woodspltting tools, sledges, wedges and mauls


 

Here are some pictures of the tools that I use to split wood. These are the most frequently used tools by those who choose to do this by hand instead of using a wood splitting machine.

I have rather a large collection, since I have been doing this for several decades. I have a collection of sledgehammers ranging from small 12 pound one, for more “delicate work”; and a midsize 16 pound one that I usually use; and a 20 pound one that is used for particularly recalcitrant logs.

I have two mauls  (a maul, as informed readers already know, is like a sledgehammer, only one end is sharp  and is used for splitting.) The small maul is about 12 pounds and is the one I use most frequently. The larger one is 22 pounds and is sold under the brand name “monster maul” (although I can’t remember where I got it and I haven’t been able to find one even on the web for some time.) It used to have a hollow steel handle but, through my own misuse, hammering  it with a sledgehammer when it was embedded in a log, that broke off. I took it to a local machine shop and had solid steel 2 inch bar stock welded into the head. It has not broken since.

 Notice that  the handles of the sledgehammers and the mauls are wrapped with tape. This is  done to give a better grip and, in the case of the monster maul which has a solid steel handle ,to give me a little cushioning when it slams into a big log.

By the way, you’ll notice the smaller maul is taped all the way up. That is because on a freezing winter day, after whacking a log with it, it split in a peculiar way. The split was almost the whole length of the handle and it split into two pieces. I bought a new handle, but before putting it in, I decided to fit the two  split pieces together and tape it up and  it has lasted  for about a year. I thought it wouldn’t last a day.

 This brings up another point. Although I am pretty good at hitting a wedge with a sledge, in the past, and occasionally still, I miss. If you overreach, i.e. the steel head of the sledgehammer goes beyond the wedge, so the wooden handle strikes the wedge, the head of the sledgehammer will snap right off. This has happened to me many times over the years and as a result, I have a large collection of nice clubs at home ,which I never meant to have. You’ll notice, right at the end of the handle just before the steel head begins, a large lump of hard rubber called a “collar” which is designed to prevent this, and actually does a pretty good job.

I previously wrote about developing rotator cuff problems which resulted from spending too long at any one time swinging my tools, three or four hours. Also, I think it was because I was excessively using the 20 pound sledge and the 22 pound monster maul. It was just too much wear and tear on an aging shoulder. I now try to limit my use of the heavier tools to logs with lots of knots that really need it. Most of my splitting is with the smaller maul and a 16 pound sledge hammer.

You also see my selection of wedges. You may wonder why so many. Two reasons: first, like a surgeon choosing the right device, I use different wedges for different purposes. For example, that round one which I think is called a “grenade”, is used by me when a log is almost split open and needs to be finally blasted apart. Is relatively useless, I have found, when used alone to start a split, except for a very small log, perhaps 6 inches in diameter or less.

The second reason for so many wedges is that they are necessary when splitting a log which comes from that section of the tree  where there are several large limbs branching out from the trunk, usually at the top of the long straight trunk of a tree where the first very large branches spread out. These kind of logs are extremely difficult to split and present a real challenge and a lot of fun for someone who is doing it for pleasure. For someone who is splitting wood to cook or heat the house, they are a real pain in the neck. A normal 2′ x 18″ log can be polished off in 5 or 6 minutes with a few wedges and a sledgehammer. By contrast, I have spent an hour or more on a giant log with several large branches.

 Here is the problem, you put in 3,4 or 7 wedges, driving them in all the way and, no splitting takes place. Here’s where it gets interesting.  You have to look for fault lines, rely upon a lot of experience and some intuition in placing the wedges. Some years ago I got 13 wedges impacted in a huge log and had to go off to a hardware store to get several more or those 13 wedges would still be there. Pictured are 14 wedges. I actually have 5 more at home, but I don’t usually take them out with me since I don’t usually encounter extremely challenging logs.

Now let me put in some pictures of these tools. This  first one will be all  the sledges and mauls, and, oh yes, I forgot there is also an axe. That is used for particularly fiberous logs when they’re almost split apart just to cut the final connecting fibers.

All the tools

This brings up another point. People are always asking me if I’m still “chopping wood”. Being a purist, I am offended, of course, but I don’t bother to correct them and tell them that the proper term is “splitting wood”. It  is only possible to split very small logs with an axe. An axe was used to cut down trees in the old days before chainsaws (and is still  used by fellows like myself whose wife does not allow him to use chainsaws any more just because of one tiny accident.)

The next picture is of the three sledges. When there are little kids around, for example if I am building a wood house for them, I explain that the little 12 pound sledge is the baby sledge, and a 16 pound sledge is the mommy sledge, and then I pause. Invariably they will chime in and say that the big 20 pound sledge is the big daddy sledge, and they are right, of course.

 The "little family" of sledges

The “little family” of sledges

Another view of the little family

Now for a  picture of the small maul, with its  grevious wound, all taped up:

Small maul

 And now  for the monster maul:

The monster maul

by the way, I don’t think you can see it in this picture but the monster maul is not sharp at all. Indeed, it is about  three eighths of an inch wide at the “sharp” end of the wedge. I think I sharpened it once, many years ago, to be about a sixteenth of an inch wide, but is a lot of metal and takes a lot of sharpening. It doesn’t make any difference. It is  the weight and momentum that splits the woos.  When that 22 pounds of steel comes smashing down on a log, it does not have to be sharp.

Here is a picture of a nice selection of wedges

Wedges

Well that’s about all I can say, and all one needs to know about wood splitting tools.

 
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About woodsplitting1

not a lot to say except I like to split wood and so I wrote a blog about it
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11 Responses to woodspltting tools, sledges, wedges and mauls

  1. Rich says:

    Hey great post – it’s nice to see someone else spitting stumps by hand. There’s no work-out like splitting wood. I also have a monster maul – the Sotz corporation used to make them, but stopped decades ago. They sell little stubby ones now from northern tool, but whoever designed them obviously never used it. They’re terrible.

    When I broke my monster maul (same way you did), I reamed out the handle’s center, welded in a piece of bar-stock, and extended it several inches. The handle is 32 inches now and it weighs about 22 lbs. I’m a young guy, so for me the extra arc and weight is manageable and makes a huge difference with knots.

    I rarely use a wedge simply for the fact that I only have 2 or 3 and if I bury them all, I’m in trouble. I’ll normally do what you mentioned and use the maul as the wedge and pound it in with a sledge. That way I can use the handle to get it out if I can’t split the log.

    Have you ever seen any gigantic wedges? I’d love to get some foot-long, 30 lb wedges, but I’ve never seen one. Thanks for all the photos – it was fun to see.

  2. John says:

    Nice article. I was wondering where you got your “monster maul?” I too use one but after many years of abuse, it is beat to hell and the handle is bent, so I would like to find another. Can you help me find out? It is by far my favorite tool for splitting. With that, I rarely need the wedges and sledge.

    • woodsplitting1 says:

      John, Thanks for the comment. Rare to find someone who understands and appreciates the “fine art” of splitting. With regard to the monster maul. Let me copy and paste another comment from a fellow woodsplitter, who did exactly the same thing that I did and that I recommend that you do:
      “Hey great post – it’s nice to see someone else spitting stumps by hand. There’s no work-out like splitting wood. I also have a monster maul – the Sotz corporation used to make them, but stopped decades ago. They sell little stubby ones now from northern tool, but whoever designed them obviously never used it. They’re terrible.

      When I broke my monster maul (same way you did), I reamed out the handle’s center, welded in a piece of bar-stock, and extended it several inches. The handle is 32 inches now and it weighs about 22 lbs. I’m a young guy, so for me the extra arc and weight is manageable and makes a huge difference with knots.

      I rarely use a wedge simply for the fact that I only have 2 or 3 and if I bury them all, I’m in trouble. I’ll normally do what you mentioned and use the maul as the wedge and pound it in with a sledge. That way I can use the handle to get it out if I can’t split the log.

      Have you ever seen any gigantic wedges? I’d love to get some foot-long, 30 lb wedges, but I’ve never seen one. Thanks for all the photos – it was fun to see.Rich”

      John, I did the same thing that Rich did.And, it’s interesting that my revised and repaired monster maul also weighs 22 pounds. However, not being a “young guy”, as Rich says he is (I’m 75 now) I don’t use it all the time but only for particularly recalcitrant logs that need some good whacking. Most of the time I use my middleweight sledge, the 16 pound one, and one or several of my 18 wedges.
      I live in Larchmont, which, as you probably know, is a suburb of New York, and have a network now of probably 100 people that I have split wood for over the last 30 years, so I get a constant stream of notifications of trees down and logs to split and so I am able to do splitting whenever I want and usually do it every weekend. My wife has become resigned to it. It’s better than going out on a golf course or fishing (neither of which I do) for hours or days at a time, since I usually only do it for 2 to 3 hours at a time. That, and working out during the week and my martial arts (I’m a fifth degree black belt in tae kwon do) keeps me very fit, which also makes her happy.

  3. Rich says:

    John,

    Since I wrote that post I looked far and wide for a backup maul and there isn’t a stock one to be had. I’m going to take one of those northern tool ones and see if I can modify it to extend the handle and add some weight. I’m dubious, though, as the steel even appears to be a lower grade than the old monster maul. If you find someone selling the old ones, please post it here and I’ll get one too!

    I also had a good session yesterday with an old “grandfather” knotted stump and am still looking for a gigantic wedge if you see one.

    Best of luck.

    -Rich.

    • woodsplitting1 says:

      John, You are not the only one searching for a monster maul. Here is a comment I got recently:
      “Nice article. I was wondering where you got your “monster maul?” I too use one but after many years of abuse, it is beat to hell and the handle is bent, so I would like to find another. Can you help me find out? It is by far my favorite tool for splitting. With that, I rarely need the wedges and sledge.”

      • Edward nutting says:

        chigan and am curently selling a great deal of new old stock Sotz products including the infamous monster maul. I have all four models the professional, origanal, economy and the lady. If you want to see all I have of sotz products AUL THE you capn go to craigslist metro detroit and type sotz into the search if you would like to contact me you can email me mrbeeg@yahoo.com.

        ED.i LIKED THAT MONSTER MAUL THAT i BOUGHT FROM YOU SO MUCH THAT i WANT TO GET ANOTHER ONE JUST IN CASE i WEAR THIS ONE OUT IN 20 OR 30 YEARS AND YOU ARE NOT AROUND AT THAT TIME. Do you have any more of the big ones?

      • woodsplitting1 says:

        Got the maul. Works well and is a nice addidition to my store of wood splitting tools. I had to smile when my wife told me that there was something heavy that had been delivered and was out on the front porch and I saw that it was, of course, the maul. It was wrapped up so well that it practically took my other monster maul to open it. I was delighted to find the old yellowed pamphlet inside from the manufacturer filled with many favorable comments about the monster maul.

  4. Richard says:

    Perhaps this is a dumb question, but would it be ill advised to use the sledge end of a woodsplitting maul for breaking rocks (like with a sledge hammer)? My main concern is do I have to worry about the steel chipping when it hits the rock. I ask because well, I like to chop wood and break rocks for exercise when I’m out in the field and well, if this makes 2 tools one tool that would be great.

    • woodsplitting1 says:

      quick answer is: no problem with steel chipping when steel contacts rock; only if steel contacts other steel.
      However I have two observations. The first is that when I have, rashly, used a wood splitting maul as a sledge, I have always been concerned that, as I raise the maul up over my head, the sharp end of that maul is facing towards my face and it makes me nervous and I don’t do it.
      Second, I assume that you always wear safety glasses because the split shards from rock are vicious and much more frequent than the occasional piece of metal from a wedge that is hit by a sledge.
      I always wear safety glasses when I’m hitting wedges with a sledgehammer because, there are very rarely, tiny pieces of metal that can split off and, if they hit your, eye it’s goodbye.
      If you are pretending you are a prisoner on a chain gang and bashing rocks, you are always going to get pieces of rock flying around. Good luck and be careful.

  5. PedalRon says:

    This is great! And I have splitter envy!

    I picked up a splitter at the local, family-run hardware store. It has a composite (yellow) handle and a mid-sized head, maybe a 10-pounder. When it gets stuck I’ve been hitting it with a 5-pound mini-sledge, which is all I have. The mini-sledge is a Craftsman, the splitter is a no-namer.

    In just one week of work the back of the splitter has fractured and started to chip off when I hit it with the sledge. Is this acceptable? Should my mini-sledge be harder than my splitter? I’m guess the splitter is cheap steel.

    I paid $45 USD for it, which seems like a decent amount of money. Return it? Suggestions on tougher splitters? I can’t believe it will last very long at this rate, which doesn’t make me happy. I still have axes and hatchets that are my grandfathers…I’m only 33 but heck…doesn’t seem like them make ‘em like they used to.

    • woodsplitting1 says:

      You are doing a couple of things wrong. First , Don’t use the maul as a wedge. Should not hit the head. Will fracture and chip off, just like you said it was doing. Not made for that. Just made for splitting.If you return it they will tell you that you have been misusing it.
      Everything has a proper use, for which it was designed and made. The maul (that you are calling a “splitter”) is made just for swinging overhead and smashing into a log to split it, and that will work if the log is small enough and the maul is small. For larger logs use a larger maul, up to and including, a “monster maul” ( see comment below by Ed from Michigan who is selling them. I bought one and it is great). Or use wedges, like everyone else does and a sledge to knock the wedges into the log.
      Second thing that you are doing wrong is not using wedges for larger logs. Get a few. then use a heavier sledge. A 5 pound “sledge” is not a sledge, it is just a big hammer.Real sledges start at 12 pounds and go up to 20 pounds, which I have and use for particularlary tough logs with a lot of knots in them.
      And remember, always wear safety glasses when hitting steel with steel.

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