I've said it before, and I'll say it again: splitting fire wood can be mighty satisfying. Especially when you use the super easy combo of sledge hammer and a diamond-shaped wedge known as a Wood Grenade, pictured here at various stages of usage. The left-most wedge is relatively new, having only been used this season. The next one is brand, spanking new, and the two to the right are the remnants of the two wedges that Keith managed to de-commission this year. It amazes me that these heavy carbon steel tools can have their tips broken off so easily - we lose an average of one Wood Grenade per splitting season. (By the way, here is a larger image of a totally new Wood Grenade.)
I find the Wood Grenade incredibly easy to use and master, but not everyone feels the same way about it. Noel Perrin, the rural essayist, wrote a piece eschewing the Wood Grenade in favor of the old-fashioned standard two-sided steel wedge. A standard wedge, for the uninitiated, has a business end that looks something like a pry-bar, but with a smooth edge. Anyway, Perrin claimed that, in a series of test trials that he devised and performed, the Wood Grenade required a higher number of swings of the sledgehammer to split the log. He said that an experienced woodsman knew where to place a conventional splitting wedge - just so - and could split a log with one or two swings. Maybe Perrin was onto something about experience, because I find conventional blade-shaped wedges to be so difficult to place as to be nearly intolerable. But then again, perhaps he was the one lacking in experience, experience using a 4-sided wedge. I can split a well-seasoned log in five whacks, on average. Keith requires fewer whacks - and often he splits smaller diameter logs with just one whack of his splitting maul.
In any case, we've finished up our wood splitting for the season. We have so much split fire wood, we're running out of places to stack it - and we still have plenty of downed trees in the back waiting to be cut up. Maybe we should form a timber company like Bush. If we sold enough timber, we'd not only get the small business tax breaks, we'd also get the agricultural property tax rate that we can only qualify for by selling $1,200 worth of agricultural products every year. Hey, the county might call us a "farmette", but we've got to do some real farming if that's ever going to be more than an informal designation. As if. In the meantime, we remain a farmette in name only, just for kicks.
Edit: Well, it might just be handy if I explained why I find the Wood Grenade so much easier to use than a standard splitting wedge. In a word: stability. I can tap the tip into the end of a log with a tap or two of a sledgehammer, and the wedge will stand upright, waiting to be driven home with some proper whacks. If the log has previously frozen and is checked (i.e., has little cracks on its ends), the tip of the diamond-shaped wedge will go in that much more securely, and the log will crack open in next to no time. The two-sided splitting wedge, on the other hand, is difficult to keep in place because of its long, flat, narrow tip. If the log is checked, I can tap the tip into a crack so that it will hold without my having to hold the wedge (after all, who wants to hold a wedge like a big nail while trying to swing a sledgehammer at it?). If the log is not checked, the standard wedge becomes that much more difficult to place.
Apparently, Noel Perrin didn't sweat over placing the wedge as I do. His complaint about the Wood Grenade stems from its greater surface area. He said that a slim, small wedge was easier to drive into a log because there was less surface area to provide resistance. To each his - or her - own. We do all our splitting by hand, and Perrin, when he wasn't conducting and writing about his woodcraft experiments, relied mostly on the use of a hydraulic wood splitter so that he could keep up with maintaining his 100+ acre Vermont farm with its large woodlot.