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Breaking Firewood Safely

June 14, 2011

Fire, Wilderness Survival

Think back to when you were a kid. How did you try to break sticks?

When I Was A Child

If you were sure you could break the stick, you’d probably whack it across your bent knee, listening to the loud crack as the wood splintered. But you only tried that if you were pretty sure you could break it. If you were wrong, it’d hurt.

If there was any doubt in your mind, you’d probably place the stick against your knee and slowly increase the pressure until the stick hopefully broke. If you couldn’t, at least it would only hurt your pride.

Larger, or more stubborn, sticks required other techniques. You probably resorted to either hitting them against a tree trunk or propping them up against a log and jumping on them.

But these techniques really are dangerous. Whipping a stick against a tree sends the broken end sailing through the air. And jumping on it can make you fall, twisting an ankle or landing hard on you hand or worse.

A Better Way To Break Sticks

When in survival mode, taking any unnecessary risks is not a good idea. A sprained ankle or gash in you hand can severely hamper your ability to effect survival. As good as a fire is, getting injured in the process of gathering firewood is not worth it.

It’s time to learn a better a way to break sticks or small logs for firewood.

Start by finding a standing tree with a fork in it. Two trees that are relatively close to one another will also work. Each side of the fork, or each tree, must be strong enough to withstand some stress. Trees at least six inches in diameter should work nicely.

Next, take the stick that’s to be broken and slide it in between the two sides of the fork so that it extends directly out from the tree. Stand to one side of the extended stick and push it, applying pressure perpendicular to its length. This will rotate the stick until it’s wedged between the two sides of the fork.

Increase pressure, pushing harder and harder against the stick. The farther side of the fork will keep the stick in place while the closer side will provide a pivot point. As with any pivot point, the longer the stick that you’re applying pressure to, the less pressure that will be required.

Keep applying pressure until the stick begins to break. Be careful. Very dry wood tends to give suddenly, snapping cleaning. Try not to get off balance while exerting force; otherwise you could fall. Green wood tends to bend, crack, and give way slowly.

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