Was outside doing considerable physical labor today, as I was Monday and last Saturday. I’m realizing just how much I’ve lost even in the past couple of years. I’m sure I can reverse at least some of that, but certainly not all, as muscles do atrophy with age. So my task is probably as much to build up the muscles that I tend to let go over the winter (no snow to shovel here, no grass to mow, and thus not a lot of natural exercise opportunity – gotta create the exercise with nothing in front of me to show for it – boring!). My own fault. Task ahead noted.
On the subject of chopping wood, IF anyone can find a real 1980s vintage “Monster Maul” (the company that made them went out of business, and it doesn’t appear that anyone bought the rights to that product), get one. Anyone owning one and in their right mind would not sell theirs, so if you can find one, snap it up!! I am very fortunate to have a 33″ (handle is 30″) version of that wonderful tool, and would hardly sell it at any price. It’s quite heavy (solid steel, including the handle). I have what I believe was the original model at 16 pounds. But that’s deceiving – it does NOT require the same motion you normally associate with an axe, or a hammer and wedge, so the weight is not nearly the factor one might expect. Style/technique is everything with the Monster Maul.
Here are a couple of videos of what appear to be the originals at work. Note how both of the individuals in the videos start from straight up over their heads only (the first one does go a tiny bit beyond straight vertical to about 12:30, but that’s wasted return effort). They don’t swing it like an axe, or sledge hammer as if breaking rocks, and that’s the key. Personally, I found that just a bit of a squatting motion as I came down reduced even further the amount of upper body strength I had to use, which then allowed the edge of the wedge to contact the wood closer to parallel across the top of the log. Both of these men remain pretty much straight-legged, using more upper body motion, which also causes the tip of the wedge to contact the wood first. I found that with a slight squatting motion (I ran a lot back then and had great leg muscle development, which helped), I could go quite a while (upper body strength has never been my strong point). Also note that the size difference between these two men is considerable. The fact that the 2nd (much smaller) individual is cutting shorter logs is relatively unimportant – he probably would have had nearly the same results as the much bigger first man despite the significant size difference even if he’d been cutting the same logs the larger man was cutting. I’d cut a considerable amount (sometimes probably at least a ½ cord at a time) in younger years, and only weighed around 130 pounds back then. And for a while I had a good source of orange wood (when we lived in So. Cal.). That is some of the hardest wood I ever had to cut (and MARVELOUS for fires), and the Monster Maul even did a pretty decent job with it as well. Size and strength are not a significant requirement. These things are just amazing. If mine was stolen or somehow lost however, I don’t think I’d get some of the later models (they reportedly made a “ladies model”). The original will give you a workout, but if I was still chopping wood (unfortunately we don’t have a wood stove or fireplace now), I have little doubt that I could still handle it despite my age and strength reduction over the years – I just wouldn’t be cutting a half cord per day, I don’t expect (depending on the wood). No, these videos are not exceptional – it’s not at all unusual to get a clean split in one whack, again depending on the type of wood.