Use a maul or splitting wedges to split hardwood. A splitting maul is essentially a thicker, more wedge-shaped axe made for splitting hardwood along the grain, with a blunt sledge-hammer edge on the back of the splitting blade. These are typically somewhat heavier than an axe, usually by several pounds, and the weight of the maul makes the job easier.
Splitting wedges are basically metal wedges that you drive into the wood with a sledge. The benefit of the wedge is that you can place it along the grain to split the wood, then drive it into the exact same place until it splits.
Axes are used to chop wood, not to split it. It’s best to use a maul or splitting wedges if you want to split hardwood.
Cut your wood to length. Normal wood stoves and smaller fireplaces usually take a 16 to 20 inch (40 to 50 cm) log, and the shorter the log is, the more easily it will split. You should cut your wood to the most efficient length for your purpose, in terms of both handling and storing it, as well as making it a suitable length for your application.
Try to cut the ends of each piece of firewood square and flat, as you will need to stand them on end to split them, and crooked cuts will make this difficult to do.
Set up a chopping block. Usually a large section of the tree’s trunk, this will be the surface you place individual logs on to split them, making it easier to swing your axe, and causing less strain on your back. A wood surface about 6 inches off the ground is appropriate for any splitting job.
The block should be neither too high nor too short, to avoid dangerous ricochets if you should strike a glancing blow.
Always split on some kind of block, never the ground and never concrete. The ground will do in a pinch, but you’ll tire more easily if you have to lift the heavy maul that much higher. Save your strength and split on a block, especially if you’ve got a lot of wood to split.
Set up in a safe location. Allow for good footing and make sure there is no debris or overhanging limbs around where you will be working.
Splitting hardwood is especially efficient on cold days, if the wood has been properly aged before splitting. Pieces of hardwood will pop right apart with the proper technique during cold weather, making your job much easier.
Always wear the appropriate protective gear. For a day of splitting hardwood, outfit yourself properly. You should wear good-quality gloves to save your hands from splinters that will make the work much more uncomfortable, safety glasses, and solid work boots, preferably with a steel-toe. Never split wood by yourself, make sure someone else is at least around who’ll be able to aid if you should have an accident.