Living a rural lifestyle has many rewards and one of the best is having a fireplace to keep you warm in the winter. Trimming, clearing or harvesting firewood can be a tough task, one that you probably spend time on if you live on a large property with lots of trees. To make it easier on your body and your time, you are going to need a wood splitter that works harder than you do, so you can sit back and enjoy the fire. No gasoline needed– just kinetics, and a little bit of rhythm.
As I found out, this is neither easy nor simple since it is essential that your chunks of wood be cut to just the right size. If the chunks are too short, it seems like a waste of time and saw blades, but if they are too long it becomes too much of a workout.
If you’re cutting hardwoods such as this Oak or Ash, I recommend that you do the splitting with an axe fairly soon after the tree falls. This is because they get progressively harder to split as they dry out, and then you’ll need a mechanical wood splitter to do the job. That was my problem for too many years: sore shoulders, sore elbows, and injuries from attempting to chop wood using only my own strength. Once the wood is that hard it’s near impossible to do.
I considered just giving up and buying my wood from a woodlot, pre-split and dried, ready to feed into the fireplace. But the cost of the firewood just bothered me. Not to mention the waste every time the weather would down a large limb, or even whole trees, which happens quite often where I live. I didn’t want to give it away in return for its removal when it could be put to use. I may not want to be a lumberjack, but I don’t have to give up self-sufficiency.
There had to be a better way. And I found one, through physics! But don’t worry, you won’t need much math.
Just a few angles.
Here is a list of materials you will need:
- T-shaped base made of heavy steel just as wide as it is long about 6X6 feet – An old clothesline pole might do it, but it must be pretty thick
- Concrete deck tiedown block to keep the steel base from lifting during the splitting process.
- Helper spring from an automobile or truck – the larger the better for the spring – You can use a helper spring from around the shock absorber of any random junker automobile in the vicinity. The larger coiled wire, the better. A truck might give you a bigger one than I used in my project, but it will be much stronger of a wood splitter once you have it balanced up.
- The axe pole – Metal parking barrier post about 70 inches long and 3″ in diameter, made out of heavy 1/4″ steel. This might take a while to get unless you go for the salvage yards. They made pipe pretty strong in those days.
- Axe Head with a pickaxe end on the back (to put the barbell weights on).
- C-Clamps to keep the barbell weights from bouncing on the axe head, and so you can remove the axe head for sharpening
- Barbell Weights- enough weight to exactly counterbalance the strength of the spring (Note: The axe pole and the C-clamps will add weight).
- U-bolts from the muffler section of your local auto parts dealer. Clamps and bolts and miscellaneous hardware to keep it all together
First thing is to:
- Assemble your parts.
- Cut the “wings” off of the axehead so that the barbell weights will fit over the rear.
- Drill holes and attach the axe pole to the crux of the t-shaped base to create a pivot assembly. This is shown in the video. Remember that the ends of the spring should anchored independently to both the frame and the axe pole ends.
- Drill and attach the spring at the pivot point of the axe pole and the other end to the base as close to the pivot as you can using Ubolts.
- Cut the slot into the axe pole to slide the axehead in.
- Drill the holes through the remaining tab and the axehead.
- Bolt the axehead to the axe pole in 2 places.
- Attach the sharpened and trimmed axe head to the axe pole in two spots about 3 inches apart.
- Drill and secure the axe head.
- Then you use barbell weights to counterbalance the whole thing.
Mine was two big 25lb solid iron barbells.
- Use the C-Clamps to secure the weights to the pole.
The more weight you use, the tighter or stronger the spring will have to be. More is better. You want the resting point of the spring to put you at 150 degrees from the cutting surface. The point is that you can easily slowly move the axe head up and down, but with the spring and the weight counterbalancing each other, you subtract the weight of the bar and axe head, add the weight of the Axe pole and the barbell weights, should come to zero. then it will be placed at any position of it’s trajectory and stay in place. Balanced, but creates a kinetic component to the movement of the axe head with a built-in guide so there are few missteps while splitting the wood and it saves effort and energy. Obviously safety while using this is a big deal. Wear glasses and gloves; and if you are splitting oak or harder, try to stick to green wood or it gets all bent and twisted.
- Mount the Handle used to pull the axe down. I took a crowbar and wedged it in between the 25-pound weights and clamped it down with C-clamps, then wrapped butyl rubber over it for the handle. (See photo)
- Warning for parents: Create a way to lock up the contraption so kids don’t get hurt when you aren’t using it. As seen in the last photo, it might be a good idea to secure it from wild animals coming to play on it and cut a paw off as could also shown in the last photo.
So now go split some wood! You will be adjusting and tightening bolts for a while, so just finesse the tolerances until you have something that saves your precious hard work for other tasks.