Chopping firewood for first time

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This is the very first time I am cutting rounds (cylindrical sections of tree trunk) into firewood. A few weeks ago a tree trimming service cut down three dying trees and left piles of rounds for me to use as firewood. To make the task easier, I bought a Chopper1 ax, which is supposed to split wood without having to use a wedge. I would appreciate any tips on how best to do the chopping. How do you stabilize the rounds so that they stay put while you are chopping? What is the best way to dry and store the cut wood? How long before I can use them? I live in Western Washington. Thanks for any advice to this novice lumberjack.
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If you don't need the wood now (3 trees is very little) Wait till the logs have frozen in the winter time. Easier to cut frozen logs then wet green ones.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

You're probably thinking of Eastern Washington. It's very mild here in the winter and never gets cold enough to freeze logs. Thanks for the advice anyway.
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tenplay wrote:

No he's not, doesn't know what kind of trees grow in eastern Washington or how they cut. Chopping in the winter is a good idea though, it's a lot less sweat, than chopping in the summer.
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tenplay wrote:

The Chopper1 is a fancy version of a splitting maul (regular mauls have the thick head but don't have little levers). I have never used the Chopper but with a regular maul, it's usually good to have a wedge too for the specially tough logs. And a separate sledgehammer to hit the wedge with when the maul is stuck in the log.
If you have stumps left standing, they work real good as a place to do the splitting. Or you can use a big thick round (if any are wider than they are tall, for stability) as a base. Or just put the log to be split on the ground.
Most wood will get easier to split as it dries out, and also when its frozen. On the other hand it will dry out faster once it is split (if you are in a hurry to be able to burn it).
For drying, you want the wood stacked loosely, up off the ground, exposed to air but out of the rain if possible. It will be nice and dried out by NEXT winter, questionable for this one. -- H
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By "rounds" I'm assuming you mean the short section of log, maybe 16" long. How large a diameter are they? If they are 10" to 18", not so bad. Larger than that, rent a splitter.
Step one is to get the height right. Take the largest one you have and use that as the base. Put smaller ones on top. Now, the total height will be about 32" or so. This gives the maximum force when the maul comes down and hits the wood.
Change your shoes and put on a steel tipped work boot in case one piece fall on your toes. Long pants is not a bad idea either. Gloves are a must too, and safety glasses helps.
As for stabilization, I've never done anything but to get one piece to stay on top of the other. Once split they will fall anyway. Take a few practice swings to be sure you are hitting the right place. Once you do, just swing that sucker as hard as you can right in the center of the log.
Dry logs split best. If you have a hard time (you will at first) let them sit a few day after splitting in half before you do the quarters. The longer the better.
Accuracy is not as important as repeatability. If you are off center by two inches, that is OK, but you want the next blow to hit as close as possible to the first, and on and on until the wood splits. Some woods split cleaner than others. Shorter splits easier than long pieces
Practice, practice, and pay attention. That swinging maul will take an arm off so keep family and pets away.
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Return the ax and rent a hydraulic log splitter for the weekend. Unless you are into getting some exercise, then chop away.
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All the below assumes normal mauls and wedges. I've never tried a "chopper 1". I suspect that it won't be too useful on large tough rounds.
Try to split along established cracks, avoiding knots (where smaller branches were). With some wood, splitting the bark a bit where you want it to split will help. For tough breaks, make a line across the round with several maul strikes, then hit it really hard at the near edge. Then pound the maul in with a sledge as needed. Sometimes, pounding the maul in is not enough, and pounding a wedge into the opposite edge will help. On large rounds, I've had good luck after the initial split by criss-crossing strokes. Split across the grain a few inches from the edge. If it doesnot give on one hard stroke, make the next stroke with the grain (right angles to the previous stroke) a few inches from the edge. Often, criss-crossing like this will break chunks out without additional hammering.
Stack it on something which will allow air flow under the pile. Any wood in contact with the ground will wick up huge amounts of water. It is best if you stack the wood on something non porous, or use a non-porous layer somewhere below the wood. Cover the top of the stack in the winter. A cover with a "drip line" beyond the wood is best, so the water doesn't drip on any wood. 2 ft wide corrugated fiberglass or metal panels work very well. Do not wrap the stack in plastic - it needs to breath. If you use plastic on top, avoid dips that will collect water and cause the plastic to move or tear.
Bob
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Pay attention to what Bob sad. He's obviously been there and done that.
There's a bit of an art to it, its not all brute force, and if you have a neighbor or friend with experience splitting alder or doug fir or vine male or oak, you can learn a lot in a half hour demonstration.
TWO wedges, a sledge and a maul, and if you can find one, an "Oregon Wood Grenade" are about the minimum tools you'll need. You will get the maul stuck at some point and the pair of wedges and sledge come in real handy at that point.
I've split a lot of wood here in Western Oregon over the past 30 years --
--
Jim McLaughlin

Reply address is deliberately munged.
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tenplay wrote:

Get a book.
Don't know what a Chopper1 Axe is. What you need is an ax (won't split much) and a splitting maul and two wedges. It all depends on the wood, some of it will split easily when green, some of it just about won't split. Make a chopping block, use a big round about 12-18" high. If the rounds are cut flat, they will be stable. You need to split, stack and let green wood dry for at least 1 year. Keep the rain off the stacks--tarp, shed, etc.
Hey you are not even a novice lumberjack or you would have cut the tree up.
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Here you go:
http://www.chopperaxe.com/whatis.htm
On Fri, 07 Jul 2006 22:02:52 GMT, "George E. Cawthon"

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Nobody asked you what kind of wood it was. Most wood isn't worth the effort. What are your trees?
I have used the device you mention. It works pretty well, but I prefer the feel of a splitting maul more; but that is just my preference. Wedges come in handy on tough pieces; the alternative is to just keep wacking until it splits, and that can take a while.
Can't you get someone to show you how to do it? Hard to describe over the internet (put the piece on end and hit as hard as you can; the rest is commentary...) and dangerous if you screw up.
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Really? If not wood, what do you burn in a wood burning stove?
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Black locust. Best wood there is; only one I use. I sure wouldn't bother splitting soft woods or many of the lesser hardwoods. I suppose oak, hard maple, hickory, and a few others are okay if black locust isn't available, but "most wood isn't worth the effort".
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MOST wood IS indeed worth the effort. Some woods are not as worth it as others.
You just have it a little bit backwards.
--James--
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"worth the effort" is subjective...everybody has their own opinion on what it means. I saw a chart on btu per cord of different wood.I will have to try to find it again.
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Can't prove it here http://www.chimneysweeponline.com/howood.htm
There is a correlation between density (weight to be hauled into the house) and Btu, but that correlation also means greater physical effort to split the harder woods compared to the softer. There are plenty of good woods that produce a lot of heat. More volume to carry, but not so much weight. There are tradeoffs that many of us are willing to make. Especially since there are not that many black locust trees around here.
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I have 14 acres of Oak/Maple/Hickory, so I have burned it all. I get my black locust from suburban trees that have gone down; black locust tends to do that.
If I fill the wood stove up with BL, I still have a fire the next morning; while O/M/H will all have gone out. I also have significantly less ash with BL, And BL doesn't rot it you leave it out for a few years. Don't know about your chart, but I find BL to significantly superior for wood stoves. For fire places I use other woods because they show more flame and are easier to light.
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Toller wrote:

That is the most rediculous thing I have seen in a long, long time. You just did away with heating with wood for about 90% of the people living in the north lands. Those cadillac woods you mentioned aren't available in the needed quantity up there.
The question of "what should I burn?" if being practical abouit it is. What wood will give me the most BTU per $ I spend. That is how I look at it.
I cut my own and get it for free from the landowners or (with permit) the national forests. Here is how it works out.
If I am willing to cut/burn Willow I can get all I want withing 10-20 miles of my house. If I want Tamarack or Fir I have to go to the forests = 100 mile minimum round-trip drive.
You do the math on cost/mile of haulage - gas ain't cheap and neither is my time.
Time wise it was an all day operation to the forests. Yesterday I was out and back with a load of Willow in 5 hours.
I burn about 1/3 again as much Willow as I will Tam or Fir.
Thus Willow wins out hands down cost/BTU wise.
As for the others you mentioned. You ain't gonna find any of them except for a few take-downs around this country.
If you are serious about that comment I rank you in with a bunch of others I call "firewood snobs".
Harry K
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MOST woods are fine to burn, but some more than others. It is true that locust is a very good wood to burn, better than most, but not the exclusive one. As others have pointed out, most folks have to burn what they can get.
Equally important to what species are good to burn , is to have dry and seasoned wood. That makes at least as much difference as the species.
Yes, there are wood snobs, for sure.
---James--
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