How do I Cut Firewood?

Brendan McGuigan

Cutting firewood can be separated into a number of different phases, from felling the initial tree all the way through cutting pieces of wood into kindling. Each phase has its own ins and outs, and correct procedure will result in well-shaped, dry wood that will burn better, hotter, and cleaner. Although strategies differ somewhat depending on the type of wood being cut, you can use the same general set of guidelines to cut firewood of most types.

Once cut firewood should be stacked on a raised platform.
Once cut firewood should be stacked on a raised platform.

The first thing you need to do to cut firewood is to chainsaw the tree into rounds. If you’re felling the tree yourself, you’ll need to research proper felling technique, to ensure you remain safe at all times. Once the tree is on the ground, you’ll begin to cut it into manageable pieces with a chainsaw. Be sure to wear proper protective gear the entire time you cut firewood, with goggles, heavy gloves, boots, and clothing covering your upper and lower body. A proper chainsawing stance is with legs braced slightly apart, in a way that is both comfortable and supports the upper body.

The first step to cutting firewood is using a chainsaw to cut the tree into rounds.
The first step to cutting firewood is using a chainsaw to cut the tree into rounds.

Begin by cutting off all the small branches from the felled tree, leaving just a large central trunk, and larger branches that can become firewood in their own right. Generally, when using a chainsaw to cut firewood, you will be cutting from the top down, and the force of gravity will naturally pull one side of the tree away from the other. In cases when there is too much tension, this may cause the wood to pinch, in which case you will need to cut from the bottom up. Cut the log into rounds that are not so long they won’t fit into your stove or fireplace, and roll them into a pile where they can then be split.

Splitting rounds is one of the most laborious steps when setting out to cut firewood. The longer the round, the harder it will be to split, so if you’re just beginning, you may find it easiest to cut firewood from rounds no more than one foot (0.3m) long. Using a maul, you’ll split your rounds into burnable pieces of firewood. Unless you are incredibly strong, using a lighter maul will produce much better results than a heavier maul, since you’ll be able to swing it much faster, producing a great deal more force.

The easiest way to cut firewood is to set the round on a hard piece of earth, so that little force is lost into the ground. It should sit downslope from you, so that leverage works in your favor. Strike the round with one forceful blow, nearer to the edge than to the center, then recover the maul and strike again, at the same spot or along the same crack. As the crack develops, begin striking a point along the same fault line but on the other edge, until the two edges meet.

Once you’ve cut your firewood, it’s important to stack it properly. Stack it on a raised platform, off of the ground, and under some sort of covering to protect it from moisture. Ideally, during sunny days you should let it absorb the sun and dry out, as drier wood will burn more easily and cleaner than wet wood. Some species of wood, such as oak, are easier to split when green, so you’ll want to split them as soon as you fell the tree. Others, like most pine, split better when dry, so let them dry out after cutting them into rounds before splitting them.

Firewood is cut in a specific way at each phase to ensure a higher burning quality.
Firewood is cut in a specific way at each phase to ensure a higher burning quality.

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Discussion Comments


@RocketLanch8- My family had a cast iron stove, too, but we would usually buy firewood from local sellers. They'd sell it by the "cord", which meant enough wood to stack 8 feet long and 4 feet high. I'd also hear it called a "rick" of cut firewood, but that may have been a different measurement.

I did spend one summer cutting and splitting firewood for a friend of my dad's, and he paid me with free firewood for the winter. He mostly cut down oak and cedar trees for firewood, and I'd split them with a maul and stack them to dry. Pine was easier to split, but when it came to burning firewood in the winter, it could create a lot of creosote.

Creosote was a kind of natural tar that sometimes accumulated inside the chimney and caught fire if you didn't keep everything cleaned out. I much preferred to burn cherry or oak firewood if I had a choice.


When I was a child, my dad bought a cast iron stove he hoped would provide heat for our very large, uninsulated living room. We had a lot of hardwood trees in the yard, so he cut some down and then used a chainsaw to slice them into 12 to 18 inch sections. It became our job to split those logs into free firewood.

I will never forget swinging that log-splitting maul for hours at a time. It was basically a sledgehammer with an axe blade on one side, and the idea was to hit the log down the center and then split the two pieces in half again. If you were good, the log would split all the way on the first blow. I never thought it was too dangerous, but it was definitely hard labor for a ten year old.

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