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How-To Split Fire Wood

Updated on February 5, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

Just Flip a Switch

Splitting firewood used to be one of the most basic daily chores, one that fell to the younger boys in the family. There was not much lecturing on exactly how to do it- you just did as you had watched your father or brother do a hundred times. Split the wood. If you didn't, not only might it mean a trip to the empty woodshed, but a cold, dinner-less house besides.

Well in many ways we have evolved past the point of needing to send our sons out to split wood for the day's baking. We switch on the oven, flip on the heat and are instantly able to bake in a comfortable environment. Most of us, anyway. There are those that wish to brave the icy blasts with their own chopped and split wood.

Maybe you had a tree come down, or the electric bill has been high, no matter. Splitting wood is a simple, albeit tiring task, easily learned.

Image:(c)2008 Marye Audet
Image:(c)2008 Marye Audet

How Large to Cut Logs

You should think about the size of your fireplace when initially cutting the wood. Wood stoves and the average modern fireplace will take a 16-20 inch log. Cut it as short as you can because short logs are by far easier to split than long ones. Cut it so that the ends are cut straight, rather than angled. This will make it much easier to split later.

After your wood is cut, split it before allowing it to season. This will make the splitting process easier on you.

How to Split Wood

Set the first log up on it's end on the surface you are cutting on, either a tree stump or something similar. Be sure to wear safety glasses!

Use a six pound wood splitter's maul. The maul is type of a wedge with a handle. It works better than the ax because the wedge does not stick in the wood as easily and the slope of the wedge, itself, increases the pressure on the wood. You are using a lightweight maul because it is the velocity that the maul hits the wood that splits the logs, not the mass involved.. Most people can swing a six pound maul quicker and easier than a bigger one.

Look the wood over for knot holes and twisted areas that might indicate that it would be difficult to split. Set this wood aside for later. Swing the maul and bring it down toward the edge of the log, not in the center. You may hear the wood begin to split the first time. Keep going until the wood splits completely. You should always try to strike in the same spot, or as close to it as possible.

Always watch and pay close attention to what you are doing. Allowing your mid to wander for even one second can be painful! Stop and rest as you need to, but swing the maul with energy and purpose.

Stacking and Seasoning Wood

After the wood is split, it is time to stack it and allow it to season. The best way it to stack it, in one row about four feet high, along a fence line. This allows the wood o season properly and burn more effectively. Allow the wood to dry out for six months. Keep it covered and the rain off of it.

Stacking the wood is not that easy. A well thought out wood pile is in a good location, up off the ground, covered, and stacked so that it won't tumble down the first time a bird lands on it. It is usually referred to as " being stacked in cords." One cord is 4x4x8. For our purposes, that would be two logs in depth, four feet high and eight feet wide.

Stop by your local feed store and see if you can have some of the old pallets. Use these as a base for your woodpile to keep it free of termites, ants, and damp, three things that will cause the pile to rot rather than season.

Wood has differing abilities to heat. Soft woods like poplar and birch will burn with less heat than maple and oak. Keep this in mind, and burn the softer woods on the warmer days of te fall and spring, saving the hottest burning woods for winter.

There is nothing as welcoming as a crackling fire, unless it is drinking coffee in front of a crackling fire. A woodpile of split logs is the beginning of that process.


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    • profile image

      Bubba 6 years ago

      What the heck is a tire splitter?

    • Cedar Cove Farm profile image

      Cedar Cove Farm 7 years ago from Southern Missouri

      YOu should see my tire splitter, it works great! Hmmm, that might be a future hub...

    • profile image

      Mike 8 years ago

      To cut larger logs, a sawbuck (wood cutter's saw horse) is very helpful! The only ones I could find available to buy online are here:

      They make life so much easier and last forever!

    • profile image

      Firewood Processor 8 years ago

      Hey, this is an interesting hub on firewood. Thanks!

    • profile image

      Dave 10 years ago

      Swing is IMPORTANT! Swing so that if you miss the log (or if it splits super easily), the maul will bury itself in the stump or chopping block and not carry on and hit you in the leg. Placing the log at the rear of the stump makes this easier, as does finishing the swing so that the ax handle is parallel to the ground at the end of the swing when the ax head is in the stump.

      Stance is IMPORTANT! Stand and swing so that if you miss the stump or chopping block, the maul will carry through BETWEEN your legs.

      I find that for ease of splitting, the chopping block needs to lift the top end of the log to just under waist height. Too high, and you can't get a full swing so the ax lacks energy. Too low, and you end up bending over a lot to finish each swing.



    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Great HUB Marye! Dad did the chopping and I was the stacker. Winters in Canada sure gave us practice. In a mostly thermostat governed society even splitting wood for heat is becoming a lost (dare I call it) 'art'. It sure is hard work; but at the beginning of winter seeing all the split wood stacks, knowing that even in a power failure the family won't go cold or won't be able to cook it sure gives one great feeling of pride.

      Super HUB regards Zsuzsy

    • adventure profile image

      adventure 10 years ago from U.S.A.

      This is really great information on a lost chore. I gre up fairly poor. Gathering wood and splitting logs were a regular part of daily life in my family. We had a fireplace and a wood burning stove. Your hub is interesting. In our media-urbanized society, many don't realize there are people in rural areas and even suburban areas who still gather and chop firewood. Thanks.

    • manoharv2001 profile image

      Manoharan 10 years ago from Bangalore - 560097, Karnataka, India

      great hub