How to Split Firewood (2024)

in: Featured, Manly Know-How, Skills

Brett & Kate McKay November 24, 2009 • Last updated: June 1, 2021

How to Split Firewood (1)

Editor’s note: This is a guest post which originally appeared in the Art of Manliness Community.

I’ll admit it: for me, splitting wood has nothing do with lowering the heating bill. I like that satisfying thunk! and the feeling of power, seeing that big obstinate piece of wood doing what I want. The look of the fire in the evening is nice, too, especially when you didn’t have to buy the wood at the supermarket.

Here’s how to harness your inner-lumberjack and hew some firewood with your own manly hands.

What You Need

A maul or ax. A maul is heaver and has a wider head than an ax which makes it advantageous to splitting wood. But an ax can work just as well for smaller wood splitting jobs. Also, remember that the key isn’t sharpness; you’re not cutting wood or even chopping it (a common misnomer); you’re splitting wood.

Wood. Seasoned wood splits better, but I usually split the wood green, so I don’t have to stack it again.

How to Split Firewood (2)If the wood has nails in it, forget it. It’s not worth the risk of damaging your ax, or for that matter your eye when that nail goes flying. And if it’s curvy, don’t bother. I’m no safety expert, but trying to deal with unusual situations is often how accidents happen.

If it’s got a knot in it, skip it, especially if it’s green. You’ll spend all day trying to get through it. The exception is if you can find a line through the center that doesn’t get close to any knot. Then the knots won’t interfere. (“Center” is defined by the grain or splits in the wood, as shown on the right.)

Split It Along the Lines

Put the piece on its end, on a chopping block if possible. If not, just put it on the ground, propping it as needed to keep it standing. Driving the ax into the ground dulls it, supposedly, but I’ve chopped into dirt countless times and the ax still cuts.

How to Split Firewood (3)Now place yourself such that when you swing with straight arms, the blade will hit the wood, right in the center (picture on left). Err on the side closer to you. Here’s why: if you miss on the side close to you, the blade goes into the ground. But if you miss on the far side, the ax handle hits the wood. Too much of that and you’ll be buying a new handle. (It hurts your arms too.)

Making sure there’s no one and nothing you don’t want damaged anywhere nearby, to be hit by flying wood, a flying ax, or anything else . . . stand with your legs apart a little, pull the ax straight back over your head, and swing it straight forward. Build up speed and let the momentum and weight of the ax do the work– not your brute strength.

How to Split Firewood (4)I try to hit the same place every time. I never do. It doesn’t matter. Wood with a slightly ragged edge is not a problem. You will get the ax stuck in the wood and have to wrestle it out (right); that’s also not a problem.

Eventually it will split with a nice crack! Then do a few gentle hits into the crack to separate remaining strands of wood connecting the pieces of wood together.

If the piece is bigger, you can still go for the center, but it might be easier to chop pieces off the sides, until you have something manageable.

What You Get

How to Split Firewood (5)

Those pieces that you made too small . . . are your best accomplishment, because they’ll help you start the fire. Split wood burns more easily, especially the small pieces.

And now that you have a woodpile full of fuel . . . it’s time to make a fire.

Bonus Tip:

If you’re splitting a big ol’ piece of wood, here’s a tip to save you time and energy:

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How to Split Firewood (2024)

FAQs

Is there a trick to splitting wood? ›

Look down the exterior of the round to avoid splitting any obvious obstructions such as large knots or twisted grain. The most effective blow is delivered near the edge of the round, NOT the center. By hitting near the edge (bark), the maul strikes at 90 degrees to the growth rings where they are wide and vulnerable.

What is the easiest tool to split wood? ›

Hand Axe. One of the most traditional methods of splitting wood is using a hand axe. This simple tool requires minimal maintenance and can be easily carried around for on-the-go wood splitting.

How long should firewood dry before splitting? ›

When is your wood dry?
Type of woodDrying time
Pine, Poplar1 year
Birch, Alder, Ash, Lime tree, Spruce, Willow1.5 years
Beech, Fruit tree2 years
Oak2.5 years

How do you split firewood by hand? ›

Simple steel wedges and sledge hammers are another method of manual firewood splitting. Hold the wedge against the log, tap it in slightly with the hammer, remove your hand, then pound the hammer against the wedge until the log splits. These are the log splitters that we think are the best of 2022.

Is it better to split firewood green or dry? ›

The bottom line is that you can split both wet and dry wood. The latter is usually easier to split, though many people prefer to split the former so that it dries out more quickly. But if you use a log splitter, you shouldn't have trouble splitting either wet or dry wood.

Where do you aim when splitting wood? ›

Take a look at the log you're out to split before setting it on your chopping block. “If the logs are seasoned, you can often find a split or a crack,” Wetherbee says — and that's where you want to take aim. Also, note any knots and knobs and avoid them.

What's the hardest wood to split? ›

Australian Buloke – 5,060 IBF. An ironwood tree that is native to Australia, this wood comes from a species of tree occurring across most of Eastern and Southern Australia. Known as the hardest wood in the world, this particular type has a Janka hardness of 5,060 lbf.

What wood will not split? ›

Excessive moisture increases the risk of insect and fungi damage." Teak is a personal favorite of the folks at Wood Blinds Direct. James Armstrong says it's because it won't swell or split, even in the wettest of climates; it'll last for decades.

Should logs be split before burning? ›

Splitting logs is much more than just a preparatory step; it's a process that enhances the wood's ability to burn effectively. When wood is split, it increases the surface area exposed to air, speeding up the drying process and reducing the wood's moisture content.

What happens if you don't split firewood? ›

Whether you season wood or use a kiln, large logs are difficult to burn and take forever to dry, while short, thin logs are much easier to burn and don't take long to dry. Also, splitting firewood allows for the wood's innermost, central places to enjoy enough exposure to dry air.

Can you burn wood right after splitting? ›

Fresh wood requires at least six months of seasoning time before it is dry enough for optimal burning.

Is a maul or axe better for splitting wood? ›

A splitting maul is ideal for splitting large logs or logs with knots that may be challenging to cut with a regular axe. The sharp edge helps create a clean split, and the head provides the necessary force to split the wood effectively.

What is the best tool to split wood? ›

Best Tools for Splitting Wood: Hatchets, Saws, and Log Splitters - Men's Journal.

What is the best wood to split for firewood? ›

The Right Wood

Dense woods from broadleaf species like oak, ash, maple and hickory are the best for burning.

What wood is most difficult to split? ›

Hardwoods vary in how hard or easy they are to split. Oak and Maple are generally easy to split, while Sycamore and Elm are more difficult. At U.S. Pride, we're usually talking about splitting with one of our cone scrw splitters on a skid loader or excavator.

What is the fastest way to cut firewood? ›

The most popular option today is a quality chainsaw. They're fast and efficient at cutting logs down into manageable firebox sized lengths. Selecting the appropriate chainsaw will depend on how much wood, and the size of the wood, you intend on cutting.

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