Commercial vs. residential log splitter
Why opt for a commercial log splitter rather than a residential log splitter, even if you only plan to use the splitter on the trees around your home? There are a few important differences that make commercial log splitters a good choice for many people.
First, commercial log splitters offer more power to split larger and harder pieces of wood. Log splitters are typically rated according to the force they can output, which must be greater than the force required to split a given log. If you are working with either hardwood logs or large-diameter softwood logs, you will likely need more force than any residential log splitter can provide to safely split the wood.
Second, commercial log splitters are designed to make the job of splitting wood significantly easier. Whereas many residential log splitters have a manual design, which makes them exhausting to operate to produce an entire cord of wood or more, commercial log splitters are powered by gasoline or electric motors that automate the work of splitting wood. This makes the task significantly easier and less wearing on your body, which means you can work more safely and scale up your splitting operation in a single day.
The only real downsides to commercial log splitters compared to residential splitters are that they are somewhat more expensive and bulkier. Although all of the commercial log splitters we reviewed come mounted on truck hitches, making them easy to move around, they can still be difficult to move deep into the woods or even to store in your garage if you are tight on space.
Features to consider while choosing a commercial log splitter
How do you choose between the many commercial log splitters on the market to determine which one will best suit your needs? In this section, we’ll cover some of the most important features of commercial log splitters to help you evaluate which of them are essential to your work.
Gasoline vs. electric-powered
Commercial log splitters can be divided into those with gasoline motors and those with electric motors.
The main advantage to gasoline-powered splitters – and the reason why all of our picks are gasoline-powered – is that they offer significantly more splitting power compared to electric splitters. Since you’re choosing a commercial splitter first and foremost for the added power it provides, it only makes sense in many cases to opt for a splitter that will be burly enough to handle almost any log you throw at it, while an electric splitter may leave you splitting your largest logs by hand.
That power does come with some disadvantages compared to electric-powered splitters, however. Electric log splitters tend to be less noisy when operating, which can be helpful if you have neighbors nearby, and require much less maintenance than gasoline-powered splitters – which require routine oil changes and engine care.
Gasoline is also more expensive than electricity, although it can be much more portable through the woods and around your yard if you don’t have a generator to pair with your log splitter.
Horizontal vs. vertical splitting
Most of the time, you’ll be splitting logs horizontally – loading them onto the splitter in order for them to be split. However, when you need to split logs that are too large for you to lift onto the splitter, having a splitter that is capable of vertical splitting can be extremely helpful. A vertical splitter allows you to position the splitter around the log and chop it as it sits on the ground so that you don’t have to pick it up.
Since vertical splitting is typically needed on large-diameter logs, most splitters capable of vertical splitting also provide a significant amount of splitting force. All of the commercial splitters we reviewed, except for the RuggedMade splitter, are capable of both horizontal and vertical splitting.
The splitting force is one of the most important specifications on any commercial log splitter since it gives you an idea of the types and sizes of logs you’ll be able to split.
The force needed to split a log is determined primarily by whether it is a softwood or hardwood and the diameter of the log – larger logs require more force.
In general, any log less than 12 inches in diameter can be split with a splitter capable of about 20 tons of force or less. If you are planning to only split softwoods less than about 24 inches in diameter, you will likely be okay with a splitter packing less than 30 tons of force.
Engine and pump
The engine and pump are at the heart of every gasoline-powered log splitter, so it’s important to take a close look at the size of the engine and the air compression rate of the pump. The size of the engine will dramatically affect the force that the splitter can exert on a log – a larger engine will allow you to split larger-diameter logs and hardwood logs. Meanwhile, the pump affects the cycle rate of the splitter – a pump with a faster air compression rate, typically measured in gallons per minute, will allow the splitter to cycle from one log to the next more quickly.
Electric vs. recoil start
Having an electric motor start on a gasoline-powered log splitter, like on the RuggedMade and Swisher splitters, can be a major convenience when it comes time to use your splitter – especially if you’ll be working in cold weather conditions. If you opt for a recoil start, check customer reviews to make sure it is easy to get the motor running on only a few pulls.
Log length and diameter
Log splitters are also limited in the length and diameter of logs they can accept based on the length and diameter of the splitting shaft. The majority of log splitters can accept logs at most 24 inches in diameter – a practical limit given the amount of force it takes to split logs larger around than this. All of the splitters we reviewed, except the RuggedMade splitter, can accept logs at most 24 inches long as well – the RuggedMade splitter sacrifices vertical splitting options to make room for logs up to 30 inches long.
The cycle time, usually measured in seconds, is the amount of time the splitter requires to reset after splitting a log before it can split another log. Although an extremely short cycle time might seem like an advantage, cycle times on the order of 10–11 seconds – such as on the Dirty Hand Tools, Champion, and RuggedMade splitters – is no problem if you are working alone or even in a team of two since it will take you at least a few seconds to unload and reload logs onto the splitter.
A commercial log splitter is a significant investment, and one that comes with a lot of moving parts (including a gasoline engine) that can break if not designed perfectly. Having a manufacturer’s warranty can thus provide a lot of peace of mind with your purchase. Warranties on commercial log splitters range from one year for the RuggedMade splitter to as much as three years for the Dirty Hand Tools splitter.
How to use a log splitter?
Using a log splitter is relatively simple. Load the log onto the shaft so that it is firmly cradled against the endplate, then use the forward control on the splitter to drive the wedge into the log. Use one hand to hold the top of the log while the wedge enters the log, then remove it once the wedge is splitting. When the log is split, use the controller to put the wedge in reverse.
If the wedge gets stuck at any point, simply reverse it and then push it forward again to help it gain some momentum for the split.
When operated properly, a commercial log splitter can be quite safe – but as a powerful tool, it can also be quite dangerous if mishandled.
Always be sure people and hands are clear of the endplate and the wedge before splitting. A good way to achieve this is to have the person who loads the log be the same person who controls the wedge for that split.
Never attempt to split more than one log at a time, and saw off the ends of your logs so that they present a flat surface to the wedge before splitting.
Whenever you are operating a splitter, safety clothing, boots, and protective eyewear are a must – it is easy to drop a log or for pieces to fly off during the splitting process. In addition, be sure to keep your work area clear of wood pieces so that you don’t trip when working with the splitter.