Performing this primal task doesn’t require a plaid shirt, handlebar mustache and burly arms (but all three help). You just need some know-how, the right gear and a little advice from a seasoned woodsman or two. Winter’s near, so we called a couple of guys. Here’s what we learned.

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Remie Geoffroi

The Tool Forget hydraulic log splitters and fancy axes with adjustable thumb rests. “A five-pound splitting maul with a broad, heavy head works very well,” says Terry Keeler of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Add safety goggles and work gloves, of course.

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Remie Geoffroi

The Setup Place a flush-cut log section atop a firm splitting stump (i.e., not the ground). “You want a hard, level surface with the top of your wood at about waist level to minimize overbending and back fatigue and to maximize safety and efficiency,” advises Keeler.

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Remie Geoffroi

The Grip/Stance Hold maul upright with both hands together like you would a baseball bat — the kind with a heavy, steel blade attached. Feet should be shoulder-width apart. Knees a little bent.

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Remie Geoffroi

The Check-Swing Study the wood and pick your mark. “Look for a straight line along the grain and avoid knots that will complicate splitting,” says Doug Morgan of Bailey’s Logging Supply in Northern California. Give it a light little tap to be sure. Yeah, right there.

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Remie Geoffroi

The Chop Raise the ax over your head and firmly swing it down onto the marked line — or thereabouts. “Accuracy is a Zen type thing, like a golf swing,” notes Morgan. “Visualize hitting that mark.” And if you don’t, there’s lots more practice wood out back, Mr. Bunyan.

Burning note: It’s important for wood to be seasoned (or dried) at least a year prior to burning. According to Keeler, “Burning unseasoned firewood can cause a buildup of creosote in the flue or chimney that, if left uncleaned, can cause chimney fires.”