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It’s hard to beat the appeal of a roaring fire, both for warmth and for relaxation, whether in your home’s fireplace, outside enjoying a fire pit, or even sitting around a campfire. But purchasing firewood can get expensive.
If you have access to fallen trees or cut logs, you can create your own perfectly sized firewood with a log splitter. These devices, which are available in manual, gas-powered, or electric models, make quick work of cutting chopped logs down to manageably sized pieces of firewood.
Here, the best log splitters.
Best Overall: Champion Power Equipment 27-Ton Splitter
While more force is often better for larger logs, more force does not mean the splitter is the best around. In fact, there are plenty of log splitters that cannot tackle large logs but offer more reliability and utility than professional options. As a result, the best log splitter is one that is more versatile than just powerful. Luckily, the top pick on this list will give you both power and versatility without any issue.
The Champion Power Equipment 27-Ton Splitter is the best all-around performer for professionals and homeowners alike. If you need to cut your own supply of firewood for the winter, this gas-powered splitter can handle up to 24-inch logs with ease, and it has an impressive 11-second cycle time. The splitter is small enough to fit into the bed of a truck and can be towed via a hitch at speeds under 45 miles per hour. This means you can take the splitter out into the woods when necessary to split logs at the source.
Best Budget: Sun Joe LJ10M 10-Ton Hydraulic Log Splitter
Splitting logs by hand with an axe is an exhausting business, but power log splitters are undeniably expensive. If you are willing to invest a little muscle power, however, and don’t need to split an entire woodpile in one go, you can save a lot of money, split quite a bit of firewood, and even get in an arm workout with the Sun Joe LJ10M Hydraulic Log Splitter.
This device is powered by hydraulics, not by gas or electricity. Using it is simple. Place a log that’s up to 18 inches long and 8 inches wide into the cradle, and then begin to pump the two handles back and forth. Your exertions are building up pressure—up to 10 tons of driving force—pushing the log up against the tool’s blade and slowly splitting it right down the center.
Once finished, simply turn the reset knob to return the spring to the starting position. Now you’re ready to split once more!
The Sun Joe Log Splitter is made of durable steel for years of use and has two wheels so you can maneuver it wherever you need it.
Best Electric: Boss Industrial ES7T20 Electric Log Splitter
Most log splitters require the use of an engine powered by gasoline to tackle large, thick logs. If you need something for heavy-duty use or want to bring your splitter out into the woods to tackle logs on the spot, that's the only setup you should consider. For home use where your log splitting needs are smaller and less frequent, however, an electric splitter can be a better alternative since you can skip the engine and gas and go straight to a wall outlet without worry about fumes.
The Boss Industrial ES7T20 is designed for home use on smaller logs you would normally use for wood-burning purposes. The 2-horsepower motor offers 7 tons of splitting force to tackle logs up to 10 inches in diameter without the need for gasoline or a separate engine. Since the motor is quiet and clean, you can even use the splitter indoors when it is too cold or wet outside.
Best Vertical/Horizontal: Champion Power Equipment 25-Ton Gas Splitter
Most log splitters come in a horizontal configuration, meaning you lay the log down into the track and let the ram do the work. This is good enough for the majority of logs, but if you are splitting something that looks like a mini-tree trunk, gravity may be a problem. When weight prevents you from lifting the log into the correct horizontal position, a vertical splitter is much easier on your back.
This is where a vertical/horizontal splitter, capable of changing the loading orientation quickly, comes in handy. For quick vertical-to-horizontal conversions, the Champion Power Equipment 25-Ton Gas Splitter is one of the best log splitters to consider. Not only can the ram change from vertical and horizontal positions, the change only takes a matter of seconds so you can convert on the fly. Beyond its adaptability, the splitter offers 25 tons of force for logs up to 24 inches in diameter, and it has a fast 12-second cycle time so you'll be done splitting wood in no time.
Best Gas-Powered: Cub Cadet 25-Ton Logger
There is no substitute for a gas-powered engine when it comes to splitting the toughest logs around. When you need a splitter than can deliver over 20 tons of force, the gas-powered splitter makes it quick and easy to get large logs split in seconds. More importantly, these larger options tend to be more mobile with small frames, built-in wheels, and trailer attachments for easy transportation.
The Cub Cadet 25-Ton Logger has a 166 cc Honda engine that's powerful enough to handle some of the biggest logs up to 25 inches in diameter. This makes it perfect for professional use, especially since the 19-second cycle time means you can tackle three logs in about a minute. The splitter is transportable via a 2-inch hitch attachment and 16-inch wheels built into the frame. It is also capable of horizontal and vertical splitting for better versatility.
Best Manual: Estwing Sure Split Wedge
Even though most log splitters are designed to take the work out of splitting large logs, there is something unique about completing the task by hand. Sometimes, you may not even have the luxury of hauling a gas or electric splitter with you.
For a step up from a simple axe, the best way to manually split your own logs quickly is with a metal wedge and some good old-fashioned gravity. For the true budget-conscious consumer, the Estwing Sure Split Wedge offers a lot of savings and a hands-on approach to log splitting. Designed as a splitting wedge, the Sure Split focuses the force of a hammer into a single edge for quick and easy splitting.
Depending on your own strength and the striking power of the hammer you use—a sledgehammer is the best choice—you can split logs as big as 12 to 14 inches in diameter. And at only 5 pounds, the wedge is light enough to carry around with you for splitting while camping or out at a cabin in the woods.
Best for Kindling: Kindling Cracker Firewood Splitter
It’s tough to start a roaring fire without some kindling to get things going. But there’s no need to buy kindling, or use your electric or gas-powered log splitter for this small task. Instead, fetch the cast-iron Kindling Cracker, insert a piece of wood that’s less than 6 inches in diameter into the central ring, use your mallet or hammer to give the top of the wood a whack, and voila! The driving force will split the wood into kindling-sized pieces ready to go into the fireplace, fire pit, campfire, or even your wood-burning stove. Not only is the device handy, it’s fun.
The Champion Power Equipment 27-Ton Splitter (view at Home Depot) wins our top spot thanks to its reliable performance in splitting logs as long as 24 inches, its sturdy construction, its wheeled design that lets you tow it behind your car, and its horizontal/vertical options so you can split even very heavy logs without strain. But if budget is your main concern, the Sun Joe LJ10M Hydraulic Log Splitter (view at Home Depot), which relies on your own power to pump up the hydraulics, is a very reasonably priced and effective tool.
What to Look for in a Log Splitter
There are three basic types of log splitters: gas, electric, and manual.
Gas-powered log splitters are the most powerful type. Many let you switch between vertical and horizontal splitting, which can be a major issue when working with very large, heavy logs. If you expect to use your log splitter regularly on very hard or large wood, this is the best option.
Electric log splitters are generally powerful enough to tackle mid-size logs of light-to-moderate hardness. But you’ll be tethered to a power cord, so these tools aren’t the best choice for splitting wood on the go. Still, their relatively light weight, lack of smelly gas fumes, and quieter performance makes them a good choice if you’ll only use your log splitter occasionally to create firewood at home.
Manual log splitters come in various forms, but all rely at least partly on your own strength to get the job done. Some merely require you to pump levers that work up enough pressure to drive the splitter through the log, while others hold the log in place while you do all of the heavy work. You won’t work your way through a lot of wood with a manual splitter, nor will you cut through very large or hard wood, but if you only expect to use the tool occasionally to produce kindling or very small pieces of firewood, and you’re watching your budget, a manual log splitter does the trick.
It takes a lot of force to push a blade through a log, and so one of the most important factors when choosing a log splitter is its driving force, which is usually measured in tons.
As a general rule, gas log splitters are far more powerful than their electric counterparts. You’ll find gas log splitters with well over 30 tons of driving force, but 25 tons is about average. That’s enough to split logs up to around 24 inches in diameter.
Electric log splitters typically have somewhere between 6 and 10 tons of driving force, which is enough to split logs up to around 12 inches in diameter.
Pump-style manual log splitters can generally tackle logs up to around 10 inches in diameter. These tools usually top out at around 10 tons of driving force, but get there much more slowly than gas or electric log splitters, and of course, rely on your own strength to create the initial power.
A log splitter’s cycle time measures how long it takes the tool to split through a log. There are a lot of variables that affect this number, however, including the size and the hardness of the log. But as a general rule, gas lot splitters are faster than electric log splitters, with an average cycle time of anywhere from 10 to 20 seconds, although you’ll find some high-powered models with cycle times as short as 3 seconds. For most people, however, around 15 seconds is sufficient when tackling a large load of logs.
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This article was written by Michelle Ullman, the tool expert for The Spruce. She has extensive experience not only in writing about all things related to the home, but also in carrying out various DIY projects, including landscaping, painting, flooring, wallpapering, furniture makeovers, and simple repairs.