Doing the splits!

A nice cosy fire in the fall and winter is one of the features we love about our house in Daglan. Although we have electric heat as well, the fireplace provides much of the warmth — and a great deal of the charm — for our main living area. The downside is having to keep the fire supplied with oak logs of just the right size.

Which brings us to the chore of splitting.

For a while , my wife Jan and I had been talking about buying a motorized log splitter, but we just weren’t sure it was worth the investment. Personally, I enjoy swinging the heavy axe to split our firewood — most of the time. But every now and then, the log I’m hitting feels like it’s made of a titanium alloy, and the axe head simply bounces off.

We were discussing this recently with new friend Colin, who offered to lend us his splitter. I jumped at the chance, and Colin was good enough to bring the heavy piece of machinery to our house and show me how to use it. I liked it so much that I managed to split a good portion of the firewood in our garage — and Jan and I decided then and there to buy our own machine.

So this past Saturday, we drove into Gourdon and paid 199 euros for our very own splitter. It has a maximum capacity of five tonnes of pressure, which Colin said we would need. And here it is, with Jan (wearing heavy leather gloves) taking the first step, which involves placing a log on the bed of the machine:

Loading splitter

A log is placed on the splitter's bed.

Next, she holds down a safety lever at the back of the machine, and presses a button to start up the electric motor, which in turn activates a hydraulic ram. The ram starts to move forward, until it comes in contact with the log, like this:

Starting up

The log is being pushed against the blade.

In order to keep the machine moving, Jan has to continue holding down the safety lever while pressing the button for the motor. And as the ram keeps pushing forward, the log comes into contact with a triangular steel blade at the end of the machine and begins to split along the grain. As it travels, it often makes delicious cracking and crunching noises:

Starting the split

The log is splitting in two, with a nice crunch.

Now the split continues, as the ram reaches the end of its run. The two halves of the log are ready to be picked up and added to our pile:

Split log

The log is now well and truly split.

And the result of all this? Well, Jan enjoyed operating the machine so much that she kept at it for a couple of hours, and wound up splitting all the remaining firewood that was stacked up in the garage. Here’s the finished product:

Wood pile

The logs are now ready to be carried up to the fireplace.

Is that enough to last us the rest of the winter? We’re not sure. We’ve been getting hard frosts lately, and the days are pretty cool. But every now and then it feels like spring is just around the corner (and February is, believe it or not, often a lovely month in the Greater Daglan Area). But the good news is that if we have to order another load of firewood to be delivered, we won’t be dreading the splitting process.

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6 Responses to Doing the splits!

  1. I’ve never tried using one – but it looks like fun! Ness and I are almost out of our first two face cords – and February is NEVER a lovely month in the Greater Toronto Area…

  2. loren24250 says:

    Well, I wouldn’t say “fun” exactly — it can be a bit touchy when you hit a really tough knot and the machine jams (then you have to free the log by banging it with the flat side of your axe) — but I’m surprised how really useful the machine is. It’s a keeper for sure!

  3. Janet Roberts says:

    I would have never thunk….splitting logs mechanically! My Dad would have been proud re: the splitting logs…but a bit perplexed by the mechanical part!

  4. loren24250 says:

    Hi Doc Jan, Yes, we were a bit perplexed at first — and a bit nervous too. Every now and then a piece of wood goes flying, but so far no one has been hit — and the whole process is a lot less taxing than axing!

  5. Jens et Francoise says:

    Bonjour, Tous nos voeux pour l’achat de cette nouvelle machine, ingénieuse qui permet enfin de faire un feu correct dans un poele daglanais. Mais je crois que le printemps arrive à grands pas dans le GDA!!!!

  6. foodtable says:

    I don’t know if all those logs will last all winter (hopefully so), but it makes for a wonderful picture. Thanks for posting this, I have never seen one of these machines.

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