Log Splitter Guide
Tired of those endless, back-breaking hours spent chopping logs with an axe? A log splitter is the faster, safer, more effortless alternative to a chainsaw or axe (though the two can be used in tandem). It is the perfect machine for winter preparation.
Log splitters are simple. They use a hydraulic mechanism, forcing logs against a sharpened wedge. The pressure cuts through the log, resulting in an efficient and safer chop.
Still clueless about which log splitter to buy? Consider each of the following.
Horizontal Log Splitter
There are two main varieties of log splitter: vertical and horizontal.
Here are some details on the horizontal log splitter:
- It operates at floor-level (and can be propped higher with a stand).
- Best used for lighter, smaller logs.
- Less powerful than the vertical log splitter.
- Can be used on a hill because the log does not require balancing.
- Best used in a domestic setting.
Vertical Log Splitter
The alternative to a horizontal log splitter is the vertical log splitter. Here is some information on this type:
- It stands vertical (of course) and is therefore often bigger. eg Lawnflite LS80P Log Splitter
- Capable of tackling bigger, harder logs.
- The log simply needs put on the base plate then split.
- More powerful than the horizontal log splitter.
- Tends to be a more commercial variety of splitter.
Manual Log Splitter
There is one final, less common kind of log splitter: the manual one. The wedge in this machine is operated by a foot pump/pedal and requires no electricity or petrol. It may be more environmentally friendly but it is far less powerful than the others, and less efficient too.
Electric-Powered vs Petrol Powered
Aside from the manual log splitter, the machines can either be powered by petrol or electricity. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
- Cheaper to operate than petrol (because they require no fuel). eg Lawnflite lS1500EL
- Requires less maintenance than a petrol engine.
- More suitable to domestic use.
- Can be used indoors because it emits no toxic fumes; friendly to the environment.
- Best for tackling smaller logs and weaker wood.
- Quick set-up; plug in and go.
- Often cheaper (and therefore more accessible to the masses).
- More expensive to run because they require refuelling, as well as regular maintenance.
- More powerful than the electric log splitter. eg Lawnflite LS65P Petrol Log Splitter
- Can handle larger, harder logs, and particularly woods with a close grain (e.g. basswood and cherry).
- Generally, more expensive; best for those needing frequent use, or on a larger scale.
- Suited for commercial log splitting.
- A larger and much heavier machine.
- Does not require an electrical outlet so can be used away from buildings; often comes fitted with a tow for ease of movement.
- Cannot be used inside because of fumes (making it bad for the environment).
Things To Consider:
There are a number of aspects to think about before purchasing a log splitter.
- Tonnage is the measurement of force which a log splitter applies to its logs.
- A higher tonnage applies a stronger force, and can handle harder, knotty, tougher pieces of wood; a weaker tonnage tackles weaker woods.
- On an electric model, 4-5 tons is average.
- On a petrol splitter, expect up to 20 tons minimum.
- Different splitters will handle different sizes of log. This can vary according to model, power, wood, tonnage.
- A typical 25cm (diameter) x 52cm (length) log will need 4-5 tons of pressure (ideal for a horizontal, electrical splitter).
- A log of 60cm in diameter may require up to 25 tons of force.
- Remember that log splitters can only handle up to a certain length; use a chainsaw to shorten those logs before loading them into the splitter.
- This is the time it takes for a machine to split a log, then reset its position and be ready for another.
- The average cycle time is 10-20 seconds.
- Remember, speed is not everything; do not sacrifice power or efficiency for a faster job.
- This can be a rare feature.
- The spring-loaded system is able to re-position the wedge much faster than would be expected, increasing the cycle time.
Petrol Tank Size:
- This is important for estimating how much fuel the machine will burn through, and how often it will need refuelled.
- Consider this as a measurement of efficiency.
- Do not judge efficiency based solely on the petrol tank size; the amount of fuel burned through will also depend on the engine.
Two-Hand Safety Operation:
- Both hands must operate the machine at once.
- This is an extra safety precaution which avoids loose limbs.
- An adjustable stand can raise horizontal log splitters to a more ergonomic working height.
- Best suited for an electric splitter since they are lighter than their petrol counterpart.
- Dual-Speed log splitters speed the log towards the wedge but slow down during the splitting process. This increases the pressure, and efficiency, of the cut.
- A space in the splitter for the log to be tucked away safely.
- Avoids slipping during the splitting process.
- A clamp to stop logs slipping out of place.
- These are most common vertical log splitters.
Ease of Movement:
- Is there a transport handle?
- Is there a tow handle?
- Are there wheels?
- Are there hand grips? (which also reduce vibration and allow for increased working periods).
Shielded Control Lever;
- A cover shielding your hands from loose debris.
A very common problem with petrol log splitters as that, without regular maintenance, they can leak oil (and cause irreversible damage).