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Wood Splitting for Winter

Stack of Wood
Getty Inages, phot by Sandra Mu

I was with talking to an elderly gentleman from Texas the other day who was on his first visit to Maine. The question he asked me was kind of surprising until I realized it’s always warm in Texas. He wanted to know what the big piles of wood are people have in their yards. He was referring to firewood stacked and piled as we get ready for winter. Naturally, they don’t have to burn wood to stay warm in Texas, so it’s understandable why he didn’t know. I have a big stack of wood on the side of my house too as I burn wood for heat in the winter.

With the economy down and fuel oil prices up, more and more Mainers are reverting back to the days when wood for heat was king. I have been using this form of heat for the past 8 years to save on oil costs. The oil still heats the water for showers and such, but I never turn my furnace on in the winter. If you don’t mind a little hard work, it’s well worth it, at least for me. I have figured out over the years you have to handle wood about seven times before you burn it. All in all though, the savings is worth the work. The other benefits I have found, it will keep you in shape. I cut and split all my wood by hand so it is a workout.  Luckily I have a few friends that own a lot of wooded property and they let me cut what I need, anytime I need it.

The renewed interest in wood burning has put a strain on Maine dealers who are straight out trying to keep up with the demand. Some dealers are splitting a hundred cord of wood a week and are still behind. Dried wood is best to burn but I figure wood is wood and it all burns. The key to burning wood, as an old Mainer once told me, is surface. That’s why wood is split, to gain surface. The surface of wood is what catches fire, so the more surface the easier and hotter your fire will burn. Throwing big logs in the wood stove is not a great idea because it doesn’t burn as well. Using a hydraulic log splitter makes the job easier but they can be expensive. I just do it the old-fashion way, by hand using an 8 pound splitting maul and a steel splitting wedge. This year I came across a Timber Splitter that was made in 1975. When I first saw this splitter I couldn’t image how it split wood, it looks like it would be used for ice fishing or boring out holes in ice walls. Unfortunately I have been not able to get it running, but I’m working on it. My luck, I’ll have all my wood spit by hand for the season then I’ll get it working. If you haven’t seen this type of wood splitter in action before, check out this video…

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