Best Ways to Use Log Splitter Wedges
Watch Jared and Jake (@Dude Ranch DIY) back at the farm to tackle another very common question - What are the best ways to utilize the different types of log splitter wedges?
This video shows how to use the two-way, four-way, and six-way wedges as we split some different-sized rounds. Jake has years of experience as an arborist and splitting his own firewood to burn and sell, so he has all kinds of insight into how to best split green wood vs seasoned, elm vs oak, and how to best cut down that monster log full of knots.
Welcome back to RuggedMade. I'm Jared, and today I'm here with Jake from Dude Ranch DIY. Hey, everybody. So, Jake, it's great to have you here. I know we've been having a lot of fun. We've made a few other videos. Hopefully, our viewers are going to see those other ones as well. Yeah. One of the topics that we've covered in a past video, is, you know, how to operate your splitter. Kind of just, you know, "Splitting 101." Today, we wanted to tackle a question where we dig a little deeper into operating your splitter.
If your splitter has options of splitting with, you know, here we've just got your straight standard blade. You know, every splitter is going to have at least this regardless of the make or model. A lot of splitters nowadays need to come with a four-way of some kind. Right. Here we've got a slip-on example that goes to our 700-Series. Our 500-Series has, you know, the bolt-on wings that, again, that is in one of our other videos where we get all the splitters lined up together. That's a great one. And then, we also have the Holy Grail: the six-way blade.
So, I wanted to kind of pick your brains and, you'll kind of help our audience get a better sense of, you know, when does the four-way make sense? When do you need to take that off and just split with the straight blade? And, when can you get away with the six-way and get that high productivity [and] get all those pieces in one pass? Right. You know, what's been your experience?
So, I mean, me, myself having this machine or a machine pretty similar to it, I do have all three of these options and I [have to] say, they're all great. I'd say, out of all three, I use the four-way, hands down, the most and that's probably followed by, pretty equally, the six-way and the single-way wedge. The single-way and the six-way are pretty unique in that they have a very specific purpose, I find, for the type of wood that I do and the type of splitting that I do.
The four-way is kind of like your bread and butter. Most things can go through it. I'd say about 90% of things can go through it and about 10% of all the wood I split, I use for that six-way or that single-way wedge. The times I find myself using the single-way is really when I have a really big round. Granted, I do tree work, so I'm bringing home a lot of the wood from trees that I take down. Okay. So, I have large trunks of trees, sometimes getting up to 40” in diameter. When the wood's free, you can't always be picky. Right. Exactly.
So, I find because I'm also not always splitting with a second person that when I'm by myself and I have one of those big rounds, the log lift is a great asset to have. You can get that big round up onto the splitter. Yeah. But when you're by yourself, although a lot of the time the machine has the power to push through it or push it through, using the four-way wedge, it's kind of hard to manage four really big quarters of wood, being by myself. Because, one wants to go that way, one wants to go this way and I can't be in two places at once. Yeah. So that's when I like to use that single-way wedge because although it's going to take two more cycles to get it into four pieces, it's a lot more manageable. You don't have pieces falling over. You don't have to go back and get them. You're just dealing with two pieces, which can pretty easily be pushed onto your catch tray here.
Yeah. It's a little counterintuitive that sometimes going back to the straight blade is more efficient. Right, because there's, you know, if you do that four-way and you're trying to be a hero, sometimes those pieces go all over the place. And, even, you know, if it is in four pieces, that's still a pretty sizable chunk of wood to have to get back onto the splitter. So that's kind of my take on the single-way wedge there. So, it sounds like these are, you know, really different tools in the toolbox. You’ve got to pull out the right tool depending on the situation.
So, let's go, let's talk a little more about, how do you determine when you're going to use which one? We’ve got, you know, a few different logs here, but I think type of wood is one factor and size is another. So, tell us a little about how you would make that decision based on, all right, here are the logs I'm going to split today or even within one session of splitting, you might be dealing with totally different kinds of logs. Right. Different, you know, for different batches, different trees, different, you know,... So what are the factors?
I think some other factors are definitely, like you said, species of wood. Everybody knows that oak splits, for the most part, really nice. It pops open similar to ash. Maple can be a little bit iffy here and there. Elm is definitely a really stringy type of wood, as is hickory, but all species of wood, no matter, you know, if it's oak or hickory or elm, you're going to be dealing with knots, a lot of the time. Not everybody gets perfect firewood poles out of the forest. So, if you're dealing with knots and they're sizable knots, a lot of the time it's going to be easier and you're going to get nicer end product of wood if you're not using the six-way and sometimes not even using the four-way but just using that single-way wedge. Because, you can really cater and turn the piece of wood to avoid going through that knot, which makes it easier on the machine. And, at the end of the day, you're going to get a nicer, more uniform split than, you know, a piece where you're trying to go right through that knot.
Now, what about, you know, giving different breeds and different diameters of log. How important would you say seasoning and moisture is to whether you can get it past a four-way, get it past the six-way, or you still need to go to the straight blade?
Right. Most of the time, at least from my experience, I'm splitting wood that has been freshly cut down. So, a lot of the time it's green wood. I don't have the space or the time to really be cutting up rounds of wood and then waiting for them to season, so to speak, and then split them, and at the end of the day, only about four inches on either side of those cuts, in my opinion, is really gonna dry out to any great extent. It's still going to be pretty wet on the inside. When dealing with the machine of this size, I really don't think it matters. If you're using a kinetic style splitter and trying to split really big rounds or a much smaller style splitter, maybe it would matter a little bit more, but I even think you're you know your 300-Series 22-ton machine doesn't make much of a difference for the most part when you know splitting green versus, you know, seasoned rounds.
Well, Jake, I appreciate that insight, especially when it comes to how much seasoning and drying really happens. We all want to live in the perfect world where we split and then the stuff sits there seasoning for two years. It's almost kiln-dried and then we split it and it just, you just start it and it just goes “pop.” That's not the real world. Right. We're splitting in December for wood we're going to burn that day, you know, that's the world a lot of us really live in. But, it's good to know that in your experience a bit of seasoning certainly does help. Yeah. You can tell the difference between drier wood; it does pop and it splits. You sometimes don't even have to complete a whole outbound stroke to get it fully split. Right. But, the greener, stringier stuff is, I think, what a lot of people are dealing with on a daily basis, which is why this is, I think, an interesting question. When can they use which blade? Right. I definitely agree. I think if we were comparing an ax to a splitter, then definitely, you know, a drier piece of wood would be more effective. If using, like, a splitting mole or an ax to split. But, these machines’ technology has gotten to the point where, you know, we can split green wood and it works pretty well.
Well, we've got some wood to split. Why don't we fire up the machine and see what happens when we match up the right kind of log to the right kind of blade and when we match up, maybe, too much log for a given blade? All right. Sounds good. Let's do it.
So why don't we start with the four-way. It's pretty much industry standard these days. Every machine seems to come with a four-way and, just a moment ago you said that most of your splitting is able to be done with the four-way. Yeah, I use the four-way all the time. I think it is really suited for all sized pieces of wood, even getting down to your final size splits. I really like it because you can make really uniform size pieces of wood and that's important to me as I sell firewood. So, if you have a stove or a fireplace that only takes certain-size pieces or you find it's easier to get uniform square pieces or triangle pieces into your small insert or wood stove, the four-way is really good for that. And, you also have the benefit of taking a full-size round and busting it into four smaller pieces in one push as opposed to the single way wedge. So, the four-way is found on my machine most of the time and it's a real time saver.
All right, so why don't you pick a log that you think is kind of the ideal size for a four-way, kind of on the bigger side that it can split? Yeah, I mean, so I like to use it honestly for some of these bigger pieces. The only downfall is that sometimes it can be split you know into four pieces and it's hard to manage but I think with the two of us here, once that bigger piece is split we can each kind of grab a side and put it back onto the log lift and make some really nice firewood. All right.
So, a good thing with the four-way is that we just busted up that big round into four pieces. It's nice having you there to catch it. Yeah. But now that the pieces are a little bit more manageable, this piece doesn't really need to be split into four. So, if you orient it horizontally, it's going to glide right under those four-way wings and just be split into two and make a nice, uniform piece of wood.
Now, to get a log down to the size this will be after this next pass, is that for the firewood that you sell or would it be the same for a fire that you're going to burn yourself? Generally, because I'm burning in a wood stove, I don't mind to have slightly larger pieces but I gear my firewood for selling. It's typically smaller. One, because it dries faster and two, I want everybody to be able to handle it. So, a piece this size, although it is a little bit big, I would put this in my stove but I'd like everybody to be able to pick up my firewood with one hand and easily be able to maneuver it and load it into a basket or a wheelbarrow. Fantastic.
So, once you've gotten a log that size broken down, I mean, these pieces are pretty much ready to burn or sell, but we still have that first half. Would you ever swap out the blade if you were running a machine that had that option? Absolutely. So, once we pop this open, or before we pop it open I should say, it wasn't apparent that there was a big knot in there. So, if we show everybody. That is a pretty gnarly crotch. You can see here where it split into two and then came back into one. There was even another little knot over here. So, that would be a good candidate, at least in my mind, to pop off the four-way which is pretty easily done once we get this wood out of here. And, if we're going for uniform-sized pieces and consistent-sized pieces and neat pieces that aren't all mangled up, I think the single-way wedge would be a great candidate to bust that in half and then we can put back on the four-way. Okay. Yeah, let's try that.
So, I noticed after you took the four-way off, broke that down into smaller pieces, you went right back to the four-way. Yeah, so once you split that big piece right down the middle, because you have the single wedge there, it's easy to line up the center line of that knot with the tip of the blade and then it basically just split it into two perfect pieces, and, you're able to avoid a lot of that knot. Then, once you send this through the four-way, you're left with this knot. If you orient it properly, you can basically get this knot to the left of the wedge and up above this wing so you're isolating that knot to basically one piece of wood. So, although this wood is a little bit stringy, you can maximize the amount of clean wood that you're able to produce while minimizing your really gnarly pieces. Yeah. Well, we'd split some of this wood before you came so we knew this was stringy and had some knots, so, I mean, we weren't trying to make it look easy by getting some perfect, straight-grain stuff. No, by no means. This is a… This is real. Yeah. Definitely a real piece and real knots that aren't the easiest to split but this machine makes it a hell of a lot easier. Yeah. It's interesting how once it’s split open and you can get your eyes on the grain, then you have a little more control over right where you line up the blade. And when I'm splitting, I like to always keep the knots facing up. That way, I can see the orientation and you can kind of isolate it to a quarter or a half, depending on which wedge you're using to just isolate that knot to like one sector, so to speak.
Okay. So, we can finish off this log and then what should we do next? Maybe find a piece that you think is a good candidate for the six-way? Yeah. We got a couple pieces over here that would be great candidates. When you're using the six-way, I think diameter is the biggest factor because if you try and use too big of a piece, you're left with six really big pieces and you're then going to have to go back and split them again. I mean, the six-way really isn't the best at that because of all the blades going everywhere, so I find that if you have nice uniform-diameter pieces, you can send it through once, one and done.
Now, that looked like it split pretty nicely. That split nice and easy and you're left with some pretty uniform pieces. What typically happens, I find, when you're using a six-way with a round that's too big is that the round sits higher up above the six-way so these two pieces on the top and sometimes even on the sides, if it's big enough, are going to be significantly larger than your two pieces on the bottom. And, in this case, here's a piece coming off the top and here's a piece coming off the bottom. And, although the one on the top is a little bit larger, it's not so much larger that it's unburnable or it's a problem, in other words. It's not a precise science. Right. Exactly. We're not going for absolutely perfect but the six-way has its place and when you have that perfect diameter, it makes things move a lot quicker. Yeah. Well, I thought that was an interesting point you made about you want the customer to be able to just grab each piece with one hand and just stack their wood or stoke their furnace. That's really interesting. Absolutely.
Let's grab another one. I think we've got a couple more here that maybe will split just as well and then we'll maybe try one that won't split so well.
All right. So, as you can see, it even splits elm with relative ease when it's nice, straight grain and a decent size. Yeah. So, the elm is definitely showing its stringiness here. It's a little bit green, too. Yeah. It's definitely wet on the inside, but for the most part we have some pretty nice, uniform pieces and the six-way shines when you have that right diameter. I really think that's the key. Yeah. All right, so we've seen two different logs, two different styles of wood that both split but they had a similar diameter. Right. Should we tackle one of these monsters and see what happens? Let’s get ambitious! Let’s take one of the big ones and we can show what the six-way does to a big piece of wood. Yeah.
Yeah, that's just… So, pretty much, too much resistance. As we both thought, it’s just too much friction there. Yeah. And, not to mention, as you can see this is a great example of how these pieces on the bottom are going to be your nice, uniform. Then you’ve got these middle pieces which are going to be a little bit larger than these, but smaller than the top. And, these tops, they could be whole logs just themselves. So, it begs the question, why not just go with the straight blade and break this into quarters? Right. And, then go with a four-way or six-way at that point. [With] rounds this size, I really think the single-way is the best way to do it. You quarter it up using the single. If you go ahead and try and use the four-way, you're still going to be left with that issue that your two bottom quarters are going to be significantly smaller than these larger ones and these larger ones might be too much for some people to handle. And, even if you are able to lift it and move it around, why stress yourself out? Take the little extra time. Use that single-way wedge and I think, in the end, the machine's going to be happier, your wood's going to be more uniform, and it's going to be easier. Yeah, and not only are we not able to split this with the six-way on there, but we pretty much have a situation now where it's kind of jammed on there. Right. Let’s see how hard it is. It's pretty well on there, so I think this might be a case for the old sledgehammer. Yeah, this is not what you want to set yourself up for. There we go. So, if we slip this off, I think we can bust this down pretty easily.
So, I saw you went right back to the four-way once you had it quartered. Yeah, so that's the beauty of these wedges just slipping on and off. You can go right from that single to the four-way and once you have it quartered up into, what I'd say are pretty identical size quarters, you can throw back on that four-way and it'll make nice-sized firewood pretty consistently. Yeah, and I think you have a lot of flexibility over just how small you want to go. Right. Everybody has unique standards and sizes that they want if they're selling, if they're using it for themselves, is it for a bonfire, is it for an indoor furnace. Exactly. And, how fast do you want it to dry? Yeah, or do you need it to dry? Which is a great segue into what is going to be one of our upcoming videos on stacking and drying, so be sure to check that one out. We'll be talking a lot more detail about some of those considerations. Yeah, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to these blades. No, there isn't, which is why they're so easily interchangeable and why if you have a machine of this size it's nice to be able to have both single, four, and six-way.
Yeah. Well, it's great to get the input from someone who really knows their way around splitting and what you know as a tree expert, about the wood itself and the way the grain works and how it dries and that's really interesting. I hope our viewers have enjoyed this. I want to thank Jake for coming up to visit us up here at RuggedMade again. Be sure to check him out at Dude Ranch DIY. Yeah. Thanks for having me. All right. This has been fun.