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How to Chop Firewood

Rachel worked as a farm manager for 3 years in Pennsylvania. She owned and operated a small farm in Minnesota for 5 years, until 2019.

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Chopping Firewood the Old Fashioned Way

Chopping wood is one of my all-time favorite things to do. Maybe that sounds a little odd, maybe not, but if you want to know how to chop just about any type of wood, no matter the issues, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve chopped a lot of wood and learned a few tricks along the way.
This article will teach you (almost) everything you need to know about chopping firewood by hand, whether you’re dealing with smaller branches or huge rounds cut from the trunks of great trees. Read on to learn how to accomplish such firewood-chopping-feats as “taking its heart,” “going in the back door,” and “speaking to it.” And you thought we were just going to talk about splitting wood.

Use the right tool: an eight-pound splitting maul.

For chopping wood by hand, anything less than a six-pound splitting maul is, in my opinion, a waste of your time. Small axes are good for small pieces of wood, but a heavier axe will get the job done faster. Forget those three-pound axes they sell at the hardware store—if you’re up against a piece of green ash, twisted elm, or branchy locust, all you’re going to do is get that thing stuck. What you really want is an eight-pound splitting maul. Remember: “Eight is great.” Any more than eight and you’ll run out of steam. Any lighter, and you may not have what you need. This is my all-time favorite splitting maul.

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Have several metal wedges on hand.

Have more than one. Sometimes, if you’re dealing with something like a three-foot round of oak, you’ll get one wedge stuck and have to free it by opening the wood with a second wedge. Sometimes you’ll lose track of one of your wedges, drop it in the brush, or leave it in a stump you forgot about, so for best results have at least three.

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Use eye protection.

Safety goggles, or at least sunglasses, are a good thing to have when you are doing wedge work. Hitting the metal head of your eight-pounder against the metal wedge with the kind of force you’re going to be generating can cause little metal shards to fly. I know it’s not very manly to wear goggles while you’re chopping wood, but I insist: When beating metal on metal, wear goggles. I had a sliver of metal wedge fly into my face once (luckily not into my eyes) and I tell you, it didn’t feel very good and scared me into wearing sunglasses.

Know what type of wood you are dealing with.

I’m not saying you have to be a forester or an arborist to chop firewood, but it really does help to know which species of tree you’re working with. Is it a hardwood or a soft wood like pine? What do you want it for—indoor or outdoor fires? If you want it for your indoor fireplace or woodstove, it should be a hardwood. If you haven’t chopped a lot of wood in your lifetime yet, you’ll soon learn from experience that different types of trees yield wood that is different when it comes to splitting it and using it for firewood.

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