Over my first winter in northern B.C., my husband and I burned five cords of wood. As a smaller person, I was never going to get through all the log splitting on brute strength. So, I learned how to split wood more efficiently. Here are five things to try before buying an electric log splitter.
1. Use a lighter axe. And heavier boots Most people split firewood with a maul or a splitting axe. Mauls tend to be heavier (6 to 9 lbs), blunter, and wedge- shaped, and they typically have longer handles. Splitting axes are lighter (3 to 6 lbs) and sharper, usually with shorter handles. I used to split wood with an 8-lb maul. It took so much strength to heft the maul over- head that I had little power left to swing. Eventually, I hurt my back using it. When I switched to a Fiskars splitting axe (less than half the weight), my strikes became much easier and more controlled. However, I did have to learn how to swing faster to be effective. This, combined with the axe’s wickedly sharp edge, compelled me to start wearing steel-toed boots.
2. Read the log. Learning to read a round can make the difference between a single- strike split and you hacking away indefinitely. As a target for my axe, I visualize a straight line across the end of the log that avoids any knots. I also aim for existing cracks—that’s where the wood naturally wants to split.
3. Work in cold temperatures. I’ve found that wood splits much more easily in freezing temperatures—the colder the better. The super-human feeling you get when a log explodes in one blow makes it worth braving -30°C.
4. Avoid wet wood. Make sure your wood is properly seasoned. Splitting wet wood is much harder. You can check by splitting a piece to see if the inside is dry to the touch.
5. Get a wedge. With large-diameter or knotty rounds, my splitting axe doesn’t always cut it. This is when I’ll bring out “The Persuader,” our aptly nicknamed splitting wedge. Just be sure to use a sledge (not the back of your axe) to hammer in the wedge.
This article was originally published in the September/October 2022 issue of Cottage Life.