How To Split Kindling Wood

Learning how to split kindling wood quickly and efficiently is really important if you are going to be lighting fires regularly. Here in the UK we rarely have a need to keep fires in over night so one of the first winter jobs each morning is to relight the wood stove. While we use a mix of different lighting techniques, from making feather sticks to using egg boxes all fire lighting needs a good supply of very dry kindling.

We have been using up an old supply of dry oak lathes - very think strips of split oak that used to be used to support wall plaster in old buildings - but these will soon run out and we'll be back to splitting our own kindling wood again.

Generally splitting kindling is a pain - you swing with your hatchet and pieces fly off. Pick them up and resplit them again, and again and again. As the pieces get smaller you get closer and closer to giving yourself an unexpected manicure! Frankly novices splitting kindling scare me - I'm always mentally preparing myself to see a finger go flying off with the splits!

A better way to split kindling wood

Choose your driest wood, with nice straight grain, when splitting your kindling.

Choose your driest wood with the straightest grain when splitting kindling

Fortunately there is a better way to split your kindling wood down to size. Choose a nice straight and well seasoned log, one with an even grain and no obvious knots. Use a piece of old rope or a piece of bicycle inner tube an tie it around the base of the log, just below halfway, and place the log on your splitting block.

Now we get to use a great tool, the Froe (sometimes misspelled as frow), which is a traditional woodsmans tool used for splitting large logs to make thin, flat roofing shingles. It has a long heavy blade which can be rested across your log and then driven in with a heavy wooden mallet. A twist of the wrist on the long handle and the log will split down it's length. Repeat to make slices through your log every inch or so, making sure that the pieces are separated all the way through.

Video of splitting kindling wood

If you have done it properly the rope or inner tube will have held all the pieces together and upright. Simply turn the froe through 90 degrees and split the other way, turning your slices of kindling wood into batons around an inch square. In this way you can get through a log around a minute and make enough kindling for many fires.

Key Points

  • Make sure your log is fully seasoned before you start - trying to light green kindling is an exercise in frustration
  • Use the right tool - a froe is relatively cheap and will save you many hours of work
  • Choose a log with straight grain that will split easily - save the gnarly ones for the stove
  • If you only have green wood available, make smaller splits and stack them somewhere dry but exposed to the wind. They will dry a little even in winter. If you are really struggling stick an armful in the airing cupboard for a week!
  • Try and do a large batch at once - it will be much more time effective. A couple of hours work should be sufficient to set you up for the winter.

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