I'm sure you've heard a story like this before.
Last year a neighbor of mine finally gave up on splitting wood the old fashioned way. He decided to drop $600 on an electric log splitter. He was so excited to try it. But once he got it hooked up and running he found it didn't have anywhere near enough power to split most of the wood he'd ordered. In fact he ended up returning two models before finally settling on one that met his needs.
As I do a good bit of wood splitting each year for our home in the Pacific Northwest his experience piqued my interest. The first thing I discovered is that there are lots of options when it comes to log splitters and many of them are quite expensive.
So I came up with a list of requirements that helped me narrow down the choices and make my decision very easy.
And now I'm sharing this information with you.
By the end of this article you'll know exactly:
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When I first started looking at splitters I had loads of questions...
We can answer all of these questions by quickly determining how you'll be using your splitter.
There are a few important questions you should ask yourself.
Are you stockpiling personal firewood for the winter? Or are you interested in launching your own wood splitting business? What budget range are you working with? What types of wood do you plan on splitting?
But the 2 MOST IMPORTANT questions are:
1. Will the logs be freshly cut or cured?
2. Will they be hardwoods or soft?
Having clear idea of how you intend to use your log splitter allows us to quickly determine the right product for you. If you're unsure about what you need the following information will lead you in the right direction.
Here's the skinny: Hydraulic splitters offer lots of power to plow through logs, but are slower in terms of cycle time. Kinetic splitters are fast as hell, but beyond the initial impact offer almost no follow-through power (sort of like a hammer hitting a nail).
Most of the log splitters currently on the market are hydraulic. And while many of the hydraulic models out there are ALMOST as fast as the kinetics in terms of cycle time, some people just want lots of speed. So I'll spend a bit of time discussing the differences and which is right for you. Towards the end of the article I'll even highlight one of the top selling kinetic models in case you're interested.
In considering the difference between hydraulic and kinetic splitters, there are several distinctions between the two worth noting. The vast majority of splitters on the market these days are hydraulic.
Hydraulic splitters can be divided into two categories: gas and electric. I'll cover the pros and cons of both and showcase my picks for the best of both types. While both gas and electric log splitters work to accomplish the same task they often have very different capabilities.
More on this later...
Splitters were traditionally designed this way using a method that employs valves and hydraulic pumps. Over a period of anywhere from 10 - 20 seconds, it pushes a splitting ram through the log, gradually splitting it.
Hydraulics have a longer cycle time and slows the splitting process down, usually to 10-15 seconds, but can take as long as to 30-seconds with some models.
In terms of maintenance hydrualic units have more moving parts. There's the pump, valves, motor, and hydraulic fluid. More moving parts CAN translate into a higher probability of things going wrong. Some of the common problems are broken or leaky valves, pump issues, and leaking hydraulic fluid.
But where hydraulic splitters really shine is in their power and flexibility. Hydraulic based units will perform better with harder woods, knotty logs, and misshaped logs with "y" splits. They're also better for splitting logs that are freshly cut or wet.
On top of that, they're not THAT much slower.
While a hydraulic splitter may offer more force, measured in tonnage, it doesn't come close to flywheel-based models in terms of speed.
If speed is more important to you, kinetic splitters are tough to beat as they split logs immediately by releasing a great deal of energy in one burst, rather than through a gradual process as is found with hydraulics.
I like to keep things simple. If you like the idea of faster cutting and most of the logs you'll be working with will be seasoned, a kinetic model is the way to go. If you don't care about speed so much as being able to cut through whatever the hell you throw on your splitter, go with a hydraulic model.
Kinetic splitters operate with a pinion gear and heavy flywheels. The two parts work as part of the system that stores the energy needed for a split. Activation of the handle releases the energy, this burst of energy immediately splits a log apart.
About six times faster than most hydraulic models, kinetic splitters offer a cycle-time as short as 2.5 seconds. They use high speed and low force to get the job done efficiently.
If you're considering kinetic log splitter you need to understand their shortcomings. Yes they work very quickly. But they often won't work as well on wood with knots or "Y" splits in them. They can also struggle with harder or denser woods as there is no energy to follow up the initial release.
Because the generation of force behind the two types of splitters is different, it is often difficult to find direct comparisons between the two types.
While a cycle time under ten seconds sounds impressive, the reality is that anything faster than that will require a second set of hands in keeping up with the machinery.
If you’re using a log splitter at home to build a firewood stockpile, increasing efficiency by just a few seconds likely isn’t important, especially if you’re working alone.
On the other hand, if you have commercial intent for your splitter purchase, a fast cycle time is likely a priority, so a gas log splitter is the way to go. If speed is not as important to you as power is, make sure you are prioritizing that when making your selection.
When it comes down to choosing between gas and electric the choice should be pretty straightforward. With gas you're going to get more power, and more portability. You can take your splitter wherever you need it without having to worry about how you're going to power it.
The downside is they're louder, heavier, require gas and oil, and cannot be used inside.
Electric models are cleaner, and CAN be used indoors. This is a nice feature if you don't want to be splitting wood out in the elements. The downside of electric models is they aren't as powerful and can only be used where you have access to power.
The pressure your log splitter applies to a log is measured in tonnage when using a hydraulic splitter. Tonnage measures the amount of force behind the split.
Determining how much force you truly need for your project can go a long way in narrowing down the best log splitter for you. Ultimately, making the decision boils down to a few factors: log size and density. The wider the log you are splitting, the more tonnage accomplishing the split will require.
For logs that are 6-inches in diameter, 4 tons of pressure will get the job done. On the other side of the spectrum, larger logs 24-inches in diameter will require over 30 tons of pressure to split. Most log splitter users fall somewhere in the middle, working with logs 12-inches in diameter which, on average, require anywhere from 7-16 tons of pressure to split.
You might've noticed this is a pretty wide range of tonnage. The reason for this is that a seasoned log is much easier to splitt than a fresh/green log.
The drier the log, the less tonnage it will require to split as dry logs are considerably easier to split. A seasoned log was cut long ago and has dried out, retaining very little moisture. Green logs, on the other hand, have been freshly cut, retain significant moisture and are more difficult to cut than dry, seasoned logs.
Unsurprisingly, splitting green logs will require more tonnage than splitting seasoned logs.
For some people a horizontal splitter is all they'll ever need. With a horizontal-only splitter the log is placed in the guide, the ram pushes the log against the wedge, resulting in a split.
If you only plan to split small, low-weight logs and have no problem lifting them onto the splitter, a horizontal splitting splitter will work just fine. Horizontal log splitters are ideal for homeowners looking to split small, seasoned logs up to 14-inches in diameter and 21-inches in length.
As you might've guessed a vertical splitter does the same work but with the log in the vertical position.
This allows you to work with larger logs WITHOUT having to lift them.
A good practice to evaluate your needs is to simply look at your woodpile, find the widest log and measure its diameter to determine whether you’ll need a splitter that accommodates horizontal or vertical splitting.
Vertical splitting is more effective in splitting large logs as it will spare your back the pain of hoisting a heavy log atop the splitter. With a log splitter equipped to split a log vertically, you can simply roll the log into the right position and pivot the wood appropriately.
This feature allows larger, heavy logs to be split on the ground. There are several splitters on the market that offer both functions and are enabled to transition between a vertical and horizontal position with ease
Gas powered splitters have several notable advantages over electrically powered splitters, power being one of them. If you’re splitting larger, green logs, a gas powered splitter will be much more effective in splitting the wood efficiently.
Since they won’t need to be plugged in, gas splitters are more portable and will allow you to take your splitter to the farthest reach of your land, if needed. You’ll have a greater range if you need it, with towability being a standard feature. A gas splitter can offer anywhere from 8 to over 34 tons which is plenty of force to take on almost any wood splitting project head on.
When compared with electric power splitters, gas powered splitters will obviously be much louder. Depending on how close your nearest neighbor is, regular use of a gas splitter can certainly strain relations. They also require additional maintenance as you will be required to service the engine as needed and regularly change the oil.
Gas powered splitters, although more powerful, tend to be heavier than electric powered splitters, potentially requiring assistance when being moved. In comparing price points between gas and electric splitters, gas splitters are more expensive and will present a larger upfront cost.
They are less environmentally friendly as they emit potentially harmful gas and cannot be used indoors. Be very mindful when operating a gas powered splitter in even a partially enclosed space as the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning is odorless but very real.
The SLS20825 from Southland Outdoor Power Equipment is a 25 ton, gas powered log splitter. This workhorse has a 208ccOHV engine offering 8.5-foot-pounds of torque. It can easily split even the hardest species of wood, like hickory and maple.
The engine starts on the first pull, allowing you to roll up your sleeves and get started without delay. Maximizing efficiency is simple as the SLS20825 boasts a 17-second log split cycle time. Not only will this efficiency help you get the job done faster, but this beast of a machine can also handle logs as long as 26 inches in length and 30 inches in diameter in record time.
This gas splitter will outwork electric splitters on the market in terms of packing force and power. Not only is this machine effective, but it's also efficient too as it is good on gas even after you’ve worked it for hours on end. Its fuel tank holds 0.74 gallons of gas, minimizing downtime for refueling.
With a 2-way, steel splitting edge the SLS20825 won’t skip a beat. Since it’s been heat treated, the wedge is designed to have an extended life over other splitting edges.
Equipped with both horizontal and vertical splitting capacity, this versatile splitter can accommodate logs both large and small.
Once you’re ready to maximize the tonnage and switch over to the vertical splitting setting, adjusting between the two functionalities is simple and user-friendly. The vertical function will enable you to roll larger logs under it for splitting rather than lifting as you would in the horizontal function.
Technical Specs for the SLS20825
If you’re looking for a rugged splitter that can traverse a variety of landscapes, this may be just the product for you. It's got large, 16-inch wheels making it extremely portable.
This is not a lightweight piece of machinery. Weighing in at nearly 475 pounds, but it's large, durable tires make towing the SLS20825 a breeze. They are Department of Transportation approved and can handle being towed as fast as 45 mph. It has a standard two-inch ball hitch making it easy to hook this splitter up to your truck or lawn tractor.
Assembly can be accomplished by one person. But you'll find it much easier with a second set of hands when assembling the heavy central beam. The instructions are clear and precise and we ran into no issues while putting ours together. Only basic tools are needed. Check out the video below to see full assembly.
Southland offers a generous three-year warranty on this product, covering the steel frame for three years, the engine for two years and the hydraulics for one year.
The YardMax YU2566 packs 25-tons of splitting force, enabling it to deliver when faced with even the most demanding of splitting needs. Equipped with a 208cc Briggs & Stratton 4-cycle gas engine, it is easy to start time and time again. The recoil start starting system, this Briggs & Stratton engine is easy to start on the first pull.
The engine offers both idle control and low oil shutdown. A log opening of up to 26 inches ensures that the YardMax YU2566 can handle large logs as well as small. Working with hardwood with knots in it? No problem. This log splitter will split through it like butter.
A unique U-Beam structural design is currently pending patent and offers added strength when compared to traditional I-Beam designs seen used in other splitters. This improved design places less stress on the beam, improving the life of the machine and its durability.
The structural design isn’t the only feature that makes this product unique, it also has a foot plate pending a patent. This foot plate serves to rotate logs when they are being split and decreases reliance on the beam, improving functionality and helping the user when working with unevenly cut end pieces of wood.
The steel splitting wedge is 7 inches in size, both a two way and four-way wedge are included. Transitioning between a vertical and horizontal position is made easier than ever via a cylinder beam handle.
Oversized hydraulic functions serve to reduce cycle time to under ten seconds with the YardMax YU2566. The 4.2-gallon hydraulic reservoir has been built into the wheel shaft with an internal filter providing added protection. Four gallons of hydraulic fluid is included with the unit to get your reservoir started without added expense.
The auto return function ensures that you don’t have to manually hold the lever up in place, allowing you to concentrate on splitting. This splitter is also equipped with a pair of log cradles, helping to ensure that logs are positioned exactly where you want them, every time.
Weighing in at nearly 520 pounds, this splitter is towable with 16-inch Department of Transportation-approved road tires and a two-inch ball hitch making it easy to do so.
Here's a video demonstrating the use of the YU2566.
Max Log Size
Horizontal & Vertical
2 & 4 Way Wedge Included
Assembly for the YU2566 is minimal and can be accomplished with ease by one person. Overall, this log splitter performs well in its class and offers several unique features like the 4-way splitting wedge, a spinner plate and U-Beam construction which is difficult to find in the same price point.
The consumer warranty covers this splitter for three years while a separate commercial warranty provides additional coverage for 90 days. The consumer warranty covers the craftsmanship for three years, the engine for two years and the hydraulics for one.
This 22-ton gas log splitter strikes the right balance between power and functionality. Its Kohler SH265 engine has 6.5 and a 196 cc engine. The engine is air cooled to ensure it can keep up with you without overheating, regardless of how long your splitting project may take.
We found the manual start worked every time without fail. A minimum of five gallons but no more than 6.5 gallons of hydraulic oil are required to operate this gas-powered splitter.
Notably, it does not come pre-filled nor does it include oil with the purchase but depending on the type of oil needed, can be purchased for about $50.
A 10.9 second cycle time to fully complete a log split ensures that you’re speeding through cords without blinking an eye. This efficiently operating machine will keep you working at a fast pace to keep up with it.
The versatility of this splitter is evidenced by its ability to function as a horizontal and a vertical splitter. Bolstered by its vertical splitting capability, this beast of a machine can process logs as long as 25 inches and length and a whopping 36 inches in diameter. It operates smoothly and splits large, green logs with ease.
Note that if you’re using the horizontal splitter function, it does not come with any type of attachment to catch the excess wood produced, opening up the opportunity for the parts below to be damaged. If you bump up a class to the 27-ton unit, the attachment is included.
Like other splitters in its class, the Dirty Hand Tools 22-Ton Gas Splitter is road towable, so you don’t have to think twice about the feasibility of moving it. Whether you’re running between job sites or wowing your friends by letting them borrow your machine, transporting the splitter is simple and safe with a 2-inch ball and safety chains.
Much like the two other gas log splitters we’re reviewing; it also has Department of Transportation approved 16-inch wheels. Its manufacturer warranty covers workmanship for three years, the engine for two years and the hydraulics for one year.
At 634 pounds, this gas splitter is the heaviest and largest on the review list. Consider that you will need a fairly large truck to pick this splitter up as it is large even when disassembled, palletized and packaged in a crate.
Kohler engines are considered by many to be as durable and long-lasting as any in the industry. This unit performs very well and is a powerful piece of machinery. Overall, this splitter is user-friendly as it is easy to assemble and easy to use with auto return and a powerful engine.
Assembly takes about 3 hours plus or minus. The instructions are very clear and there are several videos on Youtube you can watch if you need help.
We like the Dirty Hand Tools 100171, but because of it's higher price and lower power output we've ranked it third overall.
An electric splitter model is convenient in that it can be used both indoors and outdoors as it requires no ventilation as compared with a gas splitter. There is no need to be worried about carbon monoxide levels when operating an electrical splitter. No more braving the bitter cold to get some fresh wood split for the dying fire in your living room.
You won’t have to deal with gas or oil in order to run your electric splitter, but you will have to ensure you’re plugged into an outlet. This reliance on electricity makes them not as portable as gas splitters as they can’t operate as a stand-alone piece of machinery.
Electric splitters are more cost-effective than their gas counterparts and can be a budget-friendly option for those using splitters infrequently.
As a good rule-of-thumb, an electric splitter will rarely offer over 10 pounds of tonnage. If you’re splitting logs remotely with no easy access to an electrical outlet, you’ll have to worry about lugging a generator to the project site. Overall, electric log splitters are not as flexible as gas log splitters are they cannot accommodate as large of a log size nor can they offer as much force and power when splitting.
If you’re looking for a compact, easy to use electric splitter, the Boss industrial ES7T20 is a beast. This machine occupies little space and is easy to store in the off-season. A push button start has this machine powered up in no time while one-handed operation and automatic ram return ensure ease of use.
Packing 7-tons of power, it is strong enough to split small, dry logs for firewood. With one hand free, you can better guide the log to be split and ensure your safety.
Projects can be accomplished safely and cleaned up quickly. Stability while log splitting is ensured with built-in side rails, so you do not have to worry about manually stabilizing your logs before splitting. Maneuvering the splitter is made easier than ever with front-side handles within reach.
The splitter draws up about 1500 watts, equating to approximately 13.5 amps. It has 3,500 psi of hydraulic pressure.
The split time is a little longer than a gas splitter would be at about 10-15 seconds per cycle. Depending on your needs, the few seconds of added split time may not matter. A large, 5-inch steel wedge is strong enough to cut through even tough, knotted pieces of wood. Unlike a gas splitter, this splitter is relatively quiet and only produces a low hum when operating as intended.
Weighing only 108 pounds, this splitter is easy to pick up and move as needed without any assistance from the second set of hands. A 2 HP electric engine alleviates any concerns over emissions and is more environmentally friendly than a gas engine. Whether you’re planning on splitting logs inside or outside, you can do so without giving consideration to a proper ventilation setup with the ES7T20.
A patented hydraulic system gives this electric splitter an additional advantage over its competitors. Although it sits a little low, extension legs are available for purchase to prevent the user from bending over too far and causing back pain. This splitter is only equipped for horizontal use and cannot be adjusted for vertical splitting, making it ideal for smaller logs but not best suited for splitting logs larger in diameter or length.
According to feedback from users, it can easily split logs up to 21 inches in length, both freshly cut and dry. While not ideal for commercial use, this powerful yet compact splitter works perfectly for residential projects. Best of all, the ES7T20 requires no assembly, simply take it out of the box and you’ll be ready to tackle that wood pile that’s been staring you down for months.
This nimble, electric splitter is compact and weighs in at only 118 pounds. With a cut length maximum of 21-inches, the Powerhouse Log Splitter XM-580 can handle relatively large logs to accomplish your splitting project needs at home.
It's highly portable and can easily be transported to and from work sites. Durable pneumatic wheels make it easy to tow around without worrying about putting any strain on your back.
The wheels provide plenty of traction for any ride; the Powerhouse XM-580 can be towed on the highway without any cause for concern.
Featuring a contemporary design, this consumer-grade splitter can be used on the work table or lowered to the ground. Since it doesn’t emit any fumes, it can be used indoors or outdoors without any need for ventilation.
Significantly stronger than a 5-ton model and packed with 9 tons of hydraulic power, this piece of machinery can handle a lot of splitting. If you’re looking for a low-maintenance addition to your machinery fleet, this may be the right fit.
Feel free to dump the gas tank and save yourself a trip to the gas station; there is no need to refill the tank for this electricity dependent piece of machinery. There is also no need to change the oil, one less thing to worry about. If you are working outside you may require a heavy duty extension cord to increase your range as it will be limited.
The electric power of this machine promises 20 amps of power and 120 volts of electric power. Positioned horizontally, it is ideal for projects involving smaller, lightweight dry logs. Equipped with a steel wedge, this the Powerhouse Log Splitter XM-380 is as durable as any electric splitter on the market. Torque has been increased by 45% with the hydraulic system employed by the XM-380, an improvement which has recently been patented. It has a hydraulic oil reserve with a 0.8-gallon capacity.
Its strong steel wedge will not only perform with every use but will also last many seasons to come. While the warranty could be longer, it does come with a one year warranty, six months of covering repairs with the remainder of the year applying onto to parts. This splitter is very simple to use, making it perfect for an entry-level user with little to no experience splitting wood with a machine. Working with this splitter is as simple as plugging it in and pulling the lever to get going.
While there are plenty of strong models of log splitters on the market, selecting the right one for you will depend on a number of factors. Hopefully, this review has shed light on what comes standard with log splitters, what factors to prioritize when making your decision and what models you can veto from your list.
A few factors to consider when making your buying decision are speed, power, vertical and horizontal functionality, unique features and whether to buy hydraulic or flywheel. If you’re a homeowner simply looking to prepare a healthy personal wood fire pile, a lower-cost, electric log splitter will likely get the job done.
Now if you need to use a splitter on a daily basis and speed is key, a gas splitter will likely be necessary and will prove well worth the additional expense. All of the products reviewed in this article provide value; we will leave picking just one up to you.