Log Splitters: The Quick-Decide Guide

Splitting Heating with wood is a fantastic way to control your winter heating source.  If fuel trucks are late delivering to your area or the electricity goes out, you can just throw on another log and sit back and relax.  But, it also requires a lot of planning ahead to collect, store, and season enough wood to get you through the winter months.  Spring is a great time to start collecting and preparing wood because, depending on the wood type, it could be ready for burning this fall when the chill comes back into the air.

If you’ve decided to dedicate your time and energy to wood heating,  you probably have considered getting a log splitter.  Splitting with a maul may be a great workout, but it pales in comparison to the ease and speed with which you can split wood with a wood splitter.  But there are so many types, how do you know what kind is best for you?  They key is to learn about all your options.

The Hydraulic Log Splitter

Most log splitters that you encounter are hydraulic, which means that they consist of an electric or gas engine which powers a hydraulic pump.  The pump creates a pressured stream of oil to a valve, which pushes the splitting wedge through a log when the operator initiates a handle.  They take the backbreaking work out of splitting by hand with an axe or maul, but can be slow when going through tough or knotty logs.  Hydraulic log splitters are rated in terms of “tons”, with higher “tonnage” indicating more power.  Most wood splitters for homeowners are in the 5- to 20-ton range, with higher tonnages being able to split bigger, tougher, logs.

The Kinetic Log Splitter

The kinetic log splitter is a different animal entirely. Instead of hydraulics, it uses a massive flywheel to store energy from the gas engine, so that when the operator engages the handle, the ram bursts out, popping the log in half, and immediately retracts. They’re fast, they’re efficient, and they can power through some really tough logs. They are not rated in terms of tons, since they don’t utilize the same mechanism as hydraulic splitters, but the DR PRO-XL RapidFire log splitter, for example, has the equivalent power of a 34-ton splitter. Its speed, however, tops a hydraulic every time. See for yourself . . .

The Electric Log Splitter

Some log splitters run on electric power instead of a gas engine.  These are great for splitting wood indoors or near animals (no hazardous fumes).  Plus, there’s little to no maintenance required.  However, they do require you to be near an outlet or have an extension cord handy.  Many electric splitters are light on power, but there are some exceptions. The 5-ton Electric Splitter is an extremely light, portable choice.

X2-RamThe Two-Way Log Splitter

Some log splitters have a double-ended ram, which means that they can split wood in both directions.  There’s no waiting for the ram to retract, because it can split a log from either position.  The DR Dual-Action Log Splitter is such a beast.  The X2 ram is angled at both ends, so instead of splitting a log once and waiting for the ram to retract, you split it once and can immediately split it again.

The 3-Point Hitch or PTO Log Splitter3Point-Hitch

If you have a tractor, you might choose a log splitter that uses your tractor’s power.  These are generally less expensive than their self-powered counterparts, making them an economical way to make the most of the resources that you’ve already purchased (i.e. your tractor).  3-point hitch models attach to the 3-point hitch mechanism at the back of your tractor, and two hydraulic hoses hook into the hydraulic receptacles of the tractor.  PTO-driven log splitters attach to the PTO shaft of your tractor and use energy directly from the tractor’s engine.  DR’s tractor-mounted wood splitter is a 3-point hitch design, and provides up to 13 tons of splitting force (tractor-dependent).

Conversion Kits for Flexibility

Not completely happy with the power source that you’ve chosen for your log splitter?  Just looking for more flexibility?  Conversion kits can make a gas-powered splitter into an electric splitter or vice versa.  Add more power to an electric model, or make a gas-powered model usable indoors.

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