How To Choose The Best Log Splitter – A Buyers Guide

Having spent a lot of my adult life using firewood as the means of heating my home, I've struggled with axes and splitting wedges to prepare firewood for the winter. It's good manual labor, and perhaps good for the soul? 

When you need to process a lot of timber, there are much more effective ways to simplify the process. Log splitters come in many sizes and for many budgets so finding one that suits you shouldn't be that hard. I'm going to offer some ideas on the best log splitter for a variety of situations and budgets.

And here are my best picks based on budget.

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Right, let's go! I'm going to take a dive into the world of log splitters and help you find the best log splitter for home use and for the professional alike. I've compiled this article as a log splitter buyers guide that will answer all your question on the various models, and then provide some option for you to consider.

Guy posing with an axe and log splitter by a lake

There are a really only a couple of methods that log splitters use to split those logs. The first is where something strikes the log, think axe, slide hammer etc (which you'll see in action in a moment), and the non-percussive method, where a wedge is pushed slowly but surely into the end grain of a log, and slowly opens up the log as the fibers split away from the v-shaped wedge.

Both work well. The percussive splitter is a lot noisier but the manual hydraulic ones are pretty affordable too. If you're looking for the best all round log splitter that's going to take all the effort out (well, almost all) then an electric or gas unit will suit. I'll be looking at all these option and more.

Of course, the density of the wood you are splitting is going to play a major factor in which splitter you need. Dense, season hardwoods are incredibly tough compared to green hardwoods and softwood.

So, how to choose with so many apparent options? Let's dive in...

Manual Log Splitters

Manual Log Splitter with split logs

Manual splitters, as you'd imagine, use human power to work. Don't panic, they are built to use leverage and mechanical advantage to split the log, so although you need to operate it, the effort isn't extreme...unless you are splitting a large amount of logs. Yep, you're going to get sweaty!

Most manual splitters use hydraulics to provide the energy to split the timber, others use kinetic energy (velocity energy) to split the log. The model in the image above requires the operator to operate a handle with a nifty ratchet design using mechanical advantage that provides around 1.5 tonnes of force to split the log. 

There are a few varieties,  let's look at them according to the effort involved, from hard graft to somewhat easier 🙂

Slide-Hammer Splitters

The slide hammer manual log splitter is ideal for the person who wants to keep things as manual as possible, but without having to take to a splitting wedge and sledgehammer or splitting axe to get the job done.

This type of splitter uses a percussion method to split the wood, they are very effective. You place the splitting wedge of the tool on the log to split.

Raise the handle up and then allow it to drop. The heavy handle acts like a hammer against the splitting wedge and drives the wedge into the log. You still need to use some muscular exertion to force the wedge into the log.

You need to repeat this raising and dropping action multiple times, but the accuracy is guaranteed. The need to have marksman like accuracy with a sledgehammer or axe is removed.

But, and it's worth considering, how much wood do you use per year? This method is not good if you need to be splitting large quantities, unless you have plenty of time and are built like Arnie. For high volume splitting, something a little more automated is probably a better bet.

Oh, and it's a LOT safer too. See this type of splitter in action in this video.

Hand Operated Hydraulic Splitters

Hydraulic log splitter in operation

The hand-operated hydraulic splitter uses a pump, filled with hydraulic oil to operate a piston that pushes the log against the splitting wedge under high pressure.

Think of it like one of those hydraulic car jacks. You could never raise the car on your own with a lever, but the introduction of a hydraulic system makes it easy to change the tire. Check this article to see how hydraulic log splitters work.

Manual hydraulic wood splitters take most of the effort out of the process. However, they are still best suited to relatively low volume splitting.

If you have the time and the inclination to either split logs on a daily basis to suit your daily usage, or are happy to spend a few hours each week, these can work great. For larger loads, a powered splitter is the better choice.

Let's take a look. We'll move from the best domestic log splitter choices up to more professional models for light commercial use. They can also be segmented into horizontal and vertical splitters.

The horizontal models have a horizontal bed, as you may expect, and require you to lift your logs onto that bed, which could be between 12 inches - 36 inches off the ground, depending on your model.

The vertical splitter (much pricier) allow you to split much larger logs as the log is essentially just rolled onto position on the ground and requires no lifting, just a little man-handling.

Horizontal Log Splitter Types

Electric Splitters

Electric splitters are great for the home owner, or someone with a small property. This is what many homesteaders use to split wood, and they work really well. Not too pricey, this type of log splitter, depending on model, exerts between 4-10 tonnes of pressure, enough to split most green logs not more than 12" in diameter.

Harder, well seasoned logs can be troublesome for any small engined or motor powered wood splitter, selecting the highest power output you can afford can save a fair bit of heartache in the future.

Of course, one of the limiting factors can be that an electricity source is required. However, many people will pick up a cheap generator, which gives them a lot more flexibility.

However, if you are going to always be operating well away from a power supply, a gas log splitter with an integral engine is probably a cheaper option than an electric one with a standalone generator.

Electric splitters are very quiet to use, cheap, reliable and safe. As with all things, they have their pros and cons, but I'd certainly recommend this type for the small-scale user with an easy to access electricity supply. It will definitely save a ton of energy over using a manual splitter.

You'll also be able to process a lot more wood.

If you want to work away from the immediate vicinity of power, then a gas powered hydraulic splitter should probably be your go to machine.

Gas Powered Hydraulic Splitters

Man operating a gas log splitter

The range or gas-powered hydraulic wood splitters for the home or small scale user is sizeable. The use of a gas engine allows for a much higher pressure to be applied when compared to consumer level electric splitters.

The best petrol log splitters can exert over 30 tonnes of pressure, enough to beat any tough-assed log into submission. Gas powered splitters are great for green wood, and can also handle more seasoned logs. The harder the logs (both in terms of seasoning and species) the higher the rating you will need.

For home and small scale commercial used, 7 tonne splitters are still relatively affordable, but will generally cost several hundred dollars more than their electric counterpart.

Gas splitters for home use tend to fall in the 7 -15 ton range. Intermediate level splitters are usually in the 20 - 35 ton range, moving up to 35 tons for a trailer mounted professional grade model.

Another consideration for the home user is noise. Gas splitters are noisy due to the engine.

You'll need to wear ear defenders for sure, and also eye protection, which is essential for any log splitting activity.

They have to be used in a well ventilated area due to exhaust fumes, no good to use in the garage when it's raining and you need firewood.

They are definitely a step up from the electric splitter and a fat cry from the manual ones.

But due to price, most consumers aren't going to be able to purchase a top of the range full-powered heavy duty wood splitter. You are going to still be limited to large green and smaller diameter season logs.

Woman splitting a log

But this shouldn't be a major limitation for most folks. Definitely worth considering your log sizes before you purchase.

Kinetic Splitters

Kinetic log splitters use a very different technology than the traditional hydraulic splitter.

The design uses a large and heavy flywheel that stores energy from the engine in a spinning flywheel that releases all that energy in a single burst when the operator activates the handle.

This type of splitter is much quicker than the hydraulic types, which slowly push into the end grain of the log, splitting it slowly.

The kinetic model hits the log at speed, allowing you to process a lot more wood.

Interesting facts about these is that the entire cycle only takes a couple of seconds. When you consider the effective cycle time for some hydraulic log splitters could be as much as 30 seconds, it's little wonder that kinetic splitters are gaining an army of followers.

The downside (for some of us) is that they are on the pricier end of the spectrum. But, if you are on a homestead and process a lot of wood, this type of wood splitting machine is definitely going to save you money.

They aren't rated in terms on tonnage like the previous models we've discussed. A model like the New Electric Kinetic Splitter, check it out HERE on Amazon is said to be able to outperform a 20-25 tonne hydraulic splitter.

Here's a quick video showing this type of splitter in action. Quick and effortless, just as I like it.

Vertical Log Splitters

There are a number of benefits to vertical splitters, but one main benefit stands out.

Horizontal splitters require you to lift the log onto the bed. If you are splitting large timber, this can be hard work and even down right dangerous.

The vertical style allows you to roll or manhandle the log to the location, with no need to ever lift it above ground height.

This is a super useful option, but if you know that you are rarely going to split large logs, then it's probably overkill.

For the homeowner who has a little bit of a budget, there are a number of manufacturers making dual action splitters that can be used both vertically AND horizontally.

Vertical log splitter in action

Other Types Of Splitter

3 Point Log Splitters

3-point log splitters are designed for the tractor owner to fit to the 3 point hitch on the back of a tractor, to make use of the tractor's hydraulic system to split the logs.

If you have a small property and a tractor, then this could be a great asset to you. This video shows one in action.

Best Log Splitter For Home Use

The answer to this question is, as usual...it depends. There are many factors that should influence your decision on which splitter is going to best suit your needs. These should include:

  • Budget
  • Volume of firewood required each season
  • Size and hardness of donor logs
  • Power supply? Do you have electricity on hand?
  • Available time for splitting

I recommend that if you plan to use wood as fuel for many years, then pushing the budget to pick up the best machine you can will always pay dividends in the long run.

Let's look at some of the options available, including this budget model.

Budget Splitters - Foot Operated

If you are on a real budget and are just looking to improve on the axe or hammer/wedge method, there is a low priced option. This is ok for occasional log splitting, but only if you burn just a little wood, and it's green and small in diameter.

Here's how they work:

The Sealey model is not available on Amazon, but Renegade produce a 1.5 ton capacity foot operated splitter. Slow work for sure, but if you are on a really tight budget it might just suit you.

The Top Rated Log Splitter Reviews

Best Manual Splitter

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Sun Joe LJ10M Logger Joe 10 Ton Hydraulic Log Splitter

The Sun Joe 10 ton log splitter is designed for logs up to 18" long and 8" in diameter. IT boasts an all steel construction that makes it extremely durable.

The long handles set it apart from some of the other manual splitters in the price range, reducing the amount of bending you have to do when splitting logs. This splitter will work best on green hardwoods or softwood, but will be slow going with seasoned logs.

But, it is a massive improvement on a wedge and sledgehammer, or an axe. Definitely a great buy for those looking to split small amounts of wood over the year.

The Great Stuff

  • Easy to operate
  • 10 tonne splitting force
  • Heavy duty construction
  • 2 year warranty

The Not So Great

  • Slow to use
  • Splits fairly limited log sizes
  • May not handle knurly logs well​

Best Slide Hammer Splitter

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Logosol Smart-Splitter

The Logosol Smart Splitter is a simple yet effective splitter, which relies on human power to split the wood, albeit with some great advantage built into the design.

It's definitely going to be a lot easier than an axe of sledgehammer and wedge (safer too) but it's not designed for splitting large logs.

Perfect for the small wood-burning stove or even for splitting kindling. Want to do anything much bigger then a hydraulic or electric splitter is probably required.

The Great Stuff

  • Simple to use
  • Well designed and built
  • Much easier than axe/maul
  • Not expensive
  • Easy to set up
  • Great for small/med logs
  • Quiet to use

The Not So Great

  • Not good for knotty logs
  • Requires moderate effort
  • Hydraulic splitters for similar price
  • Slow splitting speed
  • Not good on damp wood

Best Electric Splitter

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Boss Industrial ES7T20 Electric Log Splitter, 7-Ton

The Boss Industrial ES7T20 electric splitter takes log splitting to a new level for the homesteader or homeowner. It's one hand operation makes for safe and easy splitting. It's a relatively small log splitter, but with a lot of power and bang for the buck.

Featuring a 2HP electric motor and a 7-tonne splitting force, this is a quality machine. It comes with a 2 year warranty for piece of mind and will split green and seasoned woods.

Not designed for commercial use, and needing access to a power supply, this electric splitter can also be used in a garage or barn, with no risk of fumes like a combustion engined splitter.

The Great Stuff

  • Exceptional value for money
  • 7-tonne splitting force
  • Powerful electric motor
  • Can be used indoors
  • 2 year warranty

The Not So Great

  • Low to ground
  • Requires power supply
  • Not ideal for large quantities
  • Limited size capabilities​

Best Gas Powered Splitter

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Southland Outdoor Power Equipment SLS20825 25 Ton Gas Powered Log Splitter

For the larger property, and even for light commercial use the Southland SLS2085 25 ton gas powered log splitter is a real step up from a manual or electric model. In fact, it's a BEAST!

This can be drawn behind a vehicle as it is essentially a trailered splitter unit. Drive it directly to the woodpile. A 208cc engine provides plenty of power for quick splitting and piston return times.

What makes the Southland so useful is the ability to use it as a horizontal OR vertical splitter. Ideal for splitting logs of varying weights and dimensions. With 25 tonnes of pressure available, it's going to excel at all but the biggest jobs.

The Southland log splitter comes with a 3-2-1 warranty, 3 years for the steel frame, 2 years for the engine, and 1 year for the hydraulics. Definitely one of the best gas log splitters on the market.

The Great Stuff

  • Trailer mounted unit
  • Huge 25 tonne capacity
  • Works in horizontal and vertical
  • 17 second cycle split time​
  • Splits logs up to 26" long
  • Extensive 3-2-1 warranty​

The Not So Great

  • Not a cheap option
  • Vehicle with tow hitch required

Best Heavy Duty Splitter

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What is there to say about the Dirty Hand Tools 27 ton gas log splitter? Quite a lot actually...

This is horizontal/vertical heavy duty log splitter, but with a 27 tonne splitting force, this is great for the large home or homestead, or the small to medium sized commercial operation.

The Dirty Hand 100408 features a 6.5 HP Kohler engine which powers a 13 gallon/min hydraulic pump.

I really like the design of this one, even the trailer chassis looks a step up in quality from the Southland (which is still excellent). This splitter is going to breeze through large, well-seasoned logs like a knife through butter. It's rare to find such a high end product with such a modest price tag.

The 'get what you pay for' paradigm appears lost on this splitter, you certainly appear to get a lot more than you pay for, which is a rare find indeed.

The Great Stuff

  • Well designed and great build
  • Powerful 27 tonne splitting force
  • Ability to process a lot of wood
  • Trailer mounted

The Not So Great

  • High priced but worth it.
  • Minor design issues
  • Vehicle with tow hitch required

Best Value Budget Splitter

Whenever you're on a budget it's sometimes hard to buy something that will moderately improve your efficiency, when the all-singing-all-dancing model is out of your price range.

The Sun Joe LJ10M hydraulic splitter is never going to have you winning the local logging competition, but it's robust and effective. Compare it to the hard graft and grunt work of wielding an axe or sledgehammer, and I think you'll be delighted about how this low cost unit can really make a difference.

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Sun Joe LJ10M Logger Joe 10 Ton Hydraulic Log Splitter

The Sun Joe 10 ton log splitter is designed for logs up to 18" long and 8" in diameter. IT boasts an all steel construction that makes it extremely durable.

The long handles set it apart from some of the other manual splitters in the price range, reducing the amount of bending you have to do when splitting logs. This splitter will work best on green hardwoods or softwood, but will be slow going with seasoned logs.

But, it is a massive improvement on a wedge and sledgehammer, or an axe. Definitely a great buy for those looking to split small amounts of wood over the year.

The Great Stuff

  • Easy to operate
  • 10 tonne splitting force
  • Heavy duty construction
  • 2 year warranty

The Not So Great

  • Slow to use
  • Splits fairly limited log sizes
  • May not handle knurly logs well

Best Mid-Range Splitter

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Dirty Hand Tools 100450 Log Splitter, 22 Ton - 3-point Hitch - Cat. 1 and 2 Tractors

The Dirty Hand Tools 22 ton horizontal/vertical gas powered log splitter has all the great points of it's bigger sibling, the 27 tonne model, just on a slightly smaller scale.

It has a 196 HP Kohler engine and a 22 tonne splitting force. What I love about both of these models is the ability to switch to a vertical splitting action when the logs are just too big to manhandle.

As a manual handling instructor for a number of years, lifting heavy stuff with poor technique really sucks, and should definitely be avoided when possible.

I really feel that for the homeowner looking to invest for a long term relationship with a fantastically built splitter, this baby is a great choice. Scroll down to watch a video on the 27 tonne model if you want to see it in full operation.

The Great Stuff

  • Awesome design and manufacture
  • Under 11 second cycle time
  • Flips for vertical splitting
  • Useful log catcher

The Not So Great

  • Fairly heavy and requires vehicle
  • Not a cheap and cheerful solution

Best Top-End Splitter

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What is there to say about the Dirty Hand Tools 27 ton gas log splitter? Quite a lot actually...

This is another horizontal/vertical splitter, but with a 27 tonne splitting force, this is great for the large home or homestead, or the small to medium sized commercial operation.

The Dirty Hand 100408 features a 6.5 HP Kohler engine which powers a 13 gallon/min hydraulic pump.

I really like the design of this one, even the trailer chassis looks a step up in quality from the Southland (which is still excellent). This splitter is going to breeze through large, well-seasoned logs like a knife through butter. It's rare to find such a high end product with such a modest price tag.

The 'get what you pay for' paradigm appears lost on this splitter, you certainly appear to get a lot more than you pay for, which is a rare find indeed.

The Great Stuff

  • Well designed and great build
  • Powerful 27 tonne splitting force
  • Ability to process a lot of wood​

The Not So Great

  • High priced but worth it.
  • Minor design issues

Best Kinetic Splitter

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Generac K22, 22-Ton Kinetic Flywheel Gas Powered Log Splitter - 50 State/CSA Compliant

Kinetic splitters are pretty damn effective. The Generac K22, 22-Ton Kinetic Gas Powered Log Splitter is one of a limited number of low cost models that use the flywheel system to deliver a sudden, powerful shock to the log, splitting it instantly.

Retailing for a similar price to the mid-range gas splitters on the market, a kinetic splitter will allow you to process a lot more logs in a given timeframe.

The Generac does indeed had a 10 tonne model available for around half the price of the 22 tonne model. The 10 tonne model is electric, with the 22 tonner being a gas machine. Check the details below for cycle times, pretty impressive!

The Great Stuff

  • 1 second splitting cycle time
  • Electric model allows indoor use
  • Splits logs 12" dia / 16" long
  • Few moving parts
  • Ability to process a lot of wood​
  • 2 year warranty

The Not So Great

  • Gas model is quite noisy​
  • 10 tonne model is slow to split
  • Slightly flimsy looking design

Final Words

I really hope this article has helped you decide on the best log splitter for your personal needs. Sure, axe work can be fun for 20 minutes of so, but the days of hard logging men wielding axes all day are gone...for the most part.

Finding a relatively low effort way to use wood as fuel makes the whole process a lot more pleasurable in my opinion.

If you have a serious amount of timber to process, then it can pay to get a certified logging professional in to undertake the work, especially if there are trees in unsafe positions.

Thanks for taking the time to read this article. I hope my home and commercial log splitter reviews and buying guide has helped you.

Safe Splitting!

Choosing the best log splitter pin it

Homesteading Steve

Hi: I'm Steve and I'm a homesteader and self-sufficiency freak. I love pretty much anything that makes me less reliant on others, and more reliant on my own abilities. I try to avoid consumerism as much as possible, eat well, and try not to leave too much of a footprint during my time on this earth.

Join me for fun and adventures in homesteading land.

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