Amazing Tools #10: There's more than one way to split a log...

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Gary Fixler posted 04-09-2010 03:42 AM 11584 reads 1 time favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 9: Lie-Nielsen planes Part 10 of Amazing Tools series Part 11: The Robland Axis Ergo panel saw »

My recent battle with the cheap electric chainsaw, and subsequent redesign of my 36” crosscut saw’s handle have seen several people recommending I rive my huge logs with a simple wedge and sledgehammer system. I’d seen it done before, but had always thought the splits were messy – not an issue if I’m just making some turning blanks. I also feared that such shock-treatment of the logs would lead to microcracks and extra checking later. I’m probably just being paranoid. Riven furniture seems to hold up just fine.

I decided to look up log splitting with the old wedge method, and happened upon some great examples.

This guy made a wedge with a spike that holds itself in place well:

This guy gives a nice, brief how-to for using 2 wedges to split a long log:

There are also simple contraptions for people who can’t, or don’t want to swing a sledgehammer, like this one:

And this one:

The Chopper 1 axe has little feet that kick out as you strike a block of wood, helping to hurl the pieces outward:

The Leveraxe uses an offset weight on on side and special tip geometry to cause a twisting motion at the moment of the strike to cleanly break small pieces of wood free (the tire containment idea is also pretty cool). Watch this guy make a couple of Bloomin’ Onions:

I’d posted a couple of screw log splitters before, but I think this Ben Hur chariot version deserves a mention:

This has to be one of the most frightening log splitting ideas I’ve ever seen realized, save perhaps for cedar shake saws. Note the conspicuous lack of safety measures of any kind whatsoever. Who needs em?

But the real bang for your buck comes in when you split logs with black powder:

Can I charge more for furniture made from “exploded wood?”

There are so many more videos of log splitting of every kind. I didn’t even bother posting hydraulic things here, of which there are many variations of horizontal and vertical splitters in both powered and manual forms. There is one thing I’ve learned, though, from watching countless log splitting videos and from posting some myself: You cannot post a video on YouTube that involves methods of cutting, felling, or splitting wood without someone showing up to tell you how terrible you, your methods, and your tools are¹ :) You just have to know up front that some people are simply not going to like you and whatever method you choose for reducing the size of your trees.

¹ same goes for machinists and any videos posted about machining anything.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

11 comments so far

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


23286 posts in 5011 days

#1 posted 04-09-2010 04:51 AM

I have split a lot of wood. I thnk it is hard to beat a few wedges and a maul in the by hand methods. Most of those gimmicks could be easily beat with a maul. If you get into power, that’s another stroy ;-)

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View lew's profile


13488 posts in 5091 days

#2 posted 04-09-2010 05:53 AM


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View FordMike's profile


155 posts in 4806 days

#3 posted 04-09-2010 06:41 AM

I have a background in forestry and logging. I grew up on the edge of Redwood country, the son of an Okie share cropper, and you can split enormous logs with enough wedges and maul. I currently use wooden wedges and a maul to split stumps into 4 or 5 pieces after I cut the loggs for furniture wood, mostly walnut but also sycamore, maple, Redwood, and Buckeye. If you use the natural heart checks, and make sure your wedges are cut with the grain and a good tough material, and lots of them , but remember you will only be able to follow grain. Straight grain logs will will give you straight cants. Some mood is unsplitable, Buckeye logs, the root balls are easy, Monterey Cypress, Madrone.

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 5210 days

#4 posted 04-09-2010 06:44 AM

I use dynamite all the time in my woodworking. Whats the big deal?

-- Happy woodworking!

View Daren Nelson's profile

Daren Nelson

767 posts in 5241 days

#5 posted 04-09-2010 07:33 AM

I split 5’ diameter logs with nothing more than a sledge and wedges…regularly.

View Daren Nelson's profile

Daren Nelson

767 posts in 5241 days

#6 posted 04-09-2010 07:35 AM

...but boy would it be fun to use black powder !!!

View WoodyWoodWrecker's profile


171 posts in 4587 days

#7 posted 04-09-2010 07:37 AM

I think the Redneck Log Splitter could be safer than swinging a maul or an axe. I’ve had them ricochet off the log or I miss the log completely (never said I was a pro) and almost hit my leg or foot. At least the maul on the wheel will stay put. I would just have to make sure my hand isn’t in the way. We do that all the time with tablesaws, bandsaws, routers, etc.

-- You always have tomorrow to stop procrastinating.

View Andrew's profile


709 posts in 4534 days

#8 posted 04-09-2010 01:05 PM

Nice collection. Safetey Glasses were not even a concern, for these .
Thanks for posting

-- Even a broken clock is right twice a day, unless, it moves at half speed like ....-As the Saw Turns

View mtkate's profile


2049 posts in 4660 days

#9 posted 04-09-2010 01:30 PM

That redneck log splitter video is just precious. Good excuse to get me a water wheel!

View RichardH's profile


295 posts in 4337 days

#10 posted 04-10-2010 02:44 AM

Love the giant wheel log splitter and especially how calm that guy seems next to the deadly contraption. It seems to work surprisingly well, but think I’ll stick to a chainsaw or simple wedge!

-- "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it...It's the hard that makes it great."

View redryder's profile


2393 posts in 4437 days

#11 posted 04-10-2010 08:00 AM

Didn’t I see the Unicorn splitter or something like it in the movie “FARGO”??

-- mike...............

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics