Now that we are in September it is time to think about putting up firewood. We have two wood stoves, but we mostly use just one of them, a circa 1934 Home Comfort cookstove. This unit heats the house, cooks, bakes, dries our clothes, and heats some water. Were we to order cut and split firewood for it, we would usually have to re-split about half, so that it fits in the firebox.
The primary tool that I use for re-splitting firewood is a splitting maul, a kind of axe-looking tool, except thicker. I’ve seen many in the hardware stores, but most have a straight handle. I prefer the kind that has a curved handle. I found ours for $1.50 at a yard sale several years back, and it works great. It only weighs six pounds, so I can work with it for longer periods of time without becoming worn out, as opposed to the eight pound ones. I also have a single-bitted ax, the head for which I found somewhere and put a new haft (handle) on. It is lighter than the maul, thus I can use it even more effortlessly. In both cases, I keep them sharp with a file. But remember that it isn’t the sharpness that does the work; you are chopping wood, not cutting it. Another important tool in my arsenal is an iron splitting wedge. I have a really old one, and am looking for another. I can split most anything with the wedge and a heavy hammer. I had some yellow birch and ash that was dry and stubborn, and could not spilt them with the maul, but the wedge and hammer made it look easy. The second wedge will help in the event I get the first one stuck, which has happened. I refuse to purchase a brand new one, instead waiting till I come across one at a yard sale. It isn’t so much that I am cheap; I just prefer the older steel, and the older tools. I also have a really nice hand hatchet made by the Amish in Smyrna Maine, for splitting kindling.
Splitting the wood when it is still green is the easiest for me, but other people prefer it to be seasoned. I don’t mess with wood that has nails in it. If it is a wide chunk of wood, I usually cut it shorter to make the chopping easier.
Splitting firewood happens to be a great form of exercise. It will make your hands really strong, in my case helping my cello playing. It takes very strong hands to play the Bach Cello Suites, and firewood splitting has helped with stamina, too.
There is one problem with splitting wood by hand: It takes so darned long. I do enjoy the re-splitting of wood, and splitting the occasional piece of full round firewood. But when you have six to eight cord to split, nothing beats a wood splitter. This year we did not purchase firewood, because we had some trees taken down. I did cut them into firewood length with the chainsaw, but when you are faced with this much wood to split, and when you are my age, nothing beats a wood splitter.
We rented a wood splitter this year for the first time, a machine called the Super Splitter. It sure does a good job of splitting, being fast and all. The rental was quite affordable and well worth the money. In just four hours the two of us split three cord of firewood. No doubt about it, this is the route to take when you are doing this kind of volume. Time is always of the essence around this homestead, and the machine saves a lot of time.
For me personally, the hard part, the downside, of using a wood splitter is that it is hard on my back, more so than splitting by hand. The chunks of firewood must be lifted onto the nest of the machine, and then you must be bent at the waist to manipulate the wood repeatedly to get it entirely split. After two cord my back was really killing me. We took a lunch break, had some wine, and then split another cord, but it was hard work, albeit very fast. Since we still have so much wood to split yet that I’d already cut to length, we will rent the Super Splitter again. But we will be prepared for a workout.
Now that the splitting is all finished it is time to stack it. We like to stack about a cord or so right outside the dooryard door. This way it is nice and close to the kitchen where it is burned. But we stack most of our firewood in a shed right off the front porch, making it an easy trip to fetch more wood. I use a two wheeled cart that holds enough wood for one really cold day.
So that’s about it. Soon it will be October, the perfect time of year to split and stack firewood, which ever way you choose to do it. Get your favorite splitting tools out and save money on a gym subscription.