the size of the handle. An ideal hatchet length would be around 14 inches and a weight of around 2lbs. The best Hatchets for camping can easily be managed by a single hand thanks to its handle length.
There are 2 major things you need to consider when buying a hatchet for splitting
Head geometry with a thin bit is very important for easy splitting
Make sure the handle is strong and is non-slippery. These days modern hatchet does come with great handles with strong non-slippery rubber and leather grip.
A well-balanced hatchet will make you feel at ease while splitting and allow you to keep going for hours.
The steps are very much similar to what we have explained earlier. The main thing you need to understand is that hatchets don’t generate much power when compared with mauls and axes. So make sure wooden pieces are cut into proper size before starting splitting them with a hatchet.
How to split firewood with a Chainsaw
If you are not fond of working with an axe or maul then it’s always an option to split wood using a chainsaw. Chainsaws can help you get the work done in a short period. There are a few things you need to know before going out for splitting.
- Selection of right chainsaw
If you are splitting outdoor then for most people 18 inches chainsaw would be an ideal choice and for indoor 16 inches will get the work done easily. Remember if you have a large block to split then you can use a 20 and 24-inch chainsaw that really can split tough logs with ease.
Tips “always select chainsaw with 2 inches more in length than the logs you are splitting.”
- Safety first
The use of the protective gear is must either you are splitting with axe or chainsaw. The safety equipment includes as follows.
Thick jeans/chainsaw chaps
Mask for face and eye protection
Protection for hearing /ears to reduce sound
- Cutting tree trunks in small logs
First, you need to mark the tree using any forest tape and then mark the points with a spray. Ideally, the marks should be 4 ft apart from each other means each log will be cut into a length of 4 ft.
Then you should start cutting ¾-th of the way through the trunk along all the markings. It’s very important to turn the tree trunk over so that you can start cutting from another side as well. The idea behind flipping the trunk is that you don’t want the chainsaw hitting the ground and its teeth getting damaged.
- Start splitting logs in 16-inch size
Once you have the trunk split into 4 ft blocks then you can start splitting them further into a smaller chunk of 16-inch using a chainsaw by putting them on the chopping block or deck. You can continue on splitting until you get your desired size for firewood to be used in your wood stove.
“Tip place a piece of wood on both sides of the log that you want to split so that the log doesn’t roll left or right to split them easily.”
How to Split Wood with a Log Splitter
The log splitter is used for hardwood, softwood, and firewood.log splitter includes piston, blade, screw, and wedge. One can use either a horizontal or vertical log splitter for splitting logs into small pieces.
Hydraulic log splitter comes in 3 variants
- Hand pump unit
- Electric power unit
- Gas power unit
The hand pump unit is the least expensive and can be used in a remote area without worrying about electricity and gas availability. When you have a large amount of wood to split then electric and gas power units will save you time and energy.
Steps of splitting wood with a log splitter
- Cut the logs into smaller pieces before starting the log splitter
- Place the small logs at the end of the machine
- The machine will press the logs using its wedge and split them in half.
- Rearrange the log splitter to its original position and repeat the process.
Safety tips when working the Splitter
- While loading the machine make sure to keep your hands safe from crushing.
- Keeps your hands free from other appliances while switching on the splitter motor if you are using gas or electric power units.
- Read the manual carefully or ask for help if you are using it for the first time.
- Flying flakes of wood can get you an injury so always keep a safe distance from the machine.
- Safety equipment is a must
- Don’t allow kids close to the machine at any cost.
- Keep the split wood in the sun for a few days to let them dry.
Benefits of using a log splitter
Log splitter provides many benefits as follows.
Saves your time
All you need to do is to load the logs onto the machine and let the machine do the work and then collect the cut pieces and stack them properly. The machine saves a good amount of time as compared with manual splitting using axes etc.
Eco – friendly
These splitters work with manpower so there are no chances of any gas emitted as it is in the case with splitters that work with petrol or diesel.
Log splitter needs less maintenance as they just need to be oiled for smooth working as compared with power splitters.
These splitters are easy to carry if you want to change your workplace they often come with tires to move around.
They are not that messy only a few wood flakes fly that can easily be managed.
Chopping and splitting wood is real fun but only when you have the right tools for the right job. Remember don’t compromise on your safety and you need to have all the safety equipment before even thinking of splitting.
Stack the wood properly so that it can be seasoned for the best performance and make sure you have a proper workplace. Studies have shown that most of the energy is spent not on splitting but on stacking, lifting, and loading the firewood.
If you have the proper workplace and organize everything you would certainly save quite a lot of your time and energy. Always learn the best technique from any experienced chopper or read articles that discuss How to split wood with an ax before trying splitting.
How do you split wood by hand?
Simply, you can use any appropriate axe or a maul and with the help of a chopping block, you can start splitting by putting wooden pieces on top of the chopping block. You can use a wedge for splitting as we have already explained in our article.
Can you split wood with a chainsaw?
Yes, you certainly can use a chainsaw for splitting they come in different sizes, you should select the size depending upon how big or small are the rounds you are splitting.
Is it best to split wood wet or dry?
It depends on what tool you are using and for what purpose you would like to split wood. If you are using a log splitter you can split both easily but dry wood is always easy to split. You can also spit wood to let it dry as once the wood is split it dries out quickly.
What’s better for splitting wood AXE or maul?
If you are working with tough and bigger logs then mauls are always preferred over axes. Mauls have a hammer shape at the end of its head and are a bit heavy and generate more power with their long handles. You need to be strong working with a maul though.
Does cutting wet wood dull a chainsaw?
No, it doesn’t affect the chainsaw unless you used it for a long period where you need a bit of maintenance otherwise it’s always wise to use a chainsaw for wet wood.
Why does my chainsaw get dull so fast?
Well, it’s always wise to check the manual that comes with the machine to check the right size for the chainsaw to split the wood. Splitting heavy logs with the smaller machine will certainly affect it or it will get dull very soon.
Should you split logs before seasoning?
Yes for the logs to get them dry it’s always wise to split them first and then stack them properly. Normally it will take around at least 6 to 8 months for the wood to get seasoned properly. Ideally, wood should be seasoned at the start of the summer to let the sun and wind blow the whole time to help it get dry.
Can you split fresh wood?
Some types of wood are easy to split when wet rather than splitting when they get dry. In most cases, dry wood gets cracked and is easy to split.
Does splitting wood make you stronger?
Splitting wood is a great exercise that helps to improve your back muscle strength. Splitting wood in nature with fresh air is always a good option and saves your gym expenses, isn’t it?
Should an AXE be sharp?
Axes should have a sharp blade to help you split with minimum effort and make the work enjoyable. Bear in mind you need to have a protective sheath when axe is not in use.
Can you use a chopping AXE to split wood?
Chopping axe has a wide blade so it can bite deep into the wood as compared with a proper splitting axe.
Is it worth sharpening a chainsaw chain?
If you are sharpening your chainsaw regularly it means you can use the machine for longer periods. Sharpening the chainsaw makes sure it works efficiently without worrying much about blades getting dull.
Can firewood be too old?
Yes, it can be old to be able to burn well but only in the case when the wood is well protected from the moisture and insect that really can damage if it’s stored over a long period.
Can firewood be too dry?
Kiln-dried wood is the driest you can find in the market it doesn’t produce smoke and burn well and is sometimes hard to control. Kiln-dried wood has a moisture content of around 10 % which is the lowest you can find anywhere.