Choosing the best log splitter can be confusing for some people, especially if you’ve never owned one before. For those of you with experience, you’re likely to be able to choose the right log splitter quicker because you can make sense of the technical information. Knowing what features you need is the first step in making the best decision for your needs. In this article we review several of the best log splitters for the money.
Let’s get started…
Introduction : Log Splitter Buying Guide
Henry Ford’s home in Dearborn, Michigan had the following quote carved into a mantelpiece — “Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice”. Once while splitting the wood, and once again when you burn it in the fireplace. Splitting your own firewood with an axe or maul is one of the manliest things you can do, and it makes for an excellent workout. Right until you actually have to do it, and your back gives out 15 minutes in.
See, there’s nothing wrong with splitting wood by hand. It makes you feel productive in a unique, very physical way. Plus you look cool in front of all your friends and neighbors. However, not all of us are built like Captain America. And there are a lot of you reading this article who use large amounts of wood for heating during winter season. Maybe more than a cord, in which case you can benefit significantly from purchasing a powered log splitter.
Excellent Gas Log Splitter : Plenty of Power / 25 TONS
Essentially, it’s a machine that drives a round (section of a log) through a wedge shaped cutting head. In some designs, the cutting head is stationary while in others the log is stationary and it’s the cutting head that moves. Either way, you are going to split logs way faster with a good log splitter. Think fifty to sixty 12” diameter logs per hour, a number that is literally impossible with an axe even if you’ve got 5 people hacking away at the same time.
Apart from the speed, a log splitter has other benefits which are often overlooked. Such as the ability to produce similarly sized chunks of firewood, which makes it way easier to stack these pieces into a structurally stable woodpile. And some log splitters even come with 4-way splitting heads that divide the log into 4 even sections with just a single pass. This is excellent if you want to make kindling for a campfire, or if you just want to split a giant round into 4 pieces of firewood for the furnace. To accomplish the same result with an axe, you would have to chop the log into 2 halves and then split each half.
Now the question arises- which log splitter should you buy? There are so many types of log splitters out there, and it can get pretty confusing for a new buyer. You’ve got tonnage, wedge sizes, electric vs gas, etc. However, there is one basic rule to follow- always buy based on your needs. In the case of log splitters, all you have to do is think about the type of wood you’re cutting.
Is it softwood or hardwood? Is it green or seasoned? What’s the diameter of the log? How long is the log? All these factors will help you decide exactly what type of log splitter you need. There is a detailed log splitter buying guide later on in this article. You can check it out if you’re new to the topic and want to learn more about selecting the right log splitter. I decided to do some research of my own, taking a look at the most popular log splitters that people are buying these days. And I selected the ones I felt were the most interesting to review in this article.
Note: If you want a quick guide on log splitter tonnage, check out this table :
|Log Diameter||6” Seasoned||12” Seasoned||12” Green||24” Seasoned||24” Green|
|Minimum Tonnage Required||4 Ton||7 Ton||16 Ton||20 Ton||30+ Ton|
Intro / Best Log Splitters
Remember, you can never cheap out when buying a log splitter. These things are heavy-duty and are supposed to function reliably for years. If a manufacturer cuts corners on things like the hydraulic pump or engine, you could end up spending more on maintenance and repairs than you did on the entire unit. Plus, a cheaply built log splitter is a potential hazard. Think about it, you’re using several tons of force to drive an extremely sharp steel blade through logs of wood. If the frame suddenly gives or a bolt flies off in the middle of a cutting pass, the consequences could be catastrophic.
Take your time, do the necessary research, and buy something that will last. Plus, it has to be powerful enough for all your cutting requirements (both now, and in the near future). Yardmax, Champion, Ariens, Iron & Oak, etc. are all names you can trust. If you only want a log splitter for immediate use, like clearing out your backyard after a storm, you can buy second-hand or use a rental service. But for now, let’s take a closer look at some of the best log splitters you can buy. I divided them into two categories:
Best Electric Log Splitters :
- Yardmax YS0552 / 5-ton
- Earthquake 32228 / 5-ton
- PowerSmart PS90 / 6-ton
- WEN 56207 / 6.5 ton
Best Gas Log Splitter :
- Champion 100251 / 25-ton
As you can see, there are 4 electric models compared to the lone gas model. And there’s a good reason I chose to prioritize electric log splitters for my article- they are simply the better choice for most homeowners, especially those living in urban areas. You get much more speed than an axe or maul, minus the fumes and noise of a gas log splitter.
However, electric does have its weaknesses. Want to know the biggest disadvantage electric log splitters have? Just take a look at the force ratings (tonnage). Even when added up, the 4 electric models can’t match the power of one Champion 100251. That, and they are limited to working within a few feet of an electrical outlet. So you can’t operate them out on a farm or large property where there’s no outlet nearby.
►Recommended Extension Cords for Electric Log Splitters : You need 12 gauge (minimum) / 10 gauge for 100 feet extension cords.
Review : Yardmax YS0552 / ⚡️ 5-Ton Electric
Hassle-free and affordable. Best value log splitter. You’ll love the stand. Will save your back.
- Quality Control : Electric motor designed, engineered and manufactured in-house.
- Powerful, 5 ton RAM force.
- Stand, log tray and stroke limiter included.
- Stand ensures a stable work surface — no squatting or bending over to operate.
- Log tray ensures split logs lay safely rather than falling to the ground.
- Stroke limiter will shorten the amount of time it takes to split shorter logs.
- Two-handed operation puts operator safety first.
- 6″ wheel diameter and lightweight design.
- Portable and can be operated indoors in the winter.
- Log capacity — 20.5″ in length and 10″ in diameter.
- Short cylinder cycle time — 16 seconds.
- None or minimal assembly required.
- No assembly required for benchtop unit — simply clip on the wheels and start splitting.
- Minimal assembly required for stand option.
“More than adequate for most homeowners who want an affordable yet durable 5-ton log splitter. It stands out from other electric log splitters in its price category thanks to a well-designed stand. Made from tubular metal this stand brings the splitter up to working height, and has a tray to catch split log chunks. The YS0552 will handle everything from pine to oak, and requires minimal maintenance.”
Yardmax despite being a very recently founded OPE (outdoor power equipment) company is known to delivery quality goods at low prices. Part of this is due to them shifting their manufacturing to China, even though they are headquartered in Illinois. The designs are all done in-house, and strict quality control is maintained in their offshore manufacturing facilities.
The result is well-made equipment that is perfectly fine for daily usage in most homes, minus the hefty price tag normally associated with such products. And to top it off, you get a nice 2-year residential warranty with U.S customer support. So, is the YS0552 worth buying? If you use a cord or less of wood every year, absolutely. It has enough power to easily slice through 6” logs of green wood. Even the harder stuff like oak, maple, cherry, etc. won’t be an issue for this electric log splitter.
And since it has a stand, you don’t have to have a workbench in your garage or basement if you wish to use the YS0552. Did I say basement? Yep, you can use it indoors without any issues as long as you’re fine with cleaning up all the wood debris afterwards. Unlike gas splitters, this Yardmax doesn’t emit any fumes. All it needs is a standard 3-prong 120V AC outlet. This feeds the 15amp motor which by the way, is designed in-house.
And unlike most cheap electric log splitters, the YS0552 has a stroke limiter which greatly speeds up your log cutting times. What it does is stop the cutting block/ hydraulic ram from moving past a certain point along its line of travel. This way, if you have shorter logs you can make the ram pull back right after it’s done going through the log instead of travelling to the end of its stroke. The only downside is that you must first remove the log tray before you can adjust the stroke limiter.
The worktable is made from high-quality steel and has retaining plates on either side to prevent logs from twisting or slipping. To operate the YS0552, you will have to use both hands. Some users have voiced their concerns about how this mechanism puts the operator at risk, since your face and chest are directly above the log. Let me explain- with one hand you must press the power ON button for the electric motor, which is located under the frame. With the other hand, you must pull the hydraulic actuation lever that moves the ram. This is done so you can’t accidentally engage the hydraulic system.
However, because of the location of the motor power ON, you need to bend down slightly to reach under the frame. This puts you at risk of catching a stray wood splinter or bouncing log in your face. There is a very low chance of something like that happening, and you should be wearing eye protection while using a log splitter. You can DIY a mod and make this log splitter work with just one hand, but that could void the warranty. There are several tutorials on Youtube showing people converting similar electric log splitters to single-hand operation, but you need to know what you’re doing. If you have no prior experience with log splitters or workshop experience, I don’t recommend such mods.
Review : Champion 100251 / ⛽️ 25-Ton GAS
Serious power for serious work. Best gas log splitter.
- 25-Ton Horizontal/Vertical Full Beam Log Splitter
- Relief from the back-breaking work of splitting logs. Reduces your work time significantly.
- Powered by a Champion 224cc single-cylinder OHV engine. Cast-iron sleeve, a 0.8-gallon fuel tank, 0.5-quart oil capacity (recommended 10W-30) and a low-oil shutoff for safety.
- It only takes a few seconds and three simple steps to convert your log splitter from horizontal to vertical.
- Handles logs up to 24 inches long, weighing up to 100 pounds.
- Hydraulic oil system has a 5-gallon oil capacity and operates at 11 gpm to power through tough logs.
- QUICK 12-second cycle time and dependable auto-return valve. Capable of 300 cycles per hour. The handy log catchers save your back.
- 2-stage gear pump reliably adjusts flow and pressure by delivering high flow/low pressure when there is no resistance and low flow/high pressure when cutting through a log to increase productivity.
- This log splitter will fit in most truck beds, plus it’s easily towable with DOT-approved wheels for up to 45 mph, a 2-inch ball hitch coupler and an extended tongue that will fit most ATV/UTV towing applications.
- This log splitter is EPA certified and CARB compliant. Buy with confidence – our reliable support and network of service centers will back your purchase up with a 2-year limited warranty and FREE lifetime technical support.
“If you plan to tackle 30-inch hardwood logs, this Champion is for you. It has a 224cc OHV engine which is designed to be durable, while simultaneously cutting down on fuel consumption. You can run the 100251 for hours on end without damaging any of the components, and it will slice through some really gnarly stuff. Knots, twisted grain, dirt- the 100251 eats it all up with 25 tons of hydraulic force.”
Ah, Champion. The brand of choice for everyone from homeowners and DIYers to industry professionals, they’ve been one of my favorites when it comes to outdoor power equipment. Think of them as the Toyota of the power equipment world, no matter what you buy from Champion it’s guaranteed to be a well-designed and reliable piece of kit.
What Champion does best is provide exceptional build quality and state-of-the-art features at a price point everyone can afford. And their 25-ton log splitter continues that trend, it is actually not THAT expensive despite being one of the most powerful gas log splitters on the market. This is a high-end product, don’t get me wrong- but its pricing is actually within the reach of most people. Think commercial equipment at homeowner prices.
VIDEO | A Closer Look at the Champion 100251
So, what’s so unique about the 100251? Why did I choose this 25-ton gas powered monster over other 25-ton gas powered monsters? Well, there is no specific feature or strength that made me choose the 100251. Rather, it’s a combination of factors. This is a log splitter that does everything, a jack of all trades. Want to cut up some 6” logs of pine for the fireplace? No problem, just spool up the engine with a quick cord pull and you’re set (as long as there is fuel in the tank).
Want to break down some giant 30” wide logs of oak for your winter wood pile? The 100251 won’t even break a sweat, its hardened steel wedge will go through that log like a knife through butter. And with a cycle time of just 12 seconds, this is one of the fastest 25-ton log splitters on the market. You see, generally the larger log splitters tend to have slower cycle rates because of the wider hydraulic cylinders. Pumping more fluid takes more time unless the hydraulic pump has a higher flow rate than usual. And to drive that kind of flow rate you need a bigger engine.
Thankfully, the 100251 has both an incredible hydraulic pump as well as a powerful engine. A Champion 224c OHV motor is the heart of this log splitter, and it drives a hydraulic pump which can push 11 gallons of fluid per minute. If you don’t have any point of reference for these numbers, all you need to know is that the 100251 is very powerful. And since you’ll be splitting some heavy logs with this power, Champion rates the 100251 for logs up to 100lbs. Most people can’t lift a log that heavy up 3 feet from the ground, so the 100251 can be switched into vertical operation mode. All you have to do is pull out a safety pin and swing the frame over into the vertical position (there’s a handle to assist with this maneuver). And now, you can roll over the really heavy logs onto the worktable, no need to lift them up. The hardened steel cutting wedge will do the rest.
Oh, and the 100251 has auto-return which means the cutting head will automatically return and stay in neutral as soon as you let go of the lever. This lets you get more work done in a lot less time, older log splitter models with a similar tonnage that didn’t have auto return would require two operators- one to load and the other to operate the wedge. Now, you can do it all with just one person since the cutting head will retract by itself and stay in neutral as you let go of the lever. This frees up your hands so you can remove the log from the worktable, and throw it into the woodpile. The log catchers on either side of the frame are angled slightly upwards to prevent split pieces of wood from falling out. And these are heavy-duty catchers, unlike the “log trays” you’ll find on electric splitters such as the Yardmax YS0552. The catchers on the Champion 100251 can hold several dozen pounds of weight without flexing.
The 100251 does come with a tow bar and 2” ball so you can hook it up to the back of your truck and tow it around. Don’t think you’ll be speeding down the interstate at 75mph with this log splitter in tow, because the maximum towing speed it’s rated for is 45mph. Any higher, and you’ll risk burning out the bearings on the axle (as well as damaging the wheels). Not to mention breaking the law, because unlike a trailer this log splitter has no suspension, lights, brakes, plates, sway control, etc.
Review : Earthquake 32228 / 5-Ton Electric ⚡️
Quick-split : One of the best compact electric log splitter.
- 1500 watt 15 amp Motor and 5-ton rated hydraulic system will easily split logs up to 10” diameter and 20” in length. This incredibly powerful and versatile machine will making your wood splitting tasks much more enjoyable and much less time-consuming.
- Quality Components: Precision pump gears and copper motor windings ensure a constant splitting force. Delivers consistent power to your splitting.
- Easy to Move : Sturdy transport wheels with rubber coated legs double as transport handles.
- Gas free, exhaust free and simple to run. No need to pull start an engine or deal with the noise and fumes of a gas splitter. All that is required is a standard 120V outlet. Plug in the unit and you are ready to split.
- US-based customer support staff and a 5-year warranty.
“Faster than an axe, quieter than a gas log splitter, and light enough to be towed by hand- the Earthquake 32228 is a very compact yet effective package. It is built rugged and comes with basic features like a log tray to catch split chunks of wood. Like most electric 5-ton splitters, this is a half-beam model and it isn’t meant for heavy-duty usage. However, it might surprise you with the diameter of logs it cuts. The 32228 frequently punches above its weight class.”
Going by the name, you might think this is some ultra high-end gas powered 30-ton behemoth of a log splitter. However, it’s actually a surprisingly compact 5-ton electric log splitter targeted at people living in cities or on small farms. The majority of people buying this log splitter aren’t concerned with brute force, they just want a quiet and hassle-free operating experience.
The Earthquake 32228 isn’t the most ergonomic of electric log splitters, and you most certainly will need a raised platform of some sort (like a work bench). It does come with a “platform” of sorts, which is a glorified carry handle + wheel kit. You can split logs up to 20 inches in length, although there’s no stroke limiter like on the Yardmax YS0552 which means you aren’t as efficient with shorter logs.
As for the diameter of logs you can split, the official spec says 10 inches. Although that’s more of a guess rather than absolute data. Because the thickness of the log you can cut will depend heavily on the density of the wood, whether its green or seasoned, and if there are any knots. If the grain is straight and there are pre-existing cracks, you could potentially split a 20+ inch log with this tiny electric log splitter. Lots of factors go into deciding whether you can split a certain log or not, and more often than not, the Earthquake 32228 will handle everything you throw at it. It does 80 to 90 percent of what a larger log splitter does, for a fraction of the cost.
What really surprised me though, is the warranty- Earthquake offers a 5-year warranty on the log splitter. Most electrical log splitters don’t carry this kind of warranty, it is usually 2, maybe 3 years max. That tells you a lot about the confidence Earthquake has in their products. Plus, all customer service is handled by professionals based in Wisconsin. They also have 2200 authorized service centers across the United States.
Review : PowerSmart PS90 / 6-Ton Electric ⚡️
Simple yet versatile. Very affordable log splitter. Great value!
- 1.75 HP, 15 Amp induction motor delivers 6-Ton maximum performance for the most rugged condition
- Effortlessly does big splitting jobs with a 20-second cycle time
- The splitter can split logs up to 21″ In length; up to 10″ In diameter
- Can be used on the ground or on the bench, outside and inside as there is no fumes
“Want a simple tool for splitting logs? The PowerSmart PS90 is as simple as it gets. Essentially an electric motor attached to a steel beam and hydraulic pump, the PS90 has no gimmicks or extras. However, it does offer more power than its more expensive rivals in the electric log splitter market. With 6 tons of force, it is slightly better at chewing through hardwood compared to a 5-ton splitter.”
At first glance it looks like a weird, oversized carjack but this is in fact a log splitter. And a surprisingly effective one at that, with 6 tons of splitting force which is ample for hardwoods like hickory, maple, walnut, etc. Even though the official specs say it handles up to 10 inch logs, in reality you can split much wider logs. It’s really simple, you make one pass and then rotate the log 180° from the initial cut to make a 2nd cut that completely cleaves it apart. Something like a 20” log of spruce will be sliced, no issues (provided it isn’t green).
If you’re looking for modern conveniences such as a log catcher or raised platform, the PS90 has nothing of that sort. It is basic, and only does one thing- send the ram forward when you pull the lever. You’ve got to decide whether that’s enough to warrant a purchase. Most of the time you’ll be splitting smaller logs, like 6 inches in diameter with this log splitter so you won’t really need a log tray/ catcher.
And you probably won’t use the PS90 to cut up large amounts of wood at a time. It isn’t rated for sustained heavy-duty usage since it isn’t a commercial log splitter. The 15amp electric motor is good for its class, but it’s going to burn out if you run it for hours on end. If you just want to split 30 or 40 small logs a day, the PS90 will do a very good job. It won’t take up much space in the garage, and you can easily tow it around by hand since there are 2 wheels on the rear (and the whole thing is slightly above 100lbs).
The PS90 is perfect for indoor operation due to its compact nature and zero emissions. So if you have a small fireplace and don’t use a lot of wood every year, buy one and save yourself from the trouble of having to swing an axe every day. As for maintenance, just keep the hydraulic fluid topped up and you’ll be fine.
Review : WEN 56207 / 6.5 Ton / ⚡️Electric Log Splitter
Another affordable model. Best log splitter if you’re on a budget.
- 15A motor provides over 13,000 pounds of log cracking pressure
- Use the log splitter with or without the 34-inch stand depending on user preferences
- Included pull handle and 5.5-inch never-flat wheels make for easy transportation between jobs
- Electric power means no gasoline, no carbon monoxide emissions, and limited maintenance
- Split logs up to 10 inches in diameter and 20.5 inches in length
“One of the cheapest electric log splitters you can buy that isn’t from some shady Chinese brand you’ve never heard of. WEN is a famous outdoor power equipment manufacturer, known for their innovation and reliability. The 56207 log splitter isn’t just cheap, it’s also the most powerful electric log splitter you can get at this price range. Even cheaper than the Yardmax YS0552, but with more power.”
The WEN 56207 might just be the value king of electric log splitters. It is also one of the few electric log splitters that I can recommend without second guesses because it comes with a stand. Unlike the PowerSmart PS90 and Earthquake 3228, both of which are very low to the ground. If you like me value your back, you’ll want to get this electric log splitter. Not only is it more ergonomic than most other models in this price range, it’s also very fast with a 20-second cycle time. You might say, “isn’t 20 seconds fairly long” and yes that’s true- but only for gas log splitters. For a 6.5 ton electric model, 20 seconds is actually well above average. Most electric log splitters aren’t rated above 5 tons. Notice how I say rated, because what a manufacturer mentions on the spec sheet can differ from real life performance. For instance, if you buy a 20-ton gas powered log splitter from a cheap brand it might not perform like a 20-ton splitter from a reputable brand such as WEN or Champion.
A nice analogy would be your car- just because it says 140mph on the speedometer doesn’t mean it will reliably hit that speed. And even under perfect conditions, who knows how long it will take to get there. And once it gets there, you can’t say for sure if the engine and transmission will be fine because you’re pushing the car to its limits. A Ferrari will have no trouble hitting 140 in a very short time and maintaining that speed. But your Toyota that you use to haul the family around will not make it to that speed even though it’s technically rated to a max speed of 140mph.
The WEN 56207 actually performs better than a 5-ton log splitter, so it’s safe to assume that the 6.5 ton rating isn’t a marketing ploy. And the best part is that you don’t pay a single cent extra for that increased performance, compared to something like a Yardmax YS0552. In fact, you pay less. So what’s the catch? Well, for starters there is no detachable log tray like on the Yardmax YS0552. Nor is there a stroke limiter. You give up on quality of life features which make operating your log splitter just that little bit more pleasant. However, you do get a fairly tall stand which brings everything up to waist level so you don’t have to bend down every time you want to split a log.
►Looking for more ideas? Read our comprehensive guide : Best Log Splitters under $1000
Review : Kindling Cracker
Best Firewood Kindling Splitter
- A safe and easy way to make kindling with no moving blade or sharpened object passing by your hands
- To split a piece of wood, place it inside of the frame and strike it with a maul
- Splits firewood with less force than a standard axe
- 6.5in. inside dia. top ring; 12in. height
- Made of high-quality cast iron in Australia
- Virtually maintenance-free
- Bolt holes for permanent mounting
- Great for indoor or outdoor use
Sometimes, you just want a basic manual tool for cutting up some kindling. Kindling is like an intermediary between tinder and firewood. It burns longer than tinder, but not as long as firewood. And kindling is usually stick-sized, instead of logs like firewood. However, cutting logs up into small stick sized chunks will result in a lot of material just spread around the workplace. Not to mention the time it takes with an axe or maul, because you have to chop a log into 2 halves, then split each individual half into smaller chunks.
VIDEO | A Closer Look at Kindling Cracker
The Kindling Cracker is designed to produce kindling in the safest manner possible. No axes or wedges required; all you need is a blunt object like a hammer. Or even another piece of wood. The splitter itself is essentially a circular stand with a cutting surface in the middle. The cutting surface has “fins” on either side so each part of the split log gets cut several times on the inside. This way, when you pick up a chunk of the split log it will break down much more easily. The rings act as a safety mechanism, preventing the log from flying around. You are also much less likely to get any splinters out of the log as it’s being split.
The entire thing is one solid hunk of cast iron, and it’s really heavy so you get a stable platform that doesn’t wobble around. If you want a more permanent setup, you can simply bolt the base of the Kindling Cracker into a log or stump. There are two holes on the base of the Kindling Cracker for exactly that reason. The inside diameter is 170mm or 6.69”, so that’s the limit on the diameter of log you can split. This is an excellent tool for starting campfires.
How To Choose The Right Log Splitter?
Which log splitter you need boils down entirely to the type of wood you’re cutting and how much of it you cut. If you only want to split some firewood that you ordered from a delivery service, you can get by with a simple 5-ton electric log splitter. However, if you purchase giant 30+ inch logs in the bulk (several cords) you need a 25-ton gas-powered log splitter.
The first question you need to answer is- which type of log splitter do I need? There are two options- gas and electric. Both have their pros and cons, basically gas is more powerful while electric is more convenient. Once you’ve decided on the type of log splitter, it’s time to talk about tonnage. Tonnage is the amount of force exerted by the hydraulic ram in your log splitter. If you’re a homeowner who just wants to split some 6” logs for the fireplace, a 5-ton splitter will be more than adequate.
If you’re part of a professional forest clearing company or the owner of a farm with lots of large trees, you need a 20+ ton gas powered log splitter. Thinking of starting your own firewood business? You need gas power, something that’s designed for commercial usage. Homeowner models have lighter frames and cheaper engines. Commercial grade log splitters feature full beams and can switch between horizontal/ vertical mode.
Full beam log splitters don’t necessarily have to be more powerful than half-beam models, but they are much better suited to towing. This comes in handy for commercial usage when you need to transport the unit from one jobsite to another. One thing worth noting is that the tonnage requirements for seasoned wood is way lower compared to that for green wood. Green wood is simply freshly cut wood with a lot of the moisture content intact. They look greenish yellow, hence the name.
When the moisture evaporates, the wood becomes more brittle and splits along the grain more easily. It also burns better. Seasoned means the wood has had at least 6 months to dry, and it changes color from green/ yellow to brown. If you’re splitting wood in bulk, it’s recommended to wait till the wood is dry. Because green wood requires 50 to 75% more splitting force (with log diameter being the same). Wood density also matters, hardwoods like oak and maple require more tonnage than softer woods such as pine and spruce.
Splitting logs by hand with an axe (or a sledge and wedge) is one of those tasks that’s supposed to build character. And there is some truth to that; reducing a big pile of logs to kindling with nothing more than an ax and the sweat of your brow is rewarding. For teenagers, it can teach a useful lesson about persistence and hard work.
But by the time you reach the age of thirty, you’ve probably developed as much character as your going to get. At this point, it makes more sense to look after your health.
At a fundamental level, the axe is an amazingly efficient machine. It’s highly portable and it works well. It also has the advantage of being cheap and simple to use (no manual to read or tech support hot-line to call).
But it relies on human power, which means that it can get tiring fast. Plus using it can lead to problems such as back strain and joint injuries caused by repetitive impacts.
And even if you have the stamina of an ox, it can still take a long time to chop up the wood you need. On the other hand, a log splitter can do the work in a handful of minutes.
Types of Log Splitters | Overview
Log splitters take the backache out of chopping firewood, and they get the job done quickly. There are even log splitters with a built-in lift, to reduce the strain of picking up heavy logs.
There are lots of different models of log splitter. Some are intended for heavy industrial level use, and others are for occasional use by homeowners. And because it’s such a useful machine for country living, there are companies making them all over the world.
They’ve been around in one form or another for over a century, but they really became popular in the early 60s. Before then, they were only for lumber yards and mills. There are even some steam powered splitters still in use around the world, although most of them have been replaced by now.
Amongst all these different models and brands, there are 5 main categories of log splitter. They are:
- Manual log splitter
- Electric powered hydraulic log splitters.
- Gas powered hydraulic splitters.
- Machine mounted (for use with a tractor).
- Kinetic log splitters.
Each of these has its own advantages and disadvantages, so there is no single “best log splitter” for everyone.
Let’s take a look at these types in more depth, starting with the manual log splitters.
Manual Log Splitters
These log splitters do not have their own power source. Instead, it’s up to you to do the work. They aren’t as tiring as an ax, and they are also less strain to use.
Because the machine is specially designed for splitting logs, it offers more control. There is no chance of a log deflecting a blow, sending the ax on a dangerous path. So a manual log splitter is a safer option.
But it can still get tiring pretty fast, which is why most people prefer a powered log splitter.
Hydraulic Log Splitters
There are 2 types of hydraulic log splitters, electric and gas.
The main difference among these different varieties is the power source. They all use a motor to drive a hydraulic pump, which is used to drive a piston. It’s this piston that does the splitting.
The hydraulics push the log into a stationary blade, which splits the log neatly. A variation on this design holds the log in place and moves the blade. With the moving blade models, it’s possible to get a splitter with a double edged blade, which can cut in two directions.
This is the best log splitter if you need a lot of firewood quickly – you can get a really good rhythm going, and split logs at an amazing pace.
If you need smaller pieces or kindling, you can feed the pieces back in to get smaller sections.
Electric Powered Hydraulic Log Splitters
These devices are powerful, and you don’t have to worry about gas and exhaust. That makes it possible to use them indoors, which is very useful when the weather is bad.
If you are planning to use them outside, you need to have a source of electricity. If you find yourself tripping over extension leads, you’ll probably wish you bought a gas powered model.
Electric models are cheaper and lighter than the gas powered splitters. So, if you don’t need extra power, they are the best log splitter variety for your needs.
With no fuel burned, they are cleaner, too. This also means no emissions, smoke or soot. The electric motor requires less maintenance, so you won’t need to make any messy oil changes. And you won’t need to feed it with expensive gas, either.
No internal combustion engine means that these splitters are cheaper, quieter and cleaner than their gas-powered equivalents.
Most electric log splitters have a splitting force in the 4-7 tons range, but they can go as high as 20 tons.
Gas Powered Hydraulic Log Splitters
These log splitters are more mobile than electric splitters, as you are not tied down to an electrical outlet. You can split wood wherever you need it, even if it’s far from a building.
There are some very powerful gas powered models available, and the top of the range models beat anything an electric splitter can do in terms of pure power. If you need to split tough hardwood, then this is the best log splitter variety.
More power also means that they are faster, which is important if you need to split a lot of wood.
Machine Mounted Hydraulic Log Splitter
This device is designed to be attached to a tractor, and it uses the vehicle as a power source. That means that these models can be very powerful indeed.
It’s important to make sure you choose a model that’s compatible with your tractor, otherwise it may not work.
Kinetic Log Splitters
These log splitters do not have a “ton” rating, as they do not use hydraulics. But in terms of force, they are generally more powerful than a 30-ton hydraulic log splitter.
They use a motor (gas or electric) to drive a flywheel. This builds up a lot of kinetic energy, which is released into the arm. The action is very fast, making this the fastest type of log splitter.
If you were splitting logs to sell firewood, you’d have to get a lot of logs split in a short amount of time. This would be the best log splitter for that purpose.
For most homeowners, a simple gas or electric hydraulic system will be the best log splitter option. The machine mounted splitter and the kinetic version are fast and impressive, but they’re also expensive.
If you were splitting logs for a living, then they would be the right choice for you. But for occasional log splitting, the simpler systems are better.
The machine powers through a task that would take real effort if you were using an ax. It makes it look smooth and effortless, but the hydraulics are actually driving about 10 tons of force. So it’s little wonder the logs split so easily.
This means that hours of tiring work is reduced to a few minutes. You spare yourself the backache and get the job done quickly, which is a big win.
Log Splitter Safety —
Of course, a device that uses 10 tons of pressure to drive a log into a blade has the potential to cause serious injury. The terrible pressure that effortlessly splits logs can also break or sever fingers or limbs.
That’s why many modern log splitters are designed to require 2 hands to operate. The 2 handed design means you must use one hand must hold down a switch while the other hand operates a lever.
With both hands occupied, the two-handed system means they are kept out of harm’s way. Another benefit of a 2 handed control system is that it forces the user to stand in the “operator zone.”
Stopping the machine is extremely easy, too. All you need to do is take one hand or the other away from the controls.
The double hand feature is not included in all log splitters, but it’s not a huge problem. As long as you keep your wits about you and follow sensible safety precautions, you’ll be able to keep your arms attached.
There is also a risk of splinters shooting off under high pressure, so you should use goggles to protect your eyes, and make sure people don’t stand too close to the machine while it’s working.
Splinters can also be a problem when handling the logs after they’ve been split. Now, a splinter isn’t going to cost you an arm, but it can be irritating and painful, and they can cause infections. So it makes sense to wear thick gloves when you use a log splitter.
For powerful gas powered splitters, sound can be a problem. Prolonged exposure to loud sounds can hurt the ears, so you should use ear protection.
Split logs can fall off of the machine (especially if they are at the size limit), so you need to stand in a safe position. Wearing steel toed boots will protect your toes even if a log falls off in the wrong direction.
Log Splitter Safety Zone
Speaking of safe positions, each log splitter is designed with an “operator zone.” This is the area where you can safely stand and operate the machine. Standing in the wrong position is dangerous; to quote one manual, it can “cause horrific injuries or death.”
These machines are powerful, but they have limits. Specifically, they are only able to handle logs up to a certain size (length and diameter.) It’s important to respect these limitations, otherwise bad things can happen. Things like logs shooting out sideways, or the machine breaking or falling over while running.
These machines are all made to run in a certain orientation (vertical or horizontal). Using them in the wrong orientation is an invitation to a catastrophe.
✓ Safety Reminder: Wear steel-toed boots (or shoes), safety goggles, safety gloves, protective hair covering and suitable work clothing. Never wear jewelry, necktie and other loose clothing!
In short, these are very powerful machines and have to be treated sensibly and with respect. They’re only dangerous if you use them wrongly.
Another good option. Older Boss Splitter —
Review : Boss Industrial ES7T20 Electric | Best Log Splitter
View or download the MANUAL for the Boss Industrial ES7T20.
- 7 tons of splitting force. 2 HP Electric Motor. 3,500 psi hydraulic pressure.
- One-handed operation.
- Automatic ram return.
- Lightweight and portable.
- Durable 2 HP motor.
- 2 year residential, 90 day commercial warranty.
- Strong 7-inch steel wedge.
- Split logs up to 20.5″ in length; up to 10″ in diameter.
- Easy push button electronic start.
- Fully assembled – no assembly required.
ES7T20 Overview | Electric Log Splitter
VIDEO | A Closer Look at the ES7T20
The Boss ES7T20 is an electric powered hydraulic log splitter with 7 tons of force. It features a fixed blade, which the log is pushed against.
It’s designed for one-handed operation, which is convenient, but remember to take care with your other hand! The automatic ram return will prepare it for the next log – this helps you to get an efficient rhythm going.
With a lightweight 2hp electric motor, this is a relatively lightweight and portable splitter.
It’s covered by a 2 year residential warranty; if you are planning to use it in a commercial capacity, that warranty is reduced to just 90 days, so this clearly isn’t the best log splitter for heavy work, despite its name.
You will need to change the hydraulic oil after every 100 hours of use. It comes filled with AW32 universal hydraulic oil. At a pinch, you can use Dextron II transmission fluid as an alternative, but A32 is preferable. You must be careful not to mix the two fluids.
Users claim that it’s able to split logs like butter and have used it successfully with aspen, spruce, oak, cherry, and pine. If the splitter cannot break through the log on the first try, you just need to switch off the motor, return the ram to its starting position, and try again.
It is able to split logs up to 10″ in diameter and 20.5″ in length.
This is a good choice for an everyday log splitter. The 7 tons of force is powerful enough to split most logs, although you may occasionally have troubles with knotty wood.