Few actions scream “I’m a self-sufficient, rough-n-tough SOB” like chopping firewood with an ax. This time-honored tradition depends on having access to a suitable source of stuff to chop, either harvested from felled trees or, perhaps more realistically, purchased from a trusted local merchant. Once you have the required wood, these instructions will tell you how to get it down to size for you and the whole family to enjoy come winter.
1. COLLECT YOUR MATERIAL
To get started, find yourself an ax, goggles, and a chopping block. The goggles will keep your peepers safe from bits of wood sent flying by your mighty swings. Your chopping block should be a large, thick piece of unsplit wood (such as a large stump) that is cut parallel on both sides. The purpose of this chopping block is to prevent your ax from hitting the ground if you miss your target (which, of course, you never will), and also saves your back some pain by elevating the target so you don’t have to stoop down so low as you chop.
2. CHOOSE AND POSITION
Now that you’re set up, you need to choose your wood. Find a straight-grained log without knots, and a horizontal surface at each end. The length of wood is up to you, but 14–18 inches is the common length. Position it at the center of your chopping block, with the horizontal surface facing up. If your log has knots, however, make sure to stand it up on the end with the knots (if possible) because wood fibers can cross and get jumbled around these imperfections, leaving an unclean split.
3. GET CHOPPING
Now go to town with that ax. Stand with your feet shoulderwidth apart and your knees bent. Grab the handle at the base of the blade with your dominant hand and the end of the handle with your other hand. Bring the ax over your head then swing it down, letting gravity and the weight of the ax do most of the work. Keep your focus on the center until your ax has struck the wood. If your log is thick, you might have to strike it a few more times before it fully splits.
4. STACK AND SIT
Now that your firewood is chopped, you need to stack it neatly and let it sit. To have the best firewood, you should let it sit for about a year. Having it sit will dehydrate the wood’s fiber cells down to about 20 percent. This will make sure your wood burns efficiently, meaning it won’t need much attention in order for it to stay lit. You don’t need to cover your wood for the entire year either. Instead, cover it a few weeks prior to when you plan on having your fire. Good things take time, so make sure you give your firewood all the time it needs.
This post was derived from “The Official Handybook for Men” by James Ellis. For more handy tips, you can purchase the book from our online store.