Even today several people use wood in their fireplaces for heating purposes and for keeping warm in winters because it saves on gas and electricity. But wooden logs too cost money; therefore there must a system by which they can use the wood more efficiently and for longer purposes.
By splitting wooden logs into smaller pieces you can use it more efficiently.
Gone are the days when cutting woods was hard and backbreaking work, at times unsafe too. Log splitters or wood splitters, however you choose to call them, are designed to chop bulky wooden logs into more usable and smaller pieces.
With the advancement in technology, log splitters have become more user-friendly. Nowadays you just need to switch on a button or pull a lever to get started.
If you ask why not use a chainsaw instead? The reason is very simple; chainsaws just chop the wood into the required length whereas log splitters are more specific and can split a log into a precise diameter. Recently four-way wedges have been introduced in the market to further make the whole process simpler, quicker and efficient; this wedge can split logs into four small pieces at one shot.
Though most often log splitters are used by homeowners for splitting wood for firewood, even landscape professionals have many uses for these machines. They use them while dealing with uneven terrain to get rid of withered trees; this way they also reduce the amount of rubble too.
Best Log Splitter For The Money
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NorthStar 37-Ton Horizontal/Vertical
- Protected by a 4-year consumer warranty
- Honda engine is protected for 3 years
- I-beam construction helps to prevent twisting
- Heavy-plate stripper frees logs
- Can be towed easily
- Very heavy
- Hydraulic fittings may leak
Ariens 917001 27 Ton
- Able to split logs that are around 18 – 24 inches thick
- The Subaru engine allows for a reliable and hassle-free start
- Comes with an attached work table
- Runs smoothly and quietly for its size and power
- The engine is a little bit more thirsty for fuel
- Assembly of the product was difficult due to the unclear written instructions
- Bolting the engine directly to the platform caused some rattling and vibrations to the frame
The need for a buying guide
The sheer amount of log splitters in the market is confusing, often leading to a wrong purchase. There is no one machine that can be used for all kinds of wood splitting. Some are simpler and smaller and are more suited for household projects while there are others which are suited for industrial purposes.
It is, therefore, essential that you have a buying guide that provides information on what to look for in a log splitter and where you can buy it.
Questions to ask before purchase
Ask yourself these questions before you finally make a purchase. Choose a model which answers all your questions; if you do not find it in one place, search elsewhere but do not compromise because the right machine will not only be more efficient, save time and effort but will also be safe to use and a loyal companion for years to come.
- What kind of log splitter should you buy: There are several types of log splitters that one can choose from; we shall soon see the various kinds and styles. Depending on your usage, the amount of wood you need, how often you need, the kind of wood and where you live, you can choose one that is apt for your needs.
- What kind of wood do you plan to split: The type of wood too plays a determining factor; hardwoods like teak, oak and maple require a powerful splitter when compared to softer wood like pines, fir spruce etc.
- What is the budget: You can get log splitters from $ 100 to several hundred. Of course, it goes without saying that the more expensive the splitter the more powerful and efficient it is, but you need to consider if you really need a powerful splitter or not.
- Where to buy it: Nowadays everything is available online. Google to find out about the various dealers and manufacturers. But be cautious and check the authenticity of the site. Go through the comments sections and customer feedback to know more about the company. Pay attention to the shipping and return policy too. If you find that too much of a hassle just get it from a local store where you can personally inspect the product before you purchase it.
- Is it portable: A portable splitter can be carried with you even on your camping trips, or if you want to protect the unit from the elements of nature you can move it inside. Most of the log splitters especially for household use are portable; they are compact and light. Even the heavy ones can be towed because they come with wheels.
If the above list has cleared a few cobwebs and your criteria are clear, you should know a few terms that are key to understanding the power and performance of the machine.
In wood cutting parlance, certain terms are used to describe the power and performance of a log splitter. Knowing these terms will ease the process of choosing a right log splitter.
This is one of the most important factors for purchasing a splitter. A cycle time means the time taken by a splitter to split a log of wood. The lesser the cycle time the more efficient and faster the machine is. Thus enabling you to cut more wood without consuming much of your time.
Most log splitters are single-handed operation wherein one of your hands is always free. It is easy to use but the only disadvantage is the possibility of hurting the free hand is greater with this model. Of course, if you have your wits about you and are alert you can use these models safely. It never hurts to follow the safety instructions carefully, no matter how accustomed you are to using these machines.
The Two-handed Operation
To counter the disadvantage of a single-handed design, the two-handed models operate only when both the hands are used; meaning one hand must hold the switch while the other pulls the lever. Though some may consider this model to be a bit of a hassle to use as both hands will be strained in the process, this model is safe to use.
A few advantages of this type are that you will be forced to always remain in the safe zone away from harm, and secondly the minute you remove one hand the machine stops automatically.
All models will state “operator zone”. It simply means the minimum distance that should be maintained between the machine and the operator for safety purpose. If you do not maintain this distance the results could be fatal.
Tonnage / Splitting Force
Each unit is designed to exert a certain amount of force to split the log efficiently. This force is called splitting force. It is measured in tonnage; if the machine has a higher tonnage the splitting force too is greater.
Types of Log splitters
Log splitters are classified in various ways. We shall look at all classifications. Many models are a mix of features. In this section, we will explain which is more beneficial to use and why.
Firstly let us look at the three major types of log splitters in the market. The type of log splitter you decide to buy will depend on your budget, the type of wood and the ease of use. Nowadays you can actually customize log splitters to your specific needs.
This is splitting wood the traditional way; no electricity and no gas, just manual labor. These log splitters are dependent on your physical strength. These splitters are operated by foot or hand levers.
Thankfully they are not as tiring or hard to use as an ax because technology has made the use of these splitters easier and less strenuous.
Since you are in charge the chances of any mishaps are fewer with these machines. These splitters are economical, easy to use, lightweight and perfectly suited for smaller household projects.
The only disadvantage is that they can be physically exhausting and the output too will be slow.
- Economical: Most of the manual machines are simple and do not contain too many pieces making them inexpensive and affordable.
- Portable: These machines are compact and lightweight hence easy to take along anywhere.
- Lightweight: They are often a single piece hence do not weigh much.
- Easy to use and store: Their compact size and lightweight nature make them easy to store. They are also very simple and easy to use.
- No ugly and cumbersome cables: Unlike electric log splitters, these machines have no extra dangling cables that you might trip over.
- Ideal for places where there is no electricity: They are not dependent on electricity or gas to work. All you need is your physical strength to use these machines.
- Quiet: They do not produce any noise because there is no engine involved in these types.
- Is time-consuming: These splitters are very slow and take a long time to split wood.
- Physically tiring: Using these machines requires physical strength; hence this limits its production time because you can’t use it continuously.
- Can’t Split large logs: This is a very basic machine that cannot be used for splitting large wood logs.
- Not Safe: Risk of injury is more with these machines because there are no controls and it is subject to your own alertness and swiftness.
So if you need only a few logs that need to be split, a manual log splitter is more than enough. But in case you want something that is quicker, more efficient and more powerful then you should look at the electric log splitter.
Their biggest advantage is that they can be used indoors too. Besides that, they are cheaper because there is no internal combustion engine normally found in gas splitters.
On top of that, the best electric wood splitter is lighter, does not produce harmful emissions, requires lesser maintenance and is not as expensive as gas splitters.
They are often found with a splitting force of 4-7 tons but are also available with a higher tonnage of up to 20 tons.
- Can be used both indoors and outdoors wherever there is a power source giving them more flexibility in usage.
- Are much quieter than gas powered splitters.
- Are more economical when compared with gas.
- They are lightweight and compact making them portable.
- Since there is no gas that is burnt there are no harmful emissions making this splitter eco-friendly.
- Easier maintenance not requiring engine oil change and servicing.
- Are not powerful enough to split bigger logs which require a greater splitting force of more than 20 tons.
- You need a power outlet always. Hence if you use extension when there is no power outlet close by, then you have to navigate your way through a maze of cables and wires. Or you will have to use a generator if using in a remote area.
- They have lesser log capacity; electric log splitters can manage only logs that are around 12-inch diameter and 20-inch length, unlike gas splitters which can manage bigger logs.
To overcome these drawbacks and if you deal constantly with larger logs and are looking for a powerful beast, the gas splitter is the one.
These are the most powerful log splitters available in the market both for commercial purpose and for household needs. These splitters are fast, efficient and can be used with the hardest of woods and with logs that are huge. They can also be used on wet woods and seasoned woods.
They are the best commercial log splitter when you have a large number of logs to be split.
- Powerful: They are immensely powerful with a splitting force that ranges from 8 tons to a powerful 34 tons or more in some commercial units.
- Larger Capacity: For splitting logs with a diameter larger than 12 inches and greater than 20 inches in length only the gas log splitter can be used.
- Portable: It is not restricted by a power outlet or cables and wires.
- Expensive: Greater power, more efficiency, and faster splitting come at a cost. The gas models are more expensive than electric or manual splitters.
- High maintenance: Gas splitters use combustion engines that require a periodical change of oil, air filters, and replacement of spark plug with complete servicing. This is expensive and time-consuming.
- Cannot be used indoors: Because of the use of combustion engine, there are toxic emissions making it harmful to use a gas splitter indoors.
- Noisy: They are noisy and can disturb the peace of the surroundings.
- Heavy: These models are heavy and cumbersome though portable. The only way to move them is by towing them with a truck or an ATV.
Log splitters can also be classified into
- Hydraulic Models
- Kinetic Models
- The hydraulic pump creates a pressure that pushes the splitting wedge through the log splitting it. These splitters are not easy to use and are not very effective when cutting irregular logs.
- These splitters are available in a wide variety of tonnage right from 8 tons splitting force to 30 tons or more.
- These splitters are available in vertical or horizontal style too.
- Though the hydraulic machines are powerful they are slow and have a cycle time of only 13-20 seconds. So they are not very fast.
The difference between electric hydraulic log splitter and gas hydraulic log splitter is the source of power; while one requires electricity, the other requires gas or petrol.
These splitters work on an altogether different principle; they use a flywheel to store and use energy derived from a gas engine. They are a little uncommon but are immensely powerful and more efficient than the hydraulic splitters.
- Once the power source is switched on energy is stored in the flywheel which is released when the lever is activated. This energy is directed at the rack and pinion with tremendous force to split a log; this allows the ram to return to its original position really fast. The whole process takes a mere 3 seconds.
- The number of logs split per hour is far higher than those by the hydraulic.
- The gas used by the kinetic splitter is a quarter of that used by hydraulic ones.
Thus both cost wise and efficiency wise the kinetic splitters are better than the hydraulic splitters.
Log splitters are also often classified based on the direction the split comes.
They are easy to assemble and can be placed close to the ground, hence the physical strain of lifting and placing logs is limited. Most models come with adjustable height; you can set the splitter at a height convenient for you to prevent unnecessary strain on the back.
- Can handle logs of size 14 inches in diameter and 21 inches in length most of the times.
- It is suited for wood used in fireplaces, stoves, and burners.
- They are compact and lightweight.
- Most models are electrical in nature.
- They can be used both indoors and outdoors.
If you are looking for a log splitter to split large massive logs without lifting them then a vertical log splitter is what you need. These splitters are designed to split logs while they are still on the ground.
- Ideal for splitting massive logs that are difficult to be lifted from the ground.
- Suitable for both hardwood and softwood.
- They are large and require more space.
- They are available in both electrical and gas-powered models.
An added advantage with vertical log splitters is that most models can switch between horizontal and vertical positioning giving you greater flexibility in the kind of wood you want to split. In these models, the splitter can be lowered to the ground and the log rolled over before raising the splitter back to horizontal position. This way you can split both large logs and small logs as well.
Another hydraulic log splitter that you should know about is the machine mounted hydraulic log splitter wherein the splitter is attached to a tractor. Make sure you choose a model that is compatible with your tractor model. It is used commercially and quite rarely in a domestic setting.
How to select the best wood splitter for the money
Here are a few factors that need attention before your purchase a quality log splitter. The kind of wood and the amount of splitting you want to do must be kept in mind.
There are a few basic features that all log splitters must have. So whether you are new to log splitters or one who wants to upgrade to a better model, make sure you check out the below-mentioned features before buying a log splitter.
Different woods require different power to split, and if the wood is wet then you need to use extra power. The best wood splitter will have the required power to cut effortlessly through both hard and wet wood.
Remember that a machine is only as good as its motor because both reliability and speed are dependent on it. So if you are a home user, a motor with 2 Horse Power will suffice but if you are looking for more power, then 3.5 HP will be ideal in most cases.
Therefore keep in mind the kind of wood you will be dealing with and select a log splitter that can generate the required power. You should check the splitter for RAM force and amps besides the total horsepower.
Log Length And Diameter
Not all log splitters can be used for woods of all sizes; logs with bigger diameter and length require splitters that can handle that size. Most often 20 inches length and 12-inch diameter work well for most people. Find out the maximum size the splitter can handle before you purchase it.
It is important that your splitter has a log plate whose height can be adjusted to suit logs of various sizes. Normally splitters come with at least two or three height adjustment positions.
Look for splitters that come with wheels that will help in moving the splitter easily from one place to another if you want to protect from natural elements. The presence of ball hitch to tow your machine on the freeway will be an added advantage in moving your splitter. A handle will also help in moving the splitter around.
Fast Cycle Times
Cycle time determines how efficient and how quick a splitter is. Therefore to improve the efficiency and productivity you should choose a splitter that has a faster cycle time. 15 seconds cycle time is considered to be fast. This way in lesser time more wood can be split.
A splitter of sturdy construction lasts really long; splitters made of steel are the most durable. Make sure that the model you select uses high-grade steel to produce log splitters that will withstand wear and tear far longer than other machines.
It is important that your machine is covered by warranty to take care of any maintenance and repair issues which always turn up on all machines. Read wood splitter reviews and customer feedbacks on manufacturer sites and other online stores like Amazon.
Every machine needs to be taken care and serviced to maintain its productivity and durability. How often to service a log splitter will depend on what kind of a splitter you have. Normally electric splitters can last a long time without servicing.
But gas splitters need to be serviced after every three to five uses. If you have a hydraulic log splitter then check its hydraulic fluid level after each use to ensure the optimum pressure is maintained.
Ideally, get your machine serviced by an authorized dealer to ensure all aspects of the machine are taken care and often all spare parts are available with them.
What’s in a brand?
Brands become popular because of the quality of the product, its longevity, fewer drawbacks and the service they provide. Branded products are often subject to rigorous tests to ensure each product performs to its optimum. That’s not all they have a service desk that is exclusively dedicated to deal with customers woes, if any, with their products.
Not all brands are equal; some are known for their innovativeness while others for their sturdiness, and some others for their ease of use.
Therefore do your research and scour through several websites to find out the best log splitter brand before you invest in a suitable brand. Just because a particular brand is famous and is a crowd favorite, does not mean it can suit your needs. Keep your need in mind, along with the brand.
Remember established brands have earned their name and have been there in business because they know exactly how the product works.
- Know the type of wood: Exercise caution when placing the logs in the splitter because each type of log behaves differently when it is split. Place the wood by holding it on the sides and not at the ends. Remember wood that has crotches will split irregularly either at an angle or breaking into big chunks.
- Be alert when using the splitter: Like any machine which uses blades, you must always be alert. If you are tired, then stop right away. Do not place your hands wrongly on the logs while it is getting split to prevent any tragic accident. You might not get a second chance to protect yourself.
- Coordinate with assistant or helper: It is crucial that you are in sync with your team or your assistant when operating the machine to prevent any untoward accidents.
- Maintain distance: Make sure that you switch on the machine only when the helper is away at least 10 feet from the machine. Also, ensure you maintain the safe distance as suggested in the user manual.
- Prevent backaches: Working with wooden logs can be hard on your back; the constant lifting and placing the logs will lead to a backache. Therefore, take adequate rests between lifting and do necessary stretches to relieve back strain. Ideally, go for a model where you can adjust the height so you can place the log comfortably without strain.
- Wear the Right Clothing: It is paramount that you wear the right clothes and protective gear while working with the splitter. Wear goggles and gloves to prevent the splintered wood from entering your eyes and poking your hands respectively. Wear non-skid shoes, preferably covered or heavy boots; clothes that are not loose and dangly but those that fit snugly are recommended to prevent them from getting stuck in the rotating part of the machine.
- Avoid poisoning: There is a chance of the hydraulic fluid escaping from a hydraulic log splitter due to the high pressure that develops within it while using it. This fluid is highly poisonous and can cause blood poisoning, gangrene, and even death. Hence avoid direct contact with the fluid at all times.
- Follow the instructions in the manual: Do not overlook the instructions in the manual that accompany the splitter before assembling it and operating it. All the safety regulations will be stated there. The manual will also guide you on using the machine correctly and in addressing any problems that might arise. This will ensure the machine does not malfunction and your warranty doesn’t become null and avoid the wrong usage.
- Know all the Controls: Before you start to use the machine be completely aware of all the controls and switches. Know how to stop and disengage the machine.
- No children: Do not allow young children near the machine; it is not a toy. In fact, children below 16 should not be allowed to use the machine and even those who do must do so under parent supervision and only after knowing the operation of the machine thoroughly.
- Maintain distance: Keep your children and pets at least 20 feet from the machines.
- Position the machine on even ground: Place the machine on horizontal ground and lock it to prevent movement; do not place it on any sloppy, slippery or icy surface. These surfaces will make the machine unstable and this will affect the quality of split and might even cause injury to the operator.
- Good Lighting conditions: Use it only in good light conditions like daylight or under bright artificial lights. Do not operate at night or in poorly lit areas to prevent accidents.
- Do not use the machine for any other purpose other than splitting wood.
- Never leave the machine running unattended.
- Remove the split wood once you are done to prevent any accidental trips and falls.
Your safety is your responsibility, do not ignore it.
Split Second Two-Handed Activation Design
When we are talking about the safety issues, it is only natural that we talk about the Split Second two-handed activation design which ensures that both your hands are away from the rack, pinion, and the log.
Normally, woodcutters keep one hand on the log and the other on the splitter to direct the log for even cutting and also to prevent any unwanted splinters from coming at them.
The Split second was designed precisely to avoid this habit. The wedge in a split second is angled at 45 degrees to ensure that the wood is not split upwards and sideways; this also prevents any errant piece from coming your way. As a result, the user need not keep his/her hand on the wood to avoid unnecessary pinches, cuts, and other accidents.
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This guide’s sole purpose is to provide adequate information to you to make an informed decision while buying a log splitter.
Keep your needs in front of you and then decide the best rated log splitter for your needs, budget, and other criteria. Weigh the pros and cons of all the models and types before reaching a decision.
A good log splitter will be convenient to use, powerful and will save time and be worth its value.