With a woodburning stove or fireplace, you may need to split wood to provide fuel for the fire and these basic tips will help. Many homes are turning to wood burning stoves and fireplaces to offset the rising energy costs. However, buying wood that has already been split can be expensive, and if someone is prepared to spend a little physical effort, the right knowledge makes splitting wood an easy task.
The most basic tip for splitting wood is to figure out the length needed and to make sure that the wood is cut into that length before splitting is attempted. While an axe can be used for cutting wood to the right length, it results in a lot of waste and a chainsaw will make the task a lot easier. Most modern fireplaces and wood stoves take a length of 16-20 inches. When in doubt, cut to the smaller length. Seasoned (also known as dried or aged) is easier to split than green, or fresh, wood.
A common misperception is that a double bit ax (a blade on both sides) is the best tool for wood splitting. This is an incorrect assumption. In reality the most efficient tool is a six to eight pound maul. These can be found at almost any good hardware store or ordered from the internet. The heavier maul delivers a better split and is less likely to stick in the wood, but is harder to control and can quickly lead to fatigue for the less than physically fit person. Safety glasses or goggles and gloves are also a necessity due to the flying debris and the amount of pressure put on the hands, particularly in the palm area.
To begin splitting, find a flat, open area away from people and locate a large piece of wood to use as a chopping block. Tree stumps about knee height are ideal for this. Do not use a platform made of cinder blocks as they will chip or splinter if accidentally struck and can also crumble under the pressure delivered by the swing of the maul.
Place the length of wood to be split on its end on the chopping block, being sure to check that it is stable and not likely to fall over. Examine the wood for cracks as these make ideal starts to the splitting process. Rest the head of the maul on the wood and grip the handle to determine the proper distance to stand and swing.
Stand with your feet evenly spaced on each side of the wood and grip the maul with both hands, similar to the grip used when swinging a baseball bat. By aiming at a spot a half inch or so from the edge of the piece to be split it increases the chances of making the split in one strike. Lift the maul with both hands and hold it behind you. Then, with a throwing motion, raise the maul above your head with your dominant hand (the right hand for most people) close to the head of the maul and the other at the bottom of the handle. When the maul is directly overhead, the strike should be made with the upper hand sliding swiftly down the shaft of the maul to join the grip of the lower hand.
Repeat if necessary, trying to hit the same split if additional blows are needed. Soon, you will have a pile of firewood ready to burn, adding warmth and atmosphere to any environment.