The Best Log Splitter for Your Next Batch of Firewood
The most ecological and friendly way to split logs is with a manual log splitter. With no gas, oil or electricity to worry about, you can use these tools virtually anywhere such as at your favorite hunting cabin, on those rustic camping trips, for campfires or even at home for firewood.
Now, we aren't talking about axes and mauls here, since they all do a comparable job of splitting wood as long as your back holds out. The best log splitters in 2021 on this list are either drop slide-hammer types or hydraulically activated types with handles. They offer a simplicity and effectiveness that can't be beat when you want to split a few logs for the fireplace, campfire, or stocking a pile of logs for a wood burning stove.
Although in theory you would be able to split large sized logs with these selections, smaller diameter logs or thick branches not more than 4 or 5 inches in diameter would be ideal. These best manual log splitters were chosen for their ease of use such as wheels for portability, and splitting effectiveness tops this list, but sturdy construction, and affordability were also considered.
Timber Tuff TMW-11 Manual Log Splitter
WEN 56207 6.5-Ton Electric Log Splitter
SPEED FORCE Log Splitter
4PCS Wood Firewood Drill Bit Removable Logs Splitters
Comparing the Best Log Splitters for 2021
The Timber Tuff Manual Log Splitter is simplicity personified and also the least expensive splitter on the list so virtually anybody can afford one. It’s a slide hammer type of splitter which works by placing the edge on a small log, pulling up the sliding weight and letting it drop. Gravity does the rest and drives the edge into the wood, splitting it effectively. There’s no other easier splitter available, and it’s so portable it can be carried almost anywhere and can be used indoors too. For splitting smaller logs or branches for campfires, fireplaces or wood stoves, this unit would be hard to beat. This model is covered by a one year warranty and weighs about 12 pounds.
If you want a splitter that uses foot power to do the dirty work, consider the Wel-Bilt Vertical Foot-Operated Log Splitter 8-Ton. Forget about heavy lifting, you simply just roll the log into place and then pump the pedal to do the splitting. The eight tons of pressure will split most small to medium sized logs up to 14-inches in diameter; you’ll be able to split a pile of wood for your stove or fireplace fairly quickly and easily. The splitting wedge features five adjustable positions so you can tailor the cycle time for different sizes of wood. Although it’s heavy at 75 pounds and one of the more expensive splitters on this list, it’s relatively portable and easy to use.
The WoodEze Super Smart-Splitter Manual Firewood Splitter is a higher end manual splitter that’s rugged and durable. It’s capable of splitting a 15-inch diameter log, but more suited to splitting small diameters. You also have to drill a 12mm diameter hole in a log to anchor the unit in place, giving it a very stable platform on which to split wood. Once the guide pole is inserted into the hole, splitting logs is quick and easy. Lift the weight and let it drop onto the splitting wedge, that's it. However, if you don't have a 12mm drill bit and drill, you are out of luck. This splitter can be used inside or out, is a lightweight 24 pounds and comes with a two year warranty. Realistically, this could have been the number one pick on this list, but costs almost four times more.
If a conventional horizontal log splitter fits your needs, check out the Ironton Horizontal Manual Hydraulic Log Splitter 10-Ton. This splitter uses two pump handled to move the hydraulic cylinder forwards for splitting and provides 10 tons of force to split logs up to 7-inches in diameter. This model weighs about 80 pounds and you'll have to place each log on the ground-level rail to split them. There are no wheels provided so you'll have to lug this one around by hand, put it on a cart, or throw it up into a truck bed. Although one of the easier to use splitters it has a slow splitting cycle time making it best suited for the occasional use of a fireplace or wood stove. It comes covered by a one year warranty.
Log Splitter Buyers Guide
The original powered log splitter used steam as their mode of propulsion, and although these early models were effective, it was also extremely dangerous to operate them. It wasn't until after World War 2 that hydraulic log splitters began to appear, and since then these have been the standard method employed by all of the commercially made and consumer models.
Modern log splitters are designed around a small gas or electric engine that pushes a ram forward against a log by activating a forward and reverse lever. The splitter can be attached to the ram or bolted in place at the end of the run. When the lever is pushed forward, the log is forcefully pushed against the splitter with tons of pressure. This action effectively splits the log, and when the lever is pushed backwards, the ram retreats back to its starting position.
There’s also a variety of manual log splitters available which use either muscle power or simple mechanical ingenuity to split logs. These particular splitters are best used for occasional use such as generating fuel for a fireplace or campfire.
However, if you need large quantities of split wood for such things as heating, or to commercial wood supply operations, they’re really the only way to go. If you’re planning on purchasing a powered log splitter, please see our lawn equipment power source buyer’s guide which provides the information and the insight needed to choose a power supply which is right for your needs.
Log Splitter Types
Vertical Log Splitters
Vertical splitters are oriented in a way so all you need to do is roll a log beneath the ram, and then activate the splitter to split the wood. No heavy lifting is required which makes these types ideal for heavy, bulky logs. Once the logs are split, you can easily throw the chunks into a pile or a wood bin.
Horizontal Log Splitters
Horizontal splitters have a splitting bed the logs must be lifted on to before being split. Although they’re capable of splitting thick and heavy logs, the weight limitation of the log size will always depend on how much you can lift. Your back will definitely be put to work, but once up on the bed, the log is easier to maneuver than on vertical type splitter.
Combination Vertical/Horizontal Splitters
This adjustable type of log splitter offers the best of both worlds. These hybrid splitters usually involve removing a couple of cotter or hitch pins which allows a hinged bed to convert from a horizontal to vertical position. Larger logs can be split at ground level, which makes it easier on your back, while smaller logs can be split on a horizontal bed for easier handling.
Spring Loaded Drive Lever
This safety feature works by stopping the ram as soon as you release the lever. The spring loaded lever will always return to neutral once released, and it has saved many a finger from being split.
Older splitter types kept the ram moving forward until the operator physically moved the lever backwards. A single operator could activate the ram, then position the log on the bed. If a finger or hand slipped and got in the way, there was no way to stop the ram until the damage was done.
On most electrically powered splitters, and lighter duty gasoline powered types, the wheels are there to aid in moving the splitter manually, and are not rated for towing from place to place.
If you need a splitter which needs to be transported from one property to another, the wheels must be capable of being towed behind a road worthy vehicle. This feature is something to keep in mind depending on what use you have for your splitter.
The cycle time is how fast the splitter ram travels from one side to the other. This directly equates to how quickly a splitter can split wood. The fastest cycle times are in the three to five second range, which, theoretically means that you can split a log in every three to five seconds.
In general, the quicker the cycle time, the more you will pay for the splitter. However, most people cannot work that fast to get a log into the splitting position. For example, a log splitter with a five second cycle time means the ram will travel down and back in five seconds. Once the log is split, you'll have less than three seconds to get a log ready and get it on the bed.
For most applications, a better choice would be a cycle time in the 10-15 second range. You won't have to rush to get a log into place, and chances are the cycle time will be fast enough for virtually any wood splitting application.
The tonnage pressure is how much force the splitting ram exerts on the log to be split. Different woods require different amounts of pressure for them to split effectively, so naturally greater the tonnage, the easier the work will be. You must also take into account the size of the log to split.
For example, a six inch diameter log will take less tonnage to split than a 24 inch diameter log. Now, if you are primarily splitting soft woods, like pine, fir, basswood or spruce, you'll need a minimum of four tons to split six inch diameter logs, and about 20 tons to split 18 inch diameter logs. Hardwoods, like locust, oak, dogwood and ash, will require 10 tons for six inch diameter logs and 26 tons for 18 inch diameter logs.
What's Best for You
What you’re going to use a log splitter for will depend on the type to get. Just remember, if you are primarily splitting smaller diameter logs, a six to 10 ton rated splitter will be all you need. For splitting 20-plus diameter logs, get the most tonnage splitter that you can afford, and if need be, sacrifice cycle time speed for brute force.
If you’re going camping and need a few logs split for a campfire, a log splitting axe, or other manual wood splitting method will be more than adequate. Certainly a powered wood splitter will make the job easier, but it may not be worth the cost if you’re only going to need it a couple of times per year for campfire wood.
Fireplaces and Fire Pits
If you have a fireplace or a home fire pit, you have the potential to go through a few cords of split wood per year. For this type of application, an electrically powered wood splitter will be all you'll need. These types generally only have wheels for limited portability and not for towing behind a vehicle, so you’ll likely be bringing back a pile of logs and taking them to where the splitter is.
Heating and High Quantity Needs
If you have a reliable source of smaller diameter logs that can be brought in, you won't need more than a good heavy-duty electrical splitter for the job. If you are getting logs of all different diameters, a better choice would be a gas powered unit in a horizontal configuration, or a combination horizontal/vertical unit.
The best types for this application are combination units so you'll be ready for virtually any type of log. If you are planning on splitting large 20-plus diameter logs, the best choice would be a vertical only or a combination unit. You'll be able to roll those giant logs into place and save your back in the process. If you must travel to get wood, make sure your splitter is equipped with wheels appropriate for towing.