Three best log splitters

Bob Beacham

Splinters can be extremely painful and difficult to remove, so always wear gloves when working with logs. Even split logs can be heavy, so wear sturdy footwear, too. Steel-toed boots are preferable.

Mechanical log splitters make the job of preparing firewood easier, faster, and safer. If you want to build up your arm muscles, an axe is great. If you want a nice pile of wood that's ready for the fire in the shortest possible time, get a log splitter.

The question is, which log splitter? To help you sort through the numerous options, we put together the following log splitter buying guide. It discusses the pros and cons of the various machines available.

Considerations when choosing log splitters

Log splitter power

All log splitters follow the same basic mechanical principle. A piston drives the log along a cradle and forces it against a wedge. Although the wedge isn't razor sharp, the force behind the piston is sufficient to split the log. There are several ways the piston gets its energy: manual hydraulic power, electric motor power, and gas motor power.

A manual log splitter uses the same principle as a car jack. In the same way that a jack lets you lift a two-ton truck with ease, a manual log splitter multiplies your effort many times. With this tool, you can exert a remarkable amount of pressure.

Pros: Manual log splitters cost relatively little and are highly portable. There is no gas to carry around, and it doesn't need to be plugged in. Operation is quiet.

Cons: Operation is not as easy as pushing a button.

An electric log splitter uses a powerful electric motor to power the piston. You put the log on the cradle, press a button, and allow the job to finish.

Pros: Electric log splitters are easy to use, quiet, and cost little to run. These tools may be used in the garage.

Cons: You must station yourself close to a power outlet; this tool can't be used in the field.

A gas log splitter uses a four-stroke engine to generate power. The largest gas log splitters can be used horizontally or vertically. You don't have to lift large logs onto the cradle; you can just stand them upright.

Pros: A gas log splitter is powerful, durable, and portable -- you can take it to the logging site rather than bringing heavy logs to the splitter.

Cons: Gas log splitters are louder than other types, and to run one, you need both gas and oil. Gas log splitters cannot be used indoors, and that includes the garage.

Other log splitter considerations

All log splitters are rated by tonnage, which is a measure of the amount of force they're capable of exerting. This can lead to some confusion. You'll see small manual log splitters rated at 10 tons and large gas-powered models rated at seven tons. At first glance, this may seem to be the wrong way around.

Tonnage is the headline figure, so manufacturers like to quote the biggest number they can. They're not being deceptive, but it's only part of the equation. What's equally indicative is the size of log you can get on the cradle -- the length and diameter -- and the general construction.

Manual log splitters are small and light enough to move around easily. They have enough capacity for most homeowners, but a manual log splitter is not a professional's tool. Electric log splitters are, by nature, not designed to go far from home. They often have wheels to help you move them around, and some have a stand so you can work at waist height. Gas log splitters can't be used indoors. You'll notice they have bigger wheels with pneumatic tires designed to travel across fields. The largest models have tow hitches.

Which type of log splitter should you choose?

If you're feeling energetic, a manual log splitter could be a budget-friendly solution. While not light, you could carry it away from the house if you needed to. But an electric log splitter is probably the favorite of most homeowners. These splitters can handle good-sized logs, and if the weather is poor, you can use one from the comfort of your garage.

A gas log splitter makes the most sense for someone who has a continuous and large number of logs to split. This includes farmers. These log splitters have additional features like auto-return, so they're ready to go again quickly. Some, but not all, electric log splitters also have this feature.


Q. Will my log splitter come ready to use?

A. It depends on the model. Manual log splitters are very simple. Apart from attaching the handles, they're good to go straight out of the box. Electric models might have a stand that needs assembling and one or two components that need to be bolted together. But again, they're pretty straightforward.

Gas log splitters require more work. It's not technically difficult to get a gas log splitter ready to go, but we recommend that you enlist the help of a friend, as some components can be heavy.

Q. Does a log splitter need much maintenance?

A. Manual and electric log splitters require little maintenance. A quick cleaning with warm, soapy water is a good idea, as is lubrication of any moving parts. Consult your owner's manual for these details.

With gas log splitters, you have the engine and related power systems to look after. This is not too challenging, but it's important that maintenance is done on a regular basis to prolong the life of your equipment.

Log splitters we recommend

Best of the best: Champion 7-ton horizontal gas log splitter

Our take: A compact professional tool for yard or fieldwork.

What we like: Strong, reliable four-stroke engine and durable overall construction. Big lever for easy operation with gloved hands. Fast cycle time. Canted wedge for better splitting. Large wheels handle rough terrain well.

What we dislike: Full-time loggers will want something with a higher performance level.

Best bang for your buck: Sun Joe 10-ton hydraulic log splitter 

Our take: A robust, go-anywhere tool that's surprisingly powerful.

What we like: A simple, easy-to-use, low-cost solution. There is very little that can go wrong. Once you've bought it, you're done paying -- there will be no gas or electricity to pay for.

What we dislike: Using this log splitter requires some physical effort.

Third choice: WEN 6.5-ton electric log splitter with stand 

Our take: The WEN delivers excellent performance and great value. It's all that most homeowners need.

What we like: The ideal feature list: powerful motor, robust build, good capacity, stand for waist-height working if preferred, wheels for ease of movement.

What we dislike: The stand doesn't fold for storage.

Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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