Wood Splitting and It’s Perks

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Often times, when a person moves out to the country, they find themselves with many dying or dead trees, plus an old woodstove.

This brings up a very natural progression of thought… I should split wood and provide my own heat. And in the age of self-sufficiency and simplistic living, wood splitting is definitely full of perks.

Heating the House In Winter

Large pile of firewood stacked up with garage in background.

To prep for winter, Nick and I spend quite a few days collecting logs into a pile of potential firewood. Nick roars up the chainsaw, then in 1-2 afternoons, he’s cut each log down to a length that would fit in our woodstove.

Meanwhile, I stack a ginormous pile of wood that will later be split and brought into the house.

Many people, upon moving to the country, will buy themselves a state-of-the-art wood splitter. A machine that uses gas to split each log into burnable pieces. Now call me old-fashioned, but instead of hammering out a marathon of splitting, I prefer to split what I need on a day-to-day basis.

Each winter night, Nick and I burn about half a wheel-barrow full of wood. (There are definitely a few factors here… small house, small wood-stove, temperature, whether or not one of us gets up in the night to add to the fire…) So what I do is take the time each day to split exactly what I need to bring in the house.

It Doesn’t Take A Lot of Upper-Body Strength

The wooden handle on the axe lays broken in the grass.
Broke the wooden handle on my axe.

When it comes to splitting firewood and handling an axe, many people believe only the buff can do the task.

But this is false! Because I DEFINITELY do not have massive upper-body muscles. In order to complete the task, there are a few things I do…

1. Choose the appropriate tool and really get to know it.

Multiple axes, variety of sizes and handles laying in the grass.
You can never have too many axes.

There are many different styles of axes you can purchase, as a beginner, I started with a simple wedge head on a fiberglass handle. As my aim improved, I moved to a wooden handle for a lighter tool.

2. It’s all in the TECHNIQUE.

Lack of upper body strength doesn’t matter when I use gravity to my advantage. Since I can lift the axe above my head, all I have to do is direct the tool on the spot that I want. And, if I split towards the outside of the log, I’m more likely to fracture a piece off.

3. Choose the right type of wood.

Two pieces of wood laying next to each other, one elm and one boxelder.
Elm wood on the left, boxelder on the right.

As a beginner, I practiced my technique on the easier tree species. This included many pieces of boxelder or soft maple. These types of trees have a straighter grain, thus making them easier to split.

In choosing your type of wood, know that the easier it is to split the wood, the faster it burns inside. Although Elm is harder to split, it also burns longer. We save these pieces of wood as our night-logs, you know, those pieces you throw on the fire before hopping into bed!

4. Practice, practice, practice!

Cedar wood in a stack.
Walnut, recognizable by it’s dark brown color.

As with anything, the more I practice my technique, the more I commit it to memory. The more I consciously think don’t swing the axe into a leg, the more I subconsciously pay attention to where I’m swinging. Also, the more I get out there and split a wheel-barrow full of firewood, the more my stabilizer muscles grow!

Splitting Wood Clears the Head

Annie stands ready to split a piece of wood in front of a large pile of firewood.

At the end of the day, the simple joy of wheeling around a pile of wood that only took 30 minutes to split is the reason I continue to turn down the thermostat.

The act of splitting and storing firewood burns calories and creates heat, something we definitely need to survive a Minnesota winter.

It’s the best way to unwind from a busy day, to get outside and enjoy some of that fresh air people always talk about. But most importantly, it reconnects me to nature in an indescribable way.

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This post was written by Annie, October, 2020.

Annie standing at the Lincoln Waterfowl Production area during a gravel bike ride.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Ann

    You almost convinced me to split fire wood by hand!
    I do love the warm dry heat from the wood burning stove.

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