How to Split Wood Without a Chopping Block

I think every wood burner would agree with me on this – firewood is most often split into desirable pieces on a solid block made out of wood, i.e., a round.

With that being said, this doesn’t have to be the case. There are two methods which don’t require any form of support under; i’m even going out on a limb here – the techniques may just be even better…

Use the ground

The most optimal way to split wood as an alternative to the classic chopping block is leaving it vertical on the ground and hacking away.

Yes, you heard me absolutely right – just flip the wood upright and start splitting away, without any base underneath. As a matter of fact, i know more than one person who swears that this exact method is far better than the block, let me explain why.

Easier on the body

The older we get, the more careful we have to be about our ways in this life. The same applies to splitting firewood.

Not placing the wood you want to split on a block reduces the need to bend or lift. All you have to do is roll the round towards you, make it stand and you’re ready to start whacking! (This can become even easier if you get the right hookaroon).

Not only does this help prevent the unnecessary strain on the body, but also saves energy, and we all know how quickly it depletes during a long splitting session.

And yes, some might say that the ground will absorb a lot of the force by chopping wood like that. I think there is some truth to it, particularly so if the ground is more mushy than solid.

But then again, it may be more optimal for somebody to take an extra swing than bend, lift and position the round do begin with.

What about the edge dulling?

One thing for sure, this method of wood processing will probably end up blunting the edge of your splitting maul or axe quicker. That is because you’ll end up going right into the ground often during the deal.

In reality, this has more to do with technique than anything – as long as you judge the efforts correctly, you shouldn’t go right through the wood into the soil. But as we all know, the more tired you get, especially so if you do all that everyday, mistakes happen.

Having said that, there is a thing you can do to help manage this. Heard of the tire method? If not, place a regular car tire (or what have you, depending on the diameter) over the round. This’ll reduce the chance of the wood flying all over the place once you get it split, and also catch your tool of choice, not letting it go straight into the dirt, hence preventing early dulling.

Notice the bounce off the tire? This is what helps the tool not get into the ground.

*If the edge does get blunt, don’t worry – here’s a whole post i dedicated to the art of sharpening a splitting maul.

Lay the rounds on the side

But wait, there’s more! Another method of splitting firewood without standing any on a block is leaving them horizontal on the ground, and chopping.

This kind of goes hand in hand with the first approach i talked about, but this time everything is done in more of a freestyle fashion.

You may begin splitting the wood in the standing form, though after you halve it you chop those pieces to some smaller by not even getting them back up. Doing so saves time, and i would argue even more energy.

Forget about using a heavy splitting maul here. Opt for a light axe, otherwise you will not last for long. (The 4 pound Razorback from Amazon should do the trick).

I must note that making firewood utilizing this technique is more dangerous. You’ll be swinging the axe all over the place, so be mindful.

More thoughts…

You can save more energy by using the right tool at the right time. If you have a large round to deal with, halve or even quarter it at first with a maul (don’t forget to use a wedge, if needed). Then, switch over to a lighter splitting axe and finish the deal.

If the ground does get crazy soft in an area you live, try placing the firewood on a sheet of wood and then chopping (as in the first video example). Sure, the idea goes against what i’m talking about on this article, but it is still going to be a lot easier to slide something under than pick it up and place on a block.

Have you ever tried using a shorter splitting block, by any chance? You can end up getting great results if you make one that is shorter than what you’re accustomed to.

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  1. I have a cheap hatchet with a dull 4 inch blade and, once it sticks, I then finish the job by pounding it in with a sledgehammer. Then after I build a fire it goes out right away and I have to use a ton of paper.

    1. Firstly, NEVER use a dull edge. Tried the same thing you did and wasted 30 minutes of my life. Some things that I realized is purchasing a proper axe from a brand, roughly $90 Canadian.

      And aside from using proper form and cutting on an even surface like a cutting block or the ground, you’ll need to learn about maintenence to keep your tools well-kept. This ranges from round sharpening stones, leather strops, or a simple flat file(your standard rectangular one).

      When combining the tools, skills, and general knowledge required, yes woodcutting is a DAUNTING task for beginners. I personally ran a few hundred dollars for a hatchet and felling axe, knives, stones, and files while grasping the concept of sharpening and maintenance over the course of a few months.

      Also, firemaking becomes impossible if the fuel isn’t completely dry. Dew and moisture becomes evident during the night so preferably keep it in a garage or in the hot sunlight. Sorry for the length.

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