Monday, May 16, 2005


Bucking, quartering and splitting firewood is an extremely educational process, to say nothing of the bodily risk involved, as I’ve indicated many times in these unworthy chronicles. But the education afforded by hardwoods is not like college: it never ends. And in college a professor is unlikely to remove any of your fingers or toes. I’ve been firewooding for about ten fully educational years now, and today I learned a new one from firewood’s bag of tricks that's going straight into my Firewood Tactics Analysis File.

You’re halving then quartering a bucked section of oak with the splitting maul. As you are halving it, you introduce the following wedge to free up the starting wedge, which you then use to begin quartering the log while keeping the halves yet relatively intact, for stability. Once you’ve got the quarters to the point where you feel you can pull them apart by hand, you drive the maul head solidly into the top of the conniving chopping stump to free both hands, pull off the first quarter of the log, thus freeing the following wedge that was still inside; it falls in all apparent innocence to the ground.

You then try to pull the second half into quarters and find that they are still too strongly bound together. To free them, you need the following wedge. Later, you realize that the wood has known this all along. With one hand holding the unstable half-section and your mind focused on getting the wedge, you bend over the maul handle to pick up the wedge where it has been deviously tossed by the firewood; your chest presses to the precisely planned degree on the perfectly positioned maul handle thus freeing the maul, which, through its own counterweight, flips and thuds impressively into the ground exactly where your uneducated right foot would have been but for the agility that can still avail beyond the age of sixty when the moment requires.

So I remind myself once more: Do not sleep in the slightest while firewooding, because trees are always awake.

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