Time to give your back a break and switch over to power tools for your next wood splitting session. It used to be that you could only cut up firewood with an ax, but with the advancement of technology, there are now much better ways to get the job done. Learn how to split firewood with a chainsaw.
One way is by using a chainsaw, which can quickly cut through good-sized logs in a fraction of the time. Chainsaws are a lot more dangerous though, so it’s important to know exactly what you’re doing before going at it.
How To Split Firewood With A Chainsaw
Using a chainsaw is one of the best ways to cut up firewood. It’s fast, efficient, and takes little skill to master. Following are 6 steps on how to split firewood with a chainsaw:
1. Pick the Right Chainsaw Size
Chainsaws come in a variety of sizes that will determine how much wood you can cut at once. Keep in mind that the chainsaw size you would choose should depend on the size of the wood.
If your wood is massive, opt for a 20-24 inch chainsaw. Though considering the typical size and structure of the firewood you’ll be likely cutting, getting a gas-powered chainsaw with a guide bar length of at least 18 inches and an engine that is 50cc or greater should be best.
If you only want to cut a few small logs of timber on the weekend, a corded or battery-operated chainsaw will suffice, no need to go overboard.
Also Read: Best Chainsaw Chain for Hardwood
2. Use Self-Protection Gear
Wear your protective gear: goggles, earmuffs, work boots and chainsaw cutting pants or thick jeans. You should also equip yourself with a face mask and heavy gloves. Please do not wear shorts or open-toed shoes. In fact, wear a helmet too if possible.
3. Prepare logs by cutting tree trunks
Once you have all your equipment on, it’s time to get down to work. Start by cutting your long tree trunk into two or three logs of equal parts. This will make it easier to cut the wood into shorter pieces that are easy to handle.
You should first cut them into pieces measuring about 4 feet in length. You can do this outdoors in the woods or in your backyard whichever is the best option for you.
Though it’s not very important to be very precise with measurements here, if you wish, you may use a forest tape measure to ensure all your wood pieces are cut to the exact measurement you want.
Pieces of wood large in diameter are easier to cut on the ground, but be careful that the chainsaw does not touch the ground while you cut the wood. A method to make sure that doesn’t happen is to first cut through one side, then roll the log over, and finish the rest of the cut from the other side.
4. Trim logs to 16-inch lengths
Now the next step is to cut the wood pieces into 16-inch lengths. Again you can mark the measurements with a forest tape if you want to and then follow the same process mentioned above of cutting the wood from one side and turning the log over when you reach halfway.
5. Reduce the firewood size by half
We’re closing in on our goal. Now that you have reasonably sized logs, it’s time to divide them into two equal portions.
To split your log in half, first lay the log on the ground or a tree stump. Then, using your chainsaw, cut the entire length of the log from the center.
To ensure safety and prevent kickback, it’s important to always cut from the side of the log that is closer to you. Carefully place the teeth of the chainsaw blade on the log, then gently cut from one side all the way down to the other. Starting from a 45-degree angle, gradually decrease the slant until you reach the bottom of the log as you follow through with your cut.
Remember you don’t want your chainsaw to touch the base of the ground so if you’re cutting your log on the ground leave some space before you finish. Then lift up your log and forcefully drop it down so that it snaps in half.
Repeat this process for all the 16-inch logs you have.
6. Split Firewood Halves into Quarters
You may notice that your halves are still a bit big for use, but worry not this is the last step and after it, you’ll have perfectly sized firewood ready to use.
Now place one of the halves on its flat side, face down, then wedge your cutting tool on the side of the wood closer to you and start cutting. Follow the same cutting and splitting method as explained in step 5, gradually angling the blade and making cuts from top to bottom, then dropping it to split the piece in half. Repeat this same process on both halves of wood for all the other logs too.
Should you split wood wet or dry?
It is possible to split wood wet, but generally, it is much harder to do so. Though dry wood takes a lot of time to dry, it is typically easier to cut; but this may also vary depending on the type of wood. Some types of woods such as oak are easier to cut when wet.
Even with dry, seasoned wood usually being much easier to cut, many still prefer to cut wood wet in order to create more surface area which helps the wood to dry fast at a significant rate and be ready to be used as firewood for the winter season or cooking purposes.
However, if you’re using power tools instead of an ax to do the work it won’t be a problem to cut either dry or wet wood.
What’s the hardest wood to split?
The hardest wood to split even with the use of tools is elm and sweetgum. Nearly impossible to cut when wet, you’re better off letting them dry before attempting to cut them. Though keep in mind they are still difficult to deal with even when they’re dried well.
How long after cutting down a tree can you split the wood?
Usually, you’ll want to let the wood sit and dry out for about a year before attempting to split it. This is referred to as ‘seasoning’ – when the wood is dried enough that it won’t rot or warp as easily and be useful to use as firewood.
Freshly cut wood can contain as much as 100% moisture, which means half of its weight is water. The optimum moisture level for firewood should be below 20%. But as mentioned above, splitting your wood before stacking it for seasoning can minimize its drying time and be ready to chop and use at a significantly faster rate.
As freshly cut wood contains a lot of moisture. You should cut the logs in half before stacking them. Unspoilt trees left on the ground with the bark intact for a long period of time will rot on the outside before the heartwood is dry.
So, what you should do is split and prepare your wood for the drying process, as soon as you have time after cutting down the tree. You may split it into smaller pieces once it has dried out properly.
Though there are exceptions when it comes to the type of tree you have cut down. Deciduous trees, such as oak and maple along with many species of hardwoods become very dense and solid when they dry out, which makes them more challenging so are recommended to split into small pieces when fresh and wet.
On the other hand, many woodcutters prefer to split seasoned-dry conifer wood, which is often sappy and soft when it is new. Letting pine and other softwoods dry before splitting helps them become brittle and break more readily.
And of course, there are those notorious woods that are difficult to split at any moment such as elm and cherry. Because of their tangled and interwoven fibers, both of these wood are not easy to split no matter how dry or fresh and wet they are.
What is the easiest wood to split?
There are numerous distinct types of wood in both softwood and hardwood. Some are hard to cut while others are easy to cut. Generally, you should avoid woods that have interlocking grains as they are difficult to cut or split.
If you are looking for the best type of firewoods that are also very easy to split. Then we recommend White/Red Oak, Black/White Ash, White/Yellow/Paper/Gray Birch, and Beech. They are the finest hardwoods for firewood. As opposed to softwoods, hardwoods are dense and thus create the most effective firewood as a wood’s burning potential depends on the density of the wood.
These woods mentioned before are top-rated for their burnability, smoke and spark production, as well as how simple they are to break.
Hopefully, after reading this article you now feel confident about ditching your ax and are ready to get your chainsaw out to cut and split the wood in your yard.
Just remember to follow all tips and safety guidelines when using power tools. Happy wood splitting!
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Lawrence D. Reynolds is an experienced carpenter and woodworker who started this site to help others get into this craft by providing advice on choosing tools and materials and sharing How-To guides about woodworking. He has been into Woodworking for over 25 years and enjoys nothing more than sharing his knowledge and helping others learn about this wonderful material.