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Most log splitters out there are hydraulic, which means they have an electric or gas engine used to power a hydraulic pump. When operated, the pump creates a stream of pressured oil which builds up and pushes the splitting wedge through a log. Hydraulic log splitters offer improved operation compared to splitting with an axe but can still be a tough, backbreaking job. Hydraulic splitters also don't cut very quickly especially when going through stringy or gnarly logs. With a wide variety in size, starting at about 8-tons of splitting force and going all the way up to 30 or more tons, hydraulic log splitters tend to dominate the market. The higher the tonnage, the bigger and harder the wood the machine can handle in either vertical or horizontal models.

But while the conventional hydraulic splitter can pack some impressive power and relieve a lot of the physical labor usually associated with wood cutting, it's painfully slow. Most hydraulic log splitters have tremendous force but boast a cycle time (time it takes to cut one log) of 13 - 20+ seconds, which adds up quickly. And time is money!

Log splitters represent one of the most basic applications of fluid power and are probably the most popular project for fluid power do-it-yourselfers. The most basic version consists of a pump, directional valve, and cylinder to apply hydraulic pressure as brute force to a wedge, which is mounted at the end of the cylinder’s piston rod to split the log. Of course, a relief valve should always be provided for safe operation. But beyond a reservoir, fittings, and other bare essentials, the basic hydraulic system of a log splitter doesn’t consist of much else.

However, in their quest to build a better mouse trap, would-be inventors and legitimate manufacturers incorporate auxiliary features to make log splitting faster and more efficient. One of the most common tricks of the trade uses a two-stage pump — commonly referred to as a high-low pump. A high-low pump has two pumping chambers driven by a common shaft. One chamber has a large volume to produce relatively high flow but with low pressure capability. The smaller chamber produces much less flow, but accommodates much higher pressure.