Buyer’s Guide: The Best Log Splitters
Save time and labor chopping wood for a fireplace or stove with the best log splitter for your work style and budget.
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- Best OverallWEN 56207 6.5-Ton Electric Log SplitterCheck Latest Price
- Runner UpSouthland Outdoor SELS60 6 Ton Electric SplitterCheck Latest Price
- Best ElectricBoss Industrial Electric Log SplitterCheck Latest Price
Curling up next to a crackling fire may be comforting, but depending on where you live, it can be expensive to have split and seasoned firewood delivered by the cord. No wonder folks try to save major money by chopping their own wood.
Trouble is, the tedious, labor-intensive process of chopping wood can hurt your hands, shoulders, neck, and back. The solution? A log splitter! A log splitter takes care of the hard work of creating smaller logs to fit into a firebox of a fireplace or wood stove.
Keep reading to learn more about these helpful tools and to find out why the models below rank as our favorites among the best log splitter options out there today.
- BEST OVERALL: WEN 56207 6.5-Ton Electric Log Splitter
- BEST FOR HEAVY DUTY: Champion 25-Ton Full Beam Gas Log Splitter
- BEST FOR LIGHT DUTY: Kindling Cracker King Firewood Splitter
Types of Log Splitters
Log splitters are heavy-duty tools that typically run on hydraulics: Hydraulic fluid is pumped through a cylinder to create enough pressure to force a large steel bar—called a ram—into the end of a log, causing it to split into halves or quarters, depending on the type of steel blade used. Unlike manually swinging an ax, which uses force and impact to split a log, a log splitter uses steady, even pressure, causing the logs to split slowly and consistently. Log splitters come in two basic configuration types, horizontal and vertical, each with its own benefits and considerations.
Horizontal Log Splitters
This type of splitter features a horizontal bed or cradle onto which the log is placed. Using a steel ram, the splitter pushes the log into a sharpened steel blade at the other end to split the log lengthwise. The most common type of log splitter and one of the simplest to operate, it’s generally adequate for splitting average and smaller logs up to 12-inches in diameter. If you’ll be splitting a lot of larger logs, it can be difficult to lift and position them in the cradle of a horizontal splitter.
Vertical Log Splitters
Vertical splitters offer a distinct advantage over horizontal splitters for splitting large, heavy logs. With a vertical splitter, all you do is roll the log over to the splitter and then tip it up onto a flat steel plate that sits at ground level. On a vertical splitter, the sharpened blade is part of the ram itself. When the ram is activated, its blade is forced into the end of the log, splitting it apart. As the sharpened ram splits the log, the pieces fall to the sides, and large remaining bits can be repositioned on the steel base for further splitting.
Horizontal/Vertical Log Splitters
A combo horizontal/vertical splitter offers the best of both worlds because it can be used to split logs of all sizes, from small ones to large, heavy ones. This type of combo splitter varies slightly from a horizontal-only splitter in that the sharpened steel blade is positioned on the ram, just as it is on a vertical-only splitter.
What to Consider When Buying a Log Splitter
The following factors should come into play when determining the best log splitter for your needs—bet it a large-scale power tool or a manual model. Manual log splitters do require some labor, but not nearly as much as using an ax.
Most log splitters operate on either gas or electricity.
- Gas-powered: If you have a lot of wood to split—or need to split wood where there’s no electrical outlet—a gas-powered log splitter will likely be the best option. In general, gas engines are more powerful than electrical motors, so gas-powered log splitters are handy for splitting logs greater than 12-inches in diameter, as well as for hard types of wood, such as mahogany and maple. A downside to gas-powered splitters however is that they’re often loud (wear hearing protection) and they can’t be used inside a garage or workshop because they create hazardous fumes.
- Electrical: If you’ll be splitting wood in your backyard, your neighbors will be thankful that you use a quiet electrical model. Or use it safely in your garage, since there’ll be no fumes to contend with—or fuel to store. But electrical motors aren’t as powerful as gas-driven ones, so you’ll probably want to restrict log diameter to under 12 inches.
One of the first things you’ll notice when you start shopping for log splitters—often in the product’s name—is the word “ton,” such as “6-ton” or “20-ton.” Tonnage is the amount of power the splitter uses to force the ram. The higher the tonnage, the more powerful the splitter, but because there are no industry guidelines that regulate how manufacturers determine tonnage, you have no guarantee that a 10-ton splitter from one manufacturer will provide the same force as a 10-ton splitter from another brand. This is where research comes in: It’s vital to read reviews to learn whether a splitter lives up to its advertised tonnage.
The info below will give you a general idea of how much tonnage you’ll need in a log splitter, depending on log diameter and wood hardness. Wood hardness is rated on the Janka scale, and logs made of harder wood are more difficult to split.
For logs approximately:
- 6-inches in diameter, you’ll need a 4- to 10-ton splitter.
- 12-inches in diameter, you’ll need a 12- to 22-ton splitter.
- 20-inches in diameter, you’ll need a 20- to 26-ton splitter.
- 24-inches in diameter, you’ll need a 27- to 30-ton splitter.
Also called “return cycle time,” this is the amount of time it takes the log splitter to fully extend the ram and retract it back to its starting position. Most log splitters feature 10- to 20-second cycle times. Keep in mind that even on the same machine, cycle time varies based on wood hardness and whether the logs being split contain a lot of knots, because knots are harder than other parts of the log. For professional firewood producers, a faster cycle time means they can get more logs split in less time, but for the average person who isn’t in a hurry, slower cycle times may be acceptable.
On most log splitters, you need to pull one lever and hold it down to extend the ram, and then pull a second lever and continue to hold it to retract the ram. While many DIYers find this to be an acceptable way to split wood, the process goes faster if the log splitter has auto return. With an auto-return feature, you position a log, depress a single lever, and when you release the lever, the ram returns to its retracted position—there’s no additional lever to hold down. This allows the user to quickly remove a split log and position a new one on the machine while the ram is retracting to its start position.
A two-handed log splitter works manually—it still uses hydraulics, but isn’t powered by gas or electricity. Instead, it comes with two long handles the user pumps back and forth to force hydraulic fluid into the cylinder to operate the ram. While this requires some elbow grease, it’s still much less work than swinging an ax to split logs.
Hammer Log Splitter
A second type of manual log splitter features a splitter blade that faces upward in the center of an iron holder, into which a small log (about 5-inches in diameter) is positioned. The user then hits the log with a hammer or mallet to drive it downward over the blade, splitting the log in two. The splitter must usually be bolted down to a sturdy surface to keep it from moving when striking the log with the hammer.
Most DIY-suitable log splitters feature two back wheels that come in handy when moving the splitter from one spot to another—just lift the opposite end and push like a wheelbarrow. Larger, commercial-type splitters are often built onto a trailer base that can be connected to the back of a pickup truck and towed into the woods for splitting logs on site.
Our Top Picks
BEST OVERALL: WEN 56207 6.5-Ton Electric Log Splitter
Generate up to 13,000 pounds of log-splitting force with the WEN 6.5-Ton Log Splitter. This horizontal, electric log splitter includes a 34-inch stand for splitting logs at waist level, or you can place it on the ground to make loading large logs into the cradle easier. The cradle features elevated “wings” to keep logs stable and reduce the risk of a log rolling out.
Because it won’t generate fumes, the WEN log splitter can be used in a garage or a workshop, or with a heavy-duty extension cord for backyard operation. The WEN features a 20-second cycle time and is suitable for splitting logs up to 10 inches in diameter. Its wedge-shaped head splits logs into two halves, which can then be repositioned in the cradle for splitting into quarters.
BEST FOR HEAVY DUTY: Champion 25-Ton Full Beam Gas Log Splitter
The gas-powered pick on this list is designed for heavy-duty log splitting. The Champion comes with its own trailer and is designed to be towed behind a vehicle that’s fitted with a tow hitch.
The Champion splits logs up to 12 inches in diameter and converts from a horizontal position to a vertical position, so you can either roll heavier logs onto the base plate or use the horizontal position for smaller logs. It features a speedy 11-second splitting cycle in addition to an auto-return to hasten the job.
BEST FOR LIGHT DUTY: Kindling Cracker King Firewood Splitter
If you don’t mind a manual approach but hope to increase speed and reduce labor while chopping logs up to 9 inches in diameter, Kindling Cracker’s firewood splitter may be just the ticket. This fully manual splitter doesn’t require maintenance, fuel, or electricity. It simply holds logs in place while you hit them with a hammer or mallet.
This splitter is designed to be bolted to a heavy board or even to the center of a sturdy tree stump so it won’t move or shift while in use. The log is then placed into the circular steel holder and the user hits it firmly, driving the log downward onto the steel splitting wedge.
FAQs About Your Log Splitter
No matter how frequently you chop wood, the best log splitters reduce the time and labor of splitting logs.
Q. How does a log splitter work?
The best log splitter works by either forcefully pushing a log into a sharpened blade or by pushing a sharpened blade at the end of a steel ram into a log to split it apart. Most log splitters are powered by hydraulics, but a few are manual or powered by kinetic energy.
Q. How much power does my log splitter need?
Thicker and denser logs require log splitters with more power than is needed for thinner logs or softwoods, such as cedar and pine. A 4-ton splitter handles logs up to 6-inches in diameter, but a massive 24-inch in diameter tree trunk requires a 20-ton splitter.