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The Art of Splitting Wood
Splitting wood is necessary for building any fire, whether you’re camping or relaxing at your home. And if you’re a man, there could be additional benefits, according to a study by University of California, which found that chopping wood for an hour could boost testosterone levels by up to 50 percent. Of course, wood splitting should be in your arsenal of outdoor skills, whether you need a hormonal boost or not, so let us break it down for you.
To be clear, splitting wood is not the same as chopping wood. There is an art to the process, and most importantly, there is a safe way to get the job done.
We’ll start with the tools. Considering you’ve already broken the entire tree down into split-worthy logs (you’ll need a chainsaw for that), all you need is wood and a splitting maul or ax. Honestly, most guys prefer the splitting maul to an axe because it is wider and makes the splitting process easier. For the larger, more obstinate pieces of wood, it could be beneficial to have a wedge and sledgehammer on hand.
Before you start splitting, be sure you have trimmed your log into reasonable sizes (as we mentioned above). There’s no need to be Paul Bunyan in these situations because you’ll just end up tiring yourself out unnecessarily. Before the splitting process can begin, you’ll want to aim for 18 inches or less in length. Some swear by no more than 12 inches in length for the best splitting results. Also, trim your log as flat and square on the bottom as possible so they can stand on their end.
Set your trimmed pieces on top of a larger log to raise it higher and protect yourself from potential back pain. Another benefit of doing this is if you miss your target (it happens), your maul won’t end up on the ground (which is bad). The larger log should be significantly wider than the piece that you are splitting. You are looking for height and stability.
Next, you’ll want to split the log in half. Then work in quarters, which will provide a higher quality split and make the process easier. Think of it like you are cutting a pizza or a cake. Also, you’ll want to position the log so any knots or irregularities are closer to the bottom. Splitting isn’t as difficult if you work with the wood fibers. Knots cause these fibers to become twisted and tangled. So cleave at the opposite end of any irregularities, and watch the wood easily split.
As for your stance and swing, stand back with your feet firmly planted and your arms extended. Just be sure you’re wearing long pants, sturdy boots and work gloves for protection since one wrong swing could mean lots of pain if you aren’t properly protected. Line up the splitting maul or ax with the log and swing. As for swinging, there are many styles to choose from, all of which can be right depending on the person. We recommend trying a few different methods and finding which works best for you. Remember to try not to overexert yourself by choosing a swing that lets the maul do most of the work.
If you find a piece of tree that just won’t split, move on. You don’t have to conquer them all. Plus, you don’t want to waste valuable time better spent enjoying a cold one in front of a fire created by the wood that cooperated.