The Last Guide You'll Ever Need

Learn to Cut Wood

In Post-Apocalypse on November 30, 2009 at 9:43 am

Nearly all apocalypse scenarios will involve our public works shutting down leaving us without water, gas or electricity. So if you’re a freeze baby and like to set that thermostat at 72, you better learn to chop a lot of wood.

In the days after the apocalypse, I envision a lot cold people huddling together trying to stay warm. They’ll be burning their trash and scavenging for twigs and branches. Trees in our city parks will soon fall to make firewood, but when it comes down to burning this wood, most will struggle. (Continued..)

If an unsplit log is thicker than your wrist, it will be hard to burn because of the bark that surrounds the wood. The bark obviously doesn’t protect the wood from fire, but it does help keep the moisture inside the tree, and water doesn’t go so well with fire. To get a log to burn, you’ll need to split it so that the inside can dry out.

To split wood you’ll need an axe, hammer and maul. There are mauls with or without handles, get whatever one is suitable for you. If you plan on roaming the wasteland, you would want a handless one, or you may want to skip the maul, because they are fairly heavy.

First take your log and center your maul in the middle of that baby and start pounding it through the log with a hammer. It’ll split, and soon you’ll have two halves. This will dry out in about a year, but I imagine you are cold now, so you’ll need to split that thing down to more manageable pieces. If you’re going to burn the wood immediately, cut the wood into pieces the size of your wrist. The smaller the wood pieces, the fiercer the flame and the hotter the fire. To do that you’ll need your axe.

I know you think you’re a tough lumber jack sort, but cutting wood is really easy to do wrong, and your arrogance will deteriorate when your wood won’t split, and you’ve busted the axe head off your handle. A couple things about cutting wood.

  • If you’re sedentary, get a long handle axe, they provide more power so you don’t have to.
  • Make sure your blade is sharp
  • Birch is the easiest to split, so if you’re struggling try that.
  • Look for knots in the wood. Even Paul Bunyan will curse if he tries to split wood over a knot.
  • If the wood is wet it will be harder to split.
  • If you’re struggling, try taking off smaller pieces, instead of splitting it in half.

To cut the piece, place it on a wide cutting block, or stand it upright and lay another log on it’s side in front. This will keep your wood from falling over, and also will protect the blade, and your foot, if you miss.

Now stand with your feet apart and line your axe blade up with the wood. Remember, you’ll always over shoot where you aim, so it’s important that that you line up the axe about an inch closer to you. If you over shoot the log, your axe handle will come down on the wood and could break the blade off.

Once you’ve got it lined up, bring the axe above your head and swing it straight down upon the wood. If you didn’t get through the wood all the way, it’s because you’re a weakling. Try using more of your body strength. Your power is going to come from your legs and shoulders. When you come down on the wood, bend your knees so that the strength and weight of your body is transferred to the axe. Don’t try to cut wood with just your arms. If the blade gets stuck, use your hammer and pound it through the rest of the way.

Remember to keep that wood dry. If you will be traveling, I recommend keeping about eight small pieces of wood in your pack, as well as some birch bark. This will ensure access to dry wood even if it rains. Camp fires aren’t for smores anymore, your life depends on it.

  1. one important thing to note is that you have to grip the axe at the end of the handle, not halfway up. This allows you to put more power into the swing. It’s fine to hold the axe near the head for fine work like splitting kindling, where accuracy is more important than power. But for larger pieces always grip it near the end

  2. “Grip it near the end.” That’s what she said. Actually, Abraham Lincoln said, “Cut wood; it warms you twice.” Actually cutting wood burns roughly 450 to 500 calories and hour, so start your stack now, while you can still find a Chipotle. And as long as were on the subject of fires and energy… how about an article on how to generate power from steam?
    — The Future King of Upper Michigan

  3. The funny thing is, if you need to read a guide about how to chop wood, you’re totally fucked in the collapse.

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