Posts Tagged With: splitting firewood with an ax

2 Ax Techniques for Fast Firewood Splitting

by Todd Walker

2 Ax Techniques for Fast Firewood Splitting ~

The permanent scars on my parent’s car port floor are a reminder of that grand idea Craig and I came up with while splitting firewood in 1977. The winter wind felt like we were tied to a whipping post.

“Let’s get out of the wind.”

“How ’bout the car port? The wood’s gotta be stacked in there anyway.”

Not our best idea ever, but we set up shop on the two-year old concrete floor. Driving the metal wedge with 8-pound sledge hammers, a few, quite a few actually, shot like bullets through the wooden rounds followed by a distinctive twang of metal meeting concrete.

“Ya think he’ll notice?”

“Nah. It’s just a few dimples. And we’ll stack wood on top anyway.” Upon further inspection, they were chunks, not dimples.

Had we known of these two splitting techniques, we could have saved Daddy’s new floor… and a lot trouble when he got home from work.

The Twist Technique

The normal way to turn big rounds of wood into little stuff is to use a splitting maul or hammer and steel wedge. These tools are heavier than an ax and doesn’t mind eating grit, even an occasional rock under ground. But they’re heavy fellows and not convenient to tote to base camp. A proper ax is easier to carry and does a noble job of separating wood rounds.

There are many frustrating ways to split wood. Typically, one balances a round atop a chopping block, takes aim, swings, and one becomes two pieces. And neither piece stays on the platform for further splitting. The cycle of bending over, balancing a half-round atop the chopping block, and splitting again is about as fun as a pulling teeth. Even using an old tire to hold the stick together while splitting requires lifting and placing the wood inside the tire.

If you want to speed up the splitting process, put a twist on your swing.

Stance, Swing, and Safety

Trees, like people, are different yet have similarities. No matter the wood species, when possible to determine, split rounds from top to bottom. That is, position the wood vertically as it grew in the forest, top end up, bottom (butt) down.

Longer axes are safer than short-handled ones. When splitting, even on a chopping block (backed-up vertical stroke), with a boys ax (24 to 28 inch length), if you miss the target and chopping block all together, your follow through will likely turn your foot into a clove hoof. A 36 inch or longer handled ax extends the swing arc and would stop in the ground on miss hits.

With that in mind, and the fact that we’re not using a chopping block, we’re actually splitting what would traditionally be used as a chopping block – a big, round chunk resting on the ground. A slight twist or flick of the handle at the moment the ax meets the wood will prevent the ax from traveling through the length of wood.

To start, target the outside edge of the round. For my swing, I aim about 3 inches in on the outside edge of the chunk. My right hand grips the bottom of the handle and flicks or twists to the right on impact. You’ll be moving around the chuck steadily removing wood so make sure your area is clear of all tripping hazards and swing obstructions.

Clear, straight-grained wood like the Red Oak in the video makes for fine splitting… until you hit a knot. At that point, the twist technique is not effective. Other tree species can be difficult to split even with a splitting maul. Sweet Gum, for instance, reveals a mangled, interlocking grain which frustrates the most seasoned wood splitter. The best strategy to get through knots with an ax is to strike dead center on the knot. Or, just designate the piece a long-burner.

The Tiger Technique

Steven Edholm, who issued his crazy Axe Cordwood Challenge, along with my fellow participants have tried to come up with a name for this splitting method. Nothing official has stuck. What I’m calling this golf-like-swing is the Tiger. You may have figured out by now I’m referring to Tiger Woods, professional golfer.

Whatever you choose to call it, the Tiger is my favorite and fastest method for turning a pile of large rounds into small, burnable chunks. Before the Safety Sally brigade shuts me down for even suggesting you use what appears to be a dangerous ax swing, allow me to explain the method behind what seems to be pure madness.

Safety Concerns 

I covered the basics of swinging an ax inside and outside your frontal zone in a previous article. There are inherit dangers anytime you swing 3 and a half pounds of scary-sharp steel. I get it. No matter how many times I grip my ax, my mind pictures a few online ax injuries, which can’t be unseen, as I soberly begin swinging. Even then I must follow, without exception, the protocol of safe ax use.

A few concerns always pop up from Safety Sally folks who have never attempted the Tiger. It just looks awfully dangerous. Here’s the gist of their advice/concern…

  • A glancing blow and the ax hits your leg. Don’t split that way.
  • The log should be propped up against another back rest.
  • Looks like an accident waiting to happen – especially with a double bit ax.
  • That’s a hazardous way of splitting wood. I’ve chopped and split wood growing up. Never chopped that way.

What’s interesting is that other seasoned axmen comment on the effectiveness of this method. This is a lateral swing and is preformed outside the frontal zone. The important part is to keep your feet ahead of the point of ax impact. Clear-grained wood separates with alarming speed… and will fly many feet in the wood lot.

When clearing and area for ax work, I use this same swing to remove small saplings close to the ground. As the ax arc begins its upward motion, the bit separates the sapling cleanly. Again, follow the Frontal Zone rules for safe swinging.

Just like any other ax technique, Doing the Stuff is the key to improvement. You can’t watch the video or read about it to become proficient. Study proper technique and go split some wood.

Here’s a few photos of my firewood stack at base camp. The Axe Cordwood Challenge is coming along nicely and teaching me some valuable lessons on the journey.

2 Ax Techniques for Fast Firewood Splitting ~

The front stack is all ax cut: felling, bucking, splitting, and cutting to length. The Red Oak in the rear was sawn and doesn’t count in my Cordwood Challenge.

2 Ax Techniques for Fast Firewood Splitting ~

Red Oak and Tulip Poplar stacked. You can see the difference between the sawn firewood and ax-cut wood.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at our Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

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Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Functional Fitness, Homesteading, Lost Skills, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Ax-Manship: Tips for Splitting Long Logs for Firewood

by Todd Walker

It’s cold and you need firewood back at base camp. That standing dead oak tree 200 yards from your shelter will provide you with enough BTU’s for heat and cooking on this frigid weekend.

What’s the best strategy to get the fuel back to camp?

Ax-Manship: Smart Tips for Processing Long Logs into Firewood |

You can only carry x amount of stove-length firewood in your arms before your back shuts down. The efficient method is to cut longer lengths at the harvest site and haul it back to base camp. How long? The answer depends on your functional fitness level and the diameter/density of the log to be hauled.

You need to conserve calories since the only means of conveyance is your body. Firewood provides heat. Heat cooks food. Food provides calories.

Hauling Long Logs

I first witnessed the technique as a young boy when my daddy hired Mr. Colbert to cut timber on our land. Get this, his name was King… King Colbert!

Mr. Colbert was strong as Paul Bunyan’s ox, Babe the Blue Ox! He hauled pulp wood logs to his old log truck on his shoulder. Paul Bunyan was folklore, but King was the real deal!

Now, you don’t have to be as strong as Mr. Colbert to transport firewood, a few simple tips, and upping your functional fitness, will have you toting logs like toothpicks.

Here’s my rule of thumb for hauling logs…

  • A foot or so taller than me
  • Choose trees I can reach around with one arm and touch my nose
  • Walk the path of least resistance (tripping hazards)… even it’s a longer walk
  • Good form equals less injuries

Let’s haul some wood!

Ax-Manship: Tips for Splitting Long Logs for Firewood |

Doing squats here but it’s the same technique only you walk with the log on your shoulder.


Stand the log on end. Position your shoulder just past the midway point of the log. With your legs and hips bent like your about to do a squat in the weight room, keep your back straight and tilt the log backwards (opposite the way you’re facing) as you lift the log.

The longer end of the log will naturally counter balance to your backside. A bandana or extra shirt on your neck will prevent scratches. Now haul it back to camp!

Splitting Long Logs

Grab your ax, two hardwood wedges, and a maul. Simple machines are force multipliers. Carve two pieces of hardwood about 8 inches long into wedges with your ax. The beauty of woodcraft/bushcraft skills is that you craft simple machines on site. This lightens your load considerably.

Don’t overlook the importance of a simple maul for camp craft projects. Uses include but are not limited to…

  • Pounding stuff like stakes and wedges
  • Baton for splitting wood
  • Hammer for mortise and tenon joints on shelters
  • All sorts of camp craft tasks at camp

Here’s a down and dirty tutorial on how to make your own maul:

Back to splitting.

Lay the log to be split on top of another log to elevate it off the ground. If you want to get fancy, cut a “Y” branch to cradle the log. This short “Y” holds the long log steady for splitting and prevents grounding of your sharp ax. Your ax bit won’t take kindly to dirt and rocks.

Once secure, straddle the log and strike the end of the log with your ax to start a split. Remember to keep the ax handle horizontal at impact. It may take a couple of strikes. Once a split opens in the log, drive a wedge into the split above your ax with a maul. Remove your ax and pound another wedge in the crack going down the log. Use the maul, not your ax. The steel ax tends to “mushroom” the top of wooden wedges. And please, never hammering metal wedges with an ax.

Repeat this process until the log splits lengthwise. Take care not to pound the wooden wedge into your “Y” cradle or other hard stuff or you’ll blunt the wedges.

Use your ax to cut any stubborn wood fibers clinging to both halves of the log. Follow safety procedures as if you were limbing. Keep your anatomy clear of ax swings!

Repeat the process to split halves into quarters or even eighths. I prefer quartered if I have my bucksaw at camp. With a shorter folding saw, eighths speed the processing considerably.

Bucking the Split Logs

I’ve found this method of processing firewood saves my ax. Sawing logs into firewood lengths first, then splitting them with an ax, consumes cutting tool resources (sharp ax bit) quicker than splitting long logs first then bucking.

With your logs quartered, you’re ready to process firewood lengths for your tent stove or campfire. Obviously, if you’re burning a long fire, all this processing is unnecessary.

To save calories and frustration, lay the split rails in a notched stump vise you’ve crafted. A simple “V” notch or “7” notch will help hold the rails in place while you cut to your desired length. On the homestead, build yourself a sawbuck.

If you don’t have a takedown bucksaw, order a 21 inch Bacho Dry Cut saw blade and build one from scrap lumber for under 12 dollars. This saw eats through wood like a beaver on steroids! I just ordered a 36 inch blade for larger logs.

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And as always…

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube and Facebook page… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network on PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Homesteading, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

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