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Updated Jan 13, 2023 4:35 PM

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. 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. 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.

How we chose 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. We’ve written about other outdoor lawn equipment, like wood chippers, so we applied that knowledge here. We also conducted heavy research, looked at in-depth reviews, and even channeled our inner lumberjack into finding the best log splitters—flannel shirts and all.

The best log splitters: Reviews & Recommendations

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, and 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 to position a new one. The process is tiring and time-consuming. Any one of our picks will save your back and give you back some precious hours previously spent outside in the woodshed.

Best overall: Champion Power Equipment Compact Log Splitter

Champion Power Equipment

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Specs

  • Weight: 148 lbs.
  • Maximum log size diameter: 19.3 inches
  • Splitting force: 7 tons
  • Cycle time: 20 seconds

Pros

  • Can fit in truck beds or towed
  • Low-profile frame
  • Offset wedge for efficiency

Cons

  • Reviews note that hydraulic fluid leaks from the control valve

This 7-ton gas log splitter conveniently fits into most pickup truck beds and 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: NorthStar Horizontal/Vertical Log Splitter

NorthStar

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Specs

  • Weight: 600 lbs.
  • Maximum log size diameter: 25 inches
  • Splitting force: 30 tons
  • Cycle time: 14 seconds

Pros

  • Built from premium parts
  • Auto throttle control to save fuel, reduce noise, and prolong engine life
  • Engine guard for safety

Cons

  • Expensive compared to other selections on our list

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: Boss Industrial EC5T20

Boss Industrial

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Specs

  • Weight: 104 lbs.
  • Maximum log size diameter: 10 inches
  • Splitting force: 5 tons
  • Cycle time: 14 seconds

Pros

  • 2-year residential warranty, 180-day commercial warranty
  • One-handed, two-way operation
  • Easy to store

Cons

  • Has a hard time splitting damp wood

This compact and powerful electric log splitter, with innovative two-way operation, weighs only 104 pounds and requires less than 15 cubic feet of storage space in the garage or tool shed. The 1.8 HP motor, providing 5 tons of force, operates on a standard household electrical outlet, produces no emissions, and it’s safe to use indoors. Maximum log size is 10 inches.

Best manual: Fiskars IsoCore 36-Inch Maul

Fiskars

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Specs

  • Weight: 7.43 lbs.
  • Maximum log size diameter: N/A
  • Splitting force: N/A
  • Cycle time: N/A

Pros

  • Rust-resistant
  • Less shock, more comfortable to hold compared to other manual splitters
  • Riveted head prevents sliding or snapping

Cons

  • Only good for small pieces of wood

This manual log splitter is built to last with a forged, heat-treated steel head with a rust-resistant coating. Plus, the sculpted, soft-grip 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 7.43 pounds and requiring almost no storage space, this tool punches well above its weight.

Best budget: Southland Outdoor Power Equipment SELS60

Southland Outdoor Power Equipment

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Specs

  • Weight: 103 lbs.
  • Maximum log size diameter: 10 inches
  • Splitting force: 6 tons
  • Cycle time: 18 seconds

Pros

  • Easy to store
  • Light
  • Works through tough jobs quickly and efficiently

Cons

  • Some reviews note a low level of hydraulic oil upon arrival

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.

What to consider when buying the best log splitters

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 can split logs with twisted or springy grain, which 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. Here’s what you should know when shopping for the best log splitters:

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

Hydraulic log splitters are powered either by gasoline or electricity. The 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 of 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. After you chop the wood, it’s time to cut the grass with the best lawn mower.

FAQs

Q: How much do log splitters cost?

With a cheap log splitter—around the $300 range—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. Otherwise, expect to pay $500-$2,000 for a log splitter.

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

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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 6 to 12 months before splitting 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.

Final thoughts on the best log splitters

Whether you need a simple wood-splitting maul, a quiet electric machine, or a powerful gas model, finding the right tool is key to 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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