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Safer ways of manually chopping wood  RSS feed

 
Mike Jay
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Thanks for the affirmation Roberto! 

I also saw something else in the video that I should have mentioned as well.  At the 1:10 point he gets the axe stuck in the end of a bigger split.  He lifts the axe and wood overhead and swings it down to use the momentum to split the wood on the axe head.  That is also quite dangerous if the split falls off of the axe head when it's above your head.  If I have that situation, I wouldn't hesitate to lift the axe and split together and drop them onto the splitting block, just don't put it over your head, foot or other soft target.

I like the idea of splitting a 6' circle of wood at the same time but I don't like hitting wood that is that low.  Maybe it's just because I'm too tall but I just prefer to have the wood higher off the ground. 
 
Roberto pokachinni
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No worries, Mike.  I'm the 'basketball star' of my family at 5'5''.  Us hobbits and halflings got to do some stuff diff'rent.       I agree with you about stuff overhead.  The dude, is just all give 'er.  He's gonna hurt himself at some point, or... a get little wiser with a close call... or he's reading this and willing to consider it.  
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I guy your size might want to build a 6 foot wide chopping block/table to do that method on.  At least with the table, it's easier to get it all into a cart, wheelbarrow, or truck. 
 
Pamela Smith
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Dale Hodgins wrote:
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 --- 




We have been using the Unicorn for 4 years now. Here are my thoughts on it. You always have to remove the wheel and then install this device. It is low to the ground so you are constantly bending. It is easy to use but you are running your vehicle and creating gas fumes you want to be sure you install it on the opposite side and downwind from your muffler.

We are off grid and seniors. Not just because we have to think of our age and safety but ease of splitting not just big logs but also kindling.
We will be building and setting up a new way of doing things this year or next year the latest. Already have much to do this year. I will be sure to post photos and a video whenever we get to it.

My experience tells me the easiest will be the Ingmars klyv IV. It is a manual device that will not need fuel. We can set up a stand to put the logs on that will not need us bending.
We will have 2 tires sizes available that we could use to put on the stand and support the logs so we can simply turn the logs to keep splitting the logs to the desired cut.
2 tires sizes so one will support the larger logs and one to support smaller ones. This way wood does not fall over as you split it.
It is amazing how often a piece of wood when chopped or even as you go to chop will fall over. The stand and tires will save lots of time as well bending over.
As one person brought up, you also need a solid chopping block otherwise energy is wasted. So building a nice stand to work at I hope will allow more force of the hatchet or splitter to split the wood more efficiently.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MD0cp3g6O78

 
Sharon Carson
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I just buy cut and split wood . I gather fallen branches pine cones and break up brush for starting fires or adding to coals . We do cut down some trees and use the limb wood as well as a bunch of different tools for splitting the larger rounds depending if they are twisted and full of knots . from simple axes to wedges. I also have a large box stove in the garage that takes those huge chunks of knotted woods that I can't burn in my other stoves . I only use wood heat and have 3 stoves.
 
Travis Johnson
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That inertia woodsplitter is pretty impressive, but then again so is an axe when the wood is perfectly straight, light and cut short. If a person really looks at the wood the guy is splitting, it is ideal wood. I would love to have all the left over pieces of wood the guy cannot split with that device for my woodstove.  I just wonder how that would work with knotted, crotched, gnarly elm? Would it be worth it to fabricate the machine on real world pieces of wood?

I am not saying it would be worth it, or not be worth it, I am not sure. And while I understand a person setting up a trial run for YouTube is going to use the best wood that they can, it is not a real world test.



 
Roberto pokachinni
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I agree Travis.  Although with youtube, a person can choose to film say an hour of stuff and then set up to edit it to a 10 minute video, so it doesn't really stand to reason that there is any constraint on it because it's a youtube trial.  He could edit only splitting gnarly wood, or only straight short wood, but I think that guy is just spltting wood, not splitting hairs.   That said, like you, I would like to see the machine split something less than ideal.  I could split that stuff one handed with a hatchet.  I did see a guy with a similar machine split at least one gnalrly chunk.  It took a couple whacks.   I'll see if I can find it. 
 
Roberto pokachinni
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The guy is still splitting weenie wood; probably 9 inches or so.  Half the length of the pine I split by hand.  Though it looks to be harder wood then the other guy was dealing with the working head of his system is also quite a bit lighter.
 
Travis Johnson
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The last one looks a wee bit wimpier, but it also looks like it would be easier to build too. A trade off, but it depends on the person. Probably a good investment as my system now (which is an upside down woodsplitter) involves the consumption of fuel. These two machines do not require that.

Here, where hardwoods abound, firewood is ALWAYS hardwood, but who ever said I was conventional! In the last few years the wood industry has really changed in Maine and low grade paper is no longer produced so softwood prices went from $70 a cord roadside to $10 a cord. On the other hand hardwood went from $40 a cord to $70 roadside. Therefore I have switched over to burning softwood along with a few others. Eastern hemlock gives you almost the same BTU's as hardwood, but its bigger and a bear to split. Still I see little reason to burn hardwood for heat when it has so much value as pulpwood. However I must figure out a better way to split that gnarly wood, that is why I am questioned the wood of which he was splitting.

I talked with the Procurement Forester of a big paper mill here and he said that he does not look for that to change any time soon. The Federal Government just gave them 200 million to put in a new paper machine and its going to use...sadly...hardwood. They are putting in two biomass plants close by too, all in an effort to get the forest products industry cranking again, and everyone is excited about this but me. I have a lot of land tied up in forests, but biomass pays a landowner $1 a cord. To put that in perspective, that is $20 a truckload...and a lot of trees that took a long time to grow. No thanks, I'll burn the junk wood no one wants and sell my hardwood for the highest price.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Since part of the issue with your hemlock is it's larger size, you could cut it on a shorter rotation (smaller wood), thus make it a bit easier.  But I can relate.  Hemlock on the North Coast of B.C. where I grew up was our hard wood, besides birch-which was pretty rare.  And the hemlock was challenging for splitting.  My dad eventually built a hydraulic wood splitter, with a garbage truck piston powered by an old forestry pump engine into a wedge made up of two planer blades from a mill welded together.  The basic design was stolen from wimpy production line models.  Ours could go through anything.  Then and now, we mostly burn pine.  It's in abundance, dead from a beetle invasion.
 
Travis Johnson
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Yeah I hear ya. I made the mistake a few years ago (1994) of going through a 30 acre stand and thinning out the hemlock pulp (12 inches in diameter or less) and leaving the logs to grow. That is why I have so much bigger stuff. I am going to use some of the bigger logs this year for a new barn; about 12,000 board feet which is quite a bit, but there is still a fai amount left. It has to go because I am clearing this 30 acre area for a new field.

Sadly I have a lot of hemlock on other spots as well, and now it is hard to even get rid of. A paper mill started taking it between Christmas and New Years and got swamped in that one week alone from loggers who had stock piled it just waiting for a place to sell it. Its now mid-March and they have not done that again!

I have a photo someplace of what a mismanaged forest looks like. This is old growth forest that is 100% hemlock and has never even been thinned out as you can tell. I wish I had thinned it out 3 years ago when the forest industry here was at its height and paying really well for wood. Now I got a mess.

 
George Burns
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I've been splitting Ash this season. The Emerald Ash Borer has ensured a steady supply in our area for the foreseeable future. We have a masonry heater that takes up to 22 inch logs. The Ash rounds are often too heavy to even lift off the ground at 22 inches long and 20+ inches across. I split them with a Fiskars X27. Really looking forward to trying the bungee/ratchet strap trick next time.

With these rounds I start hitting them parallel to the edge of the round about 3 inches from the edge. The cuts resemble a hexagon or octagon depending on how large the rounds are. Usually by the second time around the planks begin splitting off leaving behind a core that splits in the traditional wedge shape.

I usually use a tire for smaller (liftable) rounds. The key to efficient use of the tire technique is having the tire a step or two from where you're stacking. That wood needs to be lifted anyway, might as well make the splitting easier.

To get a tire rig setup just right, determine exactly how high you need to raise a round off the ground so your (favorite) maul hits the round just past perpendicular to the ground. I initially built mine for 18 inch long logs so it's too high for the 22 inch logs I'm splitting now.

Once the Ash runs out (splits easy) I may change my mind on the 22 inch logs...

Last I checked you can get the X27 at Walmart and Amazon. If you've never tried one, it's the cats meow. I have an 8 pound maul from Council tool that is sitting idle thanks to this little plastic wonder.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Hey George.
ith these rounds I start hitting them parallel to the edge of the round about 3 inches from the edge. The cuts resemble a hexagon or octagon depending on how large the rounds are. Usually by the second time around the planks begin splitting off leaving behind a core that splits in the traditional wedge shape.
  I've used this method on some large cuts myself.  I find that when I'm splitting any wood, the splitting become immensely easier somehow as soon as the cambium has been cut into.  I'm not sure why that is the case, exactly, but once I even cleave one of these outer crescents off, I can often get a full split happening down the middle.  Sometimes it takes a few, but I often do not have to go around and around as you describe.  I don't have huge hardwood though.  Generally I've had to do this with really big gnarly spruce, or birch. 
 
Roberto pokachinni
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and Hey George, Welcome to Permies.  Thanks for posting. :
 
Mike Jay
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:I find that when I'm splitting any wood, the splitting become immensely easier somehow as soon as the cambium has been cut into.

Generally I've had to do this with really big gnarly spruce, or birch. 


I have this with white/paper birch all the time.  One thing I do as soon as I fell a birch is to zipper it.  Run the chainsaw down the length of the logs to cut just through the bark.  Then I cut them into firewood length pieces.  If I'm splitting them I line the axe cut with the bark zipper and they split much easier.  If they are too small to bother splitting and I'm only going to stack them, the zipper lets the moisture out much better so the birch dries instead of rotting. 
 
Roberto pokachinni
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zipper it.  Run the chainsaw down the length of the logs to cut just through the bark. 
I have used the zipper myself, though I never had a name for it.  I sometimes forget to do this with the smaller wood as you mention with your method here:
If they are too small to bother splitting and I'm only going to stack them, the zipper lets the moisture out much better so the birch dries instead of rotting.  
  This is a good idea with birch as it holds so much moisture.
 
paul wheaton
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