Tuesday, February 18, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
An Easy Trip To Splitsville

I just discovered the website of an old friend of mine from college days. He's now a photographer (among other things) in the Adirondack region of New York; I think he's traveled a few cities, and ended up settling in one of the most beautiful regions of the East Coast. What a treasure trove of amazing sights to capture! I know. I lived in the region for almost 20 years. Here's a little something from his web archives that I really enjoyed, called fatwood factory. Reading it, you're there in the peaks:
getting to the fatwood factory is not something you set out to do. all of a sudden, it is possible to split every piece of wood. "split" implies a certain sense of halving, but here it's more akin to "splitting up." making parts for distribution. or burning. more surface area; hotter fires from the same amount of wood. i filled a wheelbarrow full of a number of very hot, fast fires. my general rule of thumb is that if i can stand the piece of wood up on the block, it gets split. two things happen when i find myself in fatwood factory. the first is i become more concerned with accuracy than power. as each piece of wood gets thinner, the need to power through it decreases. it's a direct proportion: less is less. it's a well placed tap that does the job not a swift cut. that's because, in the end, splitting wood is not about cutting. it's about separating the wood from it's structure and order. you are taking it one step closer to chaos. you can "read" the wood. the ends of the sectioned wood can give you a road map to easy trip to splitsville. the cracks indicate places where drying has loosened the bond betweens cells that hold the tree together. what was once a aqueous network of structure and exchange becomes a brittle dotted line that says "cut here." a mindful examination of the wood's surface will reveal untold tales of potential cleavings. you can almost see into the heart of the wood. adventures en flambe await: pop me big boy, what are you waiting for? instead of cutting the wood in two with a heavy sharp object, you're directing force through a focused locus, transferring it and liberating kinetic energy latent in each log section. bone wielding space oddessy ape guy becomes wheelchair scientist guy with the tilt of your head. most folks would prefer the wood that they have to split be uniform and "straight." no burls and the like making for hard splitting. you hit one of those hard spots and the axe can sing out like a bell. in the crisp winter air, the bang echoes off the trees and warps around the drifts in the snow. it accents the howl of the coyotes in a flurry filled afternoon as the light wanes. most times, a big gnarled old log section is a long burner. no splitting much more than quartering. the density of the wood, at a place where two or more directions of growth merge (more or less), is insane. the wood locks in on itself, making a near indestructable fist. wood like that burns for a long time. some twisted bastard of a log that, dry, gives you a hernia slogging to the stove is just the ticket for couple of hours of uninterupted, untended fire, warmth, running water...... you can leave the house. -- Brady McTigue