Whether you’re burning for ambiance or for heat, firewood can be expensive. A good way to combat the high cost of winter warmth is to chop your own wood. Anyone from an axe enthusiast to a beginning blade swinger can do it for free with a little planning ahead.
Free wood is good wood
The first thing you’ll need is some wood to chop. If you’re looking to keep your heating costs low, free wood is about as cheap as it comes. You can find it if you know where to look. Try these hints to get you started. Utility companies and your local government often remove trees when they interfere with utility lines, drainage and other public works. Often these trees will be cut into manageable sized logs and left for the pickings. Back up your pickup and strong arm a few of these bad boys. There will often be several truck loads available, assuming another firebug doesn’t beat you to it. Remember, never enter an area while utility work is being done. A live wire is deadly.
Another great place to check is your local golf course. Some trees eventually become a nuisance near the links and the club will take them down. To lower the club’s cost of disposal, logs will again often be left for public consumption. Check with your local golf course to find out when they plan to remove the overgrown obstacles.
Splitting the logs you’ve collected
A large log can be a tough adversary, but there are ways to tip the blade in your favor. Don’t attempt to tackle it with an axe alone. When it comes to splitting wood, a steel wedge and an eight pound maul are your friends.
Examine the log you want to split. Look for cracks in the grain. When you find an imperfection, place your wedge there. Use the back side of the maul, the sledge side, to tap the wedge into the crack. Be sure to get it deep enough so that it will stand on its own. Now stand before the log with your feet a little more than shoulder width apart. Hold the maul out before you and find the distance to the wedge. Don’t under shoot this or you’ll miss the log entirely. Once you are comfortable that you are lined up with the wedge, raise the maul over your head with your stronger arm gripping about two thirds the way up the handle and your other arm gripping four inches from the bottom. Swing the sledge side of the maul down forcefully onto the wedge. As you do this, let your higher hand slide down to the handle to meet with your lower hand. This will drive the wedge deep into the log. Now repeat the process and within two to three swings even the biggest log will split and lay down in two halves.
Now find a log with a flat surface. This will be your chopping block. Using a chopping block raises your target to a higher level and will save your back a lot of soreness the next day. Take one of the halves of the log you just split and set it on the chopping block. Again, tap your wedge into a spot near the center so that you can split the half into a quarter. As before, swing the sledge side of your maul down on the wedge. Repeat this process until you have split the pieces to the size you need. Larger logs will inevitably make larger pieces, shaped like skinny pie slices. If you need smaller pieces, turn a piece sideways so that the bark would be on your right and the point on the left. Now swing the blade of your maul down forcefully on the middle of the pie slice. This will chop the piece into more manageable pieces of firewood.
Enjoy the warmth of your fireplace
A good fire can bring warmth, ambiance and romance to your home. So sit back and bask in the warm glow of a nice fire, knowing that you have augmented your winter heating with a low cost solution.