How to Use a Log Splitter

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Log splitters break apart logs and other types of wood efficiently and safely

While there is something to be said for the rustic charm of splitting firewood with only an ax and sheer force of will, it tends to be grueling labor. Luckily, 1865 has come and gone, and chopping wood with an ax is a thing of the past. To get the job done now, you use a log splitter.

A log splitter is a machine that does exactly what its name implies: splits wood logs into usable pieces for firewood. There are two basic kinds, depending on your needs, but both run on the same principle. A hydraulic jack, operated either manually or by an engine, drives the wood against a wedge to split it in half.

A manual log splitter is the most cost-effective option, but is also the slowest. A manual log splitter looks like a hydraulic jack, laid on its side, and, essentially, that’s exactly what it is.  By using the manual hydraulic pump at one end of the splitter, the machine will drive the log against a welded wedge at the opposite end, splitting the wood in half. While this seems like it would be work intensive, the fact that the levers are hydraulic means that they move freely and easily, saving you strain.

How to Use a Log Splitter

To use a manual splitter, first place the log into the machine. Then, pump the hydraulic levers to move the wood toward the wedge. The log should split easily. You can then remove the pieces and get started on your next piece, making sure to move the hydraulic jack back into place in preparation for the next log.

An electric or gas splitter works on the same principle, except that instead of you running the hydraulic pump, it’s run by a motor. These splitters cut wood faster, but they are also more expensive. Some gas models can run over $1000, but many models can also be rented from hardware stores, so if you are planning on splitting all your wood in a single day, this may be the best option. Keep in mind that, because the hydraulic pumps on these models run on electricity or gas, you will need to ensure that you have access to one or the other. In the case of an electric, you will need either an extension cord or a generator, or both, depending on your location. In the case of a gas model, you will want to check that the splitter has been gassed up before attempting to split wood with it.
To use an electric or gas log splitter, first ensure that it is either hooked up to the proper power source or has enough gas in the engine to operate. Secondly, make sure there is hydraulic oil in the splitter. Place the log into the log splitter, step back, and activate the hydraulic jack using the button or lever provided to operate the machine.

No matter what type of splitter you decide upon, remember a few safety tips:

  • Always wear the proper safety apparel. Eye protection and proper footwear go a long way toward preventing injury. 
  • Keep your work area clean by stacking logs as you go, and work in an open area, ensuring you have room to maneuver. 
  • Always read the manual that accompanied your wood splitter. 


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