Which type of log splitter is best?

Using tools to break down wood for heat and cooking is one of civilization’s oldest tasks, and there are a variety of tools available to make it easier. Depending on how much wood you have, how thick and dense it is and how much work you’re willing to do, either a manual or electric log splitter might be best for you.

Electric log splitters

Electric log splitters are perfect for landowners or landscapers who regularly deal with large amounts of timber and don’t want to engage in backbreaking labor. They use an electric motor that plugs into a standard 110-volt outlet and drives a powerful hydraulic pump. You simply place the log in the splitter, turn it on and let the machine do the work.

Electric log splitter pros

  • Straightforward operation: Electric log splitters are pretty simple to use. They don’t have much of a learning curve and there aren’t any complicated controls to worry about.
  • They’ll save your back: If you’ve recently cleared your land of any trees and have plenty of timber, an electric log splitter can help you process it without overexerting yourself.
  • They can split dense logs: Electric log splitters can typically accommodate logs up to 10 inches wide and 12 inches long, although some larger models can handle even larger pieces.
  • They don’t make much noise: They’re not silent, but they’re exponentially quieter than their gas-powered counterparts.

Electric log splitter cons

  • Power tools can be dangerous: Always exercise extreme caution when using an electric log splitter. Never allow an untrained user to operate it and always wear appropriate protective equipment.
  • They’re not cheap: Electric log splitters start around $300 and go up to around $600.
  • They take up a decent amount of space: You’ll need to make sure you have somewhere to store one. They’re also heavy.
  • You might still need manual splitting tools: Electric log splitters can only handle logs up to a certain size. If you’re dealing with trees more than 10 inches in diameter, you’ll have to break down the timber before you can fit it in the splitter.

Best electric log splitters

Ryobi RYAC490 5-Ton 15-Amp Log Splitter

Ryobi RYAC490 5-Ton 15-Amp Log Splitter 

It delivers 5 tons of force and is big enough for logs up to 10 inches wide and 20 inches long. It’s an especially good choice because it comes from a popular and reliable manufacturer.

Sold by Home Depot

Southland SELS60 6-Ton 15-Amp Log Splitter

Southland SELS60 6-Ton 15-Amp Log Splitter

This one’s about as affordable as they get, but it still doesn’t make any sacrifices in terms of power. It’s equipped with rugged wheels and a textured handle so it’s easy to move around your property.

Sold by Home Depot

Powerhouse XM-380 7-Ton Log Splitter

Powerhouse XM-380 7-Ton Log Splitter 

There aren’t many as powerful as this one, which boasts 7 tons of force and can accommodate logs up to 12 inches wide. At about $500 and over 100 pounds, though, it’s both large and expensive.

Sold by Amazon

Manual log splitters

Unlike electric log splitters, manual log splitters come in a few different types. The most traditional manual log splitter is the combination of a maul or sledgehammer and a wedge. There are also hydraulic splitters that work similarly to electric models but use long handles and your own elbow grease for power. Finally, there’s also a large number of fixed vertical wedges to choose from. These are mostly used for turning previously split logs into tinder and kindling using a small mallet or mini sledgehammer.

Manual log splitter pros

  • Splitting wood by hand can be satisfying: There’s nothing like warming yourself up by splitting wood outdoors on a cold winter’s day.
  • They don’t require electricity: If you’re working deep in the woods or anywhere else off-grid, a manual wood splitter might be your best bet.
  • They can be affordable: You can get your hands on a good maul and splitting wedge for well under $100.
  • Some designs offer increased leverage: There aren’t many, but a few of the top manual splitters work a lot like electric models, except they’re powered by hand.
  • The right tools can tackle the biggest logs: A few well-placed swings of a maul can make short work of some of the biggest logs.

Manual log splitter cons

  • Splitting wood by hand is a lot of work: Don’t let anyone romanticize it too much; splitting wood with a sledgehammer and wedge will make you sweat and deliver a solid dose of exercise. For a lot of people, manual wood splitting without any mechanical advantage is just not feasible.
  • Manual log splitting can also be dangerous: An errant ax-head or sprained shoulder can put a stop to your work and ruin your day or worse. Always use caution when splitting wood.
  • Hydraulic models work slowly: It takes a decent amount of time to split a log with a manual hydraulic splitter. The trade-off is that you don’t have to swing around any heavy tools.

Best manual log splitters

Central Machinery Hydraulic Log Splitter

Central Machinery Hydraulic Log Splitter

It uses the same principle as an electric log splitter, but it’s powered by the user.

Sold by Amazon

Razor-Back Splitting Maul

Razor-Back Splitting Maul

This thoughtfully designed maul weighs 8 pounds and sports a textured grip as well as a durable 34-inch fiberglass handle.

Sold by Home Depot

Simplex Splitting Maul

Simplex Splitting Maul

The superplastic face and advanced blade geometry make this one of the finest mauls available. However, it’s not cheap.

Sold by Home Depot

Estwing Sure Split Wedge

Estwing Sure Split Wedge

This design has long been considered one of the most efficient at splitting logs. Plus, it doesn’t cost much.

Sold by Amazon

Halder Splitting Wedge

Halder Splitting Wedge

An impressive amount of engineering went into designing this wedge, which may be the most effective one on the market.

Sold by Amazon

Kindling Cracker

Kindling Cracker

Simply place an already split log on top of this fixed wedge, strike it with a mallet and gather the kindling that results. There’s also an extra-large version.

Sold by Amazon

Craftsman Sledgehammer

Craftsman Sledgehammer

It’s simple, it’s effective and if you plan on using a wedge, you’ll probably need a good sledgehammer.

Sold by Amazon

Should you get a manual or electric log splitter?

If you’ll be splitting a lot of wood, you’ll probably need a maul or sledgehammer and wedge no matter what. Even with electric log splitters, you’ll need to do some manual work at times.

As far as mechanical log splitters go, an electric log splitter is highly effective once the logs are prepped and ready for splitting. If you’re considering a mechanical log splitter, an electric one is probably your best bet. There are few manual hydraulic log splitters and the ones that do exist don’t work very quickly. The best situation for a manual hydraulic log splitter is if you’ll only use it occasionally and aren’t willing or able to swing an ax.

 

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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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