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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

SPLITTING FIREWOOD


SPLITTING FIREWOOD
Several years ago, when Spencer was about seven…(holy Hannah, he just got his drivers license so it was more than several years ago.)

Whatever; years ago a neighbor gave me some firewood.  He did not have a fireplace and he had just cut down an eighty year old white ash tree on a property he was developing.  This neighbor, I called him Big John because he was 6’ 6” and was at one time was the leading scorer for the Seton Hall basketball team, dropped off 35 huge logs into my backyard.  Each log was about four foot across and just the right length for a fireplace.

I left the logs in the back for over a year to season.  They burn better when seasoned and they are also easier to split.  I didn’t know it at the time, but it turns out that white ash is a very good tree for fire wood.  This tree being old was extra dense.  A single log fired up easily and burned forever.  This stuff was like gold for anyone with a wood-burning fireplace.

It was not easy to split.  Even when dried out it was not easy to split.  Each giant log had to be split into four smaller logs which could then be split into two fireplace sized logs.  I split two of the original huge logs every week.  It was good exercise, and good bonding with my seven year old son.

I had not split wood before, but I had seen pictures of it being done.  A big brawny guy takes an axe and with one whack one log becomes two.

Not, I soon found out, with four foot in diameter 80 year old white ash logs.  No, to split these logs it took a maul, two sledge hammers, and multiple wedges. 
MAUL

You start with three wedges through the middle of the four foot wide log and whack them until the big log splits in two, then one wedge to quarter the log, and finally the maul to split the quarters into two fireplace sized logs.

I started the wedges with a little sledge hammer we named “Little Baby.” Once in place a standard sledge “Big Baby” was used to pound the wedges.

Spencer was my helper.

“Spence, hand me ‘Little Baby’ so I can start the wedge.”
Wedges

“Spence, give me ‘Big Baby’ and watch this split.”

Soon Spencer started the wedges with “Little Baby” which he swung with two hands as I held the wedge delicately in place ready to release it quickly if “Little Baby” was missing its mark.  Fortunately that was not often.  Spence handled “Little Baby” pretty well.
Little Baby
I would then ask for “Big Baby” to pound the wedges in.  When the log was about to split, I would sometimes let Spence do the honors with “Little Baby.”
Big Baby
There is nothing, and I mean nothing as satisfactory as the sight and the sound of a log splitting in half.  It is an adrenaline, testosterone rush! When Spence split a log you could almost see chest hairs grow.

It took a full summer to split all those logs, and two years to burn them.  I would only burn one a night.  They started quickly and kept other logs of lesser quality going.  When I visited people who had a fireplace, I would bring along a log or two instead of a bottle of wine.  Those logs were much prized.

It may look like work splitting wood, and in fact if you did it all day it would be a great deal of work, but for an hour on the weekend it was great exercise, and a great way to bond with a seven year old boy.

I expect some day many years from now, Spence will be splitting wood with his young son. I can hear him now,

“Hand me ‘Little Baby’ let’s get this wedge started.” 


The Cranky Old man is working from his JV computer.  Comments are difficult, but I am lurking. 

17 comments:

  1. Great memories Joe - SD's has similar ones of his Dad and even now we haul in logs from the fields which he's cut up with a chainsaw ready to be split. SD has tried to persuade his Dad to switch to gas as it's such hard work now he's getting older but he won't give up his log burner, it's all a part of who he is.

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  2. Nice post with dear old memories.
    My husband always tells us that he chopped wood at nine for his mom to cook with. Hard working days eh?

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  3. We have one room heated entirely by a wood stove. After maybe ten years of splitting wood every weekend of the summer and fall to supply a thirty foot long wood, four foot high wood pile my brother in law bought a power splitter. He was given a huge old ash this summer, and he split it entirely with wedges and sledges. I don't know why.

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  4. I so remember this ritual. Did it every year with my father. I was the oldest so I did all the boy things as I call them.

    I now live in California and burning wood is a no-no. The people in charge here tell you what you can and can't do and if you disobey you have a huge fine to pay so they can continue to be in power. Bless their hearts.

    Loved the story Cranky. Sorry for my soapbox rant. Well, not really.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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  5. I remember spending quite some time splitting oak logs.
    My ex thought they all needed to be done on the same day.
    I would have enjoyed having my son help for an hour or so every weekend during that summer.

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  6. In my thirties, I got a lot of satisfaction out of splitting firewood - standing the log on end, grinding it into the sand or sawdust, finding the biggest crack, raising the maul, and whacking it neatly into two pieces (sometimes with a karate yell if no one was listening).
    Now, of course, it's the logsplitter and not us that whacks it. It sure was fun, though. Good memories.

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  7. What a heart-warming memory to share with your son. I've never split logs but you've convinced me it's harder than it looks. I guess we can't all be rail splitters like young Abe Lincoln.

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  8. I've watched relatives split wood. It looks difficult to me. I'm sure I would miss.

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  9. Awww .. sweet memories. And not even a hint of cranky. I'll bet Spencer has the same fond recollections of your wood splitting time together.

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  10. Such a sweet post,so unlike you but delightful. That is how father/son memories are made.

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  11. You created wonderful memories for both of you and I know Spence will pass those memories on down the line.

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  12. Mighty nice. We look forward to splitting firewood with a grandson or two. Until then it's just me and John. I mostly stack wood; john's the splitter. The thwack of splitting through firewood is the best sound!

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  13. Good times. For years I split between 4-6 full cords of wood for the woodstove and some of those years Twinky gave me a hand. Then she discovered boys ....

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  14. So glad you took time out from being a bullsh*tter to be a fuel-splitter!

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  15. I used to chop wood occasionally as a kid. We had a wood-burning cook stove and switched between oil and wood to heat the house.

    Of course my logs weren't half the size of the one in your photo!

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  16. Never heard of wood as a house "warming" gift instead of wine, but it seemed like it was well received! What a generous gift from your neighbor!

    betty

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