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How to Chop/Split Wood and Store it for the Winter

It’s getting cold out there again. And there’s no method of warming up more classic than with a fire, whether its a firepit, an indoor fireplace, or even just an indoor wood burning furnace. Either way, they all need wood. So if you have any plans for a fire, you should know how to chop and store wood correctly.

Sure, you can purchase pre-split wood from local stores. But by splitting your own wood, you can save a bit of money, get a good workout, and feel a greater satisfaction when it comes time to burn those logs.

You Need a Maul, Not an Axe

The common misconception is that you split wood with an axe. While you COULD use an axe, the much more suitable tool is called a maul. These look like a sledgehammer with an axe head on one end of the hammer. These are ideal for splitting since the longer handle and heavier head allow you to put most of the work on gravity. When done right, they can split logs in a single swing.

Where to Get Wood

There are two easy ways to get wooden logs for splitting. The first is to simply fell a tree on your property. Once fallen, you can cut it into logs. And then those logs can be split.

Alternatively, you can look online through local forums, facebook pages, or Craigslist to find people who need a tree fallen or want wood on their property to dispose of it. If you have the tools and a way to transport it, this can be a great way to get a large amount of free wood.

How to Chop/Split Wood

Now for the actual how-to instructions. This is assuming you have logs and a maul.

  1. Place the log on a chopping block. This can be a stump or a large piece of wood. If you can’t manage that, the ground will suffice. But chopping into dirt will wear down the sharpness of your maul much faster. DO NOT chop on rock, concrete, or other hard surfaces. Place the log on end, so that you are chopping into the opposite end.
  2.  Position Yourself Correctly. You want to be standing far enough away that when you swing the maul down with arms fully extended, the head will hit the log directly. This makes it much easier to have accurate swings.
  3. Hold by the Head, Swing by the Base. When holding the maul, keep one hand on the base of the handle and another near the head. This will help you maintain control of the heavy end. When you go to swing downward, you will want to shift the “head hand” down toward the base with the other. This will help maximize the momentum of the maul as it swings down.
  4. Try Until Split. Some larger logs might not separate fully. They might take a couple of swings before splitting. This is normal. Just keep trying until it splits. Oftentimes, the splitting moment also has a nice cracking sound, helping you know if you did it.
  5. Pull Apart. Oftentimes, the split logs will be kind of connected still at the end. This will be mostly wood fiber clinging together. You can separate these by hand.

And with that, you’ve successfully split wood. If you’re having a hard time visualizing it, we recommend watching this video showing the process.

Storing the Wood

The process is easy, but not as easy as simply throwing them in a pile. Keeping them dry is important.

  1. Place wooden “rails” down. This keeps the wood off the ground and allows drainage for rain.
  2. Stack Logs on Each End. Like a Jenga Tower, if you ever played that game. These will act as support towers for the logs.
  3. Stack the logs, Allowing Airflow. There’s no proper way to stack here. Don’t make it too compact, however, or air won’t flow through there and the logs will have a harder time drying out.
  4. Cover in Tarp. This keeps the rain off.

You can skip steps 1 and 2 by purchasing a pre built log corral. These are often metal rails with upward poles on each end to support the wood.

That should be everything you need to know to split and keep wood for the winter. Stay warm, preppers!

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