How To Split Logs

How To Split Wood

A roaring fire is wonderful in those cooler months, and even in the summer fire pits are becoming more popular. But to have a great fire, you need well-seasoned logs, and that means splitting logs to prepare them early so that they can dry out.

There are a few different methods you can use to split logs. Swinging an axe, or maul, is probably the most common method. However, these carry a high risk of injury, be it from striking yourself with the blade, hurting your back or injury from projectile shards of wood. A slightly less risky method is using a splitting wedge, but this still carries the risk of injuring your back from the swing. The safest, and often the most efficient technique of splitting logs is to use a specially designed log splitter.

A log splitter is a specially-designed piece of equipment the combines a splitting wedge with a shunt and hydraulic action to split logs efficiently and safely.

We are going to discuss these different methods of splitting logs so that you can choose the right method for you.

Manual Splitting With An Axe Or Splitting Maul

Splitting Wood With An Axe

To prepare for this method, you will need:

  • Protective clothes – e., safety glasses, long sleeves top and trousers, hard-toed boots and durable gloves
  • A chopping block – this can be a wide section of tree trunk
  • A set up in a safe location – flat ground, no rain, ice or mud and free from obstacles

You are probably already familiar with what an axe is, and a splitting maul is a specific type of axe that has a long handle. One half of the head of a splitting maul is an axe while the other half is a sledgehammer.

  1. To begin, place you log on the chopping block, ideally near the center of the chopping block. You will need the cut surface facing up. Always make sure that you check your log is stable on the chopping block.
  2. Inspect your log, looking for points of weakness such as hairline cracks. This means you can aim your axe or maul so that it strikes the log in the same direction as the crack. Also look out for knots and gnarls, so that you can aim to avoid them.
  3. Once you have chosen the aim of your first strike, adjust your grip on the axe. You want to hold your writing hand nearer the blade, cradling the handle, and your other hand at the end of the handle. Rest the axe on that point and stand with your feet square so that you are balanced.
  4. When you feel confident with your aim, lift up the axe, keeping it to your side and then strike the wood.
  5. Test the log by pulling the axe out to see if it split on this first go – twist as you pull if there is resistance.
  6. If your first swing worked and the log is split, remove one half from the chopping block and centralize the other half so you can continue. Continue doing this until the wood is the size you want and continue working through your wood pile.
  7. If your first swing doesn’t work, then repeat your swings until it does split, aiming for your original strike location or any points of weakness that have formed since your first strike.

No matter which method you choose, if you are splitting your wood for firewood, try and split your logs into with same sized blocks of wood. Often roughly 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) is about right. Blocks of the same size are easier to stack.

Splitting Logs With A Wedge

To prepare for this method, you will need:

  • A selection of wedges – different sizes, some slimmer and harper, others wider but blunter
  • A sledgehammer – for tapping the wedge into the wood. Short-handled is fine
  • Protective clothes – e., safety glasses, long sleeves top and trousers, hard-toed boots and durable gloves
  • Stable chopping surface – such as a wider part of the tree trunk
  • Tidy, safe environment – flat with no mud, ice or water that is free from trip hazards

Using a wedge still requires you to use some physical exertion, but it doesn’t require you to swing the axe, so it is better if you are keen to reduce your risk of back injuries when splitting your logs. You’ll still need to watch out for projectile chips though.

  1. Position the log securely in the center of the chopping block.
  2. Place the wedge tip against the log, holding it like you would hold a nail that you are about to hammer into place. If you see any cracks, put the wedge tip in the same direction as these cracks.
  3. Use the sledgehammer to tap the wedge into the grain. Tap it in until the wedge stands up on its own.
  4. You can now use harder blows with the sledgehammer, driving it into the grain until the log splits.
  5. If the log doesn’t split by the time the wedge is the whole way in, use another wedge, hammering it in along the same crack but nearer the edges of the log.
  6. Take care to stand clear of the log as it nears the point of splitting as the wedges can become projectile.

Once you have finished splitting your logs, you will want to stack them to dry out and season, so they make efficient firewood. You will have cut them into roughly the same-sized blocks to make this easier. For the best results, stack the blocks so that air can circulate easily. First lay some out sideways, then layer the next row on top of them lengthways. Continue this pattern until all the blocks are stacked and then cover with a tarpaulin to protect from rain.

Splitting Logs With A Log Splitter

To prepare for this method, you will need:

  • A power source or fuel – depending on your log splitter this may be mains electricity, or it may be gasoline
  • Protective clothes – e., safety glasses, long sleeves top and trousers, hard-toed boots and durable gloves
  • Tidy, safe environment – flat with no mud, ice or water that is free from trip hazards

Using a log splitter is the fastest, easiest and safest way to split logs. You can get different types of splitters, such as those powered by gasoline or mains power. Many are horizontal which are more suitable for lighter or smaller logs, but if you are looking for something a bit more heavy duty, then you can get vertical splitters, which saves you having to lift heavy logs. Some splitters can also be used in both horizontal and vertical positions.

  1. Set up your log splitter on a flat surface and ensure it is stable.
  2. Power it up, either by filling the gas tank or plugging it into an electricity
  3. Holding your logs along their long sides (where the bark is or would be), place the log on the belt. Load it against the wedge, ensuring your hands are not near the crush zones.
  4. Switch on the motor and keep your hands free of the equipment while the shunt drives the log into the wedge and splits it. Some log splitters will automatically retract and repeat the cycle; others will require you to reset Most splitters will also have arms to catch the split components to prevent them falling on the floor.
  5. Clear the logs away and repeat until you have worked through your log pile.

With an efficient log splitter, you can complete as many as 300 cycles per hour, which means you greatly cut down the time it takes to work through your log pile and the effort it requires. Depending on what type you choose you can even use some log splitters indoors too, and they are very versatile.

Conclusion

All of the methods we have discussed are effective at splitting logs, but the one we recommend the most is using a log splitter. It is time and energy efficient and doesn’t have the higher risk of injury that the other methods have. If you would like to know more about log splitters and are interested in finding out what could be the best log splitter for you, have a read of our discussion on some of the top products on the market.

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