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The Mast-Head: Splitting Wood

Wed, 02/12/2020 - 11:52

There is something special about splitting wood. You get a likely billet somewhere, stand it on end, and bring a wedge-shaped maul down hard into the end grain. The force pushes the log fibers apart, as a crack hisses away from the impact. One or two more swings, and the log falls in two.

Why this should be so primally pleasing is not immediately obvious, at least not to me. The work is repetitive, can be challenging to those of us with older lower backs, and then there comes the stacking — as one should do but not always does. One avid wood-splitter of my acquaintance just lets his logs pile up as they will and remain in a heap.

This winter being unseasonably mild, crews have been out trimming trees along the roadsides more than usual. Often, the workers will leave limbs and trunks cut to fireplace length in neat piles. If you are in the know, and in the right place at the right time, you are welcome to haul them away, which I do when I can.

I picked up six or seven pieces of maple on Fithian Lane the other day and a few chunks of beech from the Star office driveway. Back home on the patio, I set each in turn on a bit of leftover two-by-four lumber and had at it. Quick enough, I had about a quarter of a cord split. My son, Ellis, who is 10, even had a turn, albeit with a steel wedge and the child-size sledgehammer he asked for a Christmas ago.

Time will now take over, once I stack the wood out of the rain but where the air can circulate. By this time next year, the pile ought to be about ready to lay in the fireplace.


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