There are two main components of log splitters - the ram and the wedge. The ram is usually a hydraulic piston driven by some kind of motor. A manual log splitter has a lever attached to the ram hydraulics and is driven by the operator, just like a floor jack for an automobile. The hydraulics for the ram can also be driven by either electric- or gasoline-powered motors. Log splitters are rated by the amount of force the ram is capable of producing. Most common available models used for home range from 12 to 20 tons. Commercial-use log splitters can be rated from 20 to 30 tons or more.
The ram forces the log section into a wedge, which is mounted onto the frame of the log splitter. The force applied to the log causes it to split along the grain against the wedge. The wedge is either "2-way" or "4-way." The 2-way wedge splits the log in half; the 4-way wedge splits the log into quarters.
Here are three things you should know when you want to buy a log splitters.
What type of wood will you be splitting? What type of tree did it come from? Since all wood consists of varying levels of hardness, determining how hard or soft the wood is will determine the force (tonnage) you need to split it. For example, a typical Oak tree log is rated as requiring approximately 1350 lbs. of force to split it, based solely on its level of hardness.
Do you know how big are the log splitters you will buy? Measured in diameter, the bigger the log is across, the more powerful the splitter will need to be to split it – obviously. Splitting that same Oak tree log, with a diameter of 24 to 36 inches, will require a 35-ton log splitter to ensure you get the job done right.
How green or seasoned are the logs? Ultimately, this will go a long way in determining the amount of force that will be required to split them. Freshly fallen logs are likely to be greener, or wetter, and require a higher tonnage than some that have dried out over time. In some cases, really green wood may even necessitate an additional 10 tons of force to split.
Three different designs are covered here, manual and gas powered of both a vertical and horizontal variety, and the foot powered model.
1. Manual Log Splitters
Manual log splitters exert up to 10 tons of force and are operated using hydraulic pressure. Similar to a manual car jack, the operator pumps a handle back and forth, and in so doing, pushes the log into a log splitting wedge. This type offers vastly more force than a splitting maul, which requires full body exertion to split wood. If you use a manual log splitter, you will use more labor out of the process. Of course, the downside is you still have to load each log onto the device and remove the pieces.
Manual logs splitters come in both horizontal and vertical varieties as well. This refers to the way in which the logs to be split are positioned on the splitter. In both cases, manual force is exerted through the pumping of a hydraulic handle, but the difference is in how the log is pushed into the splitting wedge: from side to side or up and down.
2. Gas Powered Log Splitters
Gas-powered, electric log splitters have hydraulics that are powered electrically and do all of the work for you. These typically offer more force than the manual variety as well. There are gas-powered models that offer only four tons of force, but they go up from there to 25 tons or more. This, of course, does not include heavy industry models -- only those available for personal use.
3. Foot Powered Model
Foot powered model is a cheap but powerful log splitter. The log is pushed onto the splitting wedge using the pump action from your foot. This, too, requires work on your part, but it doesn’t put excess strain on your upper body. This model uses a horizontal placement only as a result.