Splitting Wet Wood VS Dry Wood [What You Need to Know]

Are you deciding on whether you should be splitting wet 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 get straight into this!

Should Wood be dry before splitting?

Ever since Oliver Mellors beguiled Lady Chatterley by flexing muscles and splitting logs the act of preparing fuel for the fire incorporates an element of romance. So, people say. And I would believe that it is those same people who will also tell you that splitting logs is invigorating. Chances are they own a hydraulic splitter.

Splitting logs is hard work but is it easier if the wood is wet or dry? The consensus is that conifers are easier to split when they are dry and deciduous trees are easier when still wet. With that in mind, let’s have a look at making this invigorating task a little less onerous.

Is there an advantage in splitting wood when it is wet? If we follow the theory that the surface area is inversely proportional to the drying time, then increasing the surface area by splitting will reduce the drying time.

So, for deciduous trees, it would seem a good idea to split when wet. Conifers are a little more difficult to call but if drying time is critical then perhaps the additional effort is warranted.

Can I split wet wood and how do I do it?

Step one in splitting wet wood is to use the correct tool. An axe will work but a maul will ease the stress on your arms and shoulders. There is a difference between chopping wood and splitting wood. The former is done with an axe, but splitting is definitely where the maul excels. 

It is also good practice to cut the logs into lengths that are comfortable to split. For most people that would be around a foot long, so don’t pretend that size doesn’t matter because it does, and the longer the log the greater the effort it will take to split it. 

Avoid trying to split pieces that are irregular shapes. Curved pieces can be difficult if not outright dangerous to cut and pieces containing knots or branches also present problems and are probably left alone to dry in their own time.

How long does it take for wet wood to dry?

The short answer is sadly, a lot longer than you would like, but despite this disappointing news, there are some factors that have a considerable impact on the duration of the drying time. Wood dries because it is wetter than the surrounding atmosphere so there are two issues to consider. 

Firstly, the variance between the humidity of the atmosphere and the wood and secondly the amount of surface area of the wood itself. Both factors can be manipulated to speed up the drying time.

Wood stacked to ensure that the wind can access most of the logs and flow over the length of the logs will hasten the drying process. So, will storing the wood stack in a position where the sun can warm the wood.  

Increasing the surface area of the individual pieces by splitting them will also speed up the drying time. It has another advantage in making the individual pieces easier to stack.

Best options for splitting wood

Having been through the invigorating exercise of splitting firewood using an axe or a maul there will come a time when the whole attractive romance of the exercise begins to wane.

When the once sharply focused image of glistening and bulging muscles fades and the possibility of mechanical support becomes impossible to shrug off. The choices are gas or electric. Both have their advantages so let’s go through which one would be more suited to your needs.

Gas or electric log splitter

It doesn’t matter if the wood is wet or dry, a log splitter will do the job either way. The critical element of choice relates to the average size of the log that you will want to split. As the diameter of logs increases gas powered splitters become the more preferred source of power.

Electrically powered units have a range of between five to eight tons which makes them suitable to split logs up to twelve inch diameter. Electrical units are fairly lightweight, but their maneuverability is limited to their proximity to the power source. 

Quiet and with the added attraction of being able to be operated indoors they are the ideal unit for smaller logs, and they won’t annoy the neighbors.

Gas powered units can handle much bigger logs and have the great advantage in being independent of external power. They do however require having good ventilation where they are being used. 

The additional power available does come with a cost of a heavier unit but also bear in mind that the bigger unit can be used in a vertical position as well which makes handling bigger and heavier logs more manageable.

Axe

Axes are designed to either chop or split and the latter is a great tool with which to make kindling. Lightweight and great for smaller sections of wood it is the most common tool used for splitting smaller sections. Unfortunately, it does come with a dangerous disadvantage.

Smaller sections tend to fall over so the natural tendency is to hold the wood with one hand while wielding the axe with the other hand. A dangerous situation. Fortunately, a safer solution is at hand,

Kindling cracker

Designed by a New Zealand teenager the Kindling cracker makes the cutting of kindling much safer. Essentially a reversal of roles where wood is forced down onto a splitter bar all safely confined within a metal housing.

The cracker can accept wood up to around 7 inches thick (170 mm) and the wood is forced down using a mallet.