The manual Forest King Log Splitter on the market comprise an assortment of simple machines
which are basically adapted axes with additional safety features and
effort-reducing torque designs. Foot- or hand-powered levers operate an axe,
which slides along a metal table or cradle where the wood to be split is placed.
The work yield is improved by levers, hydraulics, and ingenious designs, but
these splitters are not intended for use with a large volume of firewood. They
may disappoint when used for harder varieties of wood or larger pieces, as they
are marketed for light use.
For certain situations, however, these splitters are just the ticket. For
example, a manual splitter might serve a household well if their firewood needs
for the season amount to just a small amount of softwood, or if they buy most of
their firewood already cut and split and need only to trim up a few pieces, or
if they are able to accomplish most of their splitting with a weekend
On the other end of the spectrum are high-powered commercial wood processors.
These machines are fast, powerful, highly automated and expensive. They cut full
length logs and then split them quickly with minimal human effort. Big pieces of
equipment such as these are intended for those who cut a large volume of
firewood — particularly for commercial ventures — and such an investment is not
likely to be justifiable for most ordinary homeowners.
Most of the splitters designed for backyard and homestead use are somewhere
in between. These homeowner models can be roughly divided into four categories:
freestanding gas-powered in either standard or flywheel type, and as attachments
on a skid-steer or tractor.
Standard-type freestanding gas powered models are probably the most common.
They vary in size, force and price. Measured by tons, the available force ranges
from around 8 tons to 35 tons or more. Prices start around $500 and reach $5,000
As with any machine, the more a person will use it and the more money and
effort will be saved by having it, the more sense it makes to own one.
Firewood usage depends upon many factors, from the size and insulation of the
house to the quality and dryness of the firewood. The type of wood burner
matters a great deal, too, whether it is a tightly-sealed highly efficient stove
or a drafty fireplace or a state-of-the-art outdoor wood burner. Even the site
of the wood-burning appliance matters, as well as the skills and diligence of
those using it.
All that aside, it is reasonable to figure that an average-sized home in a
northern climate will burn between five and 12 cords of wood a year. That volume
of firewood can easily be handled with a moderate-sized splitter in the range of
20 to 27 tons. Standard styles in this size sell new for between $1,000 and
$1,700 at major dealerships and big-box stores.
Freestanding gas-powered models work basically like this: the round section
of firewood which has been cut to stove length, or “bucked up,” fits onto the
table or cradle. The motor drives a hydraulic cylinder, which closes the gap
between a cast-metal wedge and a vertical plate on the other end of the table,
and splits the wood between them. On most of these models, the wedge moves
towards a stationary plate, but a few manufacturers do it the other way around,
with a traveling push plate and a stationary wedge. Either way, it is operated
with ease by a handle on the side of the splitter.
The moving part travels fairly slowly on most standard mid-range models. That
is probably a good thing safety-wise for the forward motion, but it can be
tedious on the return. Half of my wood-splitting time is spent waiting for the
wedge to retract enough to begin the next cut.
At a fair a few years ago I happened upon a salesman demonstrating a
flywheel-type gas-powered splitter, also called a kinetic splitter. I was so
astonished at the speed with which the wedge retracted that I watched the demo
over and over, and eagerly gathered up a handful of promotional materials.
“He had you at three-and-a-half second return,” my husband joked. But when I
checked out the dealership website later, I suffered a little sticker shock. The
equipment is fast—and mostly on the return cycle, where it is less of a safety
issue and more of a time-saving one—and by design is also super-efficient, but
it is expensive. Lower-end models start at higher prices than most standard
models and go up quickly, but are nonetheless the perfect choice for many
The range for attachment-type Log Splitter is similar to that of freestanding
models. These types do not have their own power source, but instead attach to
other equipment for power. Most of the attachment types are made for tractors,
but a few are made for skid-steers as well.