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Safer ways of manually chopping wood

 
paul wheaton
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Over the years I have seen stuff about safer ways of chopping wood - but this is the first time I saw this contraption.  Very interesting.




 
Jami McBride
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Very cool Paul - I liked the old wood in the tire method for ease and safety, but after seeing this I think I've changed my mind 

 
Robert Ray
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I remember seeing a similar tool at Pike Street Market in Seattle in the early 80's.
 
travis laduke
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I don't see how you could get as much oomph as an axe head behind that thing.
 
Jami McBride
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I went on a research trip for possible purchase options after seeing this and found your answer Travis.  Seems for the elderly or small women you would strike the wood a few times, not picking the unit up off the wood, but by just raising the hammer arm and hitting again in the same location.  For those with muscle one strike will do the job.  So it works for anyone, well maybe not those shorter than the unit, but one could always stand on a porch to be high enough for the proper oomph.  So I would bet even children of a certain size could work this thing, with some training and proper leverage (porch, steps, etc.)
 
Robert Ray
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Here is one similar from Northern Hydraulics, $60.00
http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_31807_31807
 
Jami McBride
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Hum Robert, maybe Travis was right - seems there are some bad reviews of this devise on Amazon.com.  A crushed finger even.  Here is one quote -

Would only work on the softest, driest pine. I welded a 20 lbs piece of round stock to the top of it; now it works.


 
Robert Ray
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Maybe if it had d-ring handles like a t-post driver?
 
Jami McBride
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Here is another style of the same basic idea.  I haven't found any reviews of it yet....




 
Jami McBride
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Robert Ray wrote:
Maybe if it had d-ring handles like a t-post driver?


Now that's a brilliant idea 
 
Tyler Ludens
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Looks like something one could make - I would definitely add handles like a post driver.

 
                        
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Jami McBride wrote:
Here is another style of the same basic idea.  I haven't found any reviews of it yet....



It took some tracking, but I found an American/Canadian dealer for the Smart Log Splitter shown in the second video:

http://www.spitjack.com/page/SJ/PROD/SPLITTER

The company (Spitjack: for men who cook... Tools for Food and Fire) also sells things like fireplace grills and chestnut roasters.
 
Jami McBride
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It looks sharper than the style in the first video, so maybe that helps it's performance, but that ten pound weight just doesn't seem like enough. 

I wish someone had practical experience with these things.  I'm known for cutting myself, so using an axe would just be an accident waiting to happen 
 
                        
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@Jami, the second video shows that you don't just drop the weight (unless you're splitting kindling); you throw it down with considerable force.  So I imagine you get as much force using that as you would with using an ax on your wood.
 
solomon martin
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I've used one of these before, don't bother buying one, they are pretty wimpy.  They work all right on straight grained dry wood if you want to chop a little kindling I guess.  If you want to split bigger tougher wood, and are worried about chopping your self open, get a couple steel splitting wedges and an 8lb hammer.  You might still miss and hit yourself, but it is hard to draw blood with a sledge hammer.  I do all my splitting with an 6lb maul, dull as any thing. (I have missed with this thing before, hitting my leg at almost full power, I got a contusion and some bad bruising, but had I been using an axe I would have needed stitches.)  With the right technique and a few cords of practice any body should be able to drive nails with a splitting maul.  Anybody who uses an axe for splitting has been frustrated by burying the blade and having to wrench it loose without splitting the round, this is because an axe blade is specifically designed to chop across the grain instead of with it.  I noticed on the video the fellow was swinging the axe over his head in a long arc.  This is bad form, leading to inaccurate splits and missing toes.  Proper form is to bring the blade next to your ear, then throw it straight down (not an arc) onto the round in front of you. During the swing, your bottom hand should move from in front of your navel to your belt buckle, and your top hand moves from the blade to your bottom hand while gently guiding the tool.  Make sure the round is not elevated too high, ideally the top of it should be a hands breadth above your knee.  As for accuracy, you will need practice but keep in mind that it is your bottom hand that aims for distance in front of you, and your top hand that aims from left to right.  Not a lot of muscle is required here, don't try to force it.  The finesse comes from snapping the release at the top of the swing, it is the velocity of the blade, not the power behind it that splits wood best.  I hope some of you find this technique useful, effective and safe. Stay warm this winter!
 
paul wheaton
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Dale Hodgins
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       The number one way to get hurt while splitting wood is to use a hatchet or and axe with a short handle. If you miss your mark with a hatchet you're likely to hit your knee and with too short ax handles the feet are in danger.

    If an axe with a sufficiently long handle is used poor aim simply results in chopped dirt.

    Of course there's always the danger of hitting a foolish bystander but with our social safety net and such, accidents like this are one of the few things that thin the herd and keep evolution moving along.      An idiot once tapped me on the shoulder while I was swinging and axe. He said he didn't want to startle me by yelling
 
                            
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ok but notice all pieces of wood in videos are straight and without knots. in real world half of them will not be so perect and it will not work so smooth. also with thing in second video injuries are possible even more than with axe i think.
 
Jami McBride
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Voice of inexperience here:

Look... he is keeping the wood between him and where he is chopping.  I wouldn't think to do that, and blam - blood - everywhere.

I think he has a very safe and efficient system.  Which relies on his axe head shape, bungee chain and chopping the back half all the time.
 
                                                                    
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Two tools that do it for me are:

Fiskars splitting ax about $50
http://www.amazon.com/Fiskars-7884-X27-Splitting-Axe/dp/B004M3BAQE
This is unbelievably light weight and effective.
I hit a lot of logs as they lay on their sides and they split right open.
It is very good cardio too.

Shihl 180 Electric chainsaw around $300
http://www.stihlusa.com/chainsaws/MSE180CBQ.html
This saw has a lot of torque.
The chain must be kept very sharp and do not cut dirty logs or logs laying the ground.
Other brands of electric saws die after two days.
Electric saws are nice because they are quiet, no smoke, no pull start, aid good work flow with frequent changing between cutting and shifting logs.




 
Warren Billings
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This looks very efficient: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLULLzZuMn8&feature=related

Even better - imagine a loading dock where you could do the splitting and then push them all off the side onto a trailer/wagon for transport.

I love permies.com!
 
Ray Cover
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I wander how well this works on some of those hard to split woods like elm. Around here we call this splitting wood. Chopping is cutting to length with an ax.

I learned to really split wood from a blacksmith that lived in Potosi Mo named Tom Clark. Tom took a single bit ax and welded a 1.5 x 1.5 block on the back of the ax head and ground it to the contour of the original head. This added a weight that gave torsion to your ax head. TO use the ax you held it with the head canted about 30 degrees to one side rather than straight up and down. Tom's method made splitting wood very efficient and fast. Tom use to do local demos where he would take on a team of men using he latest miracle wood splitting gizmo. He never lost a contest. By time they got through a rank of wood he was usually way ahead.

I don't' have one of Tom's custom axes made for this but I have found that a double bitted ax gives almost as good results if held the same way. I'm not as fast as Tom was at it but it is the fastest way I can split wood myself. There is a technique to it but once you get the hang of it it is easy and a lot less physically stressful than using a splitting maul or wedges.

I don't know how to embed a video but I did find a vid on you tube of Tom splitting with his custom ax. Even hard to split hardwoods with interlocking grains would split using his method.

Tom clark splitting wood

Here's another one.

Tom splitting 2
 
paul wheaton
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John Merrifield
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You win Paul
 
Chris Kott
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Well, that last one from the Ukraine looks interesting. It is undoubtedly effective. But I don't think this is the safest solution out there. Do you know how old the trees would have to be for me to feel safe holding the wood to be split while the maul comes down? Gee, I wonder why we haven't seen those things on the market here in North America? Could it be, perhaps, because of all the potential lawsuits?

I don't think there is a safer way of doing a thing, any thing, than to properly learn how to do it yourself with the appropriate tools. This applies to any dangerous thing you could think of, from driving, to the proper handling and use of heavy machinery, to, yes, chopping up and splitting wood (I make that distinction, too). Generally speaking, the less we actually do ourselves, the less capable of doing anything we become. This is what makes normal daily activities, like driving, operating heavy machinery, or chopping up and splitting wood, dangerous.

Specifically to the point of chopping and splitting wood, there exist a suite of tools that have evolved since the literal Stone Age to do these things. I don't think I have seen anything in this thread that betters the maul and an education in proper technique for splitting and safety.

Complicating this issue is, in my opinion, a waste of time. If you absolutely need complete control and don't mind wasting the time that a good maul will save, you can basically construct a giant mitre box and saw your rounds to pieces by hand.

Or use splitting wedges and a sledge. Or I have seen a prybar-like tool that weighs a frickin ton with a head like that needlessly complicated weakling yellow splitter with the telescoping grip, but in a solid shafted form. It will actually work, and no adding extra weight. And if you get it stuck, you just use it as a prybar. I have seen them at most big-box construction stores (Home Depot), right next to the axes, wedges, and sledges.

The bungee chain is a cool idea, though.

To sum up, I think that the safest way to chop and split wood is to use the right tool, which in part means choosing one(s) you like and learning proper usage. Next we'll be reinventing the wheel.

-CK
 
R Scott
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Safety third!
 
Johnny Niamert
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I'd like to see how some of these work on 'less than perfect' cuts of wood. I rarely get knot-free, straight grained logs.

Some of those logs look like they would split if you yelled loud.
 
Chris Kott
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See my abovementioned criticism of overly complicated solutions.

That, and I second the note about the timber. Unless that straight - grained stuff is unsuitable for anything else for being too soft, it should have better uses, including hugelkultur, because I would guess that the caloric density of that stuff wouldn't compare with harder stuff that would bust that heap up, like the little bit of round that stopped it dead.

-CK
 
paul wheaton
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Emily and Tony set a bunch of dry Douglas Fir firewood on end, wrap some bungee cords around them and then Tony quickly chops them up with a maul. Some of the chunks have too many knots for the maul to be effective. I think this was a big success in splitting wood faster.



 
Adam Klaus
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neat idea^^^

maybe a come-along strap would be safer than the bungee?

I fear the bungee cord only slightly less than the chainsaw. That wicked hooked end has taken out a few eyes in the less fortunate. Just a thought from a bungee-fearing man.
 
R Scott
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I like the bungie much better than the dog chain someone else used on youtube.

You guys and your easy splitting wood. I am really learning to appreciate coppicing of hedge and locust--cut the wood before you need to split it. Small hedge rounds burn really nice and slow without damping down the fire.
 
Chris Kott
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I would use a ratchet strap. I don't want to be chopping something under tension.

-CK
 
Anthony Aiuppa
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I just trying to get rid of a pile of rounds that was collecting snow and moisture. Not my original idea, but Paul really liked it. I was pretty pleased with it, though control was needed to not ruin the edge of the maul on the gravel underneath. Chris, I would agree, a strap would be better, the bungee is a bit sketchy and as you saw logs would fall from time to time. Although you would be sad if you put a maul through a nice ratchet strap. The bungees just happened to be on hand. I think some cheap rope or cord with a truckers hitch would be pretty good.
 
Graham Watt
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Nice method! I'm still pretty happy with the wood in the tire method - big splitting stump and large truck tire allows me to chop a wheelbarrow full of wood in one set, at a comfortable height, with heavy splitting axe. I've stabilized the tire with a couple of scraps of wood nailed into the stump. When I used it the first time I was amazed how much less force I was using - and the tire provides one more layer of protection in case I swing through...
 
Dale Hodgins
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Chris Kott wrote: Next we'll be reinventing the wheel.

-CK
Good one.

I've done that in several cases where there was nothing to fix.

I enjoy the flurry and bluster of old fashioned maul splitting. I always use a full 360 rotation using the legs and back. Arms are just there to hold onto the handle. Quality equipment that is sized to fit the operator, rubber grippy gloves and a maul head that will not leave the handle, all contribute to safety.

The old tire thing works pretty well. Frozen wood often splits better than it would in warm weather. Quite often, energy is wasted when wood is lifted to a wiggly chopping block and then the first swing topples it. I have used a really solid scrap of 1 inch plywood which was frozen to concrete as my chopping block. A super solid backing like this causes all of the force to go into the chunk that is being split. The maul travels a little further and hits harder when the wood rests at ground level. KA BAM.

Splitting big wood just isn't a job for sissies. Get the best maul for your strength and stature and swing it like you're trying to win a prize at the fair. KA BAM !!!

The Darwin award for wood splitting should go to the Unicorn.
This video has been around for several years and as of last month, the star still has four limbs. Enjoy --- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1HZztie5ac
 
Lucas Harrison-Zdenek
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R Scott wrote:
You guys and your easy splitting wood. I am really learning to appreciate coppicing of hedge and locust--cut the wood before you need to split it. Small hedge rounds burn really nice and slow without damping down the fire.


I can't wait to start coppicing and drying my wood. But in the meantime, I have an enormous oak that dropped a huge limb this summer after a storm…soooo I need to split hardwood easily…just saying...
 
Lucas Harrison-Zdenek
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Dale Hodgins wrote:
The Darwin award for wood splitting should go to the Unicorn.[/b] This video has been around for several years and as of last month, the star still has four limbs.


That thing is terrifying! Almost as bad as the giant wheel with the axe head attached...
 
Dale Hodgins
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Lucas Harrison-Zdenek wrote:
Dale Hodgins wrote:
The Darwin award for wood splitting should go to the Unicorn.[/b] This video has been around for several years and as of last month, the star still has four limbs.


That thing is terrifying! Almost as bad as the giant wheel with the axe head attached...


The giant wheel looks bad, but it's a finger chopper. Get your shirt or pants wrapped up in a unicorn and the meat comes off in the same twisting motion that crocodiles use to de-limb prey. It would be like getting caught in the PTO of a tractor. A victim could be spun around and around until the truck runs out of gas. Dental records would be needed for positive ID.
 
Eric Evans
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Old tires work good for that. Plus, Fiskars super splitting axe, just as effective as a maul with far less effort.
 
R Scott
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Dale Hodgins wrote:

The giant wheel looks bad, but it's a finger chopper. Get your shirt or pants wrapped up in a unicorn and the meat comes off in the same twisting motion that crocodiles use to de-limb prey. It would be like getting caught in the PTO of a tractor. A victim could be spun around and around until the truck runs out of gas. Dental records would be needed for positive ID.


Unicorns are EXPENSIVE. There is a high demand for them, as few still make them for liability concerns. Kubota sold a 3 point PTO version. I have been looking for one for less that $500 for a long time. They will split the knotty gnarly stuff that laughs at big hydraulics. There are people building them to fit on 3 point post hole diggers--those will split full length fence rails.

You can find a few on ebay, including a kit set up to run from an electric motor.
 
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