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If you have a wood-burning fireplace or wood stove, you know that nothing beats a cozy fire on a cold day or evening—even in the summer, depending on where you are. But, maintaining a steady supply of firewood takes a lot of work. That’s where a log splitter comes in handy. These powerful machines are capable of turning sections of trees into perfectly sized pieces of firewood with the pull of a lever. Instead of buying ready firewood by the bundle or truckload, save some time, energy, and money doing it yourself—the easy way—with one of the best log splitters on the market now.

What to consider when shopping for the best log splitter

There’s no way around it: Cutting your own firewood is a big job for one person. Even with the help of heavy-duty log-cutting tools, it’s more work, not less. The benefit of adding a commercial log splitter to the equation is that it makes the work faster, more efficient, more productive, and you can do it independently. That’s what a hydraulic model does, for example. Without one, a woodcutter positions the log, then uses a maul to chop it (often requiring multiple swings and repositioning the wood), then puts the maul down in order to position a new one. The process is tiring and time-consuming.

Adding one of the best wood splitters to the equation saves at least half the time. The operator simply positions the log and pulls a lever. It takes about 14 seconds for a hydraulic piston to drive the log into a fixed wedge and return to the ready position. And with between 12,000 pounds and 70,000 pounds of force, these machines don’t often get stuck. They are capable of splitting logs with twisted or springy grain that would be impossible with hand tools. In the end, they allow you to work faster and harder, plus they utilize wood that would otherwise be wasted.

Is a gas-powered log splitter or electric model better for your needs?

Hydraulic log splitters are powered either by gasoline or electricity. Which one is best depends on several factors, including log size and weight, where and how often it is used, available storage space, and more. If chopping wood out in the forest is your normal routine, a gas log splitter would be the logical choice, since they carry their own power supply. These machines tend to be significantly larger and more powerful than their electric counterparts, so they are also better for larger, heavier logs with a diameter greater than about 16 inches. Many have the ability to work either horizontally or vertically. In the vertical position giant, heavy logs can be chopped with no lifting. 

Due to its relatively smaller size, an electric model is an excellent choice if storage space is limited. They typically feature lightweight construction, which makes positioning them for work or storage easier. Plus, they can be used inside a barn or workshop if you’d like to cut wood when the weather is cold or rainy. Electric log splitters operate more quietly than their gas-powered counterparts, which makes the work more enjoyable—and you a better neighbor. Electric power also eliminates much of the maintenance for the machine.

If you appreciate the exercise and relative quiet of working with hand tools, consider a maul.

A splitting maul is basically a heavy steel wedge on a wood, fiberglass, or metal handle. A manual splitter requires no engine or fuel, just human power. Those who only do a few at a time may find it more convenient to use this simple hand tool, rather than setting up a much larger electric or gas-powered machine. The maul takes up almost no storage space and requires no maintenance.

On a budget? What to look for in cheap wood splitters

With a cheap log splitter, you get the basic functionality to process a large pile of wood rather quickly. However, in exchange for the bargain price, some capability is lost. Low-cost splitters offer less ram force, as little as 5 tons of pressure, which limits the log diameter the machine can effectively handle. For instance, a model with 5 tons of pressure maxes out on logs that are 8 to 10 inches in diameter, while a 20-ton product can handle logs up to 24 inches in diameter. A good, inexpensive one should offer at least 5 tons of pressure and should be easy to transport with a lightweight frame on sturdy wheels.

Related: After you chop the wood, it’s time to cut the grass with the best lawn mower

The best log splitters

There are two important measurements to watch for when shopping for log-cutting tools. Hydraulic log splitters are rated in tons for the amount of pressure they apply to the log, with the smallest machines applying about 5 tons and the largest more than 30 tons. The other measurement is maximum log size. Often only a length is provided in the literature, although some manufacturers specify both length and diameter. Here are our picks for the best log splitters.

Best overall log splitter: Champion Power Equipment Compact Log Splitter

Easy to Load & Transport

With fewer moving parts, flat-free tires, and a compact frame, this splitter offers power for a full workday with less maintenance and cost. Champion Power Equipment

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This 7-ton gas log splitter conveniently fits into most pickup truck beds, but also includes a 2-inch ball hitch for easy towing. A 20-second automatic return cycle, low-profile frame with integrated log cradle, and durable offset wedge increase work efficiency. Maximum log size is 19.3 inches.

Best gas log splitter: NorthStar Horizontal/Vertical Log Splitter

Variable Position, Innovative Design

Premium industrial-grade construction and a 200cc Honda engine deliver 30 tons of ram force. NorthStar

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This heavy-duty gas log splitter is built from the ground up with premium parts—commercial GX200 Honda engine, NorthStar hydraulic cylinder with Hallite seals, and two-stage concentric pump—for many years of hard work. Thirty tons of force ensures this item will push through the toughest trees with the hardest, gnarliest grain with ease. Innovative design elements—such as a patented log stripper, heavy-duty log tables, auto throttle control, and engine guard—help you work more efficiently and safely. The 2-inch ball coupler, high-speed tires, and fenders make transportation a cinch. Maximum log size is 25 inches.

Best electric log splitter: Boss Industrial ES7T20

No Emissions, Low Maintenance

Seven tons of ram force and one-handed operation make this log splitter an excellent choice for residential use. Boss Industrial

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This compact and powerful electric log splitter, with innovative two-way operation, weighs only 130 pounds and requires less than 15 cubic feet of storage space in the garage or tool shed. Its 2 HP motor, providing 7 tons of force, operates on a standard household electrical outlet, produces no emissions, and it’s safe to use indoors. Maximum log size is 20 inches.

Best manual log splitter: Fiskars IsoCore 36-Inch Maul

Elegantly Simple, Use Anywhere

A wedge-shaped splitting maul is still the simplest, most reliable, most portable tool for splitting firewood. Fiskars

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This manual log splitter is built to last with a forged, heat-treated steel head with a rust-resistant coating. Plus, the sculpted, softgrip handle fits the contour of your hand, and promises to transfer 2X less shock and vibration than wood handles. The wedge-shaped maul head is specifically designed for, and highly efficient at, splitting—significantly better than the thin, relatively lightweight head of an axe. At only 6.6 pounds, and requiring almost no storage space, this tool punches well above its weight.

Best budget log splitter: Southland Outdoor Power Equipment SELS60

Lightweight Construction, Compact Storage

This splitter offers power and performance similar to its competitors, but at a value price. Southland Outdoor Power Equipment

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With 6 tons of ram force and an adjustable 15-second cycle time, this electric log splitter is built for quick, efficient work. Weighing in at just over 100 pounds, it is the lightest machine on our list, and the ability to park in an upright position makes it easy to stow away when not in use. Maximum log size is 20.5 inches.

FAQs

Q: What type of log splitter should I buy?

The best log splitter for you is the one that can handle the cutting jobs you regularly encounter and won’t be in the way when not in use. If you only split a few small logs each season for occasional fireplace use, then a compact electric log splitter may be perfect. If you use wood as a primary heat source in your home, a powerful gas log splitter is probably a good investment.

Q: What size log can a log splitter chop?

Log size and splitter tonnage rating are closely related. The more pressure applied, the thicker (or wider) the log it can split. A few commonly used benchmarks are as follows: 4 tons will split a 6-inch log, 16 tons will split a 12-inch log, 30 tons will split a 24-inch log. This is just a general guide. Different species of wood split more or less easily, and seasoned wood often splits more easily than green wood.

Q: How long should logs dry before splitting?

An old rule of thumb for splitting wood with a maul is to split hardwoods like oak, maple, and beech when they are still green, and to let softwoods like pine, fir, and spruce dry out for six to twelve months before splitting in order to make the work as easy as possible. But, if you have the benefit of splitting wood with a hydraulic log splitter, you can do it at whatever stage you choose. The benefit of allowing the wood to dry out is that it becomes lighter and easier to load on the splitter.

Related: Transport your freshly chopped wood, compost, plants, and more with the best wheelbarrow.

The final word on purchasing the best log splitter

Whether you need a simple wood-splitting maul, a quiet electric machine, or a powerful gas model, finding just the right tool is key for work satisfaction. An oversized machine is as inconvenient as an undersized one is frustrating. The best log splitter will get you out of the woods fast, saving you time, money, and stress.

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