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Proper technique for cutting firewood

Stay safe while chopping wood

Chopping up wood for the fire appears to take nothing more than brute force.  Not true. Becoming an accomplished wood-cracker requires a combination of art and physics.

When you head out to chop wood, wear gloves, eye protection and steel-toed boots.  Safety is a must, but knowing how to cut firewood properly goes beyond what you wear. There are certain principles of technique that apply to anyone.  Stand in a way that provides upper-body support and prevents fatigue. Examine the ground for factors such as cut pieces of wood, branches, and animal holes to ensure solid footing.  

Forestry Specialist Craig McKinley also says before you even make the first chop, look up.

"I’ve seen too many times people hanging a limb over their head when trying to swing an axe, fail to look up when they started to use that axe.  Just remember that trees, or limbs, or vines or whatever may be under tension.  And as soon as the limb is cut sometimes that releases something else and that’s a problem as well," McKinley says.

When you’ve determined you won’t be knocked out by objects from above, then take a swing. Look for a part of the log that’s already starting to split and whack it there. It makes for an easier cut and you won’t have to club it to smithereens. Probably the single most important wood-splitting rule is this: Always place your rounds on a short chopping block.  A base will provide solid resistance to the blows, guaranteeing that when you break through, the tool's blade will land in wood instead of slamming into dulling earth or rocks.

Even if you’re using a chain saw, don’t cut wood lying directly on the ground. You’ll learn quickly that running the saw into the dirt will not only spew dirt in your face, it’ll dull the chain.

"So quite often they like to move that material up and that’s okay; you move it up on a log or something like that so you get it off the ground a little bit. Just realize that as you start to use that saw, the weight of the log will cause the top of that log you’re cutting to pinch the saw so you do some top cutting and then come from the bottom as well," McKinley says.

 A pinch will happen to even the best of operators so if it does, turn the chainsaw off immediately and gently work it up and down ‘till it comes free. 

Listen to the radio story mp3

Radio interview source: Craig McKinley, Extension forestry specialist, Oklahoma State University

Learn more about cutting firewood:

Cutting firewood safely: From felling the tree to chopping it into firewood, here's everything you need to know.

Tools for cutting firewood: Like most jobs on your acreage, cutting firewood is much easier and safer with the right tools.

Storing and drying firewood: Once you've got your firewood chopped, it's important to store it correctly so it will dry properly.

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