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Splitting wood by hand is a painful (and blister causing) process. Log splitters are a great time saver if you need to split a lot of wood.
If you are considering buying a log splitter, there are quite a variety of models on the market.
Which one is best? Are you buying a model that is dependable and won’t leave you out in the cold – poor pun I know 🙂
We’ve made the decision of which to purchase a little easier for you by reviewing the best selling and top rated models. How did they fair? Read on to find out!
Quick look: the best log splitters to consider in 2019
- Boss Industrial ES7T20: powerful, easy to maintain – best overall electric log splitter.
- Champion Power Equipment 90720: best portable splitter, but still very durable.
- Pow’ R’ Kraft 65556 : good value model for everyday homeowner use, dependable.
- Sun Joe LJ10M Hydraulic: small, manual model for compact logs (very highly rated)
How to Use a Log Splitter & Safety Tips
Give yourself more than elbow room when operating your log splitter. Indoors or out, maintain at least a clear area of at least 3 feet around the splitter to give yourself room to work and to allow for proper ventilation.
Every log is different. Some are clear, others have knots. Some will split at an angle, others may refuse to stay in place and slip sideways. If you see a log is not splitting straight, be sure to stop before readjusting it. You can avoid most problems by splitting with the grain, never across it.
A log splitter is an imposing machine; it exerts tons of force. Never begin to operate one without paying attention to that often ignored warning: SAFTY FIRST. Here are some ways to protect yourself and others from possible injury while operating this awesome laborsaving device.
When you split logs, pieces of wood can fly up toward your face. Always wear a quality pair of protective glasses to protect your eyes.
Your legs, feet, and hands need protection, too. In the process of cracking apart, logs may slip and fall from the splitter. Wear long pants and steel-toed boots to protect your feet and legs. Those 50-plus pound chunks of wood can do a number on your toes.
Your hands get a lot of use when splitting logs. Heavy duty work gloves are a must. Even with gloves, however, never use them to make adjustments while the splitter is being operated.
Electric and manual log splitters operate quietly, but splitters powered by gasoline engines can produce high decibel levels of sound. If your log splitter is gas powered, you will be exposed to excessive noise. Wear hearing protectors to keep your hearing from being damaged.
Speaking of gas-powered splitters, don’t use them in your garage or shed. The fumes produced by a gas-powered engine contain carbon monoxide are odorless and deadly.
Even though a splitter puts less strain on your body than wielding an ax, incorrectly lifting heavy logs may lead to some crippling pain. Follow these basic rules to protect your back while lifting:
- Keep a wide base of support.
- Bend at the knees when lifting.
- Keep back straight.
- Maintain good posture.
- Lift slowly and evenly. Don’t jerk.
- When carrying, keep logs close to your body at stomach level.
Operating a log splitter is literally not child’s play. Never allow children to operate a log splitter, even with supervision. In fact, never allow children near your log splitter while it is in use.
Don’t try to split really small branches – this can be very dangerous. Instead, consider a chipper. Here is a guide to buying the best chipper shredder for your needs.
Finally, a log splitter should be used for splitting wood only. Do not use it for any other purpose.
Types of Log & Wood Splitters
There are 3 types of log splitters & wood splitters:
- Gas Log Splitter
- Electric Log Splitter
- Manual Hydraulic Hand Log Splitter
Which one of these is best for you? That depends on where and how you intended to use it and the amount and size of logs you plan to split. Machines that split logs differ, so do the people who operate them. Knowing what each type of log splitter is used for, their pros and cons, and what kind of job each is best suited for will help you decide which is the right type for you.
Log splitters and wood splitters powered by gasoline are generally heavier than electric and manual powered ones. They are generally bigger and sturdier, able to generate greater force to the task of splitting, and able to handle logs larger and wider than other types of splitters.
Gas powered splitters are constructed with a base plate and cradle that holds the wood in place. A sturdy rod, tipped with a large wedge, is driven into the wood to be split with tons of pressure generated by hydraulics. The amount of pressure produced by gasoline-powered splitters ranges from 7 tons (suitable for household fireplaces and wood stoves) to 60 tons of splitting pressure (used for large sized tasks such as splitting cords).
Most gas splitters are adjustable for use either horizontally and vertically. The vertical position makes it easier to lift heavy pieces of wood in place while the horizontal setting provides a shorter distance for lifting lighter pieces.
Many gas log and wood splitters are towable, a feature that allows the user to move the unit between sites without having to lift it on and off a truck bed.
Is a gas splitter the best type for you? Yes, if you want a log splitter that can handle larger logs, will be used outdoors in a clear space, and is on the higher end of a splitter’s cost. If you do opt for a gas splitter, you should be aware that most brands require assembling.
Electric log and wood splitters are powered by an electrical cord. An electric motor doesn’t require dealing with gasoline, but the tradeoff is that you have to plug it into an 110 electrical outlet. The distance the wire extends from the outlet limits where you can operate an electric splitter.
A heavy duty three-wire grounded extension cord will increase the distance you can use the splitter. Don’t try to extend the splitter’s useful range without increasing the capacity of the cord. An extension cord gauge that is underrated for the job can damage the motor. Doing so can drop the voltage and increase the amperage. The internal windings of a motor are insulated to accommodate certain temperatures that the motor is designed to work within. When these are exceeded, damage may occur.
Electric splitters are generally low to the ground. They are constructed with a base plate that cradles the wood. Like other types of splitters, they have an hydraulically driven rod with a wedge on the end that splits the wood.
Most electric log splitters function horizontally, not vertically. They generally range between 4-10 tons of splitting pressure and are suitable for medium sized tasks.
You should consider an electric log splitter if you want medium performance and price and prefer a splitter that is relatively easy to use without demanding much from you physically.
As its name implies, a manual hydraulic log splitter is activated by hand rather than by gas or electricity. Like the other two types, it is made of steel and uses a hydraulic press with a rod and wedge to split wood.
Manual hydraulic log splitters are light, portable, and relatively inexpensive. They don’t require much physical exertion yet produce up to 10 tons of splitting force. Manual hydraulic splitters are effective at splitting small to medium sized logs or pieces of wood.
Most manual hydraulic splitters are operated by pumping the handles to build up the pressure and move the hydraulic press forward to push the logs into the splitter. A knob on top releases the pressure and readies the unit for the next log which can generally be 10” to 12” long.
A hydraulic-assisted manual log splitter can have difficulty splitting wood that has large knots in it. Such wood may not split when using the unit because the wood tends to crack off at the knot. Soft wood can also be a problem because it may shatter instead of cutting.
On the plus side, manual hydraulic splitters are compact and can be easily moved. It can be operated by one person and uses commonly available oil for the hydraulic fluid.
How to Determine the Best Log Splitter to Purchase
When determining which type of log splitter to purchase, consider these factors:
Where will you use it?
Gas powered splitters should be run outdoors. Unlike electric or manual hydraulic ones, they can’t be operated in a garage or shed because they produce harmful fumes. Most gas powered ones come with a ball hitch, so if you need to, your log splitter can be towed to a site where cut up logs are available.
How much force (tons) will you need to split your biggest logs?
If your log splitting is non-commercial, the largest you will need is 20 to 25 tons. Most wood split for household fireplace and wood stove use can be handled by a 6 to 15-ton splitter.
Choose your log splitter based on the widest logs in your woodpile. A small 4-ton log splitter will handle 6-inch diameter branches. If you need to split 2-foot wide tree trunks, you’ll need one with 20-30 tons of force. Of course, a log splitter that can handle a bit more than might be required is preferable.
Is owning a log splitter worth the cost?
Most splitters range from under $200 up. If you only have a small amount of wood to split, only do so on occasion, and have little problem chopping your own, you may not need to make the investment.
On the other hand, if you split firewood regularly, you will find that a wood splitter is well worth the cost.
Do I Need a Commercial Log Splitter?
If you are splitting wood to sell, sure, you want the speed and ability to handle large quantities, sizes, and varieties of logs. But most of us really don’t need a 45-ton splitter. So before you decide whether to invest in a commercial or less powerful grade splitter, consider the features you actually need rather than those you want.
The most common rental units found in rental stores run at about 26 tons. A machine of this size and others with even less force have just about every feature most people would ever need for splitting logs. Commercial splitters can handle those gnarly and awkwardly shaped logs. Because smaller splitters may have more difficulty dealing with them, many have a 2-stage pump that handles knots by switching to single stage slowing down the wedge and increasing the power.
Do you need a commercial splitter? Bigger is not always better or faster. More expensive? Yes.
How to Properly Maintain Your Log Splitter
Once you’ve invested in the log splitter that best meets your needs, you will want to keep it operating efficiently over the years. A hydraulic log splitter operates under high hydraulic pressures and depends on several moving parts. Proper maintenance will ensure its prolonged and safe use.
Read the Instructions
To work effectively, all parts of a splitter must function well. Even one malfunctioning component can affect the entire machine. Since each type and brand of splitter is unique, read and follow your hydraulic log splitter owners handbook that will contain instructions for the maintenance of your specific machine.
Hydraulic fluid is what transfers pressure from its reservoir to effectively operate the cylinder and rod. The hydraulic fluid is contained within pipes under pressure that can be several tons per square inch. These pipes should regularly be inspected for wear and tear. Hydraulic fluid under pressure can strip the skin from your hand. Hold a piece of stiff card near the suspected leak. It will discolor if there is a leak.
Low hydraulic fluid is in your log splitter will result in less power. To add the appropriate amount of hydraulic fluid, remove the plug then fill with hydraulic fluid until the unit is three-fourths full. Next, replace the oil filling plug and bleed the trapped air from the cylinder by extending the piston rod to its maximum length. Remove the oil filling plug then rapidly twist the release screw in a counterclockwise motion drawing the piston rod back into the cylinder causing the air to be released.
A coarse metal file will sharpen and repair chips and nicks in the splitter’s blade. Run a fine file along the edge of the blade to finish the process.
For good preventative maintenance, clean the log splitter regularly being sure to turn the machine off before doing so.
Log Splitter Reviews
1) Boss Industrial ES7T20 Electric Log Splitter
- Convenient one-Handed operation
- Automatic ram return
- 2-year residential warranty
- It is difficult getting a hydraulic fluid level reading from the black dipstick
- It needs more amperage than available from a truck’s inverter
The Boss Industrial ES7T20 Electric Log Splitter is number one on our list for good reason. Its powerful 2 HP electric motor delivers 7 tons of splitting force with none of the harmful emissions and noise that comes with gas-powered units. This allows users to split wood indoors as well as outside so it can be used in a garage out of the weather. Just be sure to plug it into an outlet with a 20 amp breaker or you may blow a fuse.
The Boss ES7T20 effectively splits green wood as well as dried. Built-in side rails keep logs stable while splitting. It can cut right through logs as large as 16 inches long and 22 inches round without any problem and is relatively quiet in the process. This gem can also be used to split kindling all the way down to pieces 1/2 inch wide. As opposed to many other brands, the Boss operates one-handed. There is no need to hold the on/off switch down at the same time you move the operating lever, making it somewhat safer to operate as well as easier to hold a larger log off center and split it a portion at a time.
This splitter is shipped mostly assembled right out of the box, just the handle needs to be attached. The splitter’s front handle and wheels allow for easy maneuvering. It stands up straight for storage after removing the knob/lever on the back.
2) Champion Power Equipment 90720 Compact Portable Log Splitter
- Convenient handle and never-flat tires
- Efficient auto-return control valve
- Skewed wedge for improved splitting
- 2-year limited warranty with FREE lifetime technical support
- The wheels are not made for towing
- Requires quite a bit of assembly time and effort
The 7 Ton Compact Portable Log Splitter is powered by an 80cc Champion single cylinder OHV engine with a fuel tank holding 0.4 gallons. The engine protects itself by automatically shutting off when sensing that it is low on oil. The system has a 1.3-gallon hydraulic oil capacity that operates at 2 GPM at 3900 PSI
The unit has 10
The Champion Power Equipment Model 90720 splitter has an automatic return time that is a bit long – about 20 seconds – the lever when in reverse does not need to be held when activated. This gives the user the ability and time to go about stacking the newly split wood while the splitter resets itself ready for the next log. Also, the Champion splitter is lower to the ground
3) Pow’ R’ Kraft 65556 Electric Log Splitter
- 1,500-watt electric motor that runs on regular household current with a ground fault breaker that protects against overload
- All steel construction
- Takes up very little room
- 2 hand operation makes it difficult to re-position the wood if needed
- Wheels are too small and close together making it difficult to move.
The Pow’ R’ Kraft 65556 Electric Log Splitter runs on a 15 amp 1.75 horsepower electric motor. It can run on an 110-volt household electric outlet, however, the longer the cord, the heavier gauge wire is required. The longer and thinner a wire the more the voltage drops and greater is the potential for long-term danger to the motor windings.
This splitter can cut logs up to 20 inches in length and 10 inches in diameter. It can efficiently handle some woods up to a 12” diameter. The splitter requires two hands on the controls to make a split. The left-hand controls the hydraulic control lever while the right-hand controls the pushbutton switch. The log splitter will stop upon the absence of either hand. Release by both hands is necessary before the splitter will back up to its starting position. Although this is a desirable safety feature, it does limit the ability to readjust a log if necessary while the splitter is in action.
The piston returns to its home position by spring tension, so it is relatively quick. The stand accessory does an excellent job putting the work at a workable height. Because the Pow’ R’ Kraft 65556 Log Splitter is electric, it is safe to use it inside a shed or garage with no worry about gas fumes and inclement weather.
4) Sun Joe LJ10M Logger Joe Hydraulic Log Splitter
- This splitter can be folded up and stored in a small space.
- It is lighter in weight than electric or gas-powered splitters, easier to move, and less expensive.
- Because the Sun Joe LJ10M is quite to operate and non-polluting, it can be used indoors.
- This manual splitter is limited to handling logs up to 18” long and 8” wide.
- Larger size wheels would make this splitter more portable, especially for outdoor use.
The Sun Joe LJ10M Logger Joe Hydraulic Log Splitter is manually operated. That means there is none of the expense or fuss of gasoline, electricity, or motors to deal with in addition to the additional weight and maintenance. Yes, manual requires some muscle power, but with the help of hydraulics, this log splitter makes your work a lot easier than using your muscles to swing an ax.
This splitter is operated by pumping one or both of its two levers. One lever is high pressure (and slower), and the other is lower pressure (and faster). Moving the handles back and forth forces the hydraulic press forward to push the logs into the V splitter with up to ten tons of pressure. Once the log is split, a twist of the knob on top releases the pressure and resets the process. Each handle has a different amount of resistance, so when moving one isn’t doing the job, switching to the second one can provide a better option.
The Sun Joe LJ10M Logger Joe Hydraulic Log Splitter splits firewood logs up to 18” long by 8” wide. It is durable, made of steel, and has rear wheels to help with maneuverability. Although not suitable for hi speed splitting on an industrial scale, for cost-saving and back-saving log splitting, the Sun Joe Manual splitter works fine for a homeowner with a fireplace or wood stove.
A log cradle prevents split wood from falling, and the splitter’s compact size makes it easy to store. The LJ10M comes with a full two-year warranty.
We trust our recommendations were helpful. The splitter you choose was designed for many years of trouble free wood splitting.
Give it the proper care and respect it deserves. To avoid damage from water and mold, store the log splitter in a dry place.
Cover your machine with a water-proof tarp for extra protection. Splitting logs no longer needs to be a back-breaking or time-consuming job.