Splitting Wood…Like a Boss!

What are your feelings about felling a large tree, cutting the limbs off and bucking it into 16 inch rounds all by yourself? A somewhat daunting task for someone who has been a cube dweller most of his career. It was not uncommon to cut down a few live oak trees in Texas when a rogue branch broke or it needed a trim. In this place, these folks make their livelihood in timber; out here, they can chop trees down with their bare hands, least that’s the impression you get when talking to some of these long timer folks.

You need to make firewood to stay warm during the fall and winter so its a necessity and it kinda sounds fairly straight forward right? You see those guys on TV doing it all the time. “Ax Men” is one of my favorite shows on the History channel and as you watch it you say to yourself, “Self…I can do that no problem.” Just give me a chainsaw, axe, and a wedge. Be right back while I fetch my red and black flannel lumberjack shirt singing, “I’m a lumberjack and i’m OK, I sleep all day and work…holy crap…”

It is a lot of freakin’ hard work!

Firstly, you got to drive into the woods to find a tree that is dead. It can’t have a sliver of green on it, oh no. It must be fully dead, standing or otherwise. I found one near the road, it was about 80 feet tall and 22 inches in diameter at the base. All the needles were brown, beetle killed tree. I only have an 18 inch chainsaw mind you, so I ended up ping ponging the sides of the tree with this pitiful Poulan brand chainsaw I bought at Lowes while I was still in Texas. So, I cut my wedge out the front then make a backcut. Insert wedge into back cut, pound it in and timber….

22incher

22 inch Red Fir Monster

Took me all day to limb and buck this sucker with my crappy saw. I had a few problems here and there. Chain coming off at times, wouldn’t stay running, vapor locking to name a few.

usedtobeatree

Nothing but limbs now

I think I was getting a bit too aggressive with picking out a large tree. But dang it, it was close to home and not too many of them were dead this close to home.  All said and done, I harvested about 2 cords from two different trees.

secondload

The last load

This is what I ended up getting after a couple days of harvesting. Notice, the large rounds at the right. They’re about 50 lbs each enough to exhaust a fella right quickly just moving them around.

rounds

Somewhere in there lurks “Old Man Killer”

So, how long do you think it would take to chop all of this wood into nice sized pieces that would fit into a wood stove? Well, I started with this Axe below. Fiskars x27, its the longest they make and has a nice splitting head, but it just makes small cuts into the face of these rounds. Sorry Fiskars, you failed me this time. Ideally, you should use a wedge and start at the edges to try to get the large round to split.

fiskarsx27

Not with this axe!

Ok, so lets try something more heavy duty. A maul and a grenade wedge. The maul is considerable more angled for splitting duty than the Fiskars axe is as you can see below, and the other side of the cutting edge is a flat sledge used for driving wedges.

8lbmaulandwedge

Maul and Wedge

Gah! I got it to split, but not all the way. The problem with this wood is that it is still wet and the fibers don’t separate very well like a seasoned log. You can see the wimpy cuts the Fiskars axe did to the right of the wedge.

try1withwedge

Wedge buried to China!

Using the maul and the wedge, I was able to break it apart without any other problems, but It took about 10 mins. Yep, The lesson learned here was that I should have looked for a smaller tree.

try4withwedge

Got three pieces broke off now!

I started on another one but didn’t notice it two large knots on the other side. @#!$ So I worked on it for a good 20 mins and the only thing I achieved was a workout and a sore back and elbow.  Those knots held it together like glue. I got the wedge buried deep into this thing now.

try2withwedge

Buried good!

oldmankiller

Old Man Killer

Using the Maul to help on the bottom side did … absolutely nothing!

try3withwedge

Another 10 mins on this stupid log wasted.

I threw in the towel at this point because i was exhausted. I have a lot of respect for the old timers that did this by hand all the time. Perhaps i’m just not doing it right, maybe i chose the wrong tree to harvest, or maybe i need to introduce this “old man killer” log to (using my best monster truck announcer voice…)

 

 “THE BLACK DIAMOND 25 TON LOG SPLITTER….SPLITTER…SPLITTER….”

blackdiamond2

Sorry old timers, nobody got time fo dat!

They also come with these burly (but little) lumber jacks in training. Just push the lever forward and backward and forward and backward…

blackdiamond

So Intense!

givememywedge

Now give me my wedge!

Am I taking the easy way out? Heck no! I still had to cut down the dad gum tree and limb it, and buck it and haul it and unload it and move it etc etc.

Now I have about 2 cords cut and ready to season for next year all split in about 6 hours. Since we use wood for our primary means of heating. This thing will pay for itself in no time. Not to mention, saving the body aches and pains. Besides I can still use the maul and ax when I need to feel like a lumberjack from time to time, or when i run out of gas!

myhandywork

 

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About Todd

I'm a software engineer and I've been doing software development for a long time, over 19 years professionally for various companies and many more in my youth just for fun. I've had a long professional career. I'm always looking for other activities where i can learn new skills and discover the true meaning of life. I live for adventure, crafted whiskey, good cigars and remote places.

11 thoughts on “Splitting Wood…Like a Boss!

  1. As I was reading this entry, I kept saying “log splitter, log splitter, log splitter”. And by the time I got to the end, you following my instructions. You are a smart man!!! 🙂

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    • It was a learning lesson for me. I would rather use a maul and wedge personally, but it would take me forever to make progress while my poor family froze. So, it was an investment of sorts, though, I might take it back. There are already cracks in the hydraulic lines.

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  2. Welcome to the area byw! We are new (4 years) to the Camas Prairie area and I have a few pointers. Please don’t take them as critical, but as someone who has learned the hard way. So first off – we have the 36″ version of the Fiskers & love it for our tall people. Ace in Grangeville has one at a time usually. Also, locals don’t use Ponderosa for wood options because the tree as a whole and alive, God made to be fireproof. That being said – dead it is a bugger to chop and saw!! Too hard. Third – a cord of wood is 4’x4’x8′. I’m not sure if you have more than in the pictures, but one cord fits in the back of our pickup with racks. It takes our entire family of 7 a day to chop and split a cord of wood and load it. Hope that helps a little. Kudos to you for getting that one in, we’d pass it up for lodge pole anyday! Most locals want red fir, but we aren’t as picky. We’ll take red fir and sell it and then we use lodge pole for ourselves. It’s lighter and easier, and I with a good woodstove works great for warmth! Hope that you have a better experience next time, now that you have a splitter. I know it’s been a game changer for us!!!

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    • Hi Dori!

      I’ve done some research before I plunged in. The red fir seems to be the best for burning because of its hardness and low sap content, but I might just give lodgepole pine a try and see how it goes. I just cleaned my chimney this weekend and that is a huge chore as well. The wood gathering experience wasn’t negative at all. I loved getting out there and getting the job done. Its a nice accomplishment to see all your hard work go up in smoke! :p

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      • It does feel very good to get the wood in. Many do like Red Fir and say it burns longer, but for me (and I do most of the wood loading in the stove during the day) the red fir is too heavy and awkward for me to lift. It’s also very heavy and knarly like the lodge pole to cut down and split. I don’t think that the lodgepole burns for that much less time than red fir. I know most disagree with me. To me, it’s more readily available and easier to cut and carry, so red fir just doesn’t have more benefits for me.

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  3. Hahaha teehee – been there, done that! I laughed through this entire story! Well done. Those dad gum trees can be a devil to work with. But, as they say, wood warms you more than once when you burn it. Last I counted, our fire wood warmed us at least 5 times: 1, cutting down the tree, 2. Loading the wood into the truck, 3. splitting the wood, 4 stacking the wood and finally, 5. burning the wood! In fact, when we started cutting, loading, splitting, stacking and burning our own wood, I cancelled our gym memberships!

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    • Hi Vickie!

      I agree with you. I’m starting to feel like I’ve been working out more. Sore as heck the next day, but i’m getting some great exercise and losing all my cubicle fat…ha! I didn’t think about the multiple warmings like that. 🙂 Good point. Thanks for commenting.

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  4. Well done! Good to see you living the adventure out there buddy. I was telling your story to someone at a craft show yesterday where I was trying to sell some more handmade soap. We were both agreeing that the concrete jungle (DFW) is only good for making enough money so that you can leave and do something like what you’re doing now. Take it easy and stay warm out there!

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    • Thanks man. We are making way out here. There are lots new things to learn and discover. I agree though, we are much happier when we’re out of the rat trap. Well have to catch up sometime later. Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas!

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      • Funny,
        I know nothing of the trees in your woods. I can tell you however, that the Fiskars will split anything that will split, and it will do it faster than an hydraulic splitter. I just finished splitting a cord of oak and hickory with a Fiskars in 55 min.

        About saws. Get yourself a 60+ cc saw. Husqvarna, Stihl, Jonsered (which is a Husqvarna), or Dolmar. Go with a brand from the best local saw store. You will need there support.

        Good Luck, and I really enjoyed the read. I have been there.

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