Picking up an axe and working up a good sweat while chopping wood can be fun and enjoyable from time to time, and I like doing it. However, if you have to do it every single day, maybe even multiple times, it quickly becomes tiresome. Not to mention how straining it can be and the real dangers of using an axe or a chainsaw. That’s where log splitters come in – pieces of machinery that can do the job for you while being extremely safe. The best log splitters can even work significantly faster than you. Still, most people don’t even know what a splitter is. That’s why we made this guide and added several log splitter reviews – to help you find out and decide if you want to get one.
Why Buying a Log Splitter?
You first need to understand what a log splitter is. These are machines that use a pump and piston setup, backed-up by hydraulics and a motor, to drive the log onto a metal blade – or the blade into the log, depending on the design. Your job consists of just putting the wood onto the machine’s plate and turning it on.
There are a few different types. Manual ones, as the name implies, are powered by your strength and are cheapest. Next up are gas-powered log splitters which use gas for fuel. Electric log splitters also exist – they have corded or battery-powered variants.
Machine-mounted log splitters use the power of a machine’s engine – usually a tractor – to operate. Last up are kinetic log splitters that work differently, utilizing kinetic energy instead of hydraulics to break logs – they still require electricity.
Regardless of type, their use is the same – splitting logs of wood. If you have a need to chop firewood at least semi-regularly, a log splitter is useful as it can make it much faster, safer and hassle-free. Even people with who aren’t strong can use one, so you don’t have to be a lumberjack to get firewood.
Even though the use is the same, their performance still varies wildly. Some are better than others and suited for different situations. To help you gauge that when making your decision, we compared a few models here, paired with some user experiences for more info. Check them out.
Meet the Best Log Splitters
The Good: This manual splitter has lots of power, uses no fuel and is easy to store and transport while being very durable.
The Bad: Its small size means it’s not fit to handle logs of a larger size under any circumstances.
The Bottom Line: A simple splitter with an excellent quality-to-price ratio compared to others.
The Good: Great electric splitter for the price. Durable and portable while packing a lot of power and speed.
The Bad: More unsafe than it needs to be. Combined with a blade that cannot be replaced, it can cause issues.
The Bottom Line: Decent machine for its price, ideal for splitting larger logs, but requires really safe handling for extended use.
The Good: Powerful and able to split pretty large logs very quickly due to its powerful electric motor.
The Bad: While mostly made of steel, some parts are plastic and are liable to break.
The Bottom Line: The strength of this machine makes it stand out, but many parts prone to breaking stop it from being great.
While you can glean something about the models from this chart, you might want to see a more detailed comparison – for that, look below.
All of the Factors Considered
While the use of all log splitters is simple, there’s a lot of variety and plenty of qualities you should consider before buying one. If you’re not wary, you might end up with a product that is ill-fitted for your needs. Here are some crucial properties of log splitters that you should consider before making your purchase.
If you’re buying a log splitter, you want it to last – not to break down in a week or two. Luckily these machines are designed to handle a lot of pressure and wear-and-tear during years of daily use. However, some use cheaper materials or are poorly constructed. Log splitters that use a lot of plastic are bound to fail sooner than those made of steel.
Log splitters aren’t just for use in the in your backyard – they can be taken on a camping trip, for example. Portability is also important if you just need to move them around in your backyard or loan them to someone. Luckily most come with a pair of wheels and ball hitches, so you can move them by hand or tow them. Some are even easily disassembled.
The Power Source
This is important for a few different reasons. Electric-based splitters are usually less portable, needing to use a cord. Splitters using a tractor engine for power require you to have a tractor. There’s also the issue of eco-friendliness, as you might not want to use gas-powered machines that generate a lot of exhaust. If you choose a manual splitter, you still need to put in some work yourself. Lastly, different power sources result in different specs, speed, power, and so on – but I’ll get deeper into that later.
Not all splitters are made to handle huge logs. You need to choose a splitter that will work well with the logs you intend to put into it. Choose one that’s too big, and your small logs will end up shredded – choose one that’s too small, and you won’t even be able to fit a log onto it.
It’s always best to choose a machine that can cut logs slightly larger than those you have. For most people, those are logs around 20 inches wide and up to 15 inches long. Some models can handle larger logs of 25 inches in both diameter and length.
Power and Speed
Probably the most important aspects are the power and speed of your splitter. The reason we’ll be talking about these characteristics together is that they are interdependent.
Splitter speed is expressed in cycle time – time needed for the ram to return to the starting position after splitting, making it ready to go again. This depends mostly on the GPM (gallons per minute) ratio of the hydraulic pump, which also affects the power.
Power is expressed in pounds-per-square-inch or tonnage (1 ton equals roughly 14 PSI). The higher it is, the stronger the splitter and it can handle bigger logs – this is also dependent on the hydraulic pump, the diameter of its cylinder.
Both are also affected by the horsepower and amps of the motor. For most people an engine with 2 HP is plenty, but you might want to go up to 4 HP.
Now that we’ve covered all the important aspects of a log splitter, it’s time to see how some of the top products measure up.
Now we can move on to some more in-depth reviews:
In-depth Reviews of 3 Log Splitters
Durable Steel Construction
This log splitter is made almost entirely from stainless steel, which makes it highly resistant to wear and tear. It’s also able to work in harsher weather conditions and won’t get rusty if you happen to forget it outside.
Compact and Portable Design
Relatively small for a log splitter with two wheels, this product is easy to move around and doesn’t take up a lot of storage space.
Easy Manual Operation
Just place a log on the plate and pump the two handles until it cracks – even a child could do it.
Suited for Medium-sized Logs
Splitting logs for your fireplace won’t be a problem as this splitter easily takes on logs of up to 18 inches in length and 8 inches wide, cracking them in a jiffy.
10 Tons of Pressure and Two Speeds
With no motor in sight, this splitter is still able to put out large amounts of pressure while only requiring your two arms to run it. Can be used at two different speeds, one requiring more strength.
Who Should Buy This Product
As this is a manual log splitter, you might think this is only for people who are strong. Surprisingly, that is not the case – this product is straightforward to use and doesn’t require a lot of strength. Thus, it’s actually well suited for most people, as it is relatively cheap, inexpensive to use, very portable and can be operated even by older or weaker people.
What to Watch Out For
Everything I said above only applies if you’re not trying to split huge logs. That is the only major downside – if you use it with logs bigger than is specified, you could put in a lot of strength and still not crack it. Other than that, there is the issue of the handles being a bit short, but that’s easily fixed by putting it in an elevated position.
Overall, it’s a great machine, especially for the asking price. It offers lots of power despite not using any motor and doesn’t require plenty of strength or expertise to use. You can even bring it on a camping trip with you. Not good with larger logs, sadly, but most people have no need for wood that large, so it’s not a big issue.
Quality Steel Structure
This splitter is made almost entirely of quality steel, so it is rather durable and suited for some heavy-duty operation. The blade is exceptionally sturdy.
Compared to other products of similar design, this machine is quite lightweight, making it easily portable.
Simple and One-handed Operation
The patented one-handed operation system makes this machine easy to use for anyone, and from any possible position.
The logs this splitter can handle range up to 20.5 inches in length and 12 inches in width, making it a real heavy duty machine.
Running on a 2 HP, 1500 watt, 13.5-amp electric motor, this splitter achieves 7 tons of power with a cycle time of only 10 seconds, making it a force to be reckoned with.
Who Should Buy This Product
This splitter is perfect for anyone who needs to crack some relatively large and sturdy logs but doesn’t want to invest a huge amount of money into a machine or just prefers electric splitters. It seems mainly geared towards beginners who have such needs, considering the convenient one-button operation system.
What to Watch Out For
That one-button operation system has its flaws, and the most important one is the lack of safety features this splitter has. There’s nothing there to stop logs falling off after splitting or splinters from flying all over the place.
Another possible problem is that the blade cannot be replaced. It can be sharpened, so this is a problem only if it bends or breaks.
This is an inexpensive electric splitter that packs a mean punch and can split some relatively large logs, while also being more portable than similar models. It’s especially great for people who want a hassle-free but heavy duty machine. It has its issues, but the lack of safety features can be mended by just being more careful when using it. Overall, it provides great value for the price.
The body of the machine is made from great quality steel, ensuring that it will last you for a long time and won’t be prone to breaking and bending.
Easy to Move Around
Two plastic wheels on the back ensure that this splitter can be moved around and can even be dragged behind a tractor, allowing you to take it wherever you need it.
Two-handle Simultaneous Operation
Both hands must be used to operate the machine, ensuring safety when working, as there is no risk of the mechanism going off by accident.
Splitting Large Logs is a Breeze
Even when taking on logs that can be up to 20.5 inches by 12 inches, this machine is easily able to crack them in half.
3 HP Motor
Inside the chassis is a powerful motor – 3 horsepower, 2500 watt, 19.5 amps, ensuring a pressure rating of 7 tons with a cycle time of only 10-11 seconds.
Who Should Buy This Product
The XM-380 is actually made for people who require a real heavy-duty machine that’s safe to operate but don’t want to invest in a larger unit. If you split a lot of logs per year, and you need a hefty amount of power and speed, this is the splitter that you want.
What to Watch Out For
The wheels are small and made out of plastic, and this is a heavy machine, so they can break rather easily. If you have no need to move the unit, it might be okay, but otherwise, you might want to invest in sturdier wheels for it. Similarly, there are other parts of the machine not made from steel, and they tend to break as well, meaning you need to repair it often.
Overall, this is a decent machine that has plenty of power, but the smaller problems hold it back. While it is good for splitting a large amount of wood, the flimsiness of the non-steel parts makes it hard to use for extended periods of time without something breaking. A shame, as this would be an excellent product otherwise.
The Best Pick – Sun Joe LJ10M
There are plenty of different options on the market when it comes to log splitters, so choosing the best one might be difficult. In the end, picking the best machine for your needs is the crucial thing, and you might be willing to compromise and buy one that is weaker in some aspects, but good in the ones you need. In that sense, there is not best log splitter.
But when it comes to these three, it’s actually a non-contest – the best one for us is definitely the Sun Joe LJ10M log splitter. It’s easy to use, extremely sturdy, requires no electricity or another power source at all and can put out a surprising amount of pressure for a manual log splitter. Sure, it can’t handle some larger logs but that is not an issue for most people anyway, and besides that, it has no real apparent downsides. It’s ideal for virtually anyone.
While you should consider our choice for the best log splitter, don’t let us make your pick for you – carefully consider what you need, and buy the ideal product for your needs. The Sun Joe LJ10M is a great log splitter, but there are others out there that might fit you better – however, rarely will you find one with a quality-to-price ratio this good.