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Handsaw Sharpening & Traditional Tools with Mike Hagemyer

  The Controlled Split by Mike Hagemyer 1 of 3  


Recently a friend was clearing a fence line on his farm and asked if I could use some fire wood.


No, I answered but what kind of wood would it be? Red oak was the reply. Is it clean wood or dead branches, I asked? He stated the tree had been hit by lightning but there was a pretty good size trunk. I told him I was looking for some clean wood that I could hand split for lathe stock and maybe some other small projects.

A week later my wife called me to say someone had dumped a couple tree stumps in our driveway. Don’t worry dear I will take care of it.

I figured this would be a chance to break out some old tools I haven’t got to use in years. I started by sharpening the hatchets and wedges. Then I used some scrap Plexiglas to make a couple layout tools 4” and 2 ˝’ wide. With a felt tip pen I laid out a grid on the ends of the pieces. Now I have split a lot of fire wood back in my youth but never before have I tried controlling the shape of the pieces.

I will also admit that I have already done the first piece and it did not turn out as well as I had hoped. I made the mistake of laying out the grid such that it was centered on the pith. I thought that would give the best yield but it did not. The 4 center pieces turned out rather irregular because the pith was not straight.

Not wanting to make the same mistake, I laid out the second piece using a different strategy. I let the pith be in the center of one of the larger size squares. Hopefully this will produce pretty good stock all around it. The following picture shows the layout a little closer up.

You can see the check right through the pith here and imagine why the grid might be better off taking advantage of the natural split. The Xs are marking the scrap and I also have a feeling the center piece will be also. We will see.

I used the Millers Falls hatchet and a two pound hammer to first score all the split lines about a half inch deep. Hopefully that will improve the chances of the split going my way. Then I use two hatchets and drive them in together on one split line until the piece cracks most of the way down.

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Buck Bros

Winsted Tools


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