How We Chop Wood To Save Time And Energy

on October 10, 2016
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Is there anything as warm and inviting as a fire in the wood stove or fireplace? The smell of hickory or oak smoke in the air…how thankful I am for such fond memories. Even today, when I smell the smoke from the fire I feel warmth in my soul, not just on my cold body.

Who hasn’t stood in front of the fire roasting the front of yourself then turning to warm the backside? Did you play chicken in front of the heater to see who could stand there the longest?

My Papa said, “When you chop wood it’ll warm you twice. Once when you split it and once when you burn it.” We like using wood for heating because it’s a renewable energy source. I think there’s just nothing as warm and cozy as a wood fire.

You’ll think we’re weird when I tell you we both enjoy chopping wood. My husband would say it’s relaxing and provides great exercise. I don’t know if I’d go that far!

We (I use this term loosely of course) put our heads together to share some tips we’ve learned over the years on how to chop wood to save time and energy.

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The Right Tools For The Job

These include a wood splitting ax, maul, wedge, sledgehammer, and a surface to split your wood on. 

Here in the panhandle of Idaho, we (again used loosely) usually split 16-inch rounds of Tamarack Pine. Since the wood here splits much easier than the oak or hickory we had always cut down south, we don’t see the sense in using the gasoline it would take to run a splitter.

We usually only split wood once a week to keep the hungry wood stove well fed. 

If you’re looking to buy a wood splitting ax or a maul, we would suggest a “wood splitter’s maul” because the wedge shape gives a definite advantage. We’ve found it’s much less inclined to stick in the wood than other wedges. The steep slope of the maul creates more outward pressure on the wood which causes it to splits better. Wedges come in handy for splitting knotty and gnarly logs so keep them handy.

You could use a six, eight or 10-pound maul depending on the size of your muscles. We won’t talk about how small my maul has to be! Velocity is more important than mass when using a maul. With the maul head traveling as fast as is safely possible for you as it strikes the wood you’ll be able to produce the best results.

As your wood chopping prowess grows, you won’t have to use all your energy to chop wood. If you find yourself having to use all your strength and energy to chop every piece of wood, you’re likely doing one of two things wrong. Either you’re attempting to split rounds which are too large for your muscle mass or you’re maul or ax is too heavy for you.

Safety Matters

Your safety gear takes only few extra seconds to put on but can prevent serious injury or loss or life. These pieces of equipment include safety glasses, earplugs, work boots, and gloves. 

A sharp ax is part of working safely. Depending on what you’re cutting, you may have to sharpen your ax once every 3 months. We sharpen ours once every six months here in the panhandle of Idaho. When you sharpen an ax you’re removing a little bit of steel from the blade so remember it doesn’t need to be as sharp as a kitchen knife to do the job.

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Choose the Right Place to Chop Wood

The ground where you chop your wood should be hard and level. If the ground is soft, the force of your blow will be absorbed by the soft earth instead of by the wood. If the ground isn’t mostly level, you’ll not get good results. These mistakes result in a waste of your energy. 

J found the best way to split wood for him was to build his own chopping block. He took an old tire, eight screws, and four rounds to build the device he wanted to use to chop wood. He chose rounds which would make his chopping platform the correct height for him and screwed the tire to them. He then used a strap to keep the unit a little more secure.

 

The tire holds the round in place as you go around and split it into the desired sizes. This saves you time and effort since you don’t have to bend over to reposition the wood after almost every strike. When the seasons begin to change and he doesn’t need to chop wood as much, he takes it apart, splits the rounds used as the base and stores the tire and screws for next season. 

Chop Wood Efficiently to Avoid Injury

Before you chop the round, look at closely and look for existing cracks. Use these as your targets.

You don’t want to purposefully strike a round in knotty or gnarly areas. Hit close to the outside edge of the round at a 90 degree angle to the growth rings. This will produce a more effective splitting of the wood than aiming for the center of the round.

Once you’ve got the split well started, strike on the opposite side to split the round in two. The remainder of the splitting will be easier once you’ve got it split in two.

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I still struggle with accuracy. If  you can strike within a quarter-inch of the target area, you should be good enough to chop wood without too much difficulty.

As I’ve been told, “part” of my problem is I change my grip in mid strike and which changes the impact. Thankfully, my husband says I’m “a delicate southern flower,” so we don’t have to depend on me to chop wood to meet our needs.

Your feet should be shoulder-width apart as you stand in front of the round. Measure the striking distance by placing the head of the ax or maul on the round where you want to strike. With your arms fully extended, take about a half a step back.

This provides room for you to lean forward a little and strike with your arms fully extended. J tells me this adds power to your swing. With your knees flexed, bend at the waist slightly and swing the maul overhead while keeping your focus on the place you want to land your strike.

Just as you are about to hit your target, pull the maul head back towards you slightly using your abdominal muscles and legs. This will increase your accuracy and the effectiveness of your strike.

Whew! That sounds complicated I know, but the more you chop wood, you’ll find the way that works best for you. We hope our tips will help you avoid back injuries and pain and other bodily injuries. 

We split our wood without incurring back pain and thankfully have had no injuries over the years. Again, I use the word “we” loosely, J lets me chop a round or two and then takes over. He doesn’t want to spend all day chopping wood. It works best for us for him to chop wood and me to do the stacking.

chop-wood

We had a member of TFL Community ask us if there was a way to chop larger rounds. My husband says you could use a bigger tire with this setup. A semi or small tractor tire maybe. Anything bigger than that would be too awkward to work with in his opinion.

Do you have tips on how to chop wood to save time and energy? Share your experience with us in the comments below.

Safe and Happy Journey,

Rhonda and The Pack

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1 Comment

  • What We've Learned About Drying and Storing Firewood ~

    […] split it and again when you burn it.” Some people use a chainsaw to cut their wood, people who enjoy splitting wood, like my husband, use an ax and others use a powered wood splitter. I think Papa would have loved […]

    October 21, 2016 at 2:52 pm Reply
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