Splitting Firewood

How to chop logs like a lumberjack.

Excerpted from The Wicked Good Book: A Guide to Maine Living, By Stephen Gleasner, illustrated by Patrick Corrigan, Down East Books, Camden, Maine; hardcover; 120 pages; $24.95

The number of households using wood as their primary heating source nearly doubled in Maine from 2000 to 2010. No wonder we see so many people splitting firewood.

The first step to having wood is to cut the tree. Then chainsaw it to length. Then split it.

To begin, put the chainsawed wood on its end, on a chopping block if possible. If not, the ground will do. Now place yourself in such a way that when you swing the axe with straight arms, the blade hits the wood. Make sure there’s no one around and nothing you want damaged nearby. Stand with your legs a little apart, pull the axe straight back over your head, and swing it straight forward. As you build up speed, the momentum and weight of the ax will do all the work — not your brute strength.

Try to hit the same place every time. You will get the axe stuck in the wood many times and have to wrestle it out, but eventually the wood will split. When it starts to, make a few gentle hits in the crack to separate the wood fibers still connecting the pieces together.

I’ve found there’s no better alone time for solving problems than when you’re splitting wood.

Stephen Gleasner is an artist and writer who lives in Maine with his family.

Stephen Gleasner is an artist and writer who lives in Maine with his family.

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