Black Powder Log Splitting

You can split large-diameter short logs with black powder. But is it worth the risk, or should you stick with a chain saw and wedges instead? July 13, 2006

I have a 4ft diameter x 8ft long sugar maple log that I want to split. Not sure how much powder to use or how much bang to expect. I'm in an urban setting. Should I plan on going to jail? How much will my bail be, so I can start saving now?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor P:
Dynamite or TNT works better than black power for splitting logs. Use 3 or 4 sticks just to make sure it splits completely. Make sure to notify homeland security first, though.

From contributor G:
Is blasting the only option? Some of us have chainsaws that can rip that log. Have you looked around for someone that has a chainsaw rigged to rip that size log? You could contact Bailey's to see if they have a customer in your neck of the woods that has a Lucas Mill, or you could contact some loggers in your area to see if they know of someone with a big enough saw to rip it for you.

From contributor D:
Go to the search box in the upper right corner of this page, and look at the other postings about black powder, or Pyrodex. And you only use as much as you think will keep you alive. If in doubt, get a chainsaw. Most people that play with this stuff only once in a lifetime… shouldn't. It's dangerous and you will (if it goes wrong) get messed up. Sometimes things sound good on paper, but when it comes to lighting that thing off, you might be in for a big surprise. Watch someone else do it first, then learn the safety issues, then venture out where there are no others to witness the possibly stupid actions that might ensue. Read the Darwin Awards, too. What part of the country are you in? You could always call a powder monkey and ask them to come over and have some fun.

From contributor A:
You have got to be kidding me! I have split 72 inch by 20' long logs with a chainsaw. It is very easy. I have done this at least 50 times. I can't even conceive of doing this. I live just outside of Seattle. If someone were to do this, I'm sure you would be looking at some jail time. But in some parts of the country, this might be okay. My chainsaw has a 60" bar with a ripping chain.

From contributor B:
About 30 years ago my father in law told me that when he was young they would use a hand auger to drill a hole a couple of feet deep in a cedar log, pack it with powder, light the fuse, run like hell… and split the log for posts. Personally, I would rip the log with a saw (24" bar would do it). Use wedges (plastic falling wedges work good) and a couple of pry bars. I have also sawn oak or other hardwood crotch wood into big wedges to use after I got the split going. The black powder or TNT thing makes for good stories, but in a worst case scenario, you will get hurt and spend your recovery in jail.

From contributor K:
I have blown many oak logs that size and bigger. I use regular ole pyrodex bought at the gun shop (it is for reloading rifle shells). I use about a cup, sometimes a little more just for extra bang. The only thing adding extra powder will do is put the two pieces further apart! Make sure it is a good straight log with no big splits or rot. It will make a pretty good boom. We blew a big white oak, 48"x16' perfectly straight, fresh log. Used 2 cups of powder, and the two pieces ended up about 15' apart when the smoke cleared. We made a board fence out of the log. Many of the boards show the chainsaw mark where we cut the powder hole

From contributor U:
It hasn't been long since this same blasting subject came up. The archive has a few stories, so check there for a good read. I just finished ripping two 48" WO trunks using a Stihl with a 32" bar and a skip tooth crosscut chain. I stabilized the logs well, then found each pith center and used a 48" level to mark each end's edges. I then snap a chalk line at each side from those two level marks. Next I oriented the log vertical so I could stand on the log and made a 2/3 plunge and ripped along the chalk line. Rolled the log so the other chalk was up and ripped again, but left a thin piece to keep the halves together. Wouldn't want the halves to fall on you. Wedges were next and the log split very easy. Total time per 8' was about 45 minutes. If I were to do this many times, then a rip chain and Alaskan mill might be an easier method.

From contributor K:
I'm a long time advocate of "blowing" logs cause it's so cool to do. Admittedly, a chainsaw does a much cleaner job. I've never sawed one through, but have seen the results and it is a much better cut. One drawback to blowing logs is the split does tend to follow the grain and you end up with some wasted wood. We had a big old hard maple, about 4' across and 8' long. This thing was twisted and knotty beyond use, but it was a boring Sunday afternoon, so I figured we would try. Added about 2 full cups of pyrodex. All it did was crack the log in a dozen places.

From contributor O:
By the time you finish fussing around with the sporting goods store, augering and pouring, I'd have the log halved using a Stihl 044 and 36" bar and would have finished lunch. But with the 8" Lucas... I don't need to split them, as the mill sets up around them.

From contributor D:
I enjoy these posts. Here is a picture of a maple (48"?... I'm 6'3") I split pretty clean in 20 minutes with the saw I am holding. I didn't have a ripping chain at that time. It is faster for sure. As you can see from the picture, I am in town too. Explosives were out of the question. I live in Amish country and have heard the basics of how they blow the biggies. Heck, I love blowing stuff up - it is fun. There are some things that require pyro, but a 48" log isn't one of them. You don't even need a big saw, just a little time, strategic cuts and some wedges. If you decide to try to blow it, post some pictures of the mess.

Click here for full size image

Another picture of a 60"+ oak I split with the saw and wedges. Oak splits easy with wedges. This one turned out to be a dud. I didn't really get the lumber out of it I had hoped. But I got a few hundred bft of wide 1/4 sawn boards (the picture is 1/3 of the length of the butt log) and enough firewood to heat the shop this winter. I will admit, this one could have been blown where I got it without any problem and brought home in pieces to saw. I have enough firewood. Location, location, location.

Click here for full size image

From contributor M:
I have blown apart several logs and there is only a mess when too much pyrodex is used. There only needs to be enough to split them and not blow them apart. As for the legality, I live in Indiana and there is a law against bombs, but not against something with some useful purpose. If it were illegal, then they wouldn't sell pyrodex and cannon fuse next to each other on the shelf. I have split logs next to Crane naval base and I live two blocks from the sheriff's department and I have yet to see the police, or fear arrest. You should take care in doing this, and you should know that there will be some wood loss due to grain patterns, but it certainly can be done. Good luck to you and be careful.