Splitting Aid

Many parts of farming and homesteading are iterative processes. The concept-trial-improvement-trial-improvement- nature of many projects can be quite gratifying. It's freeing to know that if I don't get something right on the first try I can learn something from the effort and have another go at it. It also keeps me on my toes to always want to do better. Gardens are this way, animal management and housing are this way, and so is firewood. I'm keenly interested in ways to improve my firewood procurement, handling, and storage because I heat exclusively with wood.

I've split with mauls, axes, gas powered hydraulic splitters, PTO splitters. Assuming the wood is clear enough, my favorite way to split firewood is to use a light maul or splitting ax. I cut my logs quite short by American standards, only 10-12" long. I split them down smaller than most folks because I want to extract the maximum amount of heat out of each piece of wood. Wood loses moisture 2-3x as quickly through the end grain as through the edge grain. Therefore short logs can dry out fully in a few months assuming certain basic conditions are met, i.e. cover, stacked to allow air flow, temperature above freezing, etc. Splitting the wood down smaller makes for easier fire starting, insurance that the wood is actually fully dry (<12% moisture), and easier handling around the stove.

Splitting by hand is best performed with a splitting aid. Large rounds have the mass to sit still when hit with a maul, but little and medium size pieces tend to take flight when struck with sufficient force to split them. Bending down to adjust and reset the wood prior to each blow is a poor use of time. Setting several pieces in a semi-circle around the maul-wielder is one simple way to make better use of time. I dislike this technique because it quickly clutters my work area. Also, many rounds need three, four, or five splits. Each piece still has to be righted numerous times using this method.

Containing the pieces to be split is a superior method in my opinion. A bungee and rope cinching several pieces together works reasonably well, but it can be obnoxious setting the rope just so. And sometimes the rope slips off after just a few blows and then requires further fiddling to keep working. A large tire secured to the top of a heavy chopping block (them pack the tire full of pieces to split) works pretty well. I used a truck tire on a big maple round, but it actually wasn't quite big enough to work efficiently. So I built a larger wooden version of the tire container. It works like a charm. I pack it full of rounds and then split away. It is a cinch to split them down to little pieces since each round can be struck many times without having to stop and stand the piece up again and again and again.

-Edmund

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