Rugged construction. Can be used with or without the convenient 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.
The design of this sturdy tool allows you to cut wider pieces than other models. If needed, you can bolt the unit down for secure operation. The frame doubles as a crate with handles when you need to carry wood.
Since this is a manual unit, it requires a bit of effort to use and hardwoods can be difficult.
Splits rounds up to 18 inches long and 8 inches wide. Made of sturdy steel. Easy to use, does not require a ton of strength.
Requires more physical labor than electric or gas-powered models. Can only tackle small to mid-sized pieces.
Affordable. Durable steel design. Optimized for splitting dried wood for firewood. Simple to operate. Far safer than a bladed model. Includes 4 holes for floor-mounting.
Its orange paint chips away easily.
This log splitter has a 1500 watt electric motor and runs on a standard 120-volt outlet. It is easy to operate, designed to deliver a constant splitting force to efficiently cut through wood.
Even though this is a lighter duty model, it is still heavy and may be difficult to transport.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
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. You can tow commercial logo splitters around the fields and use them to turn felled trees into valuable firewood. Homeowner models will quickly reduce your log pile to usable chunks and are compact enough to tuck in the corner of a garage.
Most log splitters 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.
Although quite a basic machine, there are several things you need to think about when choosing a log splitter:
Capacity and flexibility
There are three ways to power a log splitter: manually, with an electric motor, or with a gas motor.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, an ideal splitter produces a maximum splitting force of ten tons. That's more than some models costing five times as much!
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 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.
Manual log splitters, both horizontal and vertical, cost between $100 and $200. You can pay similar money for axes, 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.
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.
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.