How To: Split Firewood (2024)


Splitting wood doesn’t have to be a backbreaking experience. Start with the right tools, the proper technique, and the following tips, and chopping logs will feel like a labor of love.

How To: Split Firewood (1)

How to Split Wood Photo:

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Fireplace season has at long last arrived: Time to gather around the hearth, hunker down, and embrace the warmth of the flickering flames. But before you do, check that you’ve stockpiled enough seasoned firewood—logs that have been dried at least six months—to last the winter, because running out of fuel in the middle of a blizzard is less than ideal. If your stores of wood are lacking, it’s time to get to work: chop-chop! Once you’ve wrangled a steady supply, follow the instructions below to split the logs for better burning. Get ready to channel your inner lumberjack and practice the time-honored tradition of log-splitting to keep the fires burning all winter long.

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  • Splitting maul
  • Safety glasses
  • Work boots
  • Work gloves
  • Chopping block
How To: Split Firewood (2)

Step 1

First, check that you’ve got the proper equipment. To the novice woodcutter, an ax may seem like the best choice of tool for splitting logs, but it’s not. While it’s great for chopping down trees and cutting smaller pieces of wood, the maul—with its wider head and heavier weight—is the expert’s choice for splitting firewood. To deal with gnarly logs riddled with tough fibers and tree branch notches that make splitting more difficult, you should also have a wedge or prying triangle on hand to help.

Before you begin swinging any tools around, change into your protective gear (safety goggles, long pants, and sturdy boots) to avoid injury.

Step 2

Wherever you plan to do your work, set up a short chopping block—consisting of either a large, level tree stump or a similarly short and wide chunk of wood—to increase effectiveness and decrease the chances of damaging the maul. The chopping block helps absorb the force of each blow and provides a spot for the blade to drive into when the maul breaks through the wood or you miss your mark.

Step 3

Nothing is more frustrating than having to bend over to replace a log every time you miss, or to pick up sticks once the wood splits. Solve this common problem by placing one large “round” or several smaller logs together inside the opening of a tire (a 15-inch car tire works well), then setting it on top of your chopping block. Not only will this keep your logs in place when you swing, but it will cut down on the number of times you need to reset the log or pick up wood pieces, thereby decreasing the stress on your back.

Step 4

Find the weak spots in your log, points where the wood naturally wants to split, and strike at these first for an easier cut. For example, cracks that radiate from the center are an optimal place to start. If none exist, the best strategy is to aim straight down the middle, using the proper technique described in the next step.


And, finally, the swing! Contrary to popular belief, splitting wood is not about brute force; instead, its success hinges on proper placement and the sheer velocity of the swing.

Using the correct stance—feet spread shoulder-width apart—face the “round” and place the maul head on the spot you plan to strike first, with your arms fully extended. Then, step back a half step. Holding the maul horizontally—waist high—bend your elbows and raise the maul over your head. As you bring your arms down, concentrate on driving the head of the maul straight through the log with Zen-like precision. Let the weight of the tool and the force of gravity do the work for you. Don’t make the common mistake of swinging the maul like a pendulum; instead, come down through the log in a vertical line—no arcing.

Step 6

If your log is covered with knots or is too thick to split after a few strikes from the maul, it’s time to insert the splitting wedges. Using a sledgehammer (or the flat striking face on the maul) drive the wedge down deep into the crack to increase the size of the split. The added force of a single wedge should do the trick; if not, drive a second wedge into a crack on the opposite side of the log to create another splinter. With any luck, this combination should work.

Step 7

Know when to quit: When you’re tired, it’s time to stop. That’s when injuries occur. Save some energy for the next day when, given all this practice, you should be well prepared to pick up where you left off. Meanwhile, grab a bundle of your split wood, head inside, and light a fire to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

How To: Split Firewood (2024)


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? ›

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. The key to success with an axe is proper technique. Swing the axe towards the center of the log, aiming for the grain.

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? ›

Burning clean, dry, seasoned firewood to heat your home saves money, ignites easily, and lessens the impact on local air quality. To burn efficiently during the colder months, wood should be split, stacked and loosely covered for at least six to twelve months, depending on the type of wood.

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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