Splitting hickory firewood
My husband has been cutting up a hickory tree for firewood. The tree was uprooted by Hurricane Isaac when it ripped through Kentucky in September of 2008. I've identified the tree as a pignut hickory based on its bark and nuts and the location in which it grew, though I didn't ever get to see the tree's leaves.
We have a mid-sized Huskee hydraulic log splitter that exerts 22 tons of pressure, and usually, it does a great job of changing a slice of tree trunk into firewood-size pieces of wood.
The photo at right shows the results of applying the log splitter's force to a slice of the hickory tree that had a big knot -- that is, a big branch growing out of it. An outer section of four or five inches (or more) split away, but the branch remained firmly attached to the log.
That's why you don't often see a hickory tree with a limb that has broken off and torn the bark off the trunk of the tree. Their branches are attached extremely well.
I noticed also that these branches are attached at a right angle to the trunk they came from -- wider angles ("crotches") are less likely to split off. Narrow crotches can be correctively pruned out sometimes, but some trees are just built strong by nature. Hickory trees fall in that category -- I'm sure this tree never received any corrective pruning.
Hickory firewood is some of the best. It burns bright and hot, and it makes coals that glow and produce heat for hours after the flames are gone. When the coals finally burn out, very little ash remains.
It's too bad that this tree came down in the storm, but as the saying goes, "It's an ill wind that blows no good." The fine hickory firewood will be much appreciated next winter.
P.S. That's not hickory that the split pieces are leaning against. I think it's something Dennis brought home when the Boy Scouts were cleaning up an old cemetery.