There is perhaps no more manly a feeling than holding an ax high above your head and swinging down with all of the strength you can muster. This is the approach that many take when they are trying to split wood with an ax, but that’s not exactly how you should go about chopping wood. As Nick Zdon, Best Made Co.‘s resident ax expert and wood splitting aficionado, says, “It’s 100 percent accuracy.” Technique is crucial and where you strike and make contact with the wood has more to do with your chances of splitting the wood than how many protein shakes you had last week or how many small children you can bench press in one go. To find out the recommended technique, we asked Zdon to walk us through what it takes to successfully split logs that you can be proud to bring back to your campsite.
The Manliest Thing You'll Do
How to Split Wood the Old-Fashioned Way
If your ax is dull, use a sharpening stone with mineral oil. The mineral oil helps to “lubricate” the ax and keeps the metal shavings from binding and clogging the stone. Zdon likes to use a sharpening stone with Soft Arkansas stone and Black Arkansas stone on his axes. Use a back-and-forth “sawing” motion working your way up and back on one side of the blade. Then flip the blade over and do the same on the other side.
Take into consideration what you will be using the wood for. If you are going to be putting it in your wood-burning stove, be sure to measure the size of the wood that will fit. This will determine both the size of the log you are splitting, and how many times you are going to need to split the log. To start out, Zdon recommends splitting a log roughly the diameter of a large grapefruit (about 6 inches) and about as long as your forearm. “The shorter the pieces, the easier they are to split,” he says.
Take an athletic stance with your feet about shoulder width apart. Zdon recommends using the twist method, in which the head of the ax makes contact with the wood at about a 30-degree angle. This technique uses the leverage of the ax head to split the wood.
When you swing the ax down, Zdon says that it is about 50 percent gravity and 50 percent power. You aren’t trying to throw all of your strength into it, but you want a good solid swing. Focus on making contact with the wood at the correct angle and swinging straight down. When you make contact with the wood, your hands should be stacked on top of one another, like you’re holding a baseball bat.