There's an adage that says firewood warms you twice: once when you cut it and again when you burn it. Cutting and splitting firewood is a great way to warm up on a cool day, it’s an immensely absorbing activity and the feeling of reward that the wood stack gives you when you look at it gives a glow that lasts for weeks.

How to cut firewood

1. Limbing the log

After checking that the log you’re going to work on is lying completely flat on the ground and will remain stationary, trim the branches using the chain saw.

How to cut firewood to keep your warm during winter How to cut firewood to keep your warm during winter

2. The right length

Next is to mark the log with shallow grooves every 16 inches - unless your woodburner requires smaller or larger size firewood. The half-cut technique helps to avoid sawing the earth below the logs and fast becoming blunt. Cut only three quarters of the way through the log, using the marks as a guide. Then roll the log onto the other side and cut through the remaining quarter of wood.

3. Log splitting

The best tool for hand splitting firewood is a maul, which is a heavy hammer with a wedge-shaped head. The lighter sizes make it easier work to split for longer and is easier to wield.

How to cut firewood to keep your warm during winter How to cut firewood to keep your warm during winter

4. Chopping block

Now to choose a chopping block. Choose a log that’s a foot to a foot and a half high and at least 12 inches wide. Set it on flat ground and make sure there are no objects lying around that you could trip over.

How to cut firewood to keep your warm during winter How to cut firewood to keep your warm during winter

5. Making the cut

Stand one of your logs on its end on the block and stand yourself with feet shoulders’ width apart. Hold the maul with one hand at the end and the other near the top. You want to drive the maul through the centre of the log in a straight downward strike. Raise the maul over your head and slide the hand at the end down towards the hand near the head as you bring the maul down onto the log. Split to your heart’s content.

Storing wood

Good storage can make or break your winter fires. Most split firewood will need to dry for at least nine months or longer before it can properly burn.

If you own the land the wood is cut on, or have permission from the owner, you can leave the wood you have cut to dry there albeit bad weather and deterioration could take place.

You may prefer to make an attractive stack of firewood closer to the house and a covering over the top such as tarpaulin will protect from rain.

Perhaps the best way to prevent rot is to store firewood in a shed or garage or shed. The colour stays brighter too.

Once they’re seasoned, bringing split logs indoors for a few days before burning will help further lower the moisture content.

Which wood?

These all burn well when seasoned: Ash, Beech, Hawthorn, Hazel, Hornbeam, Horse Chestnut, Larch, Laurel, Lilac, Maple, Oak, Plum, Rowan, Sycamore, Sweet Chestnut, Thorn

These woods are fragrant when burnt: Apple, Birch, Cherry, Cedar, Pear, Pine, Yew

Stay safe

Do not be tempted to burn any wood that has been varnished, painted or treated with a coating of any sort. Burning treated wood can release noxious chemicals that carry health implications, for example, tanalised wood contains arsenic.

Do invest in the right clothing and safety equipment, it’s absolutely worth it.

  • Work boats, preferably with steel toe caps
  • Long trousers
  • Long sleeved shirt
  • Thick gloves
  • Safety glasses to protect from flying debris and sawdust.
  • Ear protection when using the chain saw
  • Face guard when using the chain saw
  • Keep a mobile phone handy in case of emergency