Saturday, 23 September 2017
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Buyer’s guide to log splitters

What is a Log Splitter?

The best definition of a log splitter is that it is a machine used for splitting hard or softwood logs. These logs have previously been cut into round sections so the log splitter is cutting them further into firewood that can fit in the furnace. Due to the size of the pre-cut round sections, they cannot fit the furnace and that is why they need to be split into smaller pieces.

 

Log splitters can be divided into two main groups, the hand tools which include mauls, wedges and axes. The second group is power splitters which are then further divided into gas and electric powered splitters, most of which use hydraulics for the splitting action. Additionally, there are also splitters powered by Power Take Off (PTO) from a tractor. Power splitters can be either horizontal – meaning that the log lays horizontally, or are split vertically –  when the log is in a vertical position.

Manual log splitters work by applying mechanical leverage forcing logs onto sharpened blades which split the logs into smaller pieces. As for screw or corkscrew log splitters, they are usually attached to an agricultural tractor’s three-point linkage on the power take-off of the tractor.

Generally, in log splitter reviews, power splitters are also rated according to the tons of force that they produce. In most homes you can find a 10-ton log splitters which are quite sufficient for the amount of logs that need to be split. On the other hand, for commercial use a log splitter usually needs to have around 25 tons of force, due to the amount and the size of the logs.

log splitter reviews

Differences between Log Splitter and Firewood Processor

It is important to make a distinction between log splitters and firewood processors. Although both machines essentially do the same work – they produce firewood from large pieces of wood – these two pieces of equipment differ in some key points. The log splitters are ideal for home use, having the strength and capacity that completely satisfies average needs of a household. On the other hand, firewood processors have found their use in the commercial sector, where there is a daily need for splitting significant amounts of wood. The main differences between a firewood processor and a log splitter are:

  1. Length of wood and diameter

Most commonly, a log splitter is used for shorter logs of wood, while firewood processors are specifically designed to handle even some of the longer pieces of wood.

  1. Home-use vs. commercial use

Due to the difference in the amount of logs that are being handled, splitters are ideal for use at home, where the log is needed for purely heating reasons. As for firewood processors they are the preferred equipment of industries that require large amounts of firewood, either for fulfilling certain energy requirements or for sale purposes.

  1. Cost

Based on the usage it is quite clear that there is a significant difference in the price range of these two pieces of equipment, and while we can get a Log splitter at around $100 to $2000 a firewood processor would set us back tens of thousands of dollars.

  1. Amount of firewood

While the few tons at a time capacity that log splitters have is great for the average homeowner, most companies require the significantly larger amount of 2 to 4 cords of firewood per hour, that firewood processor have to offer. It is therefore very important for you to determine the amount of firewood and how often you want it before committing yourself to buying any of these equipment.

What Types of Wood are for Splitting?

Theoretically speaking, any type or wood can be split with a log splitter. However, it is more effective to choose the ones that are suitable for fireplace and burners. Some of the most widely used types of wood are ash, birch, and beech because they allow for easy splitting. Additionally, both cedar and elm are great options while pine can split while burning. Even apple, hazel and sycamore are good options after a little seasoning.

Naturally, if you do not have time to waste on selecting just the right type, it is always advisable to have a trusted supplier that will make sure that you get the type of wood that most suits your needs.

Types of Log Splitter

Based on the log position:

Horizontal Log Splitters

The perks of owning a horizontal log splitter is that they are smaller usually less expensive and a perfect fit for homes. As the name states the logs are horizontally loaded into the machine. Horizontal log splitters can be used either on the floor or at waist height with an addition of a stand. In most log splitter reviews you will find that this is the preferred model of most homeowners.

Vertical Log Splitters

For higher volumes and bigger tasks, vertical log splitters are the better choice. They are equipped for splitting larger logs, and as they tend to be quite large in size they are definitely the right choice for commercial use with enough storage space.  

log splitter reviews
Vertical/horizontal log splitter

Based on the power source:

Manual Log Splitters

Manual log splitters are considered to be the most affordable ones. They can have either a horizontal or vertical design, providing you with up to 10 tons of splitting capacity powered by a 2 speed pump. This allows the user to control the speed using the levers which provide the amount of force needed for the given task. There is a vast range of makes and models of manual log splitter available on the market, and since they are light and portable they can even be used on camping trips.

manual log splitters
Manual log splitters

The most import thing to keep in mind when opting for a manual log splitter is that it requires a significant amount of labor and time, and is thus not very well suited for larger amounts of logs.

Electric Log Splitters

Electric log splitters present a much more affordable option in comparison to gas splitters. However, they also provide less splitting capacity. The most typical electric log splitter models can range between 4 and 20 tons. While most models are easily towed, it is very important to keep in mind the availability of electrical supply. Please note that most electric log splitter models run safely on 120-volt current. A great example of an electric log splitter is Boss Industrial ED8T20 Electric Log Splitter.

Gas Log Splitters

champion
Champion Power Equipment No.90720 Gas Powered Log Splitter (photo: Amazon.com)

While the gas log splitters are considered to be the most effective splitters currently available on the market with a range of up to 45 tons of splitting capacity. Most gas powered log splitter come with a trailer hitch allowing the user to take them out on the field, regardless of the location. Based on their power and efficiency it comes as no surprise that the gas log splitters are the most expensive type on the market. Additionally, it is also important to keep in mind when opting for this type of log splitter that they must be used with proper ventilation in order to avoid containment due to the harsh fumes.

The Main Features to Consider

Depending on individual needs of a user, different features of log splitters have different levels of significance. Additionally, there is a vast variety of features depending on both type and ranges of log splitter. This chapter covers some of the most important ones to look for when purchasing a log splitter.

Stands – serve the purpose of raising the electric horizontal log splitter from floor level. They eliminate the need for the user to bend.

Two-hand safety operation –both hands are needed for operation in order to avoid accidents.

Wheels for easy transport – if there is a need to move the log splitter from one location to another, purchasing wheels with the splitter is a great option. Depending on the individual needs, the wheels can range from small (on the basic model), to large ones with rugged all-terrain tires for towing.

Transport handle – this is more of a convenience feature that is used to aid the user in wheeling a log splitter from one workspace to another.

Comfortable rubber or sponge hand-grips – this feature is great for long stretches of usage of the log splitter considering that the rubber and sponge grips significantly reduce the effect of vibration making the work conditions more comfortable. This is one of the features that is often most praised in the log splitter reviews.

Height-adjustable log plate – this is a feature of vertical log splitters meant for dealing with various log sizes. The most common number of adjustable positions for log splitters is three.

Shielded control levers – they protect your hands from the dangers of the splitting area and the levers are also shielded assuring maximal safety.

Clamps – are used by some vertical models for secure holding of logs during splitting. Some are adjustable as to take different sized logs while others have a jaw-like grip that covers a range of sizes.

On/Off switch with zero voltage trip and emergency stop function – this is a very useful enhanced safety feature usually found on a few of the newer models.

Shaped log cradle – this feature is typical for horizontal splitters, it adds stability by preventing the logs from falling off during the splitting process.

Dual speed on standard log splitters, the wedge moves towards the log at the same speed at which it splits the wood. By using a dual-speed feature you can save time and energy, having the wedge go towards the log at an enhanced speed and then having it  slow down to apply the pressure. The Pow’ R’ Kraft 65575 7-Ton 15 amp 2-Speed Electric Log Splitter is a great example of this type of log splitters.

Factors for choosing the right log splitter

1. What type of wood will you be splitting?

Before getting that brand new splitter, it is important to determine the exact amount of splitting force you are going to need. The amount of force mostly depends on the type of the tree that you are planning on using.  So, for example, a Sugar Maple log is rated as requiring 1450 lbs. of force. According to most log splitter reviews, homeowners pay more attention to the fact that they get ‘seasoned’ wood, rather than on the species. So the best advice is buy this year and burn the next.

2. What size logs will you be working with?

When you have decided on the type of wood, the next step in choosing the right log splitter is the size of the wood, i.e. the diameter of the log. This has a direct influence on the tons of pressure needed for splitting. For example, splitting 6ʺ wide Sugar Maple requires a splitter with at least a 7 ton capacity. Apart from the diameter, the length of the logs also plays an important role in choosing the right log splitter considering that logs splitters have a maximum stroke length.  The most common length of log splitters is 24”, however there are more options available if the length of the logs exceeds the listed one.

3.  Flywheel or hydraulic?

One of the hardest decisions when choosing a log splitter is making a choice between the old-school hydraulics and the new flywheel splitters. While the hydraulic ones use hydraulic pumps and valves in order to gradually push a splitting ram through a log, flywheel splitters use a  heavy flywheel system and a pinion gear. In the first case the process is slower and takes more than 15 second for completing a single split, on the other hand with flywheel splitters the energy from the engine is stored in the flywheel, enabling the user to discharge it all at once by activating a handle, this results in splitting of the logs in on quick burst. When deciding between these two options the keep in mind the importance of the speed for the work that you will be doing.

  1. Towing

If you are planning to do the splitting in several different locations, it is important to keep in mind the possibility of towing. Many models of log splitters that are available on the market today are towable, with a pin hitch and on your property. Some of the models are even DOT approved and can be towed on public roads, so before choosing the log splitting model make sure that it meets your transport and location needs. Additionally, if the model of your choice is not a towable one, there is always the option of getting a tow kit for that specific model.

How Safe Are Log Splitters?

As all other power tools, log splitters are perfectly safe for use if operated in accordance with instructions and care.

The wedge in a log splitter itself is not sharp, however it is the applied pressure together with the wedge shape that gives the splitter the ability to  split the logs. All log splitters come with the basic safety features, and many additional ones can be added to ensure complete safety of the user. One of the things to keep in mind when using a log splitter is to wear the appropriate clothing, avoiding loose hanging items. Safety goggles and work gloves as a splinter protection are also recommended. 

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