How To Split Wood With An Axe

Did you know that chopping wood is not as smooth as shown in movies? There is always the risk of fingers, or your foot getting chopped if you don’t do it correctly.

You need the right skill and technique to learn how to split wood with an axe, and above all, you need to use the correct tools too.

According to the adage, firewood warms you up in two ways. Once when you start sweating while chopping wood and the second time when you burn it. 

Many people prefer to manually chop wood as it works up a sweat, even though they can easily get cut and seasoned firewood. So if you too are planning to do your firewood chopping and splitting, here are a few things you need to know to do it right.

Large pieces of wood chopped into shorter pieces

how to chop wood with an axe

Wood is chopped with the primary intention of cutting the wood into pieces. You need to chop wood as most wood stoves, and small fireplaces can hold logs ranging from 16 to 20 inches in length. You have to use a best chopping axe to chop wood. The ends of the wood should be flat as you have to stand the log on end to split them. It’s difficult splitting wood with curved ends.

Wood is split into thinner pieces

how to split wood with an axe

It’s when the firewood you cut is too big in diameter to season well or if it’s too broad to fit into the wood stove or fireplace that you split it into smaller pieces. You make huge logs usable by cutting them into smaller pieces of wood that season better. There are specific wood wood splitting mauls, wedges and axes used for splitting wood, which is not as sharp as a chopping axe.

Cut wood along its grain

Wood is split along the grain and not against it like while chopping wood, which is why it is sturdy. It’s based on the diameter of the log that you decide if you want to split the logs into halves or quarters.

What Kind Of Axe Is Best For Splitting Wood?

Specially designed blade

You need to use specially designed splitting axes to split wood with minimal hits. Its blade is designed to cut deeper into the wood to efficiently disperse the wood. This, in turn, increases the chances of one-strike splitting with each swing you make.

Coated and broader axe head

The right splitting axes have a covered axe head that ensures the head doesn’t get easily stuck in the wood. The splitting axe heads are also broader than a typical chopping axe’s head to split the wood fibers apart and not cut them.

Lightweight with fiberglass or wood handle

As splitting axes are lighter than their chopping counterparts, you don’t get quickly tired while using it. Splitting axes come with a fiberglass or wood handle. While fiberglass is lighter and more durable than wood, many prefer using traditional wood handles. And as different brands offer splitting axes in various lengths, choose an axe you are comfortable holding.

How to split wood with an axe

  • You need the right tools comprising of a splitting axe, a chopping block and an elevated surface to split the wood.
  • Place the log to be split on the surface, on one of its flat ends.
  • Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, set the axe head on the log top. Grab the axe’s handle with your left hand near your hip if you are right-handed. Hold the handle below the head with your right hand. Now carry the axe above your head and slide your right hand to your left as you bring it down to split the log.
  • Aim for the center of the log surface to get an even split while bringing the axe down. This way the axe hits the wood in a practically straight and vertical line. Do not swing the maul like a pendulum arc. Instead, put enough force on the first hit so that the axe splits right to the bottom.
  • Based on the log’s diameter, you need to decide if you want to split the log halves into quarters or leave it like that. As different woods split differently, check the wood before cutting. Oak tends to split through the center while maple easily splits towards the edges. It’s always easier splitting through hairline cracks on the log.
  • It's easier splitting wood on cold days, especially if the wood is aged correctly. Even well seasoned, dry wood cut easily with minimum exertion, so let the logs dry well before splitting. Try not to overexert your splitting axe, as it can break, especially if it has a wooden handle.
  • Always use the right technique while splitting wood with an axe to prevent untoward accidents. Aim towards the center and front as the handle may hit the log while overshooting to give a damaged axe.

How To Chop Wood With An Axe

Choose the right axe

First, choose an axe of length and width you are comfortable with. The cutting edge should be sharp and rust-free and securely fastened to the handle. Don’t use axes with a cracked or split handle and sharpen and clean it if it is dull and dirty. Fresh wood is always easier to chop as the wood grows strenuous to handle as time passes. It’s also better to cut wood in winter, at below 0 degree Celsius.

The right stance

Now stand with your legs well apart and at a distance from the log so that the axe head strikes the log with your fully extended arms. With arms stretched, raise the axe over your shoulder or behind your head. Then grip the handle tightly and swing the axe while letting the hand near the axe head slide down the handle shaft. It helps if your knees are bent slightly before striking, and if there’s speed in your swing.

Make a slit

Make a V-shaped cut to the log on subsequent swings, with the axe head at an angle of about 90 degrees in the opposite direction. Try to remove only a thin chip with each swing. In case the axe head gets wedged in the log, lift the handle end to free it. You may need some practice to chop wood perfectly and comfortably with a smooth and fluid swing.

Conclusion​​​​

Chopping and splitting wood is so much safer and easier if done correctly, using the right tools. In addition to learning the proper technique, wear protective gear too.


Wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from wood chips and sturdy work gloves for an improved grip and protection from blisters. Wrapping the handle with electrical tape prevents slippage due to sweat. Last, but not least, never learn how to split wood with an axe alone. There should be someone around who will be able to help you if you get injured.

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