How to Use a Log Splitter: A Step By Step Guide

Is there anything better than sitting near a fireplace, warming yourself by a roaring fire? Wood fires are a cost-efficient, comfortable way to heat your cabin, home and more.

What’s the biggest hassle with having a fireplace or wood-burning stove? Dealing with logs, right? Even if you’re not cutting down the trees yourself, delivered wood often still needs to be split before fitting into the fireplace.

A log splitter can make log life easier by letting you split logs faster and with less effort. But log splitters can be large and expensive. You need info before you make a purchase (or even a rental).

There are a few different types of log splitters available. We’ll help you learn how to use a log splitter as well show you which type of log splitter will work best for your needs

The Four Types of Log Splitters

Not all log splitters are the same. There are four basic types:

  • Splitting Maul
  • Manual Log Splitter with Handle
  • Electric Splitter
  • Gas Powered Splitter

How to Use a Splitting Maul

First, let’s quickly cover the splitting maul. This is a handheld tool like an axe but with a heavier, blunter edge.

A splitting maul is the most portable log splitting tool. While swinging an axe obviously requires effort and strength, splitting a few logs isn’t usually a problem.

But we’re assuming you’re here because you’re sick of splitting logs by hand. Let’s take a look at a relatively low-tech way to split logs using a manual log splitter.

How to Use a Manual Log Splitter (Hydraulic Log Splitter)

A manual log splitter is relatively simple but powerful. This splitter uses a hydraulic jack to drive a piston into the log.

The splitter has a hydraulic jack on one end and a welded wedge on the other. Here’s how you use one:

1. Be Safe

This includes safety glasses, work gloves and steel-toed boots.

You also want to split logs in a safe environment. Only work on flat, dry ground which is relatively free from debris. Never work on wet ground.

Also, only work in clear, bright light. Daylight is great but floodlights can be fine, too.

2. Secure the Log Splitter

Hydraulic log splitters have two large wheels on one end. This allows you to pull the splitter around similar to how you’d pull a dolly.

When you’re ready to split wood, place the log splitter down horizontally on the ground. Make sure the front post is properly secured. You might want to use wheel blocks on the other end, too.

3. Ready the Hydraulic Jack

Spin the screw on the hydraulic jack to release the arm.

4. Pump the Arm

This will move the cylinder, clearing a space for the wood.

5. Load the Log into the Splitter

You’ll have to pick up the log and place it lengthwise in the splitter.

6. Tighten the Screw

This sets the log and readies the cylinder.

7. Pump the Handle

Over 10 tons of hydraulic pressure is applied to drive the welded wedge through the log.

You won’t have to exert much effort yourself. Just a few smooth pumps of the handle should split the log right down the middle.

8. Pick up the Two Halves of the Log

One drawback of the manual log splitter is you have to gather up each half of the log after each split. Sometimes those wooden pieces can roll pretty far away!

9. Repeat the Process

With no gas or electric power, the manual log splitter will work for as long as you like.

The Pros and Cons of the Hydraulic Log Splitter

A hydraulic log splitter splits logs far faster and with much less effort than a splitting wedge. Plus, the device is small and light enough that you can pull it into the woods without much of a problem.

A hydraulic log splitter is relatively inexpensive. Plus, the tool doesn’t require much more beyond basic maintenance.

Using the hydraulic splitter does require a lot of movement. You have to bend down to put the log into the splitter. Then you have to also collect both halves of the split log.

Splitting logs manually isn’t as fast as the other types of splitters. We’ll show you how to use a log splitter with a bit more (electric) power.

How to Use an Electric Log Splitter

Electric splitters are the most popular type of log splitters. Powered by electricity, they only work when they’re plugged into an outlet.

The electric splitter still uses a hydraulic jack to drive a piston and welded wedge through a log lengthwise. But you don’t have to pull on a handle to operate the tool. You barely have to do anything at all. Let’s take a look at how to use an electric splitter for logs:

1. Be Safe

As with the hydraulic, don’t forget your safety gear. Eye protection, steel-toed boots and work gloves are a must when working with even non-electric splitters.

The “electrical” aspect of the electric splitter offers additional safety issues. An electric-powered splitter should only be used outdoors in clear, dry weather.

Make sure you have plenty of light. Don’t split logs well into dusk just because you want to finish your log pile.

This is the only type of splitter which you can use indoors. Working in a large workshop or other location where you can control the conditions dramatically increases safety.

2. Plug In

Electric log splitters need to be plugged into work. With the help of an industrial grade extension cord, this usually isn’t a huge problem if you’re splitting the wood pile outside the house.

Taking an electric log splitter deep into the forest is a different story. You’ll always need to keep within outlet distance.

3. Secure the Splitter

Turn the splitter horizontally. Then lock the leg stabilizers.

4. Insert Log

One end of the splitter will have a welded wedge. Put the log against the wedge.

5. Start the Splitter

Not every electric splitter starts the same way. Yours might have a button, trigger, handle or something else. Buttons are the most common.

You’ll press the button to activate the piston. This pushes the log through the wedge.

6. Hold the Button

You need to hold the button continuously to operate the machine. If you let go, the splitter will stop. This is for safety.

Keep the button pressed until the log is completely split.

7. Repeat

An electric log splitter is more powerful than a hydraulic splitter. Plus, it’s even less effort. You can chew through logs quicker than ever before… but there is one splitter out there which is faster.

The Pros and Cons of the Electric Log Splitter

An electric log splitter is the most compact and portable log splitter. They don’t require a ton of maintenance because there’s no gas motor.

They’re also cost-effective. Plugging the splitter into an outlet is going to cost far less than buying gas.

Also, this is the only splitter you can use indoors, which arguably makes them the safest.

But electric splitters do have drawbacks. You always have to be within distance of an outlet. This can be an issue if you need to split logs deep in the woods.

Electric splitters aren’t as fast as gas powered. If you need the absolute biggest, fastest splitter possible, you’ll want to learn how to use a log splitter powered by more than electric.

How to Use Gas Powered Log Splitter

Looking for the biggest, most powerful log splitter possible? You’ll want a gas-powered log splitter. Here’s how to use one:

1. Be Safe

All log splitters have some potential danger, but gas-powered splitters can really cause serious injury if you’re not careful.

You’ll want to wear the standard safety equipment. Also, only operate the splitter on level ground.

Proper ventilation is also important. Gas powered splitters emit exhaust so you can’t use them in enclosed areas.

2. Lock Leg Stabilizers

Make sure the stabilizer isn’t going anywhere. With a heavy motor, the splitter might shake or vibrate when used.

3. Check for Gas and Oil

You’ll want to make sure your splitter is always well-maintained.

4. Load Logs

Some gas-powered splitters load vertically while others are horizontal.

You don’t have to lift the logs for a vertical splitter. Instead, you simply roll the log into position.

A vertical splitter is the best choice for splitting the heaviest logs because you don’t have to lift them.

5. Active Splitter

Gas powered splitters activate by either pressing a button or a pulling a lever. Many models don’t require a consistent button press. You simply activate the splitter and watch.

6. Repeat

Roll another log into the splitter and press a button. Couldn’t be easier.

The Pros and Cons of Gas Powered Splitters

This is the fastest, easiest way to split a lot of logs. With a vertical log splitter, you don’t have to lift logs or hold down buttons.

Gas powered splitters are the most expensive type of splitter. A purchase might be worthwhile if you split tons of logs season after season, but otherwise buying one might not be worth the price.

Fortunately, they’re rentable from most places where you can rent heavy equipment. The fast speed means you can split a lot of logs in just a day or two, so rental prices can be very affordable.

Also, gas powered tools require more maintenance than electric or manual. You’ll need to perform the same general maintenance as you would for any gas-powered engine.

Which Splitter is Best for You?

Let’s take a quick look at the good and the bad of each type of splitter:

Use a manual splitter if you don’t have many logs to split on a regular basis and don’t want to spend a lot of money.

With a manual splitter, you’ll still have to exert yourself physically. Splitting logs is faster than using an axe but still a bit on the slow side.

Use an electric splitter if you want to split logs on an “as needed” basis close to home. Also go with electric if you want to split logs indoors.

With an electric splitter, you’ll always have to work near an electrical outlet. Plus, you’ll have to be extra careful about avoiding water when working outdoors.

Use a gas-powered splitter if you want to tear through the biggest logs as quickly as possible. Simply press a button and let the machine do the work.

With a gas-powered splitter, you’ll need to maintain the engine. Also, the cost can be excessive. Many people find renting a gas-powered splitter is a better value than buying one.

How to Stay Safe When Using a Log Splitter

Remember to always follow the instructions in your splitter’s owner’s manual. Used properly, a splitter is very safe.

But there’s still a potential for serious injury. Wear protective gear, work in well-lit conditions and always stay alert.

Your splitter will likely spend part of the year in storage. Perform a thorough safety check before using if your splitter has just been sitting around for a while. Watch out for frayed cords, loose parts, engine issues and other potential problems.

Conclusion

Stop chopping wood by hand. A log splitter is more accurate, quicker and safer.

Whether you have a manual, electric or gas-powered log splitter, you’ll need to understand proper use. Learning how log splitters work is the best way to always stay safe. Plus, you’ll be able to prepare for the cold season with minimal effort.

Enjoying a roaring wood fire this winter is easier than ever before when you know how to use a log splitter.

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