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Winter is the perfect time for fireplaces and firewood, and the best firewood is the one you generate yourself. The late Moravian psychoanalyst, Dr. Schtriker Von Axen, used to teach his meek and feeble patients the art of using a maul forcefully and decisively as a vehicle for self-improvement. He used to say: “If you learn how to use a maul to split your firewood from your own billets, your family and neighbors will learn to appreciate and respect you, and your self-esteem will grow respectively to cultivate a healthy sense of accomplishment and competency.”

The good doctor’s advice resonates strongly with me and, whenever I can, I try to split my firewood with my own hands. 

Firewood is best split with a maul, a tool that looks as if an ax and a sledgehammer had a roll in the hay. The tool looks and feels heavy, with a hammer mass and stocky proportions that tapers at one end to form a blade. Last spring the handle of my own maul, which I saved from the side of the road on trash-eve (the evening before the trash truck does its rounds) finally split, and so I had to find and hang a replacement handle.

Luckily, many hardware stores still carry these handles, which are made of hickory and are sold together with two wedges: a broad wood wedge and a stepped steel wedge to enhance the fit.

Before hanging the new wedge I had to remove the old one. First, I sawed off the split handle and tried to push the remaining “stump” up through the maul’s eye.

Unfortunately, the stump was fitted so tightly and I failed to push it out. So I grabbed a drill and drilled around the steel wedges and then tried to pry them up with a cold chisel and a pair of pliers. Once the steel wedges were out, I drilled some more to clear space and used a bolt to push the stump to freedom. 

Hanging the Handle

After cleaning the eye I oriented the new wedge’s kerf…

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