The Ultimate Guide To Buying The Best Log Splitter

Call me strange, but there’s nothing more satisfying than getting outside with a nicely made ax and powering your way through a stack of logs to be left with a pile of firewood. It’s great therapy and exercise, and as Henry David Thoreau said in his book Walden Pond, “Chop your own wood, and it will warm you twice.”

That romantic notion aside, you can’t beat a log splitter when you need the job done quickly without too much sweat and swearing. There’s been a recent increase in the purchase of log splitters as the price of firewood has increased. Either people are keen to be more self-sufficient, or they’re getting older like me.

To assist you in selecting a suitable log splitter, I’ll have a quick look at points you might consider. Then I’ll review some of the log splitters on the market and suggest those that I believe strike a balance between price and functionality. We’ll also discuss some safety issues you should consider before using your new toy.

Types of log splitters

Log splitter. Photo: 123rf.com

A log splitter is a simple device. It consists of a wedge forced axially into a log while the log is restrained by an anvil or base, thereby splitting it apart. An ax is a basic version of this, as are mauls and manual wedges. 

However, I’ll ignore any splitters that require a huge amount of energy because otherwise, you may as well use an ax. I’m going to assume you’re after labor-saving devices, and therefore I’ll concentrate on splitters that use hydraulic power to operate.

A pump creates hydraulic power, and there are four ways that a pump can be powered:

  • By hand, much like a car jack
  • Using an electric motor
  • Using a gas or diesel engine
  • Using a tractor or bobcat power takeoff (PTO)

I’ll ignore PTO and hand-powered splitters for this article and look at a range of products that fall into the electric or gas-powered categories and consider their design, ease of use, and price. Finally, I’ll select one from each capacity as a ‘best buy.’

Let’s talk about capacity and how much you need

Log splitters are rated by the hydraulic ram’s tonnage or force. The greater the force produced by the ram, the tougher and larger the log that you can split. There are also some secondary design features like the length and diameter of the log that the splitter can handle, but the primary issue is force.

You don’t want to buy a log splitter that is underpowered for your needs and fails to split the wood you have. However, there’s no point in buying the most powerful splitter you can find either. As the power increases, so too does the splitter’s size, weight, and sturdiness. If all you’re doing is splitting poplar logs and a bit of pine, that 40-ton diesel-powered monster you want to buy is a waste of money and takes up unnecessary room.

The telling point is that the most rented log splitter in the US is one rated at 26 tons. Unless you’re going into business producing firewood or have really large diameter logs, it’s unlikely you’ll need a higher rating than that. If your logs are 24 inches in diameter or greater, you might consider a 27 ton or 30-ton splitter.

For six-inch logs, you’ll probably need 6 to 10 tons. Twelve-inch logs will need 12 to 22 tons, and 18-inch logs will need 20 to 26 tons. If your timber is hard, go to the upper end of that range, but you can save yourself some money and pick a splitter at the bottom of the range if it’s soft.

Other design feature to note

There are two other important features of a log splitter:

  • Cycle time
  • Horizontal or vertical orientation

Cycle time refers to the number of seconds it takes the ram to extend fully and split the log before returning to its starting position. Why does this matter? If the cycle time is too long, you’ll be standing there for a long time during each cut. If we assume you may need four to six cuts for a large log, a long cycle time adds to a slow and inefficient operation.

Conversely, a cycle time that is too fast for you to keep up with means you become the limiting factor. Some splitters boast three and five-second cycle times, but unless you’re a commercial operator and very fit, you don’t need to pay for that. Stick to something between 12 to 15 seconds for a comfortable cycle time.

The orientation of the splitting action refers to which way the log is oriented. If the log is lying on its side in a cradle, the ram acts horizontally. If the log sits upright on a base, the ram acts vertically. 

Vertical Log Splitter. Photo: 123rf.com

The horizontal splitter is kind to your back when using small to medium-sized logs you’re uploading from a truck or pile. If the logs are large and heavy, you don’t want to be lifting them above waist height; instead, you roll them upright onto a base that sits on the ground and split them vertically. Some log splitters work in both orientations, allowing you to load a heavy log when vertical, then pull it to the horizontal for splitting.

Horizontal Log Splitter. Photo: 123rf.com

Safety Considerations

Where you’re applying tons of pressure to a log using a sharp wedge, you can be sure there are some safety concerns. 

  1. Always wear goggles or safety glasses when using a splitter. Splinters and dust fly around regularly when you’re splitting, and if they hit your eye, things get serious. Protect your sight!
  2. Always wear gloves. They protect your hands from abrasions and splinters. You’re also working with moving machinery, so pinch injuries are not uncommon. Wearing gloves mitigates damage.
  3. Always wear closed-in strong shoes. Splitting wood is no job for sandals or bare feet. Dropping a log on your foot or picking up a splinter or two is not uncommon. Strong closed-in shoes help prevent permanent damage.
  4. No loose clothing, ties, lanyards, or long necklaces. You have a hydraulic ram under tons of pressure, moving back and forth. If it picks up your clothes or loose objects, the ram doesn’t care if you’re being hurt – it’ll just keep moving. Always tuck in clothes and loose objects.
  5. When you’re using a fuel-powered splitter, always wear earmuffs. You’ll be standing there for a while, and the motor is noisy. It will damage your hearing without earmuffs, guaranteed.

This video by Champion Power Equipment has some useful tips to ensure the safe use of a log splitter:

YouTube player

Product Reviews

Best 6 to 10 ton – Boss Industrial 

10 Ton Boss Industrial Dual Action Electric Log Splitter
Photo: woodsplitterdirect.com

I selected this model for its robust construction, useful stand, and powerful performance. Good value for money.

Best 12 to 20 ton – PowerKing 15 ton

PowerKing 15 Ton Log Splitter (PK0304)
Photo: woodsplitterdirect.com

A nicely designed and built log splitter using a gas engine at an exceptionally low price. Highly recommended.

Best 22 to 30+ ton – Powerhorse  22 Ton

Powerhorse Horizontal/Vertical Log Splitter - 22 Tons, 212cc Engine
Photo: Amazon

A heavy-duty splitter at an exceptional price, using high-quality hydraulics with high filtration. This is the one I’d buy!

6 to 10-ton log splitters

SuperHandy Log Splitter Electric Portable 6 Ton 1-3/4 eHP 15Amp

SuperHandy Log Splitter Electric Portable 6 Ton Ram System
Photo: Amazon.com

While the SuperHandy is a similar design to many other log splitters of this power, there are some differences. I particularly like the heavy tubular steel frame, which can also be used as a handle. It’s also a great price coming in at almost half the price of many competitors.

Specs:

  • Ram force: 6 ton
  • Maximum log diameter: 10″
  • Maximum log length: 20.5″
  • Current draw: 15 amps
  • Cycle time: 15 seconds
  • Weight: 100 pounds

WEN 56207 6.5-Ton Electric Log Splitter

WEN 56207 6.5-Ton Electric Log Splitter
Photo: Amazon.com

The WEN 56207 is a lightweight log splitter with an included stand to elevate the working level. While the cycle time is longer than the competitors and the wheels are slightly less robust, this unit is ideal for small splitting tasks, being light and easily stored in a garage.

Specs:

  • Ram force: 6.5 ton
  • Maximum log diameter: 10″
  • Maximum log length: 20.5″
  • Current draw: 15 amps
  • Cycle time: 20 seconds
  • Weight: 98 pounds

Powerhouse XM-380 Electric Hydraulic Log Splitter, 7-Ton

Powerhouse XM-380 Electric Hydraulic Log Splitter
Photo: Amazon.com

I like the design of the Powerhouse XM-380. It sits low to the ground to make lifting larger logs onto the cradle easier; it has a huge 3.5 horsepower motor, and the wheels are more sturdy than many direct competitors.

Specs:

  • Ram force: 7 ton
  • Maximum log diameter: 12″
  • Maximum log length: 20.5″
  • Current draw: 18.5 amps
  • Cycle time: 11 seconds
  • Weight: 103 pounds

10 Ton Boss Industrial Dual Action Electric Log Splitter

10 Ton Boss Industrial Dual Action Electric Log Splitter
Photo: woodsplitterdirect.com

The Boss has an interesting design, offering two-way cutting to speed up cycle times. It also comes with a stand and is constructed with a heavy-weight frame. Be aware this unit needs a 20-amp circuit for operation.

Specs:

  • Ram force: 10 ton
  • Maximum log diameter: 12″
  • Maximum log length: 20.5″
  • Current draw: 20 amps
  • Cycle time: 16 seconds
  • Weight: 214 pounds

Here’s a useful video by the official Boss Youtube channel demonstrating the Boss 10-ton log splitter in action:

YouTube player

12 to 20-ton log splitters

PowerKing 15 Ton Log Splitter

PowerKing 15 Ton Log Splitter (PK0304)
Photo: woodsplitterdirect.com

The PowerKing uses a 6.5HP gas-powered 4-stroke engine to power the hydraulics. The splitter is mounted on a single axle trailer designed for towing with a lawn tractor. A sturdy option with wide steel wheels, the PowerKing is offered at an attractive price.

Specs:

  • Ram force: 15 ton
  • Maximum log diameter: 14″
  • Maximum log length: 21″
  • Motor horsepower: 6.5 hp
  • Cycle time: Adjustable 12 to 15 seconds
  • Weight: 264 pounds

Boss Industrial 16 Ton Two Way Gas Log Splitter

Boss Industrial 16 Ton Two Way Gas Log Splitter
Photo: woodsplitterdirect.com

The Boss features a two-way splitting action to cut your cycle time in half and is powered by a 6.5 horsepower gasoline 4-stroke engine. The trailer has 16″ road legal tires and is fully towable.

Specs:

  • Ram force: 16 ton
  • Maximum log diameter: Not stated
  • Maximum log length: 20.5″
  • Motor horsepower: 6.5 hp
  • Cycle time: 8 seconds, or 4 using double split action
  • Weight: 342 pounds

SuperHandy Log Splitter Portable 20 Ton

SuperHandy Log Splitter Portable 20 Ton
Photo: Amazon.com

Superhandy has a reputation for solid products at a good price, and this 20-ton unit is no exception. Lightweight and maneuverable by hand, this splitter boasts low cycle times.

Specs:

  • Ram force: 20 ton
  • Maximum log diameter: 16″
  • Maximum log length: 20″
  • Motor horsepower: 7 hp
  • Cycle time: 7.5 seconds
  • Weight: 130 pounds

20 Ton Horizontal Vertical Electric Log Splitter

20 Ton Horizontal Vertical Electric Log Splitter
Photo: woodsplitterdirect.com

This electric splitter is designed for horizontal and vertical orientations, allowing you to load the log in the vertical position and then lift it to the horizontal before splitting. Fully road-towable, the splitter is powered by a two-horsepower electric motor that needs to run off a 25-amp dedicated circuit breaker. You can upgrade it to a 3-horsepower motor for reduced cycle times.

Specs:

  • Ram force: 20 ton
  • Maximum log diameter: 16″
  • Maximum log length: 26″
  • Current draw: 25 amps
  • Cycle time: 16 seconds
  • Weight: 450 pounds

22 to 30+ ton log splitters

Powerhorse Horizontal/Vertical Log Splitter – 22 Tons, 212cc Engine

Powerhorse Horizontal/Vertical Log Splitter - 22 Tons
Photo: Amazon.com

The Powerhorse is a heavy-duty unit at a great price. It’s cheaper than many smaller splitters and offers a choice of vertical or horizontal splitting action. The motor and hydraulics are rated for continuous use, and the trailer can be towed by a vehicle.

Specs:

  • Ram force: 22 ton
  • Maximum log diameter: 14″
  • Maximum log length: 25″
  • Motor horsepower: 6.5 hp
  • Cycle time: 13 seconds
  • Weight: 593 pounds

This video b MOTHER EARTH News and Friends gives you a useful insight into the operation and effectiveness of the Powerhorse log splitter:

YouTube player

WXR720 Firebolt Horizontal Towable/Self-Contained

Firebolt WXR720
Photo: wallensteinequipment.com

The Firebolt has an eye-catching addition to its design, utilizing an outfeed bed to catch the logs once they’re split, preventing you from bending down constantly to retrieve your split logs. The unit provides 27 tons of splitting force with a fast cycle time. It’s not cheap, but it’s a serious log splitter.

Specs:

  • Ram force: 27 ton
  • Maximum log diameter: Not stated
  • Maximum log length: Not stated
  • Motor horsepower: 6.5 hp
  • Cycle time: 11 seconds
  • Weight: 460 pounds

P825 V Briggs 80, 30-Ton Log Splitter Horizontal/Vertical

P825 V Briggs 80, 30-Ton Log Splitter
Photo: powertek.us

At 30-tons of splitting force, the P825 V is a professional log splitter. Powered by a nine-horsepower engine, the P825 V’s trailer is built to be towed on the road, and overall, the splitter weighs in at a heavy 850 pounds.

Specs:

  • Ram force: 30 ton
  • Maximum log diameter: Not stated
  • Maximum log length: 26″
  • Motor horsepower: 9 hp
  • Cycle time: 13 seconds
  • Weight: 850 pounds

Boss Industrial 32-Ton Horizontal / Vertical Gas Log Splitter 

Boss Industrial 32-Ton Horizontal
Photo: logsplittersdirect.com

This Boss log splitter is surprisingly cheap when compared to the previous offering. However, it is less robust and is more suited to consumers and light commercial operators than heavy-duty contractors. Nonetheless, this powerful unit is a compact design, and at this price, it’s hard to pass up.

Specs:

  • Ram force: 32 ton
  • Maximum log diameter: 16″
  • Maximum log length: 25″
  • Motor horsepower: 8 hp
  • Cycle time: 14.5 seconds
  • Weight: 509 pounds

FAQ

I recommend against this practice as it opens the possibility of your friend placing their hand in the wrong position just as you activate the hydraulics. For safety sake, one operator only.

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For light wood, horizontal is great for your back as you can stand straight. For heavy wood, vertical doesn’t require you to lift the log to waist height. A combination of both is ideal, allowing you to roll the log into the splitter while vertical, then raise it easily to the horizontal for splitting.

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If you’re always going to be close to an electric outlet, an electric splitter is quieter, doesn’t emit exhaust fumes, and requires less maintenance. If you’re regularly using your splitter away from electricity, use the gas-powered unit.

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Two-handed operation is a safety feature to force you to keep your hands away from the log while the splitting occurs.

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William Stewart

The proud owner and lead writer of WoodImprove.com. Started writing in 2018 and sharing his love and passion for wood treatments and crafts.

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