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Published Oct. 7, 2021

Who doesn’t love warm and cheerful fires? For some, this means the occasional outdoor firepit with friends, or a cozy fire in the open fireplace of the living room or cabin. For others, it means wood for grilling, for a wood stove or a wood-fired boiler that will likely stay lit until spring. Regardless, to enjoy a fire, you will want to have seasoned firewood split to the appropriate size and in sufficient quantity for your needs. That’s where a log splitter comes into the picture.

You can buy a cord of split wood, but you’ll pay for the convenience, and it’s hard to beat the satisfaction of splitting wood yourself. If you decide to do it yourself, one tool you’ll need is a log splitter. As a former arborist and firewood enthusiast, I’ve spent a lot of time behind log splitters and I’ve used that experience to assemble a list of the best log splitters. Here are my top picks.

Best Log Splitter Overall: NorthStar Horizontal/Vertical 30 Ton Log Splitter

Key Features

  • Actuation: Gas powered hydraulics
  • Splitting Force: 30 tons
  • Max Log Length: 25 inches

Why it Made the Cut

With 30 tons of knot splitting force, the ability to operate both horizontally and vertically, and ease of use you will be able to split any pile of wood in no time. Combined with refined hydraulics and high quality components like the Honda engine, this machine will hold up to heavy use and last a long time.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • High quality hydraulic system and overall robust construction
  • Fuel-efficient, high output Honda engine
  • Towable, with a standard 2-inch coupler and adjustable jack

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Large
  • Assembly required

Product Description

This horizontal/vertical log splitter—our pick as the best log splitter overall—delivers 30 tons of force to split the toughest logs. It includes quality components and features that save you time, increase performance, and work effectively. The splitter is towable with a standard 2-inch ball coupler. The backbone of this log splitter is an industrial-strength I-beam with heavy plate steel reinforcement. It is powered by a commercial GX200 series Honda engine with low oil shutdown and an idle down feature that reduces noise and saves fuel. This is paired with an American-made, concentric, cast-iron hydraulic pump and auto return valve with a quad filtering system to extend the life of the hydraulic system. Pivots easily between the horizontal and vertical orientations with side tables to help support logs when used horizontally. 

For those splitting a lot of wood or some very large and gnarly rounds, you can’t beat a gas powered, hydraulic log splitter. While some species split better when green (generally hardwoods) and others better once dry (generally conifers), this splitter doesn’t care and will power through them all. The ability to operate in both a horizontal and vertical orientation can be a real back saver on the larger rounds.

Best Electric Log Splitter: WEN 6.5-Ton Electric Log Splitter

Key Features

  • Actuation: Electric
  • Splitting Force: 6.5 tons
  • Max Log Length: 20.5 inches

Why It Made the Cut

The Wen 6.5-Ton Electric Log Splitter has a powerful motor and quiet operation for easy log splitting. 

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Powerful 15 amp motor
  • Includes stand to reduce bending and fatigue
  • Quiet

Cons

  • Limited to areas where there is electricity available

Product Description

Electric log splitters bridge the gap between powerful gas and simple manual splitters. They offer quiet operation, enough power for most logs, and are ideal for homeowners. This WEN log splitter is one of the best electric log splitters available because of its power, durability, and ease of use. One of my favorite features of the WEN is the included stand which makes using the splitter easy. It’s also capable of tackling large logs up to 10 inches in diameter. The best part about this splitter is it just works. It splits logs like a champ and asks for more. 

Best For Kindling: Inertia Cast Iron Manual Log Splitter

Key Features

  • Actuation: Manual/hammer
  • Splitting Force: N/A
  • Max Log Length: Approximately 18”

Why It Made the Cut

This splitter has an effective splitting edge, and guide ring at the top to help align the wood and prevent any exuberant hammer blows from contacting the cutting edge. While not optimal for splitting larger pieces, it proved incredibly safe and effective at making kindling out of already split logs and small rounds.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Simple and reliable
  • Safe way to split kindling

Cons

  • Needs to be mounted to a bench or log
  • Hammer not included

Product Description

This cast iron splitter features solid construction, with mounting holes to attach to a log or bench. The cutting edge is approximately 10 inches from the base. So with longer, stubborn pieces, it may be necessary to flip the piece and split from the second end. In practice, we found this more easily accomplished than it sounds.

Most of us will use kindling to start our fires, and the traditional method of using a small ax can be frustrating and dangerous. This splitter makes short work of the task while keeping all of your fingers safe.

Best Budget Log Splitter: Fiskars Iso Core 36 Inch Maul

Key Features

  • Actuation: Manual
  • Splitting Force: N/A
  • Max Log Length: N/A

Why It Made the Cut

This maul flat out split every other maul we tested, including those costing three times as much. The IsoCore handle provided good grip and balance while absorbing much of the shock being transmitted back to the user. 

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Simple and reliable
  • Effective
  • Affordable
  • Good exercise

Cons

  • Some practice needed to develop an accurate swing
  • Limited by the user’s stamina

Product Description

This 8-pound maul features a concave shape that is optimal for splitting. With a couple of good swings, you can crack some of the largest rounds. Deceptively simple in appearance, the IsoCore handle really does absorb shock well, with an excellent refined grip that aids in an accurate and consistent swing.   

Simple and often overlooked, this Fiskars maul can split almost any log that our other splitters can with the exception of the gas-powered, hydraulic splitter. With practice, a user can generally split faster than most of the other splitters as well until fatigue sets

Final Thoughts

A good log splitter makes processing firewood and kindling a breeze. The key to producing cords of seasoned wood is choosing the best log splitter for you and using it safely. 

Evaluating Log Splitters

When making my best log splitter selections I evaluated them on the following criteria: 

  • Power (How much force does the splitter generate?)
  • Actuation (What powers the splitter?) (Gas, electric, hydraulic, manual)
  • Log Size (What size logs can the splitter process?)
  • Ease of Use (How easy is it to operate?)

I’ve split many tons of firewood with a variety of log splitters and through that experience I’ve learned what separates the good splitters from the best splitters. You want a log splitter that has plenty of power and won’t get bogged down. The size of logs it can process is another important consideration because that’s what separates a kindling splitter from a log splitter. Finally, a log splitter has to be easy to use. If it’s cumbersome, dangerous, or not intuitive then it can’t make the list of the best log splitters.

How to Choose

There are three main questions you’ll need to answer when selecting a log splitter: 

  • What size of wood will you be splitting? 
  • How much wood will you split?
  • What is your budget?

If you need to split a lot of wood, then a manual splitter might not be the best choice for you. A gas or electric splitter will make the task of processing a lot of wood much easier. If you need to split large logs, then again a gas or electric splitter will make that task easier. For smaller logs and kindling, a manual splitter or maul is an excellent choice. With the first two questions answered, budget is a big consideration for making your final decision. 

FAQs

More important questions to consider when choosing a log splitter.

Q: Is a 25 ton log splitter enough? 

For most non-commercial purposes, a 25-ton splitter should be plenty. The average rental splitter is 20-25 ton, and 30+ ton splitters should really only be necessary if you are splitting big (24 inch) rounds of hardwoods like oak, maple, or dogwood.

Q: What are the different types of log splitters? 

There are several different types of log splitters, including gas-, electric-, and manually-powered hydraulic splitters. There are also vertical and horizontally-oriented splitters, and even splitters that split in both directions of movement to save time. There are also splitters that utilize farm and industrial equipment for power. 

Q: How do you manually use a log splitter?

A common manual hydraulic log splitter is simple to use. You place the log on the splitter, then on most models, you pull a handle repeatedly to pressurize the hydraulic cylinder (similar to a hydraulic jack), which presses the log onto the splitting wedge. Once split, (on most models) you can loosen the pressure release valve and a spring returns the hydraulic cylinder to its starting position.

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