Firewood Tips: How to Split Wood

28 October 2020 In The Woods

how to split wood with an axe

Knowing how to properly split wood with an axe saves time, energy, and frustration at the cottage. A few simple tricks can make the difference between a productive afternoon of splitting wood and one that leaves you wishing you had a mechanical wood splitter.

How to Split Wood

Smaller diameter pieces, say less than six or eight inches will often split in half quite easily. However, when we split larger pieces, trying to hit the log right in the middle won’t get us very far, unless the wood is a bit rotten or punky. In that case it might not be worth burning.

If you have a large variety of trees on the property the hardwoods are the best ones to burn. Ideally we find tress that die on their own. Otherwise, weed need to cut a few to plan ahead.

Pieces that are 10 inches or larger in diameter can be difficult to split, especially with the hardwoods. The axe will often just get stuck. Anyone who has had the pleasure of burying the axe in a heavy log knows that trying to get it out can be difficult.

Wood that is still green or not properly seasoned is also a challenge to split.

How do you split large pieces of wood?

The best way to split big pieces is to work your way around the core, otherwise known as the heartwood. It takes some practice, but if you hit it just right, the wood should split into perfect-sized pieces for the wood stove or fireplace.

It is always a good idea to split the wood on top of a solid and flat base. Ideally, this is the widest part of the trunk of a hardwood tree that you had to cut down. Attempting to split wood on grass or dirt isn’t effective, as the ground absorbs part of the blow.

Check out our video below for the full tutorial on how to split wood.

Best tools for splitting firewood

Certain tools are essential for cutting and splitting firewood at the cottage. The difference between struggling to get the job done and blazing through the pile of logs in short order depends on having the right gear.

Splitting Axes, Hatchets, and Axe Sharpeners
A heavy splitting axe is necessary for cutting the large logs into manageable sizes. You want to have the largest axe you can safely control.

Take a few minutes to stretch before you start to split the wood. Cutting firewood uses a lot of arm, shoulder, and back muscles that might not see much action during our day-to-day life in the city.

A hatchet is best for splitting kindling. You need these small pieces to get the fire started before adding the larger logs. That said, cutting kindling can be tricky. You have to keep the wood steady. Holding it with your fingers isn’t a great idea. A number of kindling splitters are available online and most will make the job much easier and safer.

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A good sharpener for the small axe or hatchet is a wise investment. Depending on the quality of the axe, it can become very dull quite quickly.

Bow Saws, Brush Axes, and Machetes
A bow saw, brush axe, and a machete are all helpful tools when you need to trim branches off the trees and don’t have the chainsaw handy.

Safety Glasses, Work Gloves, and Steel Toe Boots
Safety gear should always be used when trimming trees or splitting firewood. Take the time to put on the proper safety gear. A small accident will ruin your time at the lake.

Firewood Books
Here are two good books which will be useful for both beginners and seasoned wood cutters.

Go to the Wood Stove Maintenance page.
Go to the Chainsaw Maintenance page.
Go to the Bonfire and Campfire page.