Friday, September 21, 2012

How to Cut Firewood

Fall isn't quite here yet, but with winter coming closer with each passing day now is the time to prepare your wood for your fireplace or wood stove in case you should need it this winter. So how does one chop wood exactly?

Before you begin this task you will need to choose the correct axe or maul for the job. There are single bit, double bit, splitting maul, splitting wedge, and even more tools for wood chopping.

Before you begin chopping your wood be sure that there aren't any people in the vicinity that could get hurt, also be aware of the level of the ground, as you don't want to get off balance or fall while holding a sharp object.

If you aren't the one chopping, then do NOT stand behind someone who is. Actually it is probably best to steer clear of the axe wielder all together. Better to be safe than sorry.

Be sure your axe is sharp. As with knives, a dull axe is more dangerous than a sharp one as your axe can slip or bounce if it is too dull.

Let your axe or maul do the work for you. This means that you need a swift controlled swing upward and relax just before the axe hits the wood. For the last split second of this movement you are only guiding the axe. By relaxing, you prevent the shock of the striking blade from being transmitted back into tensed up muscles which will cause you to get sore and worn out more quickly. If you relax then you will allow yourself to be able to chop wood longer.

When splitting wood with an axe, if you strike with the axe head very slightly off perpendicular, it will be less likely to get stuck in the block of wood, but will cause pieces to pop free.

Just to recap some of what we've been discussing here are the materials/tools that are needed to get this job done:
  • A maul or ax. The maul is heavier with a wider head than an ax has. This makes the maul more efficient in splitting wood, but for smaller wood splitting jobs an ax will work just fine. 
  •  Wood. It is best to split already seasoned wood (read how to season wood), but so long as you are going to let it season before using it, you can go ahead and chop your green wood.
Now, for the instructions in your wood cutting task:
  1. Balance the piece of wood that you want to cut/split on a chopping block or on level ground.
  2. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  3. Hold the axe or maul with both hands. Slide one hand up near the head of the axe, and practice letting it slide down the axe handle toward the other hand as the swing is executed. This maintains control and delivers a more powerful blow.
  4. Put the axe in the spot you want to hit. Study the piece, and note any knots or limbs. You will want to hit a spot between these, as it is much harder to split across these, since they hold the wood together like nails or pins.
  5. Pull the axe carefully over your head, allowing the upper hand to slide up near the ax head. Hold it with the head back over your shoulder with a firm grip.
  6. Bring the axe quickly and firmly down, allowing your hand to slide down the axe handle to the other hand, aiming to hit the exact spot you selected.
It is always a good idea to let someone know when you are going to be chopping wood. You never know what could happen, and having someone aware of your location and what time you began and should be done is always a good thing.

And always be safe, if you feel uncomfortable chopping wood, you can purchase it already chopped, or talk to someone who is experienced that could help to teach you the proper method. Never do anything dangerous that you feel uncomfortable about.

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