Heating one’s home during the winter via non-wood-fired sources—gas, electric, and so on—may be convenient, but what is lost when man puts down his chopping tools and just flicks a switch instead? Calluses, certainly, but also something deeper: the pride that comes from knowing that you, as your ancestors did, manually stoked the flames of survival. So, let’s look each other in the eye and vow to turn some heartwood into heat this winter. And with that, here are some of the preferred ways one can subdivide a piece of oak, maple, and birch (but never willow!).
AXE / AX*
Both spellings are acceptable these days (as well as beloved by lazy Scrabble players), but what is not up for debate is that Paul Bunyan’s weapon of choice is a top-notch chopper. It relies on force and momentum (which we assume you can generate plenty of), and it looks great propped up next to your chopping stump year-round. Keep the handle oiled, the bit sharp, and make sure the missus doesn’t turn it into some form of rustic decorative art, and this mighty implement will never fail you.
*There is certain type of Axe, spelled with an “e,” which is strictly for clowns. We will not speak of this further within our hallowed forum.
WEDGE AND SLEDGE COMBO
Beer and Peanuts. Montana and Rice. Lynyrd and Skynyrd. Sometimes in life, though some magical and ultimately unknowable force of the universe, separate entities find each other and form untouchably productive relationships (67 touchdowns!). Prepare to add some big numbers of your own with this combo; an incredibly satisfying way of turning trees into little trees without leaves that fit snugly into your fireplace.
This is not the name of a Scandinavian heavy metal band, but rather a tool made for splitting apart girthsome logs in the rare cases when ax and manly sinew just won’t cut it. With a heavier head than the average axe, the splitting maul will definitely tax a man unaccustomed to its weight, so we recommend spending a week or so getting in shape before testing the waters with your favorite new sidekick.
The grim fact is that throughout the long and storied history of backyard lumberjacking, fingers and appendages have been lost to the cause. Enter the Kindling Cracker: a safer—but no less badass—alternative to splitting wood. After all, what’s the use of a crackling fire if you don’t have limbs to warm?
When circumstances dictate that you acquire a niche piece of power equipment, the log splitter is a splendid candidate. It’s a machine that often sits in full view of the neighbors, proudly proclaiming, “My wood chopping needs fall somewhere along on the industrial scale, and I plan on doing it long enough that the purchase of a log splitter with 37 tons of force and 429 ccs of power, rather than renting one every year, will pay off over the course of the next couple of decades.”
If you must order firewood from a bulk supplier, there is only one way to maintain dignity, self-respect, and muscle mass. Kindly ask the delivery person to dump the logs into the middle of your driveway, and then transport them by the armful to the backyard and stack them yourself (seems like a good job for the oldest child, too).