Splitting Firewood

by Daisy on 01/08/2010

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I learned something new recently.  Around here, and presumably in most areas, when a tree trimming crew disposes of a tree it pays a dumping fee.  Our local fee ranges from $50 for easily mulch-able branches to $75 for big trunks.  For the tree trimmers, especially the small companies, this can eat into their profits.

So, when I got a crew to use my yard as their dumping ground for two big trees, it was a win-win for both of us.  Here’s one tree:

I may regret this one. It’s sweet gum and notoriously difficult to split. I’ve also heard it needs a good three years to dry before it makes a suitable firewood.

The other tree is a black locust, and it’s splitting very nicely with a 6 pound splitting maul and the occasional wedge.

Not being a real pioneer, I had to do some online research about splitting techniques to pick up some pointers.  This was a very helpful article: How to Split Wood, at woodheat.org, which is a good, all-around resource for wood stove users.

Here’s a first day’s effort:

And after day two:

It’s hard to split just one.  After two, it’s “just one more.”  Then, “That one’s already got a little split in it–won’t take a minute.”

And pretty soon you’ve got the measuring tape out to see when you get to a cord (8’x4’x4′).

It’s addictive.  So either I’m going into the wood splitting business or I’m going to destroy my wrists.

Cuz I can’t quit splittin’.  The satisfying “crack!” when the log finally gives it up, the beauty of a rapidly building stack, the way it warms you up even when the air is freezing.

Even my idea of irresistible footwear is taking a decidedly different turn.

I keep looking out the window.

Who knew?



{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Jackie @ Lilolu January 8, 2010 at 5:41 am

That’s a lot of firewood! We’ll being doing that soon.

Karen January 8, 2010 at 6:48 am

Lucky you to have all the wonderful wood! Ialso love splitting firewood. I could spend my whole fall doing it. We’re starting a tree lot on our property growing trees for firewood. Right now we’ve got poplar and black locust. Black locust not only makes a nice firewood but great fence posts too!

rowena___. January 8, 2010 at 7:18 am

when we had a tree taken down in our yard last summer (lightning), i had them leave the chipped pile for me to use to make an woodland patio.

JoAnn January 8, 2010 at 8:13 am

Nice! I know I would enjoy splitting wood. Wish I had a fireplace or a wood burning stove!

CC January 8, 2010 at 9:12 am

Have you ever read Annie Dillard’s _The Writing Life_? She has a hilarious chapter about wood splitting.

the Bag Lady January 8, 2010 at 9:29 am

Lovely pile of split wood!
Around here, we wait to split wood until it’s really cold out – it splits more easily at -40! And the added benefit is that the wood warms you more than once – warms you up to split it, warms you up piling it/carrying it into the house (also warms you up cutting it and stacking it in the back of the pick-up to bring it home, but its sounds like you don’t have to do that), and, lastly, warms you up when you burn it!
And I hope your stance when you are splitting wood is correct – keep your feet well apart, just in case you miss – those splitting mauls really, really hurt when you hit your leg…. (experience talking! and I have the scars to prove it!)

Darci January 8, 2010 at 10:29 am

Haha! That picture brings back memories. When I was but a wee lass 🙂 my house was heated by a single (and rather tiny) woodstove. Our woodpile was about the size of 1/4 of a football field. There was always a pile of sawdust half a foot deep, and I always played with the metal wedges my Dad used. I spent countless hours of my childhood either watching my Dad split wood, looking for dead trees with him, or carrying in load after load of wood in the winter. Hope you have as much fun as I remember having! And don’t forget your gloves, although I’m sure you knew that. 🙂

Kat January 8, 2010 at 10:36 am

I love the smell of splitting wood. We need smell-o-‘net!

Rhonda January 8, 2010 at 12:21 pm

This is a comment on a previous post, to do with your home made deodorant recipe (http://littlehouseinthesuburbs.com/2009/03/quick-stick-deodorant.html). I have been using this concoction for a few months now and I have to say it is the most effective I have ever used, including commercial products. I had tried several different home made mixtures and this one by-far is the best, and it’s easy to boot! Thanks so much for posting it.

Sally January 8, 2010 at 4:18 pm

I’m curious where you’re at and how you managed to get them to bring the trees to you. I live in SE Michigan and would love to find a crew to drop their wood here.

Dolly January 8, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Omigod, yer a “crack” addict! Bag Lady’s right, it’s a full circuit workout.

Thanks for the woodheat.org link, very handy.

Tomato Lady January 8, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Sally–I spotted a tree trimmer truck with a trailer piled with trunks in the neighborhood and asked them what were they going to do with their load. We didn’t have to twist their arm at all to get them to come dump everything out rather than pay to have it disposed of. Saved them a trip out of their way as well. I plan to call up some of the tree companies in the area and ask around once I get this wood split and see if I can get a steady source coming our way. I bet you could do the same. Good luck!

Tomato Lady January 8, 2010 at 5:17 pm

Dolly–Hahaha! Guilty as charged!

Handful January 9, 2010 at 12:04 am

Wow – I gotta give you an atta go gurl!

My late husband and I owned our own tree company. We had a huge hydraulic log splitter that you could stand upright so you didn’t even have to lift the log. It was large enough to make split rails for fencing.

Although I have done it by hand as well – a lot of hard work! Good score on the locust.

pammeyepoo January 9, 2010 at 10:55 am

I do not know your region, but if the “wetter” trees are frozen, they split much easier. You still need to let them dry, but it is a cold weather tip.

Lanie January 9, 2010 at 8:31 pm

I was so motivated by this article that I got my husband to take me to the woods to find a tree to split today. I have bruised hands and an aching back, but it was a lot of fun. I made my kids help too!

Tomato Lady January 10, 2010 at 9:58 am

Lanie–Oh, wow! I’m going to have to be more careful about my bad influence!
Seriously, I’m glad you had a good day of it, Lanie!

Sarah January 10, 2010 at 10:52 pm

Ha, awesome! Great work on the firewood.

Personal anecdote: splitting firewood was how I learned left from right. I was 6 or 7, and I was helping my dad split firewood. Being right-handed, I put the bulk of the strain on my right arm. The next day, when my arm hurt, I asked my dad which arm it was (“That’s your right arm, Sarah.”), and for the next three days, whenever my arm hurt (which was frequently), I remembered that it was my right arm.

Susan December 10, 2010 at 7:37 am

I’m coming to this late, but couldn’t resist contributing: I love to split firewood. I started as a kid and continue whenever possible as an adult. It’s addictive. It’s therapeutic. It’s satisfying. One of my favorite “chores.”

Mike April 17, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Splitting Firewood can be great exercise, but tough on the back! I switched over to a gas powered log splitter and couldn’t be happier.

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