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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
I've split a lot of wood here in Western Oregon over the past 30 years --
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.
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.
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".
Can't prove it here
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.
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
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.
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
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".
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
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.
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.