So, this week, we were fortunate enough to experience something called an “Arctic Blast.” This wonderful event causes the temperature to drop down to a 15 degree high, all week. Bitter cold, without time to acclimate!
But I shouldn’t be so surprised; its cold every winter. But with this one, I find myself wondering if we have enough firewood. It causes a much deeper worry than things in the city used to; this is like, survival. Kind of.
Looking around at our two piles of both elm, and some softer wood (we think it may be white pine), totaling a little over one cord.
Thankfully, we had spent some time through the previous week splitting elm. We managed to break a new wedge, which was working awesomely (Timber Tuff grenade splitter), but is probably made out of some inadequate material, as it broke in the second log we were splitting. Then again, it could just be the awesome powers of elm…
So, now we are using the Truper grenade splitter–basically it splits in four directions, separating the wood to a greater extent and its definitely made splitting elm a reality. Its like the Timber Tuff splitter, but made of much higher-quality materials (and, its cheaper, go figure…)
The grain of elm tends to twist and wind around all over the place. So when you go to split it, instead of falling neatly apart, it fights you til the bitter end!
The technique that’s working best for us is to use several wedges (to continually force it apart more and more, and because a single wedge will get stuck, and then that’s just the end of it), but most importantly, do NOT try to split it from the middle! The twisted grain makes it nearly impossible to just “split” the wood.
Instead, try to just “shave” pieces off the sides. It also seemed to help to wait until the first freeze.
I’m not sure of the exact mechanics of it, but it makes the elm split just a little bit easier; and every bit counts. So!
The maul…possibly the essential tool for wood cutting alongside the wedge, as it has a sledge-style end, and its substantial weight (8lbs. in our case) lends to splitting wood explosively! (i.e. not elm, but other, softer woods split like a dream with this thing.)
Please don’t ever use the blunt side of an ax…not a good idea, they are not made for hitting wedges! Not that we did that, but it seems like something important to note. Anyways, mauls are the tool to use for hitting a wedge and for splitting wood in general with its heavy weight and durability. Wilton B.A.S.H. Splitting Maul is the shit. No break handle….oh yeah.
Splitting the elm is pretty tiring, so we just do what we can, then break after we start to miss our targets (classic sign of fatigue, right?). Of course, I still want to keep swinging, but its always a good idea to listen to your body.