Whole Green Blog

Posts By: Jeff Serena

Return of the Monster: The Ames Lickety Splitter

If you hang around Internet discussion boards concerned with forestry tools or wood heat, you’ll eventually hear about a splitting tool called the Monster Maul. It was manufactured by the now-defunct Sotz Corporation, and is no longer available. Veteran wood splitters who recall the Monster Maul speak of it today with the kind of misty-eyed reverence usually reserved for childhood sports heroes. This Joe Louis of splitting mauls was rugged. The Monster Maul featured a twelve- or sixteen-pound triangular head nearly twice as wide as a typical maul head, and there was an even heavier version for modern-day Paul Bunyans. No handsome hickory or fancy fiberglass handles here—the massive head of the Monster Maul was simply welded to a 32-inch piece of steel pipe. The only concession to comfort was a thin sleeve of foam rubber pulled over the lower third of the handle as a grip. The Monster Maul was overkill for most home firewood splitting, but was completely in its element with the toughest splitting jobs—gnarled sugar maple, knotted beech, hophornbeam, American elm. Read More

Thank God for Splitting Mauls

The maul is to firewood splitting what the claw hammer is to carpentry—the dependable, affordable, old-fashioned, nothing-works-better tool that makes the whole business possible. Superficially shaped much like a woodcutter’s axe, a splitting maul features a much thicker, heavier head than an axe does. When struck against the face of a “round”—a section of a log already cut to the desired length—a maul first penetrates the wood and then acts like a wedge to force the round to split apart. The basic principle is the same as the old sledge-and-wedge technique of wood splitting, in which a sledge hammer is used to drive a steel wedge into the wood, but except for the toughest splitting problems, splitting mauls are faster and easier to use. With a splitting maul, there’s no need to set a splitting wedge in the wood, and if you miss your target, you won’t damage your handle by hitting the wedge with it. You also won’t run into situations in which you’ve driven the splitting wedge completely into the wood without getting the wood to split apart, a mishap that will force you to free your wedge before you can get back to the wood-splitting chore at hand. There’s a nice introductory article about using a splitting maul on the Internet at woodheat.org. Read More

Why Heat with Firewood?

Well, it’s not intuitively obvious. Folks with an environmental bent—and if you’re reading this, it’s a pretty good bet that you’re one—just plain love trees. Trees scrub pollutants out of the air, soak up CO2, release moisture and oxygen into the atmosphere, control erosion, protect watersheds, enrich the soil, reduce the air temperature, and provide habitat for other plants and countless animals. And they’re beautiful. Trees are the green plants that put the green in the Green Movement. Harvesting and burning firewood kills trees and releases greenhouse gases into the air. In urban areas subject to smog, wood burning contributes particulates to the already unhealthy mix. So it’s no wonder that the very idea of felling trees so we can cut ‘em up and chuck ‘em into the woodstove elicits a wince from so many environmentally minded folks. Read More

Buying Firewood: Im Not a Lumberjack, and Im Okay

If you don’t have the time, inclination, or physical ability to put up your own firewood—and many of us don’t—you can always buy it split and delivered. Many firewood sellers will even stack it for you for an additional fee. U.S. prices vary considerably depending on the location and the type of wood available, but as of this writing you should expect to pay between $225 and $300 per cord for hardwood delivered, or $175 to $225 for softwood. Be sure to buy local firewood. If your wood has been trucked 400 miles before it reaches you, you’re supporting a supply chain that consumes so much fossil fuel that the environmental advantages of your firewood will be lost in diesel exhaust. Read More