BUY GOOD AXES: For most people, a nice starting quiver includes three types: A hatchet, a splitting maul, and a felling axe. Usually, you get what you pay for with axes (A cheap axe at a box store is cheap for good reason).
STUDY YOUR WOOD. Look for existing cracks in the round that you are about to hit, and use the most prominent crack as your target. With practice, you should develop a Jedi-like sense of a round’s strengths and weakness.
STRENGTH IS OVERRATED: Accuracy, not power, is the most important skill when splitting wood.
DON’T AIM FOR THE CENTER OF THE ROUND: An accurate strike near the edge of a round hits the growth rings where they are most vulnerable.
WORK ON LEVEL GROUND: Place your rounds on level and fairly hard ground. Soft ground absorbs too much of the energy delivered by your swing. Similarly, striking a round that is sitting at an angle doesn’t allow you to deliver the full force of your axe swing.
START WITH WELL-SEASONED WOOD: Wet or knotty wood may not be worth your trouble. Splitting wood should be a pleasure, not a chore.
CHOOSE A TECHNIQUE THAT MATCHES YOUR SKILL AND WOOD TYPE:
- STRAIGHT SWING METHOD: Most fans of this method use a chopping block and a splitting maul. Mauls are heavy (typically around 6 pounds) and dull, so be prepared to sweat. The mechanics are fairly straightforward: Drive the maul straight through the round. The blunt head of the maul is designed to split wood along the grains.
- TWIST METHOD: In some regions, a light axe (around 3-4 pounds) with a sharp blade is preferred to a blunt maul. A sharper blade demands more technique and accuracy. Many old-timers use a “twist” method in which they twist their wrist slightly just as they strike the round. Without the twist, the sharper axe head may stick in the round.
NEVER STRIKE LONG. Overstriking is an embarrassing rookie move that will damage or break your axe handle. If you are a beginner, practice swinging a cheap fiberglass axe before swinging your friend’s $200 Gransfors Bruks.
DON'T BE DUMB: Vikings once used axes to dice up enemies, so, yeah, an axe is a dangerous tool. When splitting wood, wear good boots, look around before you swing, and bend slightly at the knees.