Breaking the pieces off the log

Scavenging firewood from oversized fallen trees and logs.


Last Updated on 9 months by Christopher G Mendla

In some cases, you can’t cut through a large diameter tree that is on the ground without hitting dirt and dulling your chainsaw. Here is a way to harvest some of it for firewood. 

The problem

I can always use more firewood. I have a couple of larger trees that have been down for two or more years plus some larger logs from a red oak that was dropped about 5 years ago.  I also have a wood stove that I use to help heat the house. The problem is how to get usable firewood from these trees. For the most part, the wood is dry enough to burn without having to be seasoned.

I don’t have a splitter. I asked Santa for one this year but he couldn’t fit it on his sleigh. Even with a splitter, the problem still exists that you are dealing with logs that have been in ground contact for some time.

Making the cuts

Below is an example. It’s a log that is 2 feet in diameter and about 4′ long. I have a 20″ chainsaw. I made 3 cuts about 4″ apart stopping about 4 inches from the ground. The lower part of the wood usually hold more moisture since it is in ground contact. The wood above that though is usually fine for burning.

How to get firewood from a fallen large diameter tree
24″ log that I want to use for firewood

Breaking the pieces off

Once you make the cuts, you can usually hit the end with the blunt end of a maul and it will pop off. If that doesn’t work and you are accurate enough, you can hit the cut with the sharp end of the maul or use a splitting wedge. I haven’t tried this on softwoods but with hardwoods the wood is brittle enough to make this easy.  You end up with a 4″ thick wafer of wood that is about half of a circle.

Breaking the pieces off the log
Breaking the pieces off the log


Once I get the wafers off, I hit them on the outside edge (red circle) which gives nice pie shaped pieces of wood.  The wood usually splits effortlessly

Splitting the 'wafers' from the log
Splitting the ‘wafers’ from the log


The three cuts I made gave me a trailer full of firewood.   Cutting the pieces this way makes them difficult, if not impossible, to stack. However, I simply toss them into my bilco area. The steps were removed a long time ago and it’s perfect for firewood since my wood stove is in my basement.

Trailer full of wood from 3 cuts from the fallen tree
Trailer full of wood from 3 cuts from the fallen tree


There are some possible disadvantages to this. One is that the wood will probably have enough dirt to accelerate wear on your chainsaw’s chain.  Another is that stacking wood like this is difficult. Finally, you are making 2 or 3 times more cuts than you would if you were doing a traditional buck and split.

With a week of below freezing, single digit temperatures in the forecast, I’ll take the firewood.  I’ll need to get rid of the carcass that was in ground contact but that becomes a whole lot more manageable when the top of the log is removed.

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