The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Unidentified log

a log too tough to split?

a log very hard to splitWe haven't been able to identify this type of log to the left.

Maybe it needs more than a year to age, but each attempt to split it only results in the axe bouncing off.

I think it may have even been too tough for the chainsaw. When we got it tuned up recently the repair guy pointed out how the piston is scored, which may have been connected to cutting logs like this one.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Maple is one of the hardest woods to split. Can't tell much from the picture, though.
Comment by Errol Sat Mar 29 16:00:39 2014
We had a hybrid poplar with light colored wood and narrow rings. Even after a couple of years, the splitting maul would bounce off and barely leave a dent in the wood.
Comment by David From Alabama Sat Mar 29 18:23:29 2014
I know bois d'arc trees are exceptionally hard to cut. They can downright burn out chainsaws. I got some good results googling for images but they won't let me copy and paste here. You might check in that direction.
Comment by Kristi Johnson Sat Mar 29 19:51:27 2014
In my neck of the woods hard woods like oak and madrone should be split while still wet. Soft wood like pine and fir split easier when dried.
Comment by mona Sat Mar 29 20:26:27 2014

Down here in TX live oak will dull a chainsaw cutting about six rounds ,ya need two spare chains and a file to cut up a decent sized tree , then let it dry for a year and split down the cracks , ya usually need a sledge hammer to drive the maul through . ANY chainsaw no matter how worn or ornary is better than a whip saw ! .

Comment by Diogenese Sat Mar 29 20:31:16 2014
I see that log and could it be from an old osage tree? They are impossible to cut and the limbs have thorns.
Comment by Ruthlynn Savoy Sat Mar 29 23:35:25 2014
That bark looks like it could be elm.
Comment by Su Sun Mar 30 02:50:31 2014

The growth rings in the top picture, and the way the bark looks like it falls off, leaving an extra-smooth log underneath makes me think elm, maybe American elm (scroll down for picture of growth rings). If it is an elm, you might also be able to see some bark beetle feeding galleries after the bark comes off.

What does the fresh-cut wood smell like? Elm has more of a pungent-sweet scent than most other hardwoods (in my mind, anyway), although sycamore is similar, and also hard to split.

Comment by Jake Sun Mar 30 03:59:48 2014
Can't see enough detail but the only time i've had a bounce it was walnut. Even with a razor sharp fiskars. I let it dry out for 2 years then I could split. Best burning wood.
Comment by jim Sun Mar 30 08:23:21 2014
It looks like Elm or Water Elm. Either way they are nasty to split. Your maul will bounce off the first 5 times you hit it then if you do get it started it's "stringy" and won't separate. We have started cutting them down when they're about 6-8 inches in diameter so they don't need to be split.
Comment by Kathy Ramsay Sun Mar 30 09:46:30 2014
I would have to guess it's more elm than anything else. It's hard to tell from your photos but the bark is not patchy enough looking to be sycamore and definitely not osage. Could possibly be ash as it isn't the hardest wood but depending on age can cause a bit of bounce back and doesn't crack like oak and maple. But you would see ash borer bettle nest all inside the bark.
Comment by Marco Sun Mar 30 09:59:50 2014

Looks like elm to me. The bark looks like elm, but it is the look of the growth rings that really make me think elm. We have lots of dead elm on our farm (due to the dutch elm disease) so I know the wood quite well, as it is one of the main standing dead trees we cut down for our wood stove.

As for splitting, it is brutal. Rounds with a branch in them may be impossible to split. From personal observation I've come to the conclusion that elm wood seems to have a twisted or spiral grain and this is the reason it is often so difficult to split. For best results try chipping off bite sized pieces off of the edge of the logs. After splitting a lot of elm you should start to learn to read the grain a little better which really helps in splitting it.

Cheers from Canada! We're just starting to feel the effects of spring. This winter has been a long and cold!

Comment by Tom B Sun Mar 30 14:46:46 2014
put your fire wood on the round side. and cut with your saw now you are cutting with the grain. and your wood chips will be huge cut about 3/4 threw then hit the crack you made with maul. it works.!!!!!!!!!!!
Comment by tom Mon Mar 31 10:57:11 2014
Sweet Gum. I once won a $50 bet by splitting a gum log. They are notorious for being impossible to split. Trick is NOT to try to split into pie wedges. Instead go out to the edge and split off small slabs around the edge of the log. It's still hard to split; but it does work.
Comment by 1suffolkmare Tue Apr 1 08:45:53 2014

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