Are you wondering when the best time to split your wood is? Opinions can vary whether it is better to split green or seasoned wood, and there are several factors to keep in mind. It can depend on the type of wood, as well as the climate in which you live. Splitting green wood yourself is a great skill to have. Here are our suggestions about how to do it right.
How to Split Wood
Splitting wood by hand is invigorating and it leaves you with a feeling of accomplishment. It is very important to use the right technique, both to avoid personal injury, as well as to increase efficiency. A lot of frustration can come from using bad techniques, so it’s best to do it the right way.
Use a wood splitter’s maul instead of an ax. A maul is has a thicker wedge shape, which has an advantage over a slim ax because it is less likely to get stuck in the wood. You are SPLITTING the wood, after all – not cutting it.
First, cut the fallen tree into “rounds” of a manageable size. If you are just starting out, your rounds should be about 12 inches in length. You can make them longer once you have more experience and confidence.
Inspect the round for any cracks or weakness to use as your target. Put the piece on a chopping block if possible, otherwise hard ground will do just fine. Aim for the center, and err on the side closer to you. It is much better to be a little short and land in the dirt than to over-extend and hit the handle on the piece of wood! This does not feel good on the arms, and the handle will probably need to be replaced if it happens repeatedly.
Stand square to the chopping block, raise the maul straight behind your head, and bring it down with a forceful downswing. Engage your whole body – back and legs, not just arms. Always look at the exact spot you want to hit – don’t let your eyes wander. Focus on splitting the wood all the way to the bottom. This will make your stroke more intentional and powerful.
Is It Easier to Split Green Wood?
If you are splitting wood by hand, the general consensus is that wood is easier to split when it is green. Live wood contains a lot of moisture, so it is softer and more yielding to your maul.
This is especially true of deciduous trees, such as oak and maple. Many species of hardwoods become very dense and solid when they dry out, which makes them more challenging to split by hand. It is still possible, of course, but you’ll likely spend more time and effort.
There are other advantages of splitting green wood, too. Once it is chopped into smaller pieces, the wood will dry much more quickly. But if unsplit trees are left on the ground with the bark on for a long time, they will likely begin to rot on the outside before the center is dry.
However, there are notable exceptions when it is better to wait until the wood is dry. Many experienced wood splitters prefer to split seasoned conifer wood, which tends to be sappy and TOO soft when it is fresh. Letting pine and similar woods dry before splitting gives it a chance to become brittle and easier to split.
Other types of wood are notorious for being hard to split at any time. Elm and cherry are prime examples of this. Their entangled, twisted fibres do not make for an easy split, so count on spending more time splitting this kind of wood.
If you have a hydraulic splitter, though, you’re in the best position. You should have no trouble splitting wood, green, seasoned, or otherwise.