When to split the big stuff
I just had a 50', storm damaged maple taken down in my yard. I had the crew leave the wood in 18" lengths. Some pieces are more than 3' wide. It's freshly cut and won't split at all. I have a good splitting maul but the wood justs absorbs it. If I want to use the wood for firewood this winter. Should I just rent a hydraulic splitter and get to work now, or will the wood split better with a maul in a few months?
Thanks in advance for any info!
I recommend splitting the wood as soon as possible, especially if you are planning on burning the wood this winter. Even if you get it split and stacked in early summer, you may be cutting it close on having it properly seasoned.
There are a few different ways that you can approach the splitting problem.
The first is to continue to whack at it by hand but buy some steel splitting wedges that can be pounded in with the back of the maul. If you work a couple of these in on a line, you can get the wood split. It's still a lot of work, but it's doable. Just be sure that the wedges are firmly into the wood before using full swings as they can have a tendency to bounce out otherwise.
The second method is to half or quarter the big pieces with a chainsaw. This will make the pieces smaller so that they can be split efficiently with a maul. Because you are cutting with the grain of the wood in this method, I recommend using a ripping chain on the saw. Ripping chains are filed specially for cutting with the grain of the wood and are much easier on the chainsaw. Below is an example of a ripping chain. Before you buy one for your saw, consult the numbers on the chainsaw bar to get the proper size and number of drivelinks (DL) that you need to order.
As you suggested, my final thought is to rent a hydraulic splitter for a day. This is certainly the easiest, but most expensive option. If you are having difficulty splitting even the small pieces now, you should probably go this route.
Some people claim that wood splits easiest when it is fresh, others claim the exact opposite. In my experience, most wood species split best when fresh but the difference is usually negligable.
I hope this helps!