Posts tagged #splitting logs

Splitting Axe Handle Blanks From a Windfall Tan Oak Log

Recently I was driving out my road and had to stop in the rain and shovel ditches out. I got so wet that I went back home to change my clothes, but within the hour or less I was out, a large Tan Oak fell down in the road.


I had been eyeing this group of trees already as potential wood working fodder, but this one just succumbed to heart rot and fell over. While cutting it up, I spotted one straight section and saved it aside to split up later. In this video I’m splitting it into 12 parts to stash away for woodworking projects.

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You really don’t need much to split a log. A maul and disposable wedges can be made almost anywhere, usually from the trunk and limbs of the same tree. There are a couple of pointers here about making wedges, the use of boys axes as a one handed hatchet and methods to keep your splits going with the grain. Also basic wood splitting theory regarding run out, which is perhaps the most relevant problem in splitting rails like this.

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I have begun slowly processing these rough split staves down into billets one or two at a time, by removing the rotten heart and the bark. I’m also chopping off about 3/4” or more of sapwood, which is more brittle, weak and rot prone than the pinker heartwood. I’ll be washing the outsides of each billet with a borax solution to prevent insect attacks by powder post beetles, which are populous here, especially with the abundant food available to them with the big Tan Oak die off that is occurring now. They are very destructive to certain woods, Bay and Tan Oak being among the most affected. I’ll also dip the ends into paint, or seal them with fat or pine pitch to prevent the ends from cracking due to rapid drying. After that I’ll just try to dry them at a reasonably slow rate to minimize warpage and cracking.

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While watching this video footage, It occurred to me that I could have made a really neat drum out of that log, or two or three actually! Also that I should try making a barrel out of tan oak. I may save some of the short ends from this log and others this year to have a stash of well seasoned wood for a possible small keg project. Maybe a Calvados keg, hmmm….

Splitting Out Black Locust Billets, and Some Talking Points About Splitting Logs

I usually finish videos late at night and then try to throw a blog post together to go with them so it will come out on the same morning.  I'm often struggling to stay awake by then though and have made some pretty lame typos recently.  This time I figured I'd just be behind a day and do this while I'm not falling asleep.  I scored this Black Locust from a tree that was cut down on a construction site and managed to score some logs for wood working projects, mostly tool handles.  Black Locust is one of my favorite woods and makes great handles.  I could do a blog post just on the virtues of Black Locust.  I took the opportunity to film the job and talk about typical approaches and problems related to splitting billets out.  I would have liked to do the more in depth lecture style version of this video, but I'm pretty busy with time sensitive spring chores right now to take that on.  I'll get to it some time, and I'm pretty damn excited about it actually, but for now, most of what anyone needs to know about the subject can be gleaned out of this version.  Also, this is in a practical setting, so it's real life which is useful.  There are some bullet points below:


A few Bullet Points


    *Before Splitting, assess the log looking for knots and observe the bark pattern to determine how straight the grain is.

    *Splitability of wood varies by species and specimen.  Some split easy, some don't.  Some tend to stay on track and some tend to run askew.

    *Wood generally splits easiest along radial lines from the center out to the edges, but there are exceptions.

    *Wood can also split pretty easily by splitting along the growth rings.

    *Runout is when the split travels off to one side rather than following the grain lines.  Runout is more common when a small piece is split off of a larger piece, so it is the safer bet to split things into halves.

    *Runout can also be prevented by chasing the split along as it progresses rather than just splitting if from one end with a fat wedge.

    *Knots are a major hinderance when splitting with the growth rings, but can be split in half when splitting along the radial lines.

    *Wooden wedges are fine if you don't have steel, but make them flat in both dimensions, from side to side and tip to butt.  Also, chamfer the butt ends and they will last a lot longer.