What’s the best block for chopping wood?
Well, you’ve come to the right place because that’s exactly what I’ll be going over in this post.
So, let’s dive straight into the answer…
What are splitting blocks used for?
The mechanics of splitting a log involves momentum. The momentum of the axe or maul at the moment of impact is proportional to the effect it will have on the log. And to be effective the log needs to be stopped from behaving like a skillful boxer and ride the blow.
The log must be prevented from moving together with the maul. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to use a splitting block. This ensures that the log remains stationary, and splits when struck by the maul.
The splitting block provides a stable platform upon which the logs can be stacked ready for splitting. One of the most ideal splitting blocks is the stump of a cut down tree so bear that in mind if any trees are going to be cut down in areas close to where you are likely to be doing some splitting.
Another ideal splitting block can be made from a log with the most knots and twists you can find. This provides two advantages. It will last a long time and you are spared the unpleasant task of trying to split it.
While you are making your splitting block see if there is not another piece which does not have both ends cut flat but rather one with an angle between ten to fifteen degrees off horizontal.
Set it up together with the horizontal block so that when you get a log that has an angled face you can use this block to set the log up vertically.
How tall should a wood chopping block be?
The height is determined by your own height. You want to measure the height of the maul head when the wedge reaches the horizontal position in your swing path.
The easy way to get the correct height is to wedge the maul into a log so that the handle of the maul is horizontal and then raise both the maul and the log keeping the maul handle horizontal and measure the distance from the bottom of the log to the ground at the point where you feel comfortable holding the maul.
That will roughly be the ideal height of the splitting block assuming your logs are pretty much a constant length. It is the point of the arc where the maul reaches its maximum velocity.
The splitting block would normally be between twelve to eighteen inches high so if you place a log of around eighteen inches on the splitting block you will need to reach your maximum swing velocity when your hands are about thirty six inches off the ground and the handle of the maul is horizontal.
Assuming your height is around six foot that will be your sweet spot. Trust me. I measured.
How to split:
Splitting is all about timing. Well not quite true. The speed of the maul head as it reaches the log face is critical but so is the place of impact. Skilled splitters seem to glide the maul through the log with almost no effort.
They do that by checking the log face for tell-tale cracks. That is where they will aim to strike the log and with practice, they achieve a high degree of accuracy. And so can you.
Have a look at the log you intend to split. Check for a crack and aim to move the maul right through the log not just the face of the log. As golfers will tell you, ‘hit through the ball’ so ‘hit through the log.’
Use a tire
One of the annoying aspects of splitting logs is to have to collect the split pieces as they fall away from the chopping block.
A nifty trick is to find yourself an old tyre and fix it to the chopping block so that the split pieces remain on the chopping block. This way you will be able to make multiple cuts without having to stop to collect the fallen pieces.
The way to do this is to source a fairly large block just a little wider than the internal size of the tire. You will need to screw the tire to the top face of the block with three or four screws that are fitted with washers to prevent the screws from pulling through the tire.
Now with the tire firmly attached to the chopping block you can load it with several logs so that the inside of the tire is full of logs. Once the logs have been split, they will remain inside the tire and can be removed when you are satisfied with the size of the split logs.
This saves you the time consuming act of having to pause after every log has been split to pick up the fallen logs and replace them on the chopping block.
How do you split wood without a chopping block?
Trying to split logs without a chopping block can be a problem particularly if the ground is soft and the force of the maul tends to drive the log into the ground. You can overcome this problem by altering your stance and placing the log you want to split on the ground horizontally with one end up against a heavy log or tree trunk.
By standing astride the log with your back to the tree trunk and swinging the maul down between your legs you will be able to split logs almost as easily as in the conventional position.
A word of caution though, be careful because the log will split between your feet so make sure you have got solid boot protection when you split logs this way.