Compact yet powerful. 80-cycle engine handles logs approx. 19 inches in length. Easy start; splits quickly and effectively. Lifetime tech support.
Assembly required, but it's easy to put together. A few reports of quality control issues.
An electric-powered model that is easy to use one-handed. Construction and tires are sturdy. Customer service is supportive.
Some reports of fluid leaks. It may struggle when it come to slitting some types of hardwood.
Rugged construction. Can be used with or without the 34-inch stand that comes with it. Company provides attentive tech support. Falls on the middle of the price spectrum.
Awkward to try to use without two hands. Not suitable for extremely heavy-duty tasks.
Splits logs up to 18 inches long and 8 inches wide. Made of sturdy steel. Two-year warranty. Easy to use, does not require a ton of strength.
Requires more physical labor than electric or gas-powered splitters. Can only tackle small to mid-sized logs.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Anyone who has spent a few hours chopping wood with an axe will appreciate the power and ease of a good log splitter. They're not only faster — and more accurate than most of us — they're also safer.
There are plenty of choices, too. There are commercial logo splitters you can tow around the fields, and use to turn felled trees into valuable firewood. You can find homeowner models that will quickly reduce your log pile to usable chunks, and are compact enough to tuck in the corner of a garage.
But how do you choose the right one? That's where BestReviews comes in. It's our job to research the market, and bring you the best possible advice to help you decide. We have our own test facilities, where we can put each machine through its paces. We conduct field trials, and we talk to professionals, so we've got every angle covered. Most importantly, we're independent. We never accept manufacturer samples, so you're assured of honest results.
If you already buy logs, make sure you get a log splitter to suit. It's not always easy finding an alternative supplier, whereas log splitters come in a wide range of sizes.
The five log splitters in our matrix are those we recommend after assessing dozens of competitors. Each offers a range of features to suit different owners. If you'd like an in-depth look at the options available, and the various elements that determine the best log splitter for your needs, please read the report that follows.
All the log splitters covered by our research use the same principle: a hydraulic ram forces the log against a metal wedge. The wedge doesn't actually cut the wood — it's not really sharp at all — but the force applied by the hydraulics splits the log very effectively.
There are a number of variations on this basic idea, so let's look at your options.
Always operate your log splitter on level ground. A dry area is best, so there's no danger of you slipping anywhere near the machine.
Although quite a basic machine, there are several things you need to think about when choosing a log splitter:
Capacity and flexibility
The Homeowner Powerhouse
If you're looking for an electric log splitter for home use, you'll find it hard to beat the WEN. Durable build will give you years of service. Two-handed operation ensures your safety, and six tons of log splitting force will handle just about anything you can throw at it. If the weather turns nasty, just wheel it into the garage and carry on working – you might get tired, it won't!
There are three ways to power a log splitter: manually, with an electric motor, or with a gas motor.
Manual log splitters
You might be surprised to see this “underpowered” log splitter option, but it's a viable alternative with a number of advantages.
They're inexpensive to buy, and cost nothing to run.
The hydraulic mechanism is simple — it's much like a car jack.
It's very easy to use, and requires less force than you might think (you don't need huge biceps).
It's comparatively quiet.
It's very portable.
It will help keep you fit.
It's a method that warms you twice: once when you split the wood, and again when you burn it!
It is quite slow.
It does require some effort, so it's not the easy option that other power sources offer.
It's a good idea to run an electric log splitter through a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter). In the event of a short circuit this will kill the power, so you don't get an electric shock.
Electric log splitters
Electric motors offer a number of benefits:
They're cheap to run, and require little or no maintenance.
They're relatively quiet.
They can be used outdoors or indoors.
Where you can use them is restricted by the need for an electric cable. They're fine in your backyard or garage, but you can't take them out in the field.
They don't produce as much power as gas motors.
It's best not to run an electric log splitter through an extension cable, but sometimes necessary. Make sure you have the correct gauge. If your cable is getting hot, it's too thin, and could cause a fire.
Gas log splitters
The big advantages of gas motors are:
A very wide range — from homeowner models to commercial machines.
The potential for extremely high performance.
They’re robust and durable.
You can use them anywhere.
Compared to electric or manual splitters, they’re very noisy.
They require regular maintenance.
Gas power typically comes with a higher running costs.
You need to transport flammable fuel.
If your gas log splitter isn't being used for a month or more, drain the fuel.
It's tempting to look at motor capacity as a guide to splitting force (given in tons), but it's only part of the equation.
In our evaluations, we looked at a number of electric motors of comparable output. Most are 15 amp, 2 hp models. Yet splitting force varied between four and seven tons — and that's what's really doing the work.
The differences when it comes to gas-powered log splitters can be even greater, but there's also a much wider range of motors; anywhere from 80 cc to over 200 cc. Splitting force goes from 7 tons to as much as 25 tons.
When choosing a log splitter it's important not to make assumptions. You need to consider the full specifications, not just individual aspects.
Interestingly, our preferred manual log splitter produces a maximum splitting force of ten tons. That's more than some models costing five times as much!
A gas log splitter's engine size isn't always proportional to splitting force. Tonnage and maximum dimensions are more important figures.
Manufacturers will normally quote maximum length and log diameter. Length is fixed by the bed of the machine. Logs are frequently cut to 18" long, and most models exceed this comfortably.
Log diameter varies from one machine to another — it depends on the heights of the driving plate and wedge. It's possible to mount larger logs than specified, but not recommended. It's potentially dangerous, as the log might be thrown upwards suddenly.
Some machines can be used horizontally or vertically, giving added flexibility. Using a log splitter vertically is useful when you have large logs that are difficult to lift. You can roll the log up to the machine, then tilt it into position. It's also a slightly faster method, favored by two-person teams working in the field.
While this is usually a feature of more powerful, gas log splitters, there are a few large electric models that have the capability. They do tend to be more expensive than equivalent gas models.
The power of manual log splitters might surprise you. If the log will fit on it, it will almost certainly split it!
The duty cycle, or cycle time, is how long the machine takes to be ready again after splitting a log. Homeowner models often don't quote it, because it's not too important, but commercial grade machines have auto-return systems, and are ready for the next log in 20 seconds or less.
Portability is important, whether you're moving across your yard or several miles away. Handles and wheels are always useful. Large models are designed for towing behind an ATV or lawn tractor, and the biggest can take to the road. If you need that kind of log splitter, it's important to check that the tires are road legal, and that the machine complies with all necessary legislation.
Smaller electric log splitters, designed for yard and garage use, are often quite low to the ground. While this makes loading logs easy, it does cause some users back pain. Leg sets are available for some, which raise the log splitter to a more comfortable working height.
Log cradles prevent logs from falling off onto the floor — and perhaps your toes — after being split.
These machines endure extreme stresses, so it's important that they're robustly built. Look for large section tubing, and thick steel plate. Light weight is not a priority. Warranty period is also a good indicator, and we look for two years minimum.
This top-quality gas log splitter has all the features you need in a compact and very mobile package. A 20 second cycle time gives the capacity to split 180 logs per hour – and the Champion can do that all day, every day. While the splitting force isn't as high as some might expect, this is the perfect machine for farms and large acreages, and handles logs up to a foot across with ease. Only full-time logging pros would need anything more.
Manual log splitters, both horizontal and vertical, cost between $100 and $200. You can pay similar money for a top-quality axe, but the log splitter will do the job more quickly and more safely.
Good electric log splitters are all similarly priced, between $300 and $400. The main difference here is the splitting force, and you should find a powerful, reliable five or six ton model within this bracket.
Gas log splitters cover a much greater range. These are tough, extremely capable tools, and even the smallest are built for a lifetime's hard work. As a consequence, prices are higher, starting at around $650 and rising to well over $1,000 for a 25 ton model.
Some large log splitters require assembly. Components can be heavy, so get a friend to help.
Large gas log splitters invariably have some kind of tow hitch. If you are taking it on the highway, check that the tires are DOT approved.
Seasoned logs — those that have been allowed to dry naturally — burn longer and give more heat. They are also easier to split. However, if you can split them green (freshly cut), you expose more surface area to the air, and they'll season more quickly. This does require considerable force, so some low-power electric log splitters might struggle.
Whenever possible, use logs with squared-off ends on your log-splitter. Logs with angled or uneven ends can be pushed out of the way. If this happens, try turning the log the other way. If that doesn't work, trim the ends, or discard the log. Never try to hold a log in place with your arm or leg. If it splits suddenly, you will not react fast enough to get out of the way, and you could easily end up with broken bones.
Q. Which is best, an electric log splitter or a gas one?
A. Gas log splitters are immensely powerful and can go anywhere. They're also big, heavy, and loud. Electric log splitters are easy to move around your yard, and you can use one in the garage if it's raining. They're not as powerful though, and you need to be near a suitable electric outlet.
At the end of the day, it's very much a question of matching the machine to your personal needs. If you look at each of the sections in the log splitter review above, and decide which features are most important, you should end up with an accurate description of the log splitter you need. One of the models in our matrix might well be a perfect fit!
Q. Do powered log splitters need much maintenance?
A. It depends on the type. With electric log splitters the only requirement is to occasionally top up or change hydraulic fluid. With gas log splitters you have the usual maintenance required with any gas motor; things like checking filters, spark plugs, and oil levels. There's nothing particularly onerous or difficult. Following the manufacturer's instructions will ensure you get the maximum working life from your equipment.
Q. What safety gear do I need when using a log splitter?
A. You should always wear gloves to protect yourself from splinters, and ensure a good grip on logs and machine controls. Wear goggles or safety glasses to protect yourself from small bits of wood that might shear off suddenly. Sturdy footwear should be worn, preferably with steel toes. Dropping a log on your foot is no fun. Gas log splitters can be noisy, so ear protection is also a good idea.
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