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Item of the Week: A Wood-Splitting World Record, 1982

Wed, 05/29/2024 - 19:08

From the East Hampton Library’s Long Island Collection

Have you ever wanted to set a world record? It might seem like an impossibly lofty goal, but for Richard Sawyer (b. 1946), it was well within reach.

Sawyer began his career as a restaurateur, co-founding the popular Salty Dog eatery on the water in Noyac before pivoting to become an arborist and chimney sweep. He founded his own local tree surgery business, Treely Yours, in 1976 and became interested in splitting wood after seeing a woman use a wood-splitting wedge and thinking, “Hey, I could do that.”

This image from The East Hampton Star’s photo archive captures Sawyer training to set a world record in 1982. He is seen using a newly patented quartering wedge, a device used to split logs into four roughly equal pieces that are then used as firewood. The photo was taken as Sawyer practiced for a chimney sweep convention in Vermont, where he set a world record for hand-splitting a cord of hardwood.

To put that in perspective, a cord is a pile of wood totaling up to 128 cubic feet, usually measuring eight feet in length and four feet in height and width. A cord can weigh up to 5,000 pounds. In Stowe, Vt., where the convention was held, Sawyer split a cord in 43 minutes and 33 seconds. Later that summer, he shaved his time down to 32 minutes and 30 seconds.

Log-splitting, while seemingly a fairly simple task, does require robust physical fitness. To train, he lifted weights, split wood, and ran eight miles every day. When he wasn’t splitting wood, Sawyer (a Vietnam War veteran who was open about his struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder) wrote poetry.

Some may remember him sharing his poems publicly, including at the Ross School in November of 2008.


Julia Tyson is a librarian and archivist in the East Hampton Library’s Long Island Collection.

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