This Old House

toolkit

FUEL UP FOR WINTER

A better wood splitter

This axe’s off-kilter head speeds the task of breaking down logs into firewood—and makes it safer. TOH building technology editor Thomas Baker gets into the fine points.

The backstory

Since the Bronze Age, people have been splitting logs with wedge-shaped axe-heads attached to long handles. And for thousands of years, the tools worked pretty well, despite their tendency to get stuck, or skip off and slice into the ground, or, heaven forbid, a foot. In 1995, Finnish woodsman Heikki Kärnä set out to create a safer, more effective tool. After 20 prototypes, he perfected a design that uses levering action to separate wood fibers—hence its name, Leveraxe.

How it works

As Leveraxe’s tapered blade strikes, it sinks about ¼ inch into the wood, and the head rotates sharply right, prying wood fibers apart and engaging the hook. The handle must be allowed to rotate clockwise on impact.

Safety first

• Choose a clean, dry site. Do your splitting in a level area free of ice, loose logs, and other trip hazards.

Wear protective gear. Slip on gloves to stave off blisters and splinters, leather boots (ideally steel-toed) to safeguard feet, and goggles to guard against flying wood chips.

Splitting 101

Stand logs on a platform (a large wood

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