Many people have a rustic notion of hoisting a mighty ax on their shoulder like Paul Bunyan and cleaving straight through a raw hunk of cut timber. It’s a fantastic image and makes us all feel like mighty, flannel-wearing outdoorsmen. But the reality is it’s not the most efficient or useful way to split timber into perfect hunks of firewood.
To do it right the first time, you need a quality split wedge and a heavy sledge to hammer it home. If you’ve used one before, you already know that not all splitting wedges are created equal. Some only split halves while others quarter your wood stock into ready pieces of firewood or kindling, and many have other exciting features that make them more useful than others.
In this article, we’ll take you through a few of the best splitting wedges available on the market today, detailing a few of their more exceptional features. To get the most out of your wood stock, however, you may need to try out a few different designs.
Small logs and even some small to medium sized logs and stumps can usually be split easily enough with a basic splitting axe, especially if they are a soft wood, like pine and fir. But, when you are working with hardwoods and larger logs and stumps, you might want to upgrade your splitting tools.
You could of course opt for a heavy maul, like one with an 8+ pound head. The heavy head really allows for a strong downswing and should be able to split most logs in its path, even if it take a couple tries. Just keep in mind, every downswing requires you to lift that bad boy over your head. It’s easy to wear yourself down quickly.
When you know you will be working with very large stumps, skipping the smaller axes and jumping right into a wedge is a solid decision. You’ll be able to work at a much more efficient pace, and you won’t risk breaking the handle of your axe. Breaking a handle is not only a pain in the butt, it’s actually quite dangerous as you don’t know where the axe head will fly.
Not all wedges are the same. Just like any other tool, the quality of the manufacturing varies greatly from brand to brand, and even from model to model. Some designs look like your basic wedge shape, think like a brick of cheese, that split logs in half. Other more advanced designs, like the 4 way log splitting wedge design, are made to completely fracture logs into multiple pieces with a single blow.
Aside from the shape of the wedge, you should look into the material it’s made of. The better the steel and design, the more durable the wedge. A great way to know how long it will last and how well it will do its job is by reading reviews of those who have hands-on experience with the model you’re interested in.
An often overlooked an unthought of part of driving steel into large logs and hardwoods is that you generate a lot of force. Eventually the metal is going to bend or warp.
By opting for using a sledge or the poll of your maul with a wedge instead of just the bit of an axe or maul, you greatly sustain the lifespan of your axe or maul. And, while having to purchase another tool in order to sustain another may seem pointless, wedges are typically much less costly than a quality maul.
Aside from sustaining the lifespan of your maul, there’s another benefit to using a log splitter wedge when working on larger logs and hardwoods. When you know it’s going to take a little extra power to drive metal through wood, it’s easy to lose accuracy on your swing. That can lead to missing your target. When you use a wedge, you first place it in an existing crack. Or, if you need to you can hammer it in a bit like you would when setting a nail. That gives you a nice big target to aim for with your sledge or maul.
Plus, by using a wedge with the poll of your maul instead of the bit, if you miss your target you’re much less likely to seriously injure yourself. And, just in case you aren’t sure if they work as advertised, here’s a video of a self proclaimed beginner as using them making one from a piece of wood and using it to effectively split a medium-sized log.
If he can do that with a piece of wood, imagine what you can do with a piece of steel.
You don’t absolutely have to use a wedge while splitting wood, but if you are going to be doing a lot of work, there’s no reason not too. They won’t break the bank, and over the long term they will probably save you money.Besides saving you money, they can really speed up your work thus saving you time. And, they tend to be safer than using only an axe.
If you know you’ll be working on large stumps and logs or with especially touch hardwood, do yourself a favor and get a quality splitting wedge. Your wallet, hands, and maybe even your legs, will thank you