What is a Log Splitter?
In times of internet and automatic production, the work with homeowner’s vegetation became much easier thanks to special machinery. For example, scythes, watering cans, hand saws, rakes – all of them have been gradually replaced with lawn mowers, smart sprinkles, chainsaws, leaf blowers and so on. You can add the log splitters to them. They will be a great addition to country house inventory, no matter if you have a fireplace or not. And of course, small sawmills can use them as well. Instead of using an axe to chop wood against winter just use log splitter and get the job done in no time.
The working principle is rather simple. The log is split either with a screw cone that whirls at a great speed or by pushing a log against the wedge with a high-pressure force. At industrial sawmills, the huge log splitters can be a part of a conveyor line. However, for homeowners and lumbermen, there are comparatively compact and portable units available. It is much safer and less time consuming to use them when you have to split even just a handful of logs.
Let’s take a closer look at 5 log splitters and their features that we have picked up for you in this review. But right before we start, check out later our pick of electric chainsaws.
What Features to Compare
You can find Vertically and Horizontally Oriented log splitters. The vertical ones usually take less space on the floor, they are a bit more powerful and can be used with larger diameter chunks of wood. However, they extremely lack the mobility and stability on rough ground when compared to horizontal models, and usually require a flat surface to operate. Therefore, splitters with vertical log orientation are mostly used on sawmill sites by small and large companies. The real drawback of such models is that curved and writhed tree logs might fall off and must be held still at all times. Of course, you may find two-way oriented splitters, but in general, we’d like to recommend the horizontal splitters for homeowners, as they are safer to operate, have all the same functionality, and also because in most cases you won’t have to split a wood with a really large diameter.
As we've mentioned, the log can be split by being pushed with a hydraulic ram against the Wedge or the Screw Cone. The key feature of the cone is that the screw splits a log from any side, while the ram blade is more efficient when a log is placed with a cut-off side looking at the edge (along the branch growth vector). For home use, we'd recommend the ramming type, because it's more power-efficient and a cone screw occasionally requires changing.
Pressure Force is very important in log splitting. Industrial units may produce 20-40 tons of pressure force, but 5-10 tons are more than enough to chop the firewood for winter or a fireplace for common use. So, there's no need to overpay for a heavy force one, when you get all the same at a lower cost. Aim for 5-15-ton models.
Size matters. Check the Maximum Log Size that you can use the splitter with. And usually, it’s easier to move a splitter closer to wood storage, than the other way around. So chose the one that you can move by yourself. It’s worth mentioning that lately there are log splitters so compact that they fit a trunk of a usual car. And the models that won't fit in a pickup truck usually can be simply towed.
Speaking about portability, take a look at Power Supply. Some models can work with electricity from 110V socket. There are also gas-powered splitters, that you can take literally anywhere outdoors – even into the forest, but the real cons here are that they produce exhaust fumes and require more maintenance: cleaning gas tank from time to time, greasing the moving parts and so on. Finally, mechanical models can be taken anywhere and require only your hands to move the levers in order to split a wood, but usually take a lot more time to split a log than other types.
Log splitters may come with other Features for safer and more comfortable operation. Let's find them out in our review of 5 great log splitters, and see for yourself what model is the best suitable for your needs.
Powerhouse XM-380 Electric Hydraulic
Truth or Fiction
After taking a first look at the specs of the Powerhouse log splitter, we thought that its parameters are a bit too good to be true. So we’ve decided to sort out if it is as powerful as they say. So, here comes the XM-380. First of all, this log splitter has impressively compact dimensions – at 38.1”, you can put this tool in most of cars’ trunks and it won’t take much space in your garage or warehouse. It weighs around 105 lbs. but you can move it all by yourself with a special handle at the front side, due to two wheels in the rear. The handle in front also works as a support for the whole assembly – a common design solution. The bar length provides you with enough space to put up to 20.4" logs. Some might not notice, but the pushing ram takes only around 10-15 seconds for a full swing - also a great result.
The engine power is what actually has drawn our attention. You can power it from the mains to produce up to 7 tons of pressure! It might be a norm for larger models, but that’s really impressive for such a comparatively small body. Therefore, you can even use it for freshly cut wood. That’s useful when you have little time to wait for the logs to dry out and want to store the firewood right away.
Safety Comes First
Operating XM-380 is actually pretty easy. Plug it in, turn it on and then place a log on top of the bar. To start the ram you have to push two levers at once. And this is actually a safety measure. The idea behind this is that you will have both of your hands full and they will be nowhere near moving parts or splitting log. When you release them, the hydraulic cylinder moves backward allowing you to take out what's left and put the next one. Another safety feature is that there’s a plate near the handle assembly that protects your hands from shredded wood.
A small pro-tip: you can still use one hand with spread fingers to push two levers at once. But remember, if you ever have to hold the log during operation, never hold it along the splitting line.
More Products to Consider
Upon having this Powerhouse XM-380 at your disposal, you will be able to supply yourself with a great amount of firewood in no time. Nuff Said.
But always remember about basic safety measures when working with dry wood: wear long-sleeved shirts, but avoid loose-fitting clothing. Get yourself a pair of thick gloves, like this Wells Lamont leather gloves, that will prevent getting splinters into the skin of your hands. We want also recommend buying safety glasses, like these Dewalt, that will shield your eyes from any parts of wood that are burst into fly when the log splits. Such equipment is a must in any handyman's inventory.
Champion Power Equipment 90720 Compact Portable
Besides a great name, Champion Power Equipment 90720 has a few interesting features. But first of all, it is a gas-powered horizontal log splitter. It comes with an engine that can provide up to 7 ton of pressure power and utilizes common unleaded gasoline. Rack’s length and width are enough for up to 20" logs with a 10" diameter.
We've noticed, that this model requires additional maintenance due to use of gasoline. The exhaust filter should be cleaned after around 50 hours of operation, while the engine oil should be changed about once for every 100 hours of work, and not to mention clearing debris and greasing the movable parts. However, Champion log splitter proved itself to be rather reliable unit with pretty good productivity.
Controls are performed via the handle that can be put in one of the three positions: forward, stop and reverse. With stop option, you can more efficiently and faster split shorter logs without waiting for the ram to return all the way back.
It comes as no surprise, that the portability is the key feature of this log splitter. Despite its weight, we’ve found it easy to roll around with only one hand – possibly, due to large 10" never-flat wheels. So, if you want to chop logs right in the forest or in the garden far from electricity supply – that’s the thing. Our team also noted that a low bar makes it easier to put heavy logs on it.
More Products to Consider
You might find it easier to work with a chainsaw or a log splitter in earmuffs. If you were looking for a pair, check out these electronic Howard Leight earmuffs, that will protect your ears on-site from a loud noise, yet stop sound dampening when the ambient sound is quiet and safe for hearing.
WEN 56206 6-Ton Electric
Yet another horizontal electric log splitter in our review. However, our team found out that the WEN company designed a pretty nice device at a very attractive price. The 1.5 kW engine produces up to 6-ton pressure. We also noticed that it’s enough for most types of dry wood. However, it might note cope so well with freshly cut logs. Simply cut the wood and give the logs a couple of months to dry out before you actually get to chop them.
A useful piece of information: if you have emptied your supply of firewood mid-January because of the cold weather, then you can readily chop some more logs. Manufacturer states that the engine works well in temperatures below zero. All you need is to change the hydraulic fluid. Use automatic transmission fluid by Dexron for temperatures below 40 °F and AW32 for operation at 40 °F and over. Just don’t mix the fluids together.
After you plug WEN 56206 in a socket, the ram pushes the log onto the wedge only when you push both the control lever and the button on top of the engine unit at once. If you stop holding one of them, the ram stops. And if you release both controls, the ram returns to the starting position. It's a nice safety measure designed to keep your hands away from the splitting logs.
This electric log splitter will not take much space in your warehouse or garage, due to compact dimensions. As you might have already noticed, there are two rubber never-flat wheels to help you move it around. The two handles on the other side also work as a support when you put it down on the ground.
About the WEN Products
WEN Products company has already been in the business of electric equipment for more than half a century. Its R&D team helped implement the electrics in many tools for daily use and construction instruments, such as chainsaws, power jigsaws, knife and wet wheel sharpeners, and many others. Since then, they have sold more than 50 million products worldwide. Therefore, buying WEN tool, you can rest assured that you are getting a quality device.
More Products to Consider
The user manual has a detailed instruction on how to change the hydraulic fluids, that we've mentioned above. That is why you may even do it all by yourself. So just in case, here they are:
- Hydraulic oil AW ISO 32 for the temperatures above 40 °F.
- Automatic transmission fluid DEXRON-VI for up to 40 °F environment.
Boss Industrial ES7T20 Electric
Fast and Durable
Here we have another interesting and compact contestant. This time, it is the ES7T20 model by Boss Industrial. We have found out that it’s very easy to assemble, and even a child can easily roll it around as it comes with two wheels on one side and handles on the other, just like in the other electric models. However, remember that this is an electric device, so never let a kid actually use it or be even anywhere close when it’s turned on. Operating it is still just as easy as one-two-three. Turn it on, put the log on, push one handle and the ram will start moving forward. Releasing the handle sends the ram back, which is actually useful because you can already start switching logs, while the ram is still moving backward.
After closer examination, we can state, that it comes with a 1.5 kW engine, that can produce up to 7 tons of pressure force. It’s is best suited for dried out 14"-20" logs. The ram feed takes only 9-10 seconds, and with 5 seconds of backstroke you can quickly change the logs and proceed with the next one.
1 Stroke - 4 Splits
To further decrease the time for splitting the wood, you can additionally buy the wedge with two blades on the sides. Such cross-wedge is used for splitting a log into four. We’d also like to recommend using smaller and softer types of wood with such blade, as a log surface meets with a bigger plane of contact, requiring more force to be split.
Watching the logs split with ES7T20 was pretty satisfying and the only real drawback is that it might be too loud when you don’t wear earmuffs. Otherwise, it’s a solid log splitter, and using it, you will quickly fill your storage with nicely chopped small pieces of firewood.
More Products to Consider
Here is the 4-way cross wedge by Boss Industrial for splitting logs into 4, that we were talking about.
And also check out this nice rack for storing firewood by Landmann. You can get the one with or without a blanket for keeping it dry in case you decide to assemble and keep the rack outdoors.
Sun Joe LJ10M Logger Joe Manual
Sun Joe is a trademark of Snow Joe company that started out in 2004 in Carlstadt, NJ, with only one product - the electric snow shovel. You might ask, what it is. To put it in simple words, it's a shovel that dispenses and blows the snow from the shovel blade sideways, so that you can clean the path in one continuous motion. Neat, isn't it? Anyway, this is a successful company nowadays with a dozen tools for houses and yards. And for this review, we've picked up one of their devices.
10 Tons With Your Hands
Meet the Logger Joe. This tool can chop 18" logs for you with its 10-ton hydraulic pressure just fine. That is a great result, considering it is a manually operated mechanical log splitter. That’s right, it has no engine to automatically chop-chop the lumber. With this LJ20M model, you can forget about unwinding extension cords across your yard or the nasty smell of burnt petroleum from gas log splitters.
Furthermore, the log cradle has two metal brackets on each side to keep the log straight, while you are slowly pushing ram forward by moving the two handles back and forth in a manner that is very similar to cross-trainers. The special valve is used to release the pressure from the hydraulic cylinder. After that, the ram automatically moves backward to the starting position.
Enjoy Life in Slow Lane
While this log splitter has a lower ramming speed than models with electric engine, you get more power in a pretty compact body. This Logger Joe seems to be the lightest model in this review. At less than 90 lbs. it’s easy to pick it up all by yourself and put it in the trunk of a car. The whole splitter length here is exactly 41.1", although it might look larger on the photo. There are two small wheels on the same side as cylinder. And on the other side of the wedge blade, there are two spreader bars that serve as handles to pick one side up and roll it to the storehouse. The cradle's top surface is low to the ground, so you won't have to pick up heavy logs too high in order to mount them on the splitter.
Considering this all, we can readily recommend this low-cost log splitter by Snow Joe for elderly people. It will also be ideal for country houses without access to electricity or simply when you don't need that much logs to split and want just a handful supply of firewood to light up your fireplace a few times on cozy winter holidays.
More Products to Consider
The Logger Joe requires little-to-no maintenance. Keep it clean and store in dry places. Refill the hydraulic fluid when necessary. But still, it's recommended to grease the moving parts from time to time. No fancy oils here - use WD-40.
1. Drew Hardy, How to Choose a Log Splitter, MowTalk. December 14, 2012.
2. Log Slitter Hazard, Work Safe. July 22, 2015.
3. Oscar H. Will III, Picking the Perfect Log Splitter, Grit. February 2013.
4. How to Pick the Perfect Log Splitter Style, Power Equipment Direct.
5. Grace Campbell, 5 Essential Features to Look for in a Log Splitter, DR Power Equipment. July 31, 2014.
6. Marshall Brain, How Log Splitters Work, HowStuffWorks.
7. Chris Baylor, Top Woodworking Safety Rules, About. April 10, 2016.
8. Log Splitter Buying Guide, eBay. April 27, 2014.
9. Home Log Splitter Guide, DoItYourself.com.
10. J. Keeler Johnson, The Beginning Farmer’s Guide to Log Splitters, Hobby Farms. June 15, 2016.