The first year after we moved to our little house on the prairie the winter was brutal. Dozens of blizzards and snow storms, record-setting snowfall, all culminating in a mega-ice storm that took the power out for ten days. After we dug ourselves out and recovered from the trauma of that winter, we vowed to do whatever it took to be prepared for the next winter storm. One of the first things we did was to install a wood-burning stove.
With a wood-burning stove comes the need for wood. No worries. We have over 2 acres ofshelter belt that provides us all the wood we could possible use. Getting wood isn’t a problem. Splitting it into useable sizes is the problem.
We’ve (when I say “we” I’m talking about my husband and three strapping sons) have used several wood-spitting tools and tactics. We’ve seen lots of great-looking wood splitters, like this one from Norway or Sweden or this industrial splitter that makes hundreds of beautiful logs in minutes. These beautiful machines make my heart flutter. (They also cost a ton of money, erasing any of the economy of heating with free wood.)
The problem is, all of these are splitting nice, soft wood, with no knots or gnarls. But most of the wood we have is elm and cottonwood. It is hard and gnarly. Our cottonwood logs would laugh at these splitters.
So we (again, speaking of my husband and our three strapping boys) pretty much have only one option: split the wood by hand. They’ve settled on their favorites:
a 4-way wedge. Put it in the center of the log and using a maul, split it four (or more) ways. After this split, you may still need an ax to split wood into even smaller segment.
And splitter that’s pretty much a wedge on a long handle. This will pretty much split a log with just one or two well-aimed whacks. Then of course, you need an ax to finish the job.
There is one splitter that has me drooling: The scientifically designed Leverax. Watch this video and read the links to see how amazing this ax is. Again, in the video, the wood all appears to be soft, straight-grained wood, so I’m not sure how it’d do on our gnarly elm and cottonwood. And with a price tag of $215, it may be a while before we ever find out.
Even with these heavy-duty splitters there is still some wood–mostly the cottonwood–that is just too fibrous and gnarly that nothing will do. Until we found the Stickler log splitter. This ingenious machine uses the power of your car to split any wood. Honestly. Any wood. Even the cottonwood that neither the maul or ax could get through.
Here’s a video that shows my husband splitting some very difficult wood–the knottiest elm, most fibrous cottonwood and some pretty huge (i.e. about 2′ in diameter) logs. Isn’t that cool? In two hours he split nearly one cord of wood. And all this for less than $300. (If you watch to 6:20 you’ll be treated to some really bad puns.)
The Stickler works on any car with a rear-wheel drive. But I’ve seen a video where one Stickler owner welded the wheels of a junker front-wheel drive car and used it that way. There are adapter plates you can buy to fit any size wheel or bolt pattern.
Having a spinning screw looks like it could be dangerous but as you can see in the video it’s pretty easy to do the job without getting your hand near the device. Even so, as a safety precaution, we always have someone sitting in the car ready to turn off the motor at the slightest problem.
So, there you have it: the wood-splitting methods that have worked best for us. With investments as little as $30 you can enjoy a nice wood-heated home, and for a modest investment of less than $300 you can get lots of wood with little effort.