Splitting firewood with a maul is a way for many of us to go through the winter. For others, it has nothing to do with saving electricity bills, they just love the workout. Either way, knowing how to use a splitting maul saves hours of hard work and possible risk of injuries. Truth to be told, a skinny man with the right knowledge and method will yield a better result than a muscular man hitting the log randomly.
In this article, we will give this somewhat undervalued tool the respect it deserves. We will do that so by discussing how to split firewood with a maul properly, it’s versatile uses and the techniques of sharpening a splitting maul.
How To Spilt Wood With A Maul
Splitting wood is one of the most traditional uses of splitting maul. Most of the time, the firewood pieces we collect or chop don’t come with suitable size. They might not fit the firebox you keep your woods or the fireplace. Splitting maul is used to make the big chunks of woods more usable.
Steps Of Using A Splitting Maul
1. Using Splitting Wedge
Splitting mauls are fine. However, if you know how to use a splitting wedge with the maul, that’s even better. Most of the mauls come with two sides on its head. One is a wedge-like sharp face, another is flat faced sledgehammer like face. While you can just use the sharp blade for most of the part, the sledge comes handy to deal with bigger logs.
Wedges refer to metal wedges that you can use to split the wood along the grain. This way, you can hit the spot you intend every time. However, mauls are just fine to use on their own.
2. Cut Logs In A Planned Way
You have to keep the length of your fireplace into consideration. When you are chopping logs to split with maul later, make sure they are conveniently sized for storage and fire stove. Most of the small fireplaces facilitate 16-20 inches pieces. The shorter the log is, the easier for mauls to split it.
Cut the end of logs flat and square. It’ll help them stand on their own while splitting.
3. Safety Precautions
Before jumping onto the cutting part, make sure you have fulfilled the safety basics of wood cutting.
a. Always keep a larger log to use as a base. The log should be at least 6 inches high. You will place other logs you intend to chop upon it. This will make the chopping easy, putting less strain on your body and shoulders. Cutting logs straight upon ground or concrete will initiate significant recoil, which might damage your wrists. Also, a proper sized wooden base will prevent ricochets in case of overstrikes.
b. Choose a safe location. Make sure no tree branches, structures or twigs are around blocking your way. The best time to split woods is winter. If the logs are aged properly, they’ll be cut with a single proper blow.
C. Protective gears are must for splitting wood with a maul. You need to wear a pair of good quality gloves, protective eyeglasses and a good pair of boots to keep your feet firm on the ground. Long handles are always better options when it comes to mauls.
4. Proper Wood Splitting Technique
Following some techniques can increase your efficiency. Instead of indiscriminately swinging the maul, you can follow the guideline discussed below to yield more result in less time.
a. After positioning the wood on the base, inspect the log carefully. You should look for a crack, no matter how thin it is, to drive your wedge or splitting blade through.
b. Depending on the wood type and grain, your splitting method can vary. For example, oak trees have straight grains, so they cut easily through the center. As for maple, the edge of the end grain is where you want to start from.
c. After choosing the spot where you want to hit, make sure your feet are firm. If the grain needs to be seen clearer, put a mark with your blade.
d. Now comes the main part, putting the blade where it needs to be. Fact is, you don’t need to stretch your arms and start from the back of your head. Wood chopping needs technique more than strength. Grab the end of the handle by your non-dominant hand, and the dominant hand should be at the bottom of the head. As you swing, slide the dominant hand to the end of the handle, right beside the other hand. Let gravity do the rest.
e. You can use other tools along with your maul to do the job. For example, you can use the sharp end of the maul as a wedge and the blunt end to hit with a sledge. This is especially an effective method while your maul is stuck into the log. You don’t have to waste your energy trying to pull it off.
f. You can use splitting wedges to make the job easier. Put a wedge along the grain and hit it with the sledge face of a maul. If the wedge is stuck deep into the wood, don’t worry and put another above it. This way, you can complete the job without worrying about the initial wedge.
How To Sharpen A Maul
Splitting maul sharpening might seem like a more difficult job than to sharpen a knife, but in reality, it’s the opposite. Mauls have a bigger edge so sharpening is easier. You just have to know maul sharpening basics, and with the right tools, you will be able to do the job properly.
1. Should You Sharpen Splitting Maul?
It might sound like crazy, but it is one of the biggest debates around splitting maul. Some completely forbid it, as the reason to use splitting maul is to split the logs, not chop a tree trunk like an axe. So, you do not need too sharpened edges. To me, I think you can sharpen it a little, without overdoing it.
2. How Often Do You Need To Sharpen Your Maul?
If you don’t go crazy with your sharpening, you can do so regularly. To me, sharpening the edge a little before going to chop logs every time is a good idea. It helps the maul recover the dullness from the previous session. Also, during cutting sessions, if the maul hit the ground too much, or you can feel the blade getting a bit dull, sharpen the edge. Just keep a restraint.
It’s a good idea to coat your blade with boiled linseed oil every year before the season starts. Although most of the manufacturers provide an additional coating with the blade, it’s only natural to wear that off in the first season.
3. How To Sharpen A Splitting Maul?
There are several ways to sharpen your maul. By sharpening ways I mean the tools you sharp your maul against. You can use file or stone to sharpen the blade. Before jumping into the options, here’s a little advice. Make sure you wear protective gloves and eyeglasses before you start sharpening.
a. Files: They are the most effective tools for sharpening axe or maul. But you have to be careful to choose mill file, which has teeth running towards one direction. The grade will be bastard, second cut, and smooth cut. You might need a file card to keep your file in peak condition. For mauls, my best metal files choice is Jewels Fashion.
Place the maul blade on a vice, facing the edge up. Drive the file forward while moving it to downwards. Do both sides of the blade one after another. Ideally, the maul or axe sharpening angle should be 45 degrees. If you are not sure, just place your finger on the sharp edge of the blade and feel the angle.
b. Stones: For mauls, lower grit stone is the best options. Usually, 24-35 grits will do. The best way to do it is to drop some 20-weight oil on the stone, then rubbing the blade against the stone in circular motion. Each side should get 8-10 circular rounds.
How To Replace A Splitting Maul Handle?
Knowing how to rehandle an axe or maul will make your purchase cost-effective in the long run. For a maul or an axe, regardless of the length, the replacing procedure is the same.
a. Gather your ammunition. This means the new handle, wood, and steel wedge (usually come with old handle), glue, sandpaper. For assistance, you will be needing a hammer, saw, rubber mallet, large punch.
b. First, remove the old handle. If the handle is already loose, then your work is easy. If not, use a saw to cut the handle as close to the head as possible. Then use a hammer and punch to remove the handle part inside the head.
c. This is a chance to clean your head thoroughly. You can use files, or angle grinder and sanding discs to remove the rust. You can apply protective coating if you want.
d. Now it’s time to attach the handle onto the eye of the head. As the handle diameter is generally bigger than the eye, use a grit sandpaper or angle grinder with disks to remove some materials. Make sure you go slow in this process. If needed, check the diameter repeatedly against the hole so you don’t overdo it.
e. Now, when the diameter is right, insert the handle onto the eye. Place the handle above the hole and use a rubber mallet to push it towards the hole. Make sure the handle is at least 1” longer surpassing the eye. As the blade is sharp, you should stay careful in this process.
f. Now, inspect carefully. Because of the design of the eye of the head, there should not be ANY space between the bottom of the eye and the handle. The top side of the eye, therefore, will have some gap which will be filled with wedges.
g. Now cut off the extra head coming out from the bottom of your eye. Make sure your wedge has the same diameter as the eye. Insert the wedge between split parts, try to hammer it as deep as you can. You can also use glue to make the bonding tighter.
h. If you have a metal wedge, that’s better. You can use it along with a wooden wedge. The objective is to support the wooden wedge. You’re done with your process. It’s time to have some intense chopping experience.
We have a video that'll help you understand the processes better.
Wrapping It Up
Knowing how to use a splitting maul isn’t rocket science, but nothing beats the experience you gain from actual woodcutting sessions. Tool abuse can be a dangerous and risky thing, and that happens when you don’t properly use it.
Knowing a bit about the basics will allow you to yield a better result in shorter time and discover other uses. For example, you can use a maul as a wedge, or to drive a chopped tree to lean a direction you want it to go.
Hopefully, our guide will help you with woodcutting. During the implementation, a little abuse can be fun. Just make sure you stay safe and wear protective gears.
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