Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Busting up Some Stuff!

Today, I finished busting up some stuff with my six pound maul. Yeah, it is a splitting maul with a fiberglass handle. I got a hold of about 30' feet of maple tree ranging from 14" to 10" in diameter. I bucked the 4' and 8' sections into 16" pieces.

I like splitting wood. We are always told to be careful, gentle not too hard, softly, etc and so on. With wood splitting the intention is to use brutal force to break — to crack things into pieces.

Not too long ago I split some softwood — white birch. It is quite amazing how one notices all sorts of differences between wood species. The smells are distinctly different depending upon species. Maple is a very sweet smell, oak has an earthy almost nutty smell to it, and birch has its own smell too but I've not worked with enough of that to describe it.

Of the woods I've split oak is the easiest to split but then again, the majority of oak I've cracked it was fairly well seasoned already. The maple is all pretty green and on a number of the rounds I had to hit four-five times until the rounder finally split.

The birch was interesting. Birch as most of you may know is a soft wood that doesn't mean it was easy to split, in fact in some ways it was a challenge. The birch I had was fairly moist and the rounders would just swallow up the bit of my maul and eat it up. Once I hit it enough it would split but the bark of the birch is strong, I would have to take a whack on that to tear that apart and then the bark would peel right off. The birch rounds were very soft on the outside they seem to rot from the outside in — no wonder why birch bark can be put to use as a canoe skin it is waterproof, strong, and light. One may think birch is a bad firewood and I intend to use it to get my fires going, no I will not be throwing birch into my fireplace all night, but once it goes then the harder woods (oak, ash, maple, etc), however the birch is seasoning rapidly.

I take a special joy in cracking wood. There is little subtlety to it, sure one eyes up a piece like a diamond cutter eyes up a diamond to find an inviting split but no matter the goal is always to hit the piece with a lot of brute force. It is a thrill to see and hear the piece explode into two piece and blast away from the axe as it comes down, especially when the rounder is stubborn.

I saw someone else's writing on splitting firewood and their summary of splitting wood was — exercise with a point. Working my axe I use my arms, legs, and my abdominals. I feel little of my back getting into the act which is good, I can tolerate (even crave for) the feeling of fatigued arms, legs, and abs (the next day) I don't like the back feeling fatigued. Twice warmed they say!