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Safer ways of manually chopping wood  RSS feed

 
Chris Kott
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So it's not only dangerous, but pricey, too?

Well, if I needed to split full - length fence rails, I think that I would make do with a set of wedges and a sledgehammer. More control, more of an investment in skills (you have to learn how to do it properly), and catastrophic accidents have much less potential for lethality.

As to splitting rails, I would need to be splitting a metric fuck tonne of them to shell out for such a thing.

We're reinventing the wheel, but this time we're making it out of razor blades and dirty needles. Genius. I wonder why the kiddies aren't operating it in the video?

-CK
 
Guarren cito
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This is the only way to split wood! Good call with the come along, I'll definitely try that this summer.

More thoughts: imagine doing this on a loading dock or somewhere that you can just push the split wood to your storage location.

 
Burra Maluca
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I've embedded the video below.

 
Dale Hodgins
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I think in the long run, the technique that will save me the most splitting time and heartache is hugelkultur. It gives me a perfectly suitable use for really difficult, knotty wood. In my quest to not waste anything, I have given some really tough blocks far too much time, in battles that made no economic sense. The perfect stuff shown in that video bears little resemblance to some of the awful stuff that I've dealt with. I have plenty of maple coppice to burn and should probably give up splitting for sport. In viewing many wood cutting and splitting videos on YouTube, I've been shocked at the amount of ingenuity devoted to wood processing by guys who then run their hard earned stacks through very wasteful wood stoves . rocket mass heaters should be able to cut into the need for much of this splitting.

The best way that I've figured out to deal with big lumpy stumps for fuel, is to put them into a charcoal retort and burn the effluent gas. Once the process is finished, the stump can be broken up into lumps of marketable charcoal. No splitting device could compete with that. This might be a few years away for me since I have no current use for the heat. Anyone considering wood heat for a greenhouse should consider burning wood gas from awkward stuff like stumps. Around here, and in most places near a big city, you can be paid to have them dropped at your door. No cutting firewood, no trucking and no splitting required. A front end loader would be handy.
 
R Scott
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Dale, what did you do that for? Tackling the real problem instead of treating the symptoms!!
 
Chris Kott
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I like an idea I read about in a hugelkultur post. It involves leaving stumps to rot several feet above ground, then building hugelbeets around them, either several in one, or making Sepp's soil sausages using stumps as bases.

The advantage of leaving the stumps to rot is that any root systems close to the rotten root system will just follow the network of compost down into the ground, saving plant resources for other growth.

Oh, and you save the effort of ripping out stumps.

-CK
 
Lucas Harrison-Zdenek
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Chris Kott wrote:I like an idea I read about in a hugelkultur post. It involves leaving stumps to rot several feet above ground, then building hugelbeets around them, either several in one, or making Sepp's soil sausages using stumps as bases.

The advantage of leaving the stumps to rot is that any root systems close to the rotten root system will just follow the network of compost down into the ground, saving plant resources for other growth.

Oh, and you save the effort of ripping out stumps.

-CK


I'm not sure why I had never heard of this method before (because like most other ideas in Permaculture, it seems incredibly logical), but I'm glad you mentioned it! I have an enormous oak that I need to get removed and that alone is going to cost me thousands because I live in the suburbs and can't just fell it myself. I was concerned with the added price of stump removal, but now I have a better option! Do you know where I can get more info? Does Sepp have video on this method anywhere? Thanks!
 
Chris Kott
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I have no idea. This just occurred to me, and others, I guess, while reading posts. Paul may have said something about the compost network left by dead root networks in a podcast once. The soil sausage idea is Sepp's, and I think there is video documentation.

-CK
 
paul wheaton
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Chris Kott
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At first blush, I must admit it looks cool. But even a cool animation doesn't convince me it's safer.

How much control do you really want to abrogate to the machine? How safe is it manipulating rounds with your fingers that near the splitting wedge? What exactly happens in a critical mechanical failure?

And why would you spend so much time and/or money and/or effort on such a toy when a little investment in a learned skillset and a suite of simple tools will get you further in many more variable situations?

I still think there is no safer way of doing a thing than to learn how to do it yourself with the most appropriate (usually the simplest, most straightforward, least complex, most readily available) technology.

-CK
 
Burra Maluca
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I can just see myself getting distracted for half a second and losing a finger or three with that machine.

But on the other hand there must be a fairly simple way of making it safe. I just can't see it yet.
 
paul wheaton
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It seems safer to me than a maul. Or a hatchet. If nothing else, the choppy part is moving slower and in a more controlled fashion.

Currently, when chopping kindling, I will either start the split while holding the kindling with the idea that the hatchet will get enough grip into the wood that I can finish the split without my left hand anywhere near the wood, OR I will swing the hatchet and move my left hand away before the blade touches the wood. Both seem a little dangerous still.

This tool is just using momentum in a far more controlled fashion.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Imagine that table mounted contraption that Paul posted, if it were able to swivel side to side and if the arm could telescope by 18 inches or so. The wood could be set inside a tire on a lower table. Both hands would be used to move the thing, so no hands need be in the way. All of the wood could be split, then reload. Faster, better, safer. The hand that is in peril is there to prevent the block from falling over once struck. As we've seen from many other videos, the tire would keep the material upright. Something similar to bicycle handle bars would be comfortable to use. No more pull downs at the gym. Your lats will thank you. Your fingers will thank you. Both arms get an equivalent work out. Slam dunk, I win !

I can't weld worth shit. Somebody build this.
 
Chris Kott
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Is a maul or a hatchet inherently unsafe, or is the safety dependent on the skill and experience (or lack thereof) of those using it?

I am with Dale on this one, in that I think this design has a ways to go before I would consider it safe. I don't think you will be able to convince me that a little learning wouldn't be the best in the long run.

Safer isn't necessarily safe yet, is it?

-CK
 
Burra Maluca
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Chris Kott wrote:Is a maul or a hatchet inherently unsafe?


Not really, no, but I have to admit that there I days I would be physically capable of chopping wood with that table-mounted thing but totally unable to swing an axe. It's just that it's those same days I'd probably not be so good at holding my concentration so I'd need some of Dale's modifications to keep my fingers intact.
 
paul wheaton
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I think comparing maul+skill to the inertia-chopper without skill is unfair. Comparing both with skill or both without skill seems more fair.
 
Chris Kott
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I guess that's fair. I just don't like the tendency to rely on things that take away the need to be focused on their operation. Guns can be very useful tools, and insanely dangerous if you let yourself forget that they can kill you dead if you so much as stumble the wrong way.

That was my point, not to suggest any other inherent flaw in either mechanism or reason.

-CK
 
R Scott
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Burra Maluca wrote:I can just see myself getting distracted for half a second and losing a finger or three with that machine.

But on the other hand there must be a fairly simple way of making it safe. I just can't see it yet.


Yes, DON'T PUT YOUR HAND ON THE TOP OF THE LOG! Hold it like a beer can or slide it into place and you should be safe.
 
Chris Kott
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Now the splitter in this last video has got to be the best application of that original idea yet. The upper tube with the sledge head on it is also the outer tube, which extends all the way to the wedge (or most of the way), the long grip area of which eliminates finger pinches and accidental digital displacement.

My concern with the Ukrainian design has ever been misplacing fingers and thumbs.

-CK
 
Richard Gorny
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Edited, I didn't noticed this post is related to manual splitters only, apologies.
Content minimized. Click to view
 
Dale Hodgins
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This is one of the few topics that went off topic right off the hop, in the original post. It's not about chopping wood at all. It's about splitting wood. You chop down a tree by cutting across the grain to eventually cut all the way through. Only lightning, can sometimes split a tree down. When splitting, we want to avoid the wasted energy of chopping across grain.

There's a video featured on the top of each page right now entitled --- A Face Cord Split in a Few Minutes with a Bungee --- I was a big fan of elastic band wars when I was a kid, so you can imagine how excited I was to find a video that featured a band so powerful that it could blast firewood apart. A childhood dream come true. That's the one I should have used on Boris, that rotten kid on the school bus. --- He split every block with the maul. I watched it twice, to make sure. What a let down !
 
Richard Gorny
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Here is interesting Finnish axe:



More information here:

http://vipukirves.fi/en/
 
Lucas Harrison-Zdenek
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I'm quite surprised this has only now shown up in this thread. I'm not fond of this design. It seems incredibly gimmicky to me and, knowing the method that it forces the user to employ, I feel as though a person would be better off learning how to use a traditional axe the proper way. I can't post a video using my phone, but I will post one on a "better" way of splitting that I've found.

Right now I'm developing an axe based on a design by a man named Tom Clark of Potosi, MO. Tom's design used a traditional axe head with some modification to change the balance. He called it the "buster". He would strike the log at a 20 degree angle and the added weight of the poll would cause the head to twist upon impact, effectively "busting" the wood apart. He could get a big piece of anything apart in just a few swings. He split firewood as part of his living and it was said that he could split as many as 4 cords in a day, even into his sixties!!
 
Sam Barber
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Yeah just came here to see if the strange looking axe was on here I kinda want to try it out!
 
Chris Kott
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paul wheaton wrote:I think comparing maul+skill to the inertia-chopper without skill is unfair. Comparing both with skill or both without skill seems more fair.


I have been reflecting on this, and after some time, I think I have to disagree.

My thought is that the less skill needed to make even a simple machine operate, the less attention will be paid to proper use and training. If your car parallel parks itself, how likely will you be to practice parallel parking?

In the same way, if you can't split a round without first learning proper stance and technique, you aren't likely to jump into a task for which you aren't yet prepared, whereas if all you need to do is start the maul arm bobbing and position whatever you're splitting, it is much quicker to get a novice working the machine. It is much more likely, then, that someone without the proper presence of mind or training can get it to do what it is designed to, and in my opinion, much more likely that a catastrophic injury can occur. If you swing an axe into your leg, there is also the chance that it will hit with the flat, but if you accidentally get your hand in the way of the bobbing maul, it will hit with the edge, and it will keep bobbing until it either sticks in something, or is out of momentum.

I like the idea of the finnish axe with the off-center center of gravity. It seems to use the same principal as the earlier video with the North American guy with the extra weight welded to the back of the axe, who would deliberately strike the rounds at a 45 degree angle, to the same effect.

In short, Paul, it may not be fair to compare skilled maul use with unskilled more automated machine operation, but I think my observation is more relevant with respect to the effect of typical human lack of sense stemming from the urge to make things easier. In comparing splitting devices, the heavier-duty version of the nested telescoping splitting wedge shaft, where the wedge is planted and there is very little danger of finger loss due to chopping or pinching, seems to me to be the safest skill-less splitter so far.

-CK
 
Lucas Harrison-Zdenek
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Sam Barber wrote:Yeah just came here to see if the strange looking axe was on here I kinda want to try it out!


Would you be referring to the chopper? I've heard good and bad about those. Mostly indifference I guess. They work, but they are kind of ridiculous and the springs break quite easily from what I've heard. Here is an image if this is what you are talking about.

BuyItNowPicture.jpg
[Thumbnail for BuyItNowPicture.jpg]
 
Dale Hodgins
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I had a version of that axe. It worked well on stuff that would have split anyway, had a heavy maul been used. It didn't allow my number one trick because it tended to bounce off blocks that failed to split. --- I often swing my heaviest maul as hard as I can, in a full 360 rotation to the center of blocks up to 20 inches in diameter. About half of the time, it does not split completely, but the maul sticks fast. At this point, I heave it high into the air and allow the weight of the wood to force the maul through the wood. The unit in the photo doesn't allow this glorious event to occur.

Another failing is the price. Mine cost about triple that of a heavy maul. Because it was expensive, I was unwilling to pound it in with a sledge hammer. I eventually damaged mine with nails embedded in the wood. They are only good for so many sharpenings. The center of the thing broke out.

 
Steve Hoskins
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Well, this thread is about splitting wood, but the title says it's about chopping wood, so I'll put this here anyway.



I have to say that this does not look safe (one could easily fall into the saw and be halved), but with the addition of a guard, so that the logs went under the guard, before pushing down on the saw, It would be safe enough for me. I also think it would save me some time.

As for splitting, I use a gransfors bruks large splitting maul (which I actually small compared to most), and follow the manual (when it's stuck I use the weight of the wood as mentioned in the above post), and haven't touched my heavier mauls or a gimmick in years. I too am guilty of hugelculturing the crotches and knotty ones to save time and effort. Glad I'm not alone!

Chop away.
 
Steve Hoskins
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I know it looks unsafe, but for me this method works well. The idea being, the wood is split right where it lays without having to stand it up or arrange it aside from a kick here and there. And above, last year, I mentioned that I use the gransfors bruks large splitting maul, but actually, its the large splitting axe... Correction.
 
paul wheaton
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Travis Johnson
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I am building an upside down woodsplitter. I like the fact that as soon as it is fabricated, I won't have to bend over to pick up the heavy rounds anymore, or...worse yet, throw them onto a trailer or truck to cart them away. Just pick the rounds up without actually splitting the wood, set it over the trailer, finish splitting the round, then swing over for the next one to split.

I have not got it done yet, but you can see what I mean by this picture semi-showing what it will look like when it is done. It will be directly attached to the boom and not gripped by the grapple when it is done; I just snapped the picture to give people an idea what an upside down woodsplitter looks like.



 
Roberto pokachinni
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A couple years ago Paul wrote:
Currently, when chopping kindling, I will either start the split while holding the kindling with the idea that the hatchet will get enough grip into the wood that I can finish the split without my left hand anywhere near the wood, OR I will swing the hatchet and move my left hand away before the blade touches the wood. Both seem a little dangerous still. 

I've been splitting wood since I was a little kid, and some of this I was taught, but most of it I developed over time.

Here's my method:

The safest way to split kindling that I know is to NOT really swing the hatchet at all.  What I do is hold the piece to be made into kindling with one hand and the hatchet in the other... But what I do is to Carefully and Gently place the hatchet on the chunk of wood that I am holding, exactly where I want the split to be made and then I lift both the chunk of wood with one hand and the hatchet in the other but together as one unit, and tap it down on the chopping block to set the hatchet head's blade into the wood.  The combo is then lifted again (but higher this time) and dropped as a unit onto the chopping block (and I use a higher chopping block for kindling for better ergonomics), and the splitting is done, or repeated until it is done, without the need for any holding of the wood dangerously while swinging a hatchet. [/i] On top of this, the hand that is holding the wood is used only as a guide for the larger lift and drop (or for smaller pieces-not used at all) and can be released from the wood a split second before impact, which, with very little practice, is naturally done.  A wheelbarrow (or tote) or two placed strategically on either side of the splitting block can eliminate the need to pick up much of the wood.  Having a table nearby with all of your wood needing to be made into kindling means that (after loading the table), very little bending is needed in the process.

One other group of thoughts are as follows:  I always select the straightest grain wood with the fewest knots for making kindling.  Anytime there is a knot that is going to be stubborn, I toss the piece in the bin, or to the side, without splitting further.  Knotty wood will dull your hatchet (and a dull hatchet is not helpful for splitting kindling, and in fact can be dangerous if you are actually swinging the hatchet) or require much more force to split (which increase the danger of using a short handled tool) and knotty wood also tends to split in curvy forms around the knot thus potentially following more random lines, and potentially skipping out of the wood. toward you. 
 
paul wheaton
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Laura Sweany
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I'm casting my vote for the Kindling Cracker as well. It's an awesome tool, one I simply couldn't live without.

I stumbled across it while researching mauls to purchase. We moved to our country home about 1 year ago, and we heat exclusively with wood. I had never done any chopping or splitting before, so it seemed important to get a good start to things! When I saw online the jif that Paul has posted, I was intrigued. When I read the story of the invention of this smooth little number,

http://sciencelearn.org.nz/Innovation/Innovation-Stories/Kindling-Cracker/Articles/Kindling-Cracker


I was hooked. Plus, when I found out I was getting one of the last available on the planet at the start of the 2015-2016 wood heat season, I was totally sold.

This is a super fun tool to use. I can split wood up to 6" wide into smaller, chunky pieces, or take those chunks and split them further into little tiny slivers for fire starting. I use a 3# mallet with a rubber-coated handle as my hammer. I agree that straight-grained wood is the ticket to split for kindling - I use the gnarlier pieces for path edging or hugels. I don't have it actually attached to anything, because it is just heavy enough to be completely stable, but light enough to be able to move around easily if I want to use it in a different place (it's currently on the back porch right next to the back door, which is also next the bedroom. If hubby is sleeping when I'm wanting to start the fire and need to split some kindling, I can easily pick it up and move it to a quieter spot). Also, on the occasions there is a knot I didn't notice, and I get the wood stuck without getting it totally split, I can easily turn everything upside down and pound out the stuck piece. I can't imagine living without this tool. For people who need regular small-diameter pieces for RMH, I can't imagine THEM living without this tool.

For the record, I am not some burly hulk - just a 53-year-old homesteading gal who LOVES to cut wood and build fires. I use a 9# splitting maul with a long handle, and in the last year my aim has gotten surprisingly good. Even an oldtimer friend - a deeply feminist woman who should know better - watched me chop wood and blurted out "Wow, you're pretty good at that - for a girl." Sigh. I place my wood on a large chopping stump just shorter than my knee height, and use my tai chi training to keep my feet firmly planted, raise the maul to about ear height, give my force to the top 1/4 of my swing, and then let the force of the earth flow though me and carry the blade down onto the wood. No push on my part after the initial effort. It works really well. If I'm working on a more difficult piece, I do add my force to the entire arc, and aim near an edge, and chip away at it until it's in pieces. I have a bad lower back, so I've learned how to do this as gently as possible. I also use the maul as a bit of a cane while I'm picking up the wood that drops to the ground around the chopping block, and that also helps keep my back happy. I get really bummed when the weather warms up and I don't get to chop wood anymore. 
 
Nicolas Remy
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+1 for the kindling cracker.

We bought a house 2 year ago that we heat only with wood. On the first year we did the kindling with a good fiskar axe.
It was ok-ish doing it like that but I doubted it was the safest way. Sometimes my girlfriend would do some kindling and watching her was giving me heart attacks ..

Somehow I came across the kindling cracker on pinterest, checked it out and bought it.
It is amazingly fast and easy to make the kindling with it, way way faster then with the axe! I totally recommend it. The wood I split is 33cm 1 year old birch logs.

The only down side is that it "rings" when you crack the wood which can be a strain on the hear so I use a headset when I do kindle.
Other then that it works great :d.
 
Mike Jay
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Steve Hoskins wrote:


I know it looks unsafe, but for me this method works well. The idea being, the wood is split right where it lays without having to stand it up or arrange it aside from a kick here and there. And above, last year, I mentioned that I use the gransfors bruks large splitting maul, but actually, its the large splitting axe... Correction. 


I'm sorry but I don't think this is very safe IF you're holding the wood with your foot.  At the 0:58 mark I'm not sure how you didn't cut into your own foot.  I'm glad you say not to try this at home and I'd encourage new wood splitters to not try this method until you get a really good feel for swinging your axe.  I love how you don't have to keep restanding the wood rounds back up.  Personally I like the tire on the chopping block method.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I'm sorry but I don't think this is very safe IF you're holding the wood with your foot.  At the 0:58 mark I'm not sure how you didn't cut into your own foot.  I'm glad you say not to try this at home and I'd encourage new wood splitters to not try this method until you get a really good feel for swinging your axe.  I love how you don't have to keep restanding the wood rounds back up.  Personally I like the tire on the chopping block method.


Mike, Thank you for saying this.  I meant to say it when I first came to this thread 3 months ago, but forgot.  As a foot amputee, I have to highly agree!  The second part of the youtube video's title is very needed to be emphasized!   I appreciate, Mike, that you encourage new wood splitters to not try this method... , I would go so far as to say that even if you are really good at swinging an axe, I would not recommend you use this method.  It's just a matter of time before it's in your foot.  Your testing fate.  You don't want an axe in your foot.  It's unlikely that you will lose your foot if you do, but... it sucks to lose a foot... Just sayin', from experience.  

As far as the tire method; yes it works great.  I also like the Fiskars guy youtube video with the rope around the 6 foot diameter circle of rounds.  In the latter case, I would probably use a ratchet strap, and occasionally give it a few cranks to tighten it up again, since when you split the wood it naturally loses some of the bulk of the big rounds. This would especially be true if I was to want to climb on top of the circle as he does.  One other thing I don't like about this method, though, is that you are likely to strike your axe handle splitting the way he was.  The fiskars hollow plastic handle can take this sort of abuse for a while, but even it will eventually fail from too many strikes.  That part of any axe handle could be protected for such a use, by binding the head end of handle with rubber bike tube to act as a shock absorber.  finish the bind with cloth tape; or tie the tube in a knot.    
 
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