The difference between splitting green and seasoned wood is night and day.
It’s easiest to split fresh green wood as the fibers are full of water and loosely packed. When wood dries it contracts up to 10%, making it denser and harder to split. However, you may want to wait if the wood can’t be moved and will be left exposed on the ground for more than a few days.
Green wood is may more pleasant to split by hand. It pops apart more consistently, and the soft wood absorbs more of the impact as well (don’t get me wrong – some green wood can still be very hard). And the bigger the log, the truer this is.
The dryer and harder the wood gets, the less likely you are to get one-hit splits, and you will feel the vibration of each strike. The condensed fibers also tend to “stick” together more meaning you get more annoying logs where you have to pause and pry them apart or cut the fibers – even though it’s technically already split. And, some wood can get weird and not even fully split, just slab off into chunks.
But, there are more factors than just ease to consider.
More Reasons to Split Wood Green
There are other benefits on top of it being easier to do.
Split Wood Dries Faster
It can take 6 months to a year for wood to properly dry and be ready to use as firewood. So one of the biggest advantages of splitting wood green (other than ease), is it will dry quicker and more thoroughly.
After the wood is split, moisture can escape out of all the newly cut faces of the wood. This can take months off the seasoning time – if you can properly store it.
Split Wood is Easier to Move and Store
You don’t want to leave your freshly cut wood sitting on the dirt. It’s much easier to move, transport, and store smaller and lighter pieces of wood.
You don’t need to be a hero and try and move full rounds. Especially since all the moisture in green wood makes them even heavier.
When NOT to Split Green Wood
While split wood can dry faster, it can also cause more exposure to moisture and mud if it’s not stored correctly.
If you have dropped a tree but don’t have time to move it, it’s best to leave it in large rounds until you have time to move and store it properly. If you split wood and leave it on the ground, you can have created many more “open” faces that can be impacted by weather, mud, mold, pests, and whatever else.
You can’t always split new rounds right away, and that is okay. Wood doesn’t season in a day.
Extra Soft Wood
I have never experienced this as a significant problem – but if the wood is really soft, you can find your axe may stick right in without splitting. The soft wood is so pliable it just absorbs the blade.
If it’s becoming a noticeable problem, you can wait a few days to let the wood harden, but I have never done this. Usually, it just takes another swing and you are fine.
You don’t need to split smaller logs
If a log is under 8″, you can leave it to season as is. Splitting it’s not wrong – just up to you if it’s worth the time. Pieces that small aren’t too big of a hassle to split even when they are dry.
How Long Can Logs Sit Before Splitting
It is best to split logs within 2-3 weeks of being cut. They will start becoming noticeably tougher after about 1 month, and be significantly dryer and tougher after 2 to 3 months.
Obviously, the longer you wait the worse it gets. But you’ve got a few weeks where it stays easy, which is plenty of time. And even after 3-6 months, it’s not like you can’t split it. It’s just more work.
How Long is Firewood Considered Green?
Firewood is considered green until it has a moisture content of below 20%. This can take 6 – 12 months to achieve as the moisture content in wood can start as high as 80%. Timing can be impacted by the size of the wood pieces, the temperature and humidity of the climate, and how the wood is stored.
However, just because it’s technically green, doesn’t mean you should wait 2 months before splitting your rounds.
If I missed something or you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment below. I do my best to respond to everyone.
About the author:
I’m just a guy who likes axes – as a tool, the craft of restoring them, and the history. I got tired of only finding crap websites, so I set out to build a reliable one myself.
Jim B. – Owner, Creator