How to Split Difficult Logs

Introducing the Splitting Maul and the Log Splitter

These two new tools came into the ‘armoury’ this week and not before time because I always end up with 2 or 3 big logs that laugh at my normal axe (as it bounces off). But now I have two sure fire ways of splitting those difficult to break logs. Logs become difficult to split usually because there was a large branch joining the main trunk, which makes the grain real gnarly.

No1: The Splitting Maul

OK, tool No.1: the splitting maul. Now I’ve been hanging my nose over these for years but resisted buying one, choosing to struggle with my axe instead, but I must be getting old, because now I need the extra ‘oomph’ that a maul offers. And lets be honest, it’s the proper tool for splitting logs anyway. Axes are for cutting down trees technically.

splitters maul close up webA splitting maul looks a bit like a sledge hammer with one end sharpened to a blunt blade. The steep angles of the blade are what gives the maul its advantage, as it forces the wood apart much more than a narrowly ground axe. Typically a maul will also be much heavier than your axe. This one for example is 3kgs which is about 6 and a half pounds. Quite a handful. It also means a maul won’t get stuck in your log anywhere near as much as an axe (if at all).

Take a look at B&Q’s splitting axe (as they call it) It has a fibreglass handle with rubber grips like mine and is available in the store, as you can imagine at 3.5KGs and three feet long you can’t post it! 

And if the log laughs at the splitting maul it’s time for the big gun, or I should say ‘the bomb’ or ‘grenade’.

No2: The Wood or Log Grenade or Log Splitter

wood or log grenade to split heavy logs

Tool No. 2: the wood grenade or log splitter. This is a rough lump of steel shaped like a three dimensional wedge or a tall pyramid. The wedge literally forces the log apart and nothing will survive it. SUPER IMPORTANT: you MUST wear eye protection (and also for any spectators within a ten foot radius) when using a ‘grenade’. You’ll see why when you use one. There is a tremendous amount of force in use here and it’s landing on top of a piece of steel. If a small piece breaks and ricochets off…… deadly.

wood grenade starting webSimply start the wood grenade off with a lump or club hammer (See pic of the invisible man starting mine…) and then drive it all the way in with a sledge hammer or the back side of your newly acquired splitting maul.

On really bad logs you might have to keep on driving the ‘bomb’ all the way through to the bottom!

(and don’t forget the eye protection!)

wood grenade in action web

(click for close up pic)


This pic shows just why this log was impossible to split using an axe or the splitting maul. Such gnarly grain is impossible to split with an axe. Drive the log splitter all the way through until it breaks the log apart.

OK, hope that was useful and be careful with these tools, they have the potential to cause great harm. Be sensible and start slowly until you have got the hang of them.

I used a supplier on for the Log Grenade and a local store for the splitting maul, but of course you can find splitting mauls on or too.

UPDATE: I found a few more places to get the log splitter…
Ebay have… Wood grenade has… Silverline Log Splitter

Stay well


p.s. Don’t forget you’ll be helping fund more articles like this is you use the above links as I’ll receive a small commission (at no cost to you) from B&Q, Amazon etc.

Comments 7

  1. Well I don’t know about you but I find it much more preferable to let the tool do the work rather than my back. With a heavy maul you basically just have to guide it and most hard wood logs split with one swing. Swinging an axe as hard as you can repeatedly while in a lumbar flexion position is asking for a back injury once you inevitably get tired. Just my two cents.

  2. I’m not sure that I entirely agree with Dr Mick. I’m not arguing about the maths, but rather with the preposition that a lighter maul will be swung significantly faster, and certainly not twice as fast. I don’t know the actual relative down swing speeds of 2.5kg and 5kg mauls but I’m reasonably sure that, for me, they’re not too far apart. Granted, I lift the 5kg much slower these days but once it’s over my head it picks up speed pretty quick. I certainly know that, in practice, when I’m struggling to split a knotty piece of oak or yew I always put aside the lighter splitting axe in favour of the heavier maul.

    1. Post

      I follow your point. It’s easy enough to see in practice that the heavy maul will break something that the axe didn’t, that’s why you put the axe down and reach for the maul after all. I was just thinking about how quickly I get tired swinging a maul (and a sledgehammer etc.) whereas I seem to be able to swing an axe for hours, on and off. I agree that the falling weight of both isn’t that much different in practice, as you say. There is not exactly much time or space for much acceleration over a meter or so.
      I’m still waiting for the go-ahead to get into the woods this year from the local council. With still half a meter of snow on the ground it might be a while yet. We’re supposed to be out of the woods by the 1st of May, so I hope the spring melt gets a wiggle on or I could run out of time!
      I’m back in the UK next week helping the parents out with their spring jobs around the home.
      Hope you guys are all A-OK.
      Be well Tim, thanks for stopping by 🙂

  3. Mass, energy and velocity, the science of mauls. The unintuitive truth is that a lighter maul swung faster actually has more energy than a heavier slower piece of kit. The equation relating mass, velocity and kinetic energy is KE = ½ × m × v2. Note the V squared bit, this is the fickle multiplier. Example:- A 5 kg maul with head velocity 10.m/s KE=250 Joules. A 2.5 kg maul with head velocity 20.m/s KE=500 Joules, ie twice as much energy. Hope this proves convincing in the light/heavy maul discussion.

    1. Post

      Agree totally, you can’t argue with the math. I’ve always prefered a lighter tool, hammer, axe, maul, whatever. Heavy stuff is dangerous when you get tired, which if you’re swinging all day, is going to happen sooner or later.
      Thanks for stopping by Dr Mike and for the math!

    2. I was doing some browsing when I came across this article, and I have an observation or two to make, as I have had some practice at this business of splitting firewood. An axe (2kg) can be swung faster than a heavier implement such as a 3kg splitting maul. Likewise the 3kg tool can be swung faster than a heavier maul, like the 5kg one that I have. However, a difficult piece of wood that cannot be split by my 3kg maul will invariably succumb much more easily when I use the 5kg tool. Weight matters when a block becomes hard to split, either because of its size, or because it has a lot of knots or just that the wood grain is twisted. Moving a tool at speed is important, but there comes a point where the lighter implement cannot match the power of the heavier one. If I swing both my 3kg and 5kg maul at maximum speed the heavier one produces a lot more force. I know that from using both of them regularly, even though I do not have any calculations to back up my assertion.
      On the other hand, if I am working on straight grained ash or alder, which is easy to split, a 1.6kg (3½ pound) axe is far more effective than any of the heavier tools mentioned. The axe swings at greater speed, with less energy used in each swing, and neither of the mauls can match it for the amount of wood split in a given time period. I know this from plenty of practice. Having said all that, I am still probably as tired after three hours of work with the axe as I am working with the mauls, since a lot more swinging is done with the lighter implement. Overall, each tool has a working advantage over the others in certain situations.

      1. Post

        Agree totally Michael. Nowadays I always have several tools at hand when chopping. I chop mainly Ash so my old, old convex ground axe is plenty big enough 9 times out of 10. I save the effort required to lift the maul for when the axe bounces off a particularly tricky bit.

        I also have started to be selective. By that a mean I no longer strive to break every piece of every round into perfect sized logs. When they get too gnarly, I’ll leave them oversize and save them for when the fire has been on the go for hours and has a nice bed of embers. Sitting a huge log on such a fire produces a lovely effect and gets rid of a stubborn log no trouble.

        I’ve even consigned a few half split rounds to the bugs when experience tells me that the resulting logs are just not worth the effort to split. I sit these logs/part rounds in a line alongside the stream which runs through our property where they slowly turn to bug food. My property runs 11m down a slope from front to back so these logs also stop stray footballs from going into the beck and the resulting scramble from the kids to rescue it before it heads into the neighbours property!

        Thanks for taking the time to comment Michael, appreciate the insight 🙂

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