There’s nothing quite like the crackle of a fire in the backyard or on the campsite on a warm summer night – the flames can be quite hypnotic.
Before you can get to that though you need to have some firewood chopped and ready to go and the process can be a whole lot simpler if you have a log splitter to help you do the job.
That’s the real reason for owning a log splitter – to make your life easier.
Things to Consider:
Do You Really Need One?
As we’ve already said a log splitter will definitely simplify the process of splitting wood for your backyard fire, but do you really need one?
A log splitter isn’t cheap and you can do the same job with an axe that you can purchase at a fraction of the cost.
How much of a difference in price is there?
Well to give you an idea you can typically find a good axe for under $50, but a log splitter can easily cost well over $1000.
That’s a big price difference!
If you have two or three backyard fires a year then there probably isn’t any need to purchase a log splitter.
Unless you have some serious health concerns that make it difficult for you to perform any kind of manual labour of course.
For those that like to have fires a little more frequently then a log splitter may very well be worthwhile.
A job that might take you a couple of hours with an axe can be performed in a matter of minutes with a log splitter.
Only you can answer the question of whether or not you really need a log splitter, but there’s no disputing the fact that they will make your life a lot easier.
If you’ve got to the point where you’re sure you do want to purchase a log splitter the next question you’ll want to ask yourself is what type of tonnage do you need?
Intuitively we’re normally tempted to think bigger is better, but a lot of the time bigger is just overkill.
Log splitters are generally somewhere between 22 and 45 tons and unless you’re splitting wood for yourself and all of your neighbours you do not need a 45 ton.
You could certainly apply a lot of complicated math in order to determine what tonnage really is ideal for your purposes, but it’s not really necessary.
Ideally for the home owner a wood splitter somewhere between 22 and 30 tons is what you’re looking for.
This will give you enough strength to power through any job you’re going to do in the garage.
A 45 ton log splitter is only really necessary if you’re fusing it for commercial reasons.
If you own a few acres of land with a lot of trees and you want to sell firewood to make some extra money then by all means go with the 45 ton model.
When we start to talk about what the appropriate motor size is for a log splitter things get a little more complicated.
The reason being there’s no standard formula for engine size because there are different types of log splitters.
Before we can talk about the right engine size for a log splitter we have to figure out which type of log splitter we’re talking about.
How many types of log splitters are there?
There are manual splitters, hydraulic splitters, electric splitters, and gas splitters.
Another thing to consider before you decide on a log splitter is its cycle time. To clarify, this is the amount of time it takes to split a piece of wood.
If a log splitter can split a piece of wood in 3 to 5 seconds then that’s all you’ll ever need.
You will find log splitters that advertise cycle times as short as 2 seconds, but this isn’t any great advantage and certainly not worth paying any extra money for.
This is another one of those occasions where bigger, or in this case faster, isn’t always better.
Most homeowners aren’t going to be able to keep up with feeding a machine with a 2 second cycle time – at least not by themselves and you’ll likely never need to.
Most of us are just looking to split a few logs at a time so a 5 second cycle time is more than good enough in most cases.
Types of Splitters:
A manual splitter uses nothing but a bit of old fashion kinetic energy to split a log. There are no motors and no hydraulics.
You simply place the log in the splitter and drive a hammer wedge into the log using your own back and a little bit of sweat.
If you’re not afraid of a little bit of work these are affordable and very effective.
Yes you will have to work a little harder than you would using a machine powered splitter, but they are easier to use than a traditional axe.
Hydraulic Manual Splitter
The simplest type of log splitter is the manual splitter. As its name suggests it does not have a motor at all – you provide all of the force that’s needed to split the logs.
Typically they feature a hydraulic press with a sharp wedge at the opposite end.
You place the log in-between the press and the wedge and you then turn the crank on the press by working a pair of handles back and forth to apply pressure to the wood and drive it through the wedge.
These are highly affective machines that can split a piece of in a matter of a few seconds.
Electric Log Splitters
An electric log splitter is a lot easier to use than the previous two types we’ve talked about until this point.
It has a motor that does all the work all you have to do is supply it with a power source which in this case is an electrical outlet plugged into a cord that connects to the splitter.
The set-up is very similar to how the manual hydraulic splitter works, it’s just that the motor does all of the work in this instance instead of you driving the hydraulic press with a pair of handles.
As these machines are powered by electricity they also produce zero emissions making them a great environmentally friendly option.
Gas Powered Log Splitters
If you’re looking for sheer splitting power nothing can compete with the gas powered log splitter.
They will make short work of splitting any log, but they do have their drawbacks.
- For one thing they are typically quite heavy so you’ll probably want to find a good spot for yours in the garage and leave it there.
- You also have to remember to have fuel on hand to power it or you’ll be out of look when you decide it’s time to split some wood.
- You also have to consider their environmental impact as well.
No matter how well made and eco-friendly they may be, a gas powered log splitter will always produce some kind of harmful emissions that have a negative environmental impact – that’s unavoidable.
The Essential Safety Items
It always amazes me the amount of people that have very little regard for their own safety, but it’s an unfortunate fact of life.
If you’re planning on purchasing a wood splitter one of the first things you should do is make sure you’re properly attired with safety gear before you turn your new machine on.
The few seconds it takes to put on your safety gear can mean the difference between walking away unscathed and serious injury.
Here are the essential safety items you should be wearing when operating a wood splitter.
It’s such a simple thing to do, but putting on a pair of safety gloves seems to be an afterthought for a lot of people when they’re using dangerous machinery such as a wood splitter.
When you’re splitting wood there’s every possibility that a few stray splinters will get thrown in the air and a good pair of safety gloves can protect you from injury from one of these splinters.
The best gloves include materials such as Kevlar and it’s well worth spending a couple of extra dollars on a quality pair made from such strong materials.
Safety Goggles or Mask
Protecting your eyes from splinters may be even more important than protecting your hands.
You should always wear safety goggles or a mask when splitting wood – it doesn’t matter whether you’re using an axe or a mechanical splitter.
Some even like to wear goggles and a mask, but that’s probably not necessary.
It’s important not to forget about your feet. The risk of injury to your feet from a wood splitter may be low, but it’s not impossible.
You’re probably okay just wearing a good pair of closed shoes, but erring on the side of caution and opting for a pair of safety boots is never a bad idea.
Lastly, don’t forget to wear pants and a long sleeve shirt when splitting wood.
This will protect the rest of your body from direct contact with flying debris created during the splitting process.
A good pair of jeans and a protective coat is ideal for protecting your body from injury.