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….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Using the Maul to help on the bottom side did … absolutely nothing!
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….”
They also come with these burly (but little) lumber jacks in training. Just push the lever forward and backward and forward and backward…
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!