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Log Splitters 101: What You Should Know Before Shopping

Image source: hydraulicspneumatics.com

Image source: hydraulicspneumatics.com

Temperatures are cold, and your stack of already-prepared logs is getting smaller and smaller. You find yourself dreading heading out to split more logs. Perhaps this year is the time to make that purchase — you know, that log splitter you’ve been dreaming about with every downswing of your splitting maul. Manually splitting logs burns about 440 calories an hour and, for some, causes back pain. Not light work. Before you go out and buy the first log splitter you set eyes on, let’s look at a few important elements of log splitters first.

First of all, there are three basic types of log splitters (although there are variations in each): manual, electric and gas-powered. Manual log splitters can provide more power for less up-front cost, although they can be slow and cumbersome to work with. They save your shoulders, but take about the same amount of time to split logs as it does to use a splitting maul. With a splitting maul, you can estimate to split 20 to 30 logs an hour. With a manual log splitter, you generally can split between 18 and 24 logs an hour.

Electric log splitters have several things going for them. First, depending on the type, they increase your log-splitting output to about 40 to 50 logs per hour. Since they don’t generate gas fumes and are quieter, they can work nicely indoors (in a barn or on a porch, for example). A quieter system can be an excellent choice if you have noise-sensitive neighbors.

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Along with being quieter, electric log splitters tend to be lighter in weight, which translates to greater portability. However, there are a few drawbacks. Electric log splitters are less powerful. They usually only go up to about 10 tons, although there are models that can do more. One other potential drawback is that they require electric power, and so splitting logs in a remote location is not possible unless you also have access to a generator.

Now let’s take a quick look at gas-powered log splitters. Gas-powered splitters pack a punch of power, going anywhere from eight tons up to 24 tons and beyond. They also come in a variety of kinds — hydraulic models, horizontal-vertical models, and fast kinetic models. Gas-powered log splitters increase your log output, as well. For example, a quality hydraulic model can split between 60 and 80 logs an hour, while a quality kinetic model will do much more. These are the splitters that you will need for the larger logs (anything beyond a 12-inch diameter by 20 inches in length). But more powerful doesn’t always mean better; gas splitters come with a few negatives. They’re louder, more expensive and heavier. You wouldn’t want to run a gas splitter indoors or near animals (for safety reasons), and just like other gas engines, gas-powered log splitters require maintenance, including oil changes, air filter changes, spark plug replacements, and fuel refills regularly. However, for processing the kind of large logs most home owners find themselves dealing with, the gas-powered splitter is probably the best choice.

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But more powerful doesn’t always mean better; gas splitters come with a few negatives. They’re louder, more expensive and heavier. You wouldn’t want to run a gas splitter indoors or near animals (for safety reasons), and just like other gas engines, gas-powered log splitters require maintenance, including oil changes, air filter changes, spark plug replacements, and fuel refills regularly. However, for processing the kind of large logs most home owners find themselves dealing with, the gas-powered splitter is probably the best choice.

So, evaluate your needs. If you are cutting logs that you just hauled out of the woods, then you’ll probably want to consider a gas-powered splitter. If, however, you have smaller logs or are looking to cut logs down for kindling, then an electric splitter may be perfect for you. Some people have found it helpful to have one of each kind of splitter, the gas-powered for the main log splitting in the fall, and the electric splitter for cutting down smaller logs and kindling at the house.

To sum everything up, there really isn’t one best type of log splitter. Each kind can be quite useful depending on where and how you want to use it. But most will admit that, apart from the calorie burning perk, any type of log splitter is better than the old splitting maul.

What are your favorite log splitters? Share your tips in the section below:

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2 comments

  1. Purchased a 27 ton Ariens (gas of course) this past fall. Wow. Just wow. Had ton’s and ton’s of wood to split and it did it all without a hitch. Not crappy pine either. Seasoned oak, ask and elm. Big pieces too.

    I still have my mauls, wedges and splitter axe’s (ALWAYS have a back up you KNOW how to use) but the gas powered splitter is truly nice. My 24x12x7 wood shed was half full before the new splitter; it’s now FULL!! That’s a good thing in Minnesota – land of the passive aggressive hipster and 10,000 taxes.

    Get the gas splitter and don’t look back. But don’t get a mild one. Before my 27 ton appliance I would borrow or rent 20 ton or 22 ton splitters that would always get stuck on tougher pieces of wood, not any longer. This is one of those machines that unless you’re only splitting basically kindling size pieces you can’t have too much power.

  2. Auto-correct got me;

    “Seasoned oak, ask and elm.”

    That should be ASH, not ask. 😉

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