Letters to the Editor

Splitting logs with a bang


| May 2005



SplittingWedge.jpg

I beg to differ with O. Milan Ramsey (Farm Collector, March 2005, page 5) about using a splitting wedge and explosives to split stumps or logs.

I have in my possession one of these tools (shown at the bottom of the photo at right) bought in the 1930s from the Missoula (Mont.) Mercantile Co. by my neighbor who gave it to me in the 1970s. It was used to blast large stumps apart so the land could be cleared for farming. Logs could be split open in the same manner. Pour black powder in the open end, put some wadding in and hammer the wedge into the top of the stump. Push a fuse into the "touch hole," light it, and run and hide.

The large tool in the photo above is a stump hook (or root puller) made by the Swenson Grubber Co., Cresco, Iowa, about 1913. The stump hook was used in conjunction with a capstan winch. The winch I have was made by the Smith Grubber Co., La Crosse, Wis., and sold through the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog.

- John M. Edgerton
27 Loon Lake Road
Bigfork, MT 59911

In regard to the letter (Farm Collector, March 2005, page 5) from O. Milan Ramsey in which he says he had never heard of using explosives to split logs:

In northeast Iowa during the 1920s and 1930s, my dad, Mellien Loftsgard, always used blasting powder to split elm logs. Before the ground froze, we always made sure that a bucket was filled with clay and stored in a warm place so the clay could be used as a cap over the powder-filled hole in the log. As a young boy it was my job to use an auger to bore a 1-1/2-inch hole in the log about 6 inches deep, into which was poured black blasting powder. Then a piece of blasting cord was inserted and topped by a mud cap. This procedure was commonly used in our part of the country, as elm was about impossible to split using wedges and a maul. Elm was used for firewood, as it was not very suitable for lumber.