Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Splitting Wood

It's that time of year again. You know, the time of year when there's things you should have done over the summer but it was so hot, and winter was so far away, and so many other things to do. Remember those times when winter was far away? Well, now it's not, and I still have a vast pile of trees to buck and split.

That's about half of the pile of trees that has been sitting behind the studio long enough to show up on Google Maps. The Lady of the House's father was kind enough to come up and buck some of the trees for us a bit back, and will be coming up to show me how to properly and safely use a chainsaw to buck trees in the next month or so.

So, on Friday and Saturday I took a few hours and decided to see if I'd lost my skills at splitting firewood. Turns out, as one of my co workers said, it's a lot like riding a bike. You never quite forget, but you definitely aren't as good as you once were, or at least thought you were.

So step one is obviously to get the bucked logs into a place you can use them. For those who don't know, bucking is cutting the trees into log lengths. Obviously you can single carry over each length of log, but that just takes too long, so I was chucking them from where ever I found them on top of the pile. Perhaps not the wisest idea given that if I threw them wrong they'd probably roll down the whole 200 yard driveway. Fortunately nothing went wrong, and I simply ended up with a pile of logs. For the wise, drop logs to a flat surface rather than a slope.

Obviously when wandering around on a pile of logs, make sure you've got your balance solid, and don't rush yourself. It's better to be upright and slow than falling off the pile, or having it shift uncontrollably while you are on it. If the logging truck driver stacked it properly that won't be a problem, but don't place bets on things like that. I also recommend for anyone working with bucking and splitting wood whether wandering on the pile or not, to wear good heavy boots that protect your feet and give good traction! Also, as I am doing in this photo wear eye protection. It is also wise to be wearing gloves and a long sleeved shirt. I didn't think about the fact I should be wearing gloves until after I'd split everything and kicked myself for it, as for the long sleeved shirt. Well, I started off wearing long sleeves and ended up dripping very quickly in the humid weather. The point is, be safe when you are doing this!
The Lady of the House got a few action shots of me splitting firewood, and I figured i'd include one to show the basic form. This photo has me during the bounce back of the swing when I am re spreading my hands to deal with the bounce from the axe and this wood. I'm not going to do a full walk through on how to split wood, there are dozens on the internet, all by people who know better how to split wood than I do.
The basics of splitting wood with an axe or maul are fairly simple. Pick up the axe with both hands, Position it over your head, bring it up, and start it swinging. Let gravity do the work and all you have to do is aim the blow as it comes down.  If all goes well, it looks a lot like the picture Above and Left with the hands close together, and pieces of wood splitting off easily. A very satisfying sensation.

 Let's be realistic though. Sometimes that doesn't happen for one reason or another. Left you can see me trying to split a stubborn piece of oak. As you can tell I got a good strike in on the far side, and was trying to open up that split so the whole thing would crack. It didn't quite work in this photo, though that particular piece did go on the next strike. What I did though is stupid. You should always be aiming for the far side of the round rather than the near side. I'm sure the reason will be obvious to you when you think about it. If you strike to the far side of the round and it blows through easily, you go into your cutting surface. If  you over shoot, you bounce the haft off the log, and hurt your hands correcting your poor aim, not that I did that a few times as I re learned how to split well. If you strike into the near side as I did in this image and you blow through or strike short, you are putting yourself in danger of hitting your foot, or splitting your shin like a dry stick of firewood.

So, sometimes no matter what you do with your maul, a piece of wood isn't going to split nicely. Or in the case of the bastard to the Right, at all without extreme measures. I went after this monster for about 10 minutes with the 8lb maul that I used to split everything else. The Lady of the House politely suggested that I move on and finish the rest of the pile instead of wearing myself out on something that was clearly made of a combination of rubber and steel. To finish this off, I am going to be bringing out the splitting wedge that the Lady of the House and I were given to handle just this sort of thing. It is clear that the only thing I'm going to get by continuing to hammer on this with the maul is a dulled edge even beyond the normal dull edge of a splitting maul, and a lot of kindling.

The end result of about 3 hours of splitting and half an hour of stacking with a couple of people helping. A full sized about 40" by 60" pallet stacked around 4.5 feet high. As you can see we angled in as we got towards the top to keep from making it unstable since it isn't near anything and is on a hair of a slope. That is about 1/2 cord of wood. Last winter we burned 1 and 1/2 cords of wood, and a normal house on a normal winter in our area burns around 7 cords of wood. Once we work through splitting the whole stack we have that'll be somewhere around 10 cords of wood ready to go with the 2 cords we have left over from last year. That should be enough to make sure we don't have any problems this winter, or probably next. I intend to make absolutely sure that we don't have any concerns about heating in the future. I also intend to not leave things like this 'till the last two months before winter starts again. Spring seems like a better time to get all of this done so the wood has time to dry out nicely and be perfect for burning.

The Lady of the House suggested that I include a picture of something cute from the Cummington Fair which we went to last weekend. So here is a pile of baby goats.

Next post is either going to be on our visit to the Cummington Fair, or on whether Ethics is a luxury. If next post isn't on Ethics it'll be the one after it so think about that concept and I'd love to hear people jump in and start a discussion when I do that post.

1 comment:

  1. Hahahaha! I love the part about the Bastard piece of rubber and steel... my boyfriend & I have encountered a few pieces like that in splitting our firewood. There's nothing more satisfying than swinging a maul down and getting beautiful splits with little effort and nothing more devastating and frustrating when you can't. Can't wait to get our chainsaw fixed and give that sucker piece what it has coming to it!