Is there anything as warm and inviting as a fire in the woodstove or fireplace? The smell of hickory or oak smoke in the air. Even today, when I smell the smoke from the fire I feel warmth in my soul, not just in my cold body. We’re sharing with you how we chop wood to save time and energy. Our goal is to help you safely and efficiently chop wood to provide heat for your home and family.
Who hasn’t stood in front of the fire roasting the front of yourself then turning to warm the backside? Did you play chicken in front of the heater to see who could stand there the longest?
My Papa said, “When you chop wood it’ll warm you twice. Once when you split it and once when you burn it.” We like using wood for heating because it’s a renewable energy source. I think there’s just nothing as warm and cozy as a wood fire.
You’ll think we’re weird when I tell you we both enjoy chopping wood. My husband would say it’s relaxing and provides great exercise. I don’t know if I’d go that far!
We (I use this term loosely of course) put our heads together to share some tips we’ve learned over the years on how to chop wood to save time and energy.
The Right Tools For Chopping Wood
These include a:
We (again used loosely) usually split 16-inch rounds. Since the wood here splits much easier than the oak or hickory we had always cut down south, we don’t see the sense in using the gasoline it would take to run a splitter.
We usually only split wood once a week to keep the hungry wood stove well-fed.
If you’re looking to buy a wood-splitting ax or a maul, we would suggest a “wood splitter’s maul” because the wedge shape gives a definite advantage. We’ve found it’s much less inclined to stick in the wood than other wedges.
The steep slope of the maul creates more outward pressure on the wood which causes it to split better. Wedges come in handy for splitting knotty and gnarly logs so keep them handy.
You could use a six, eight, or 10-pound maul depending on the size of your muscles. We won’t talk about how small my maul has to be! Velocity is more important than mass when using a maul. With the maul head traveling as fast as is safely possible for you as it strikes the wood you’ll be able to produce the best results.
As your wood-chopping skill grows, you won’t have to use all your energy to chop wood. If you find yourself having to use all your strength and energy to chop every piece of wood, you’re likely doing one of two things wrong. Either you’re attempting to split rounds that are too large for your muscle mass or you’re maul or ax is too heavy for you.
Your safety gear takes only a few extra seconds to put on but can prevent serious injury or loss of life. These pieces of equipment include safety glasses, earplugs, work boots, and gloves.
A sharp ax is a part of working safely. Depending on what you’re cutting, you may have to sharpen your ax once every 3 months. We sharpened ours once every six months when we lived in the panhandle of Idaho.
When you sharpen an ax, you’re removing a little bit of steel from the blade so remember it doesn’t need to be as sharp as a kitchen knife to do the job.
Choose the Right Place to Chop Wood
The ground where you chop your wood should be hard and level. If the ground is soft, the force of your blow will be absorbed by the soft earth instead of by the wood. If the ground isn’t mostly level, you’ll not get good results. These mistakes result in a waste of your energy.
J found the best way to split wood for him was to build his own chopping block. He took an old tire, eight screws, and four rounds to build the device he wanted to use to chop wood. He chose rounds that would make his chopping platform the correct height for him and screwed the tire to them. He then used a strap to keep the unit a little more secure.
The tire holds the round in place as you go around and split it into the desired sizes. This saves you time and effort since you don’t have to bend over to reposition the wood after almost every strike. When the seasons begin to change and he doesn’t need to chop wood as much, he takes it apart, splits the rounds used as the base, and stores the tire and screws for the next season.
Chop Wood Efficiently to Avoid Injury
Before you chop the round, look at it closely and look for existing cracks. Use these as your targets.
You don’t want to strike a round in knotty or gnarly areas purposefully. Hit close to the outside edge of the round at a 90-degree angle to the growth rings. This will produce a more effective splitting of the wood than aiming for the center of the round.
Once you’ve got the split well started, strike on the opposite side to split the round in two. The remainder of the splitting will be easier once you’ve got it split in two.
I still struggle with accuracy. If you can strike within a quarter-inch of the target area, you should be good enough to chop wood without too much difficulty.
As I’ve been told, “part” of my problem is I change my grip in mid-strike and which changes the impact. Thankfully, my husband says I’m “a delicate southern flower,” so we don’t have to depend on me to chop wood to meet our needs.
Your feet should be shoulder-width apart as you stand in front of the round. Measure the striking distance by placing the head of the ax or maul on the round where you want to strike. With your arms fully extended, take about half a step back.
This provides room for you to lean forward a little and strike with your arms fully extended. J tells me this adds power to your swing. With your knees flexed, bend at the waist slightly and swing the maul overhead while keeping your focus on the place you want to land your strike.
Just as you are about to hit your target, pull the maul head back towards you slightly using your abdominal muscles and legs. This will increase the accuracy and effectiveness of your strike.
Whew! That sounds complicated I know, but the more you chop wood, you’ll find the way that works best for you. We hope our tips will help you avoid back injuries and pain and other bodily injuries.
We split our wood without incurring back pain and thankfully have had no injuries over the years. Again, I use the word “we” loosely, J lets me chop a round or two and then takes over. He doesn’t want to spend all day chopping wood. It works best for us for him to chop wood and for me to do the stacking.
Chopping Larger Rounds
We had a member of TFL Community ask us if there was a way to chop larger rounds. My husband says you could use a bigger tire with this setup. A semi or small tractor tire maybe. Anything bigger than that would be too awkward to work with, in his opinion.
FAQs About Chopping Wood
What’s the best type of wood for chopping?
The best type of wood for chopping typically depends on your intended use and your area. You can learn more about choosing the kind of wood that suits your heating or cooking needs in our article about that.
How do I choose the right axe for chopping wood?
Select an axe with the appropriate size and weight for your strength and the wood you’ll be cutting. A heavier axe can split wood more effectively, but it may be harder to handle. Ensure the axe has a sharp blade and a comfortable grip.
What safety precautions should I take when chopping wood?
Safety is paramount. Always wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from flying wood chips, and use gloves to safeguard your hands. Maintain a stable chopping area, stand with your feet apart, and swing the axe with both hands. Always keep children and onlookers at a safe distance.
What’s the best time to chop wood for seasoning?
The best time to chop wood for seasoning is during late winter or early spring. This allows the wood to dry and season throughout the warm months, ensuring it’s ready for use in the following fall and winter.
Can I use a chainsaw instead of an axe for chopping wood?
While a chainsaw can be used for cutting wood, it’s not a suitable replacement for an axe when it comes to splitting logs or processing firewood. An axe gives you more control and precision for these tasks and does a better job splitting wood.
How can I store chopped wood properly?
You can read our best tips for drying and storing wood. In short, store your chopped wood in a dry, well-ventilated area, preferably off the ground on a raised platform or rack. Stack it in a way that allows air to circulate, and cover the top to protect it from rain and snow.
What should I do with wood chips and debris left from chopping wood?
Wood chips and debris can be repurposed as mulch in your garden or composted. Alternatively, you can use them for kindling or as material for paths and walkways.
Is it essential to season firewood, and how long does it take?
Seasoning firewood is crucial to ensure efficient and clean burning. It typically takes six months to a year for wood to season properly. The exact duration depends on factors like wood type, weather conditions, and storage methods.
Can I chop wood in cold weather, or should I wait for warmer days?
You can chop wood in cold weather, but it can be more challenging due to the wood’s increased moisture content and potential freezing. If possible, aim to split and stack your wood during milder weather for easier handling and faster seasoning.
Learning to chop wood to save time and energy isn’t just about raw strength and determination; it’s about working smarter, not harder. By selecting the appropriate tools and techniques, you can significantly improve your efficiency and safety when tackling this essential task.
Remember, chopping wood is not just a chore; it’s an opportunity to optimize your homestead or farm operations. So, whether you’re a seasoned lumberjack or just starting out, make sure to invest in the right equipment and practice the right methods to save both time and energy while keeping yourself out of harm’s way.