Log splitter buying guide |Choose best in 2021

When I do manual log splitting, sometimes it gives me a feeling that could only be explained as surreal. The smell of semi-seasoned or freshly cut logs, the repetitive swings of the maul, the cracking of the wood, the sweat, the exhaustion, and cold beer to get going… But no matter how much you love splitting logs by hand after you turn 40, your back wouldn’t allow it anymore. It’s when you need to consider buying an automatic log splitter.

log splitter buying guide

Types of log splitters

Automatic log splitter can be a misnomer under the context of this buying guide because we will talk only about hydraulic and fly-wheel log splitters in it. All of these log splitters are actually semi-automatic because you will still need to lift the logs and place them on the remove the wood chips and stack them. These splitters will save you from swinging the maul to split logs, that’s it. You’ll have to do the rest manually. Of course, some log splitters come equipped with beer log lifter module that facilitate switching to vertical log splitting position where no lifting is required.

There are three types of hydraulic log splitters: manual, electric, and gas powered. On the other hand, the fly-wheel log splitters are either electric or gas powered. Most of you will choose from any of these types of log splitter when buying one. Thus, we will keep our discussion limited to only these log splitters.

How to choose the best log splitter for your purposes

Please understand that this guide is not about buying the best log splitter in the world, it’s about buying the best one for your purposes. To find the best log splitter for your purposes, first you need to ask the following questions and answer them carefully (considering the future requirements). For instance,

  1. How frequently will you be using the log splitter? Will you be using the log splitter for residential or commercial purposes? More specifically, how many cords of wood will you be splitting a year?
  2. Will you be splitting mostly hardwood?
  3. Is your stock seasoned, semi-seasoned or freshly cut?
  4. Will you be splitting larger rounds or mostly smaller ones?
  5. Will you be splitting clean logs or will you want your splitter to handle knotty rounds too?
  6. How fast would you like your log splitter to be?
  7. Will you have to take your log splitter to remote places? Or, will you be splitting woods in your yard?
  8. How much do you want to spend on it?

Choosing the best log splitter for your purposes should become fairly easy once you answer these questions. Here’s our recommendation on the best log splitter based on different needs.

Log splitter buying guide

What is the best log splitter for you

A log splitter can save much effort, time and money regardless of whether you use it residentially or commercially. Let’s talk about choosing a log splitter for residential use.

Generally, a 1000 square feet house uses roughly around two cords (1 cord = 4x4x8 cubic feet) of firewood over a typical winter. With that in mind, most of you wouldn’t require any more than five cords of wood a year. If that’s the case, then we highly recommend going for an electric log splitter, especially if you will be splitting whatever you have available on your property. However, you should know that electric log splitters are not as powerful as gas log splitters and they might struggle splitting hardwood like Pecan, Elm etc.

Most of the electric log splitters available in the market can’t handle knotty rounds. If you have or will have a stock of hardwood rounds and billets, you need to consider buying a gas log splitter. Electric log splitters are environmentally friendly. They don’t emit smoke or make that much of a noise. Most importantly, they are cheaper and more cost-effective than gas log splitters and require very little maintenance. Also, most electric log splitters can be run by household electricity making them perfect for use in your garage or yard.

However, if the source of cut wood is distant from home, you should consider buying a gas log splitter, especially if there is no electric outlet nearby at the source location. Gas log splitters are noisier and they emit smoke even if they sport 4-stroke engine. So, you wouldn’t be using it in your yard.

However, for commercial use, it is best to go for gas log splitters. If you already have gas log splitters then you may try an electric log splitter if that suits you. But if it is going to be the first log splitter you buy for commercial use, go for a gas log splitter. Gas log splitters are more powerful. They are more likely to meet your commercial splitting needs.

Half-beam versus full-beam gas log splitters

Half-beam log splitters are usually more advanced compared to full-beam or traditional log splitters. They are compact, more durable and feature rich. We recommend buying a half-beam log splitter.

to buy a log splitter

Safety vs comfort

Even though a log splitter can save you hours of labor, it is not completely safe to use. Anything caught between the log and the wedge will be subjected to a force of at least 5 ton. That’s why trained adults should use them. Most log splitters now feature’two-handed operation’ for safety, which means that the log splitter will require both hands of the operator to run it thus keeping them out of the way of the ram and the wedge.

You need to know a few other things to make an informed choice in buying the right log splitter. The following questions and answers will help you with that.

• What tonnage do I need for splitting rounds that are 18 inches or above in diameter?

There’s no definitive answer to this question. Much depends on the type and condition of the log. If it is fully seasoned, clean, and softwood such as Cedar and Fir, even a 5-ton electric log splitter should be able to split it. But if it is not seasoned, and if it is hardwood like Pecan, even a 22-ton gas log splitter might have difficulty splitting it.

We have found that 10-ton electric log splitters can easily split 18-inch (in diameter) oak rounds given that the rounds are seasoned and clean. In case of a gas log splitter, you can get the job done with a 7-ton one.

• What should you know about the motor when buying an electric log splitter?

  1. Make sure the motor could be run using household electricity and that it sports enough horsepower for your purposes. However, make sure it doesn’t consume too much electricity for doing its job.
  2. Make sure the motor comes with a circuit breaker module, which they usually do.

• What should you know about the hydraulic pump?

Make sure the pump can generate enough ram force to split the logs in your present (and future stock). It is usually measured in PSI or tonnage. PSI stands for pounds per inch. Also, check how much hydraulic fluid is required. Find out if there’s a convenient way of measuring hydraulic fluid without using the dipstick, for instance, side glass or something similar. Also, make sure the recommended hydraulic fluid is affordable and easily available in your locale.

• What should you know about the engine?

Make sure the engine can produce adequate power for your log splitting purposes. Find out what kind of maintenance it requires. Make sure it is fuel-efficient, emits less amount of smoke and makes less noise. Also, make sure that it is a 4-stroke recoil start engine.

• What should you know about the gear pump?

  1. A two-stage pump is preferable. Check the pump size, which is usually measured in GPM. The more the pump size the better.

• What about maintenance cost like engine oil, hydraulic fluid, and fuel in case I decide to buy a gas log splitter?

When buying a gas log splitter, consider the frequency at which you will need to change engine oil, hydraulic fluid, and how much fuel it might consume per cord of wood. According to our finding most gas log splitters can split at least 1 to 2 cords of wood per tank.

• Some log splitters specify maximum log weight, while others specify log diameter. What is the relation between log weight and log diameter?

Commonly, a log that is 8 inches in diameter on both ends and 20 inches in length may weigh about 22 pounds minimum. Whereas a log 10 inches in diameter on both ends and 20 inches in length may weigh a minimum of 30 pounds. But that’s the best case, in general, you’ll find them to be heavier, usually above 35 pounds. An Oak round that is 18 inches in diameter and 20 inches in length would weigh a minimum of 100 pounds. I hope you get the picture. Weight varies for different wood types even if they are of the same size.

2 stroke vs 4 stroke engine

Very few log splitters use two-stroke engine these days, because they emit more smoke and produce higher noise. Go for 4-Stroke engine.

Cycle time

You should avoid buying a log splitter that features a 14+ second cycle time unless there’s a good reason for it. You wouldn’t want your log splitter to be slower than you. Some log splitters, especially the non-hydraulic splitters, such as fly-wheel splitters DR, RapidFire offer cycle time of 3 seconds. But too low a cycle time may not be ideal for you either. According to our experience, a 9-second cycle time is ideal for any log splitting need. But up to 12 seconds, it is still desirable.

We hope this log splitter buying guide was helpful to you. If you like to know anything more about buying a good log splitter, please post a comment in the comment box below.

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