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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
: 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.”