The nights are drawing in, the swifts have already buggered off to warmer climes and the cat has started staring longingly into the blackened bowels of the wood burner. It’ll soon be time to spark up the stoves to take the chill off the evening air, but first, the logs that have been piled up lazily behind the allotment shed will need splitting before any serious pyromanic activity can take place.
And which, you may well ask, is the best way of performing said task?
Rich tests the Fiskars X25 splitting axe
You may be forgiven for thinking the UK has become a nation of lumberjacks, judging by the amount of blokes wandering our streets sporting plaid, carefully coiffed haircuts and bushy beards. But stop and ask them the best technique for splitting a log and they’ll look at you askance, mutter something about fairtrade Arabica beans before peddling off on a single-speed bicycle. These are of course ‘hipsters’, and have no knowledge of the ways of woodcraft.
Fortunately, I am able to tap into the skills learnt during my tour of duty with the 10th Hinckley Scout Group* and can report that the best way to chop a log is by using a splitting axe. Period.
Only a splitting axe will do, mind. Thin bladed wood axes are for cutting across fibres, and will get stuck if you attempt to split logs with one, resulting in a rubbish King Arthur style scenario as you attempt to wrestle the axe from the woody, vice-like grip.
I’ve been swinging around with a Fiskars X25 splitting axe for my most recent chopping duties. It’s one of their mid-sized axes and is tough as old boots, sporting a fibreglass shaft so strong you can actually drive a tank over it.
Here’s how to split logs with a splitting axe, in case you don’t know…
1. Balance the log, face up, on level ground, preferably on some sort of wooden chopping block.
2. Stand facing the log, feet shoulder width apart.
3. Check behind you for any small children/pets that may interupt your swing.
4. Strike the log just off centre, at a slight angle. Admire your good work as the log splits gracefully in two.
5. Place a fresh log on the block. Got to step 1.
I have no need for the log splitting machine that Nick will now tediously warble on about. After all, He who chops wood, warms himself twice.**
The Fiskars X25 splitting axe is available from The UK Tool Centre
Nick tests Aldi’s electric log splitter
I have always enjoyed the experience of swinging an axe head through a submissive log. Besides the primitive feel good factor, building up a splintery sweat through chopping is about the only exercise I get during the winter months. But my puny axe is no match for Rich’s Fiskars, and the pile of unchoppables is mounting – a collection of stubborn, oversized and unstable timber wilfully avoiding their fate in the wood burner.
In an attempt to break their knotty resistance I’ve turned to an electric log splitter from Aldi. It’s a weighty beast with six tons of splitting power and the capacity to destroy logs up to 52cm long and 25cm wide.
Logs are laid between a flat battering ram, that administers the force, and a frightening spike of tough metal. A power button stirs the beast with a rugged, mechanical growl while a separate lever forces the log towards the splitting blade in a steady, suspense-filled motion that wouldn’t look out of place in a Bond movie (if you can imagine your log playing the part of 007 and you his evil nemesis). Release either the power button or lever and the machine stops, a reassuring safety feature when dealing with such a cold-hearted monster.
On my test, most logs were shown no mercy, instantly splitting with a sharp crack to be jettisoned in two pieces away from their tormentor (make sure no-one is anywhere near that end of the machine – I lost a French bean plant to a high velocity piece of wood). Tougher pieces tried to resist but eventually snapped, contorting in submission as the blade plunged through their midriff.
Out of around 30 logs that failed to fall to my axe, only two survived the splitter – both knobbly, wobbly, knotty lumps that will now be left to rot instead.
Aldi’s electric log splitter may seem like a lazy option for a relatively fit and healthy man, but it does the job with very little effort required and not a single bead of sweat in evidence. Now I’ll have to find another form of exercise this winter.
This electric log splitter is available from Aldi
You’ll struggle to better Fiskars mighty axe. But for log splitting with the easy way, Aldi’s electric splitter is well worth considering.
Top Five wood for feeding to your wood burner
1. Ash: King of wood, highly sought after by fire aficionados.
2. Oak: Highly calorific, needs a couple of years seasoning to reach its best.
3. Apple: Burns like a cardboard fire guard and will fill your house with splendid scented smoke.
4. Hazel: Superior firewood, and great for nuts.
5. Birch. Burns fast and hot. Like a comet.
* I once witnessed a mate of mine slice his hiking boot in half whilst chopping firewood for a bonfire. It was both horrifying and hilarious in equal measure. His foot – remarkably – remained intact (the Berghaus boot was a goner) but underlines the importance of wearing stout footwear whilst engaging in such a perilous activity.
** I trot this line out to my family EVERY time I go outside to chop wood. To the point where I’m now even annoying myself.
We were sent this kit by Fiskars and Aldi in order to carry out the trial. Many thanks to both for their assistance