There is something deeply primal about the act of splitting logs with a maul. The hefting of the handle high over your head and slamming it down to the satisfying crack of a log being blasted in two. It’s not only a great workout and stress relief, but there is a sense of having dominance over nature and providing fire for your family to stave off hunger and the cold.
At least that’s how it goes for the first few logs. Assuming you didn’t bury the head of the maul an inch into the grain and are now performing a series of red-faced yoga poses to free it. Then you look at a whole cord of wood to be split…by hand… and suddenly the glamour is ripped from the job. Splitting firewood becomes a source of stress rather than relief for it and is now an exercise in exhaustion.
Splitting any appreciable amount of firewood can quickly wreak havoc on your body and that’s where log splitters step in. They are immensely powerful tools that can split a whole cord of wood into kindling while saving the stress on your joints.
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The name “log splitter” is somewhat misleading. The word “splitting” conjures up an image of a powered axe head being slammed down into a log and splitting it at speed. That’s not too far off the mark, but while there are some log splitters that work with a powerful slam, the majority of log splitters are hydraulic. Of those, the vast majority of electrical log splitters are horizontal. Hydraulic log splitters are relatively slow, methodical, and nearly unstoppable. Like Michael Myers.
A hydraulic pump is attached to a ram. The ram can be either a wedge shape or a push plate. The pump moves the ram which then runs into the log. The log is squeezed between a wedge and plate. The incredible force applied by the hydraulic pump presses the wedge into the log and eventually (hopefully) something has to give and the log is separated.
Imagine using a nut cracker to open a walnut versus hitting it with a hammer. So maybe log cracker would be a more accurate term.
Kinetic log splitters are different. They do their splitting by storing power into flywheels and then firing the ram in a single, quick, and powerful blow. While kinetic log splitters are much faster, they can be more dangerous. Once you pull the lever there is little time to move your hands or anything else out of the way of the ram, wedge, or log. They also tend to be a little more expensive.
There a few things you’ll want to pay attention to when sizing up an electric log splitter. First, is the splitting power. The splitting power is typically measured in tons, which indicates the force a splitter is capable applying to a log to split it. And electric splitters operate with incredible force.
This tonnage measurement is important to understand because it’s a good indicator of the sort of logs you can expect your splitter to get through. If you ask a 4-ton electric splitter to split a 18-inch diameter piece of dogwood, it’s not gonna cut it and you might damage the splitter in the process.
Second, you’ll need to know the type of wood you’ll have access to. What kind of tree(s) the logs were harvested from, whether it’s been seasoned or is still green. Even the size of the logs. A good rule of thumb for electric log splitters is to use seasoned logs under 14 inches in diameter and less than 22 inches long.
Kinetic splitters are rated by what hydraulic tonnage they “out split” rather than what tonnage they create. This is a more subjective metric as “out splits” is usually a measure of which machine can do more work in the same amount of time rather than sheer splitting power. Problem is, there are tons of variables that come into play when splitting and how the “out splitting” number is arrived at is not always clear.
Third, anytime we’re talking about working with such incredible forces, things can go wrong. Knowing how to operate your log splitter safely is a must. Keep your hands away from the machinery when splitting. Splitters are not selective and won’t make the distinction between wood and flesh.
Getting a bit of your hand pinched between a ram exerting 10 tons of force is not something you’ll get a mulligan on. The danger to your hands is amplified when the cycle time (the time it takes for the ram to go down and return) is less than one second, like on some of the kinetic splitters.
In order to guarantee your hands are kept away from the machine, some splitters require two-hand operation. This ensures your hands are safe when splitting. Some find this two-hand operation to be inconvenient and might prefer a single-hand operation, but it’s important to understand why those manufacturers made that design decision.
The WEN 56207 is a budget conscious but capable log splitter with some handy features. A 15-amp, 2.5-horsepower motor creates 13,000 lbs of splitting force. While that 6.5 tons of power is the lowest of our list, the WEN also comes in at the lowest cost.
Not only is it the lowest cost but it comes with a 34-inch stand to save your back. Make no mistake though, 6.5 tons is on the upper half of what electric log splitters can be expected to deliver. So, with the 56207 you are getting a lot of value for what you invest.
The 56207 has a nice wide log guide to keep your material from falling off the machine and a cradle that will accept logs 10 inches in diameter and up to 20.5-inches long. It requires two hands to operate, which is good for making sure your digits are always out of the way but can be somewhat inconvenient.
The cycle time is higher at 20 seconds but that can be reduced if you adjust limiter ring. The limiter rig will reduce the amount of travel on the ram which will shorten the cycle time and speed up the splitting of logs. This assumes you don’t need full length of the cradle though.
The 56207 is not large and when you inevitably have to move it, the splitter weighs just 98 lbs and rolls reasonably well on 5.5-inch wheels.
DR Power Equipment K10 Rapid Fire
The K10 Rapid Fire from DR Power Equipment is unique among the electric log splitters on this list as it is the only kinetic splitter of the group. While this puts it at near the most expensive, it’s also incredibly fast. The cycle time on this bad boy is just 1 second.
The K10 uses a 2.0 horsepower motor to spin up two 12.5 lb flywheels. When all that energy is released, the K10 unleashes a quick, powerful jab with its ram. Moving quickly, the K10 can out split a 10-ton hydraulic log splitter. It’s pretty hefty to lift at 132-lbs but using the handle and wheels will allow you to roll it just about anywhere on your property with a little effort.
The K10 Rapid Fire has its limitations though. For one, the K10 is at its best when taking on straight grained (no knots or crooks) logs that are well seasoned. When it runs into something it can’t handle the ram bounces feebly off the log which is agonizing to watch.
That’s a double-edged sword. The K10 is unlikely to burn itself out like a hydraulic that won’t quit pushing, but if you’re at the upper limits of its capabilities, it won’t grind through it either. It’s a tradeoff between persisting and perishing. If the K10 can’t handle it, it just doesn’t do it. If the hydraulic can’t handle it, you run a risk of burning up the motor.
The design also restricts the size logs it can split, but not so much that its burdensome. The diameter of logs it can handle is still a respectable 12 inches but the maximum length is shortened to just 16 inches. You’ll have to make the call for yourself whether or not the 1-second cycle time offsets the shorter length of the logs.
Boss Industrial ED10T20
Boss Industrial has a reputation for making some great electric log splitters. So, it was difficult to narrow it down to putting just one on this list. The ED10T20 is unique though and as the most expensive on the list it should be. Some excellent features will help justify spending the extra money on it.
To begin with, the ED10T20 is the most powerful splitter on our list at 10 tons of splitting force from a 2.5-horsepower motor. It does require 20 amps though, which means you’ll need both a 20-amp circuit and an extension cord capable of providing the 20 amps. That’s a matter that may take a little extra finagling.
While the ED10T20 is the most expensive on the list, it includes a stand; a feature I would recommend everyone purchase if you intend to use the log splitter regularly. This will save you from having to kneel down to operate the splitter which can become a killer. So, you’ll save a little by not needing to buy a stand with it and extra on your insurance deductible for not giving yourself back problems.
Another great feature of the ED10T20 is that it is designed to split both ways so there is no retraction time. The cycle is 16 seconds one way, then you load a log on the other end and split it going back the other way. This allows you to save some time by not needing to wait for the ram or wedge to reset. The ED10T20 will split 12-inch diameter logs up to 20.5 inches long.
It is single-hand operated, so you’ll need to consider that a potential blemish in the safety column. But sometimes a little bit of extra caution and awareness goes a long way. At 214 lbs, the ED10T20 is not something you’ll want to move regularly.
The Powerhouse XM-380 is a well-rounded machine. In fact, it’s so balanced it runs almost right up the middle of the pack in many aspects. Pricewise, it is right between the WEN and the K10 but it’s built on a list-leading, 3.5 horsepower, 20-amp motor and splits with 7 tons of force.
That 7 tons will split logs 12 inches in diameter and up to 20.5 inches long in a surprisingly quick cycle time of just 11 seconds. That’s the fastest of all the hydraulics on this list. The ram automatically retracts which allows you to move logs and get prepared for another split.
The XM-380 requires two hands to operate it, so it earns extra points for safety. Not only that, but the machine will stop the instant either hand is removed which is yet another boon for safety. Like the Boss, it will require a 20-amp circuit and an extension cord capable of meeting the 20-amp requirements.
It’s not too heavy to move at 104 lbs and the wide wheels allow for extra maneuverability. About the only real con of the XM-380 is that it lacks any defining features. It’s all about function not flash, and that’s not a bad thing in my book. Overall, it’s a great performer that’s not super expensive.
Electric log splitters won’t stand up to some of the most serious log splitting that professionals require. But for a homeowner who relies on firewood for their heating needs or to provide some supplemental firewood for a fireplace or fire pit, they are quite capable of tackling those needs.
The key is to evaluate what you’ll need from a log splitter and the sort of wood you’ll have access to. What thickness are the logs, how hard is the wood, and how much splitting you’ll have to do are all important questions to consider. The answers to those questions will help you determine which electric log splitter is right for you.