Cutting the kindling with a blunt hatchet

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This topic contains 15 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  Clark 1 year, 8 months ago.

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  • #33194 Reply


    Equipment : two chopping blocks, a blunt hatchet and one glove

    You are going to sit on one block and chop on the other. Each block has a sitting side and a chopping side. Make them last forever and your bum has worn them shiny by winding wire round their circumferences and twisting the loose ends with a pair of pliers till the wires are tight. They should both be about the same height – say 15 – 18 inches. You want to keep the action well below face level.

    Always use a blunt hatchet. You’re not cutting wood, you’re splitting it. A wedge doesn’t need to be sharp.

    — A sharp hatchet will cut into the wood rather than follow the grain.
    — A blunt hatchet will split the grain and follow this path of least resistance it has created.
    — A sharp hatchet will cut your hand if you’re not careful, so you HAVE to be careful and thus take longer.

    The art is in choosing which logs to chop. Examine them carefully and choose only ones without knots. Every minute spent choosing kindling logs saves time, energy and frustration. Don’t collect too many – about two month’s worth is good – you want to save a bit of chopping for a sunny mid-winter afternoon.

    Place the two blocks about two feet apart and heap your chosen kindling logs to the left of your sitting log. Place a log on the chopping block with your gloved left hand and aim a blow of the hatchet about an inch from the edge. If you’ve chosen your log well, very little force will be needed to peel off a slice which will drop to the right. Slice the rest of the log till it won’t stand on its end any more, then support it with your left hand which you remove a split second before the hatchet arrives. If you slightly mistime it, the blunt edge meets a gloved hand in mid-air and brushes it aside without harm. Work through the heap on your left till there’s nothing but a heap of toast-shaped slices on your right.

    Stand up, stretch, admire your handiwork, then turn both blocks upside down. Now when you take a seat, you’re sitting on what was the chopping block and chopping on what was the sitting block, and the heap of slices which was on your right hand side is now on your left. Pick one up with your left hand and hold it on the chopping block. Ever see a TV chef chop carrots? That’s what you’re going to do to that slice of wood – chop chop chop chop chop chop chop done. Of course, wood is a natural material, the grain varies, some slices will split easier than others. But that’s OK, you want a variety of sizes of kindling anyway, so the really easy ones you slice into lollipop sticks just for the pleasure of it, and the tougher ones can stay bigger cos that’s useful too. Continue till nothing is left but a pile of kindling on your right.

    Stand up, stretch, and admire your handiwork again. Congratulate yourself for initially orientating the blocks so that the final pile of kindling has fallen exactly where it is normally stored in the corner of your woodshed.

    Apparently these days you can hire a hydraulic machine that rams a cutting grid into a log at the press of a button and kindling drops out the other side. What next? A robot that you hire to go out and have a drink for you which then comes home and shags your wife?

  • #33214 Reply


    kindling-log chopping is better. Sharpness -probably a bit sharper than a hatchet but not much.
    Here is the trick.
    Without too much force, strike the log so that the axe enters the log firmly. Don’t try to do a single chop(ok sometimes it happens because you catch the sweet spot). But assume you don’t and it just wedges firmly into the log.
    Then lift the entire axe and log together and then bring it down on to the chopping block so that the top of the axe strikes the chopping block first.
    This move requires a turning movement which becomes remarkably easy with a bit of practice
    Result: log splits nicely-usually.Repeat if it is a teuch bugger.
    Would the same trick work for a hatchet and kindling?

  • #33217 Reply


    When I say “hatchet”, I mean “small axe”. I definitely find logs split easier when the hatchet is blunt, the edge follows the grain rather than trying to cut its own route.

    I only need to convert approximately one log in thirty into kindling and the rest are burned whole, so I can afford to be very choosy. Careful selection makes the job a pleasure rather than a chore.

    Only very rarely does the hatchet fail to split the log with a moderate blow. In future, however, when this happens I will use your turn-axe-through-180-degrees-in-mid-air trick. Now you point it out I can see that the log weighs more than the hatchet so it makes sense to use that extra momentum to my advantage.

    Another thing : Wood naturally splits as it dries, therefore I assumed that dry wood wood be easier to split with an axe than fresh wood. It took me a long time to work out the opposite is true. I think the wood fibres bind more tightly together as they dry, but what ever the reason, I now split my logs as soon as I get them.

  • #33234 Reply


    Far from it, you split logs by fastening an old tyre flat on top of your chopping block, so when you hit it with the split axe the wood is not going to fly off into the dogs face or smash the neighbours window with a flying piece.

    Slitting kinderling is best done with a thick blade hatchet, but I can recommend a book that says it all in one large volumne, from stacking to drying to chopping the tools everything, it is so well written I could not put the book down.

    Its by Lars Mytting and is called
    ‘Norwegian Wood Chopping, Stacking and Drying wood the Scandinavian way’

  • #33273 Reply


    When that book reaches the 2nd hand paperback market, I’ll buy it – not because I need it but because I’ll enjoy it.

    I burn a mix of coal and logs in our open fire – coal at the front, logs high at the back, as steep a slope as I can maintain. That way the heat is radiated into the room rather than convected up the chimney. I should install a stove and burn a third of the fuel but we love the open fire and our living room is small and easily heated.

    I wish I had enough logs to justify building one of the piles in the book. I think it would be good for the soul. I don’t need many logs, maybe 2 tons per year, pine, and I buy them ready split. I’ve built a long airy log shed where I just pile the logs, not stack them. I use the logs from one end while the ones at the other end are drying, and cut the kindling in the middle.

    The tyre is a good idea for splitting big logs into smaller logs, but not necessary for splitting kindling. Such little force is required to split a knot-less pine log that the kindling drops to the side rather than being fired across the shed. Once the logs have been first cut into slices, I swear I can then chop those slices into kindling sticks at a rate of about one per second – chop, drop … chop, drop … chop, drop … chop, drop … chop, drop … … …

  • #33353 Reply


    I love the actions of acquiring and preparing logs. I lived near a forest, virtually in it, and I used to collect fallen trees and hand cut them with a bow saw. This was deliberate because I wanted the benefit of the exercise and it was quiet and in keeping with the stillness of the forest. When I was active in the forest, the roe deer, at first nervous, would run away, but over time they became almost indifferent to me, and I could walk within a few arms lengths of them before they casually shied away, not pell mell, from their browsing. The capacity to form some kind of rudimentary relationship with animals amazes me. As one is absorbed into that different world, excused the rampaging of humanity, it is possible to see so much more. A sparrow hawk taking a pigeon within a few yards of me -the hawk like an arrow, followed by a fluff of feathers drifting on the air, as the conjoined predator and prey refracted to the ground like a beam of light passing through a clear pool.

    The shapes, the positions and disposition of trees and plants gradually unfolds into an unrandomed environment, each change is mentally noted, each intrusion of a solitary place is felt as a blow.
    The best burning logs are holly. i was frtunate in have many old holy trees nearby some of which had fallen over with great age.The wood is dense and grey discoloured when old, and white when new.
    I try to avoid burning anything except the serendipitous fallen. Coal is god fr heat but it contaminates the ash and makes it less serviceable for the garden. Somehow the forest provided as much as I ever needed.
    As for the log turning trick-do be aware that occasionally you might have to duck, when the log falls off the axe.

    • #33458 Reply


      I once had a job testing and treating electricity poles. I’d inspect them, then if they were suitable the guys behind me would treat them with a fungicide, and then another guy would follow along at the end and cover over the fungicide with bitumen. One day the guy with the pail of bitumen noticed some red deer watching him. Being a townie, he was a bit nervous of wildlife and walked away. The deer followed. He started walking faster. The deer started trotting. He broke into a run and so did the deer. He threw his bucket away and sprinted. The deer stopped at the discarded bucket. They were used to being feed protein pellets in winter by a gamekeeper carrying a bucket. Oh how we laughed.

  • #33355 Reply

    Phil the ex frog

    As a city dweller the above are a fascinating alien world. I love the details of axe technique. Yesterday my missus found herself amongst teenagers facing each other down with knives at the bus stop. Depressing, tiring and pretty scary as we get older. Your world sounds better. It really does.

    • #33460 Reply


      I see what you mean. Yes you’re right, your wife your wife SHOULD carry an axe to the bus stop. Next time she sees the youths with knives, she can say, “call that a weapon …. No, this is a weapon.”

    • #34117 Reply


      Phil, I’m really sorry to learn that. I’ve sometimes got upset with you because you get very critical towards Craig, and he has been kind and helpful to me. But we should meet up again sometime and re-establish our friendship, and you should both come out here and enjoy the rural environment for a while.

      Behaviour deteriorates with increasing population density. When there are lots of others they’re easily felt to be competitors. When isolated, especially if in difficulty, another human can be the most welcome sight in the world. We are all both competitors and cooperators to each other.

  • #33372 Reply



    This is the tool I use to chop wood, break up old pallets and things.

    I made it out of the spring off an old Transit, it’s good steel.

    • #33457 Reply


      Nice job. Got a well used look about it. How did you make the holes for the rivets?

      • #33462 Reply


        Just drilled them, the steel in the handle is soft enough, only the cutting edge gets re-tempered. It has the advantage of being able to use it as a lever to prise things apart, try that with a hatchet and you break the shaft.

  • #33468 Reply


    Regarding the red deer chasing the townie.I know someone who was almost gored to death by a rutting red deer.He managed to make to deer back off by pressing his thumbs into the deers eyes. He had been badly hurt by then and managed to crawl a fair distance to the Cairn a Mount road between Fettercairn and Banchory.
    The estate was owned by the Gladstones-the descendants of the 19th Century PM, and it was very overstocked with Red deer at the time.It also had a large population of mountain hares, possibly distantly related to Colin Massie, the warlock of Glen Dye who had e capacity to change form into a hare order to evade the long arm of God’s representative on earth.

  • #33476 Reply


    Most Impressive Fred.. Respect on the Workmanship dude

  • #34114 Reply


    What a lovely thread. I’ll return to this later; I haven’t even read most of it yet and the EU referendum / Corbyn trashing is costing me time.

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