Types of Log Splitters - Backyard Boss
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Types of Log Splitters

Buying split firewood can get pricey quite quickly, and if you prefer to have a good pile of wood drying and available for fires, investing in a log splitter is a great way to save money in the long run. Many people also find they can supplement their income rather well by being able to provide affordable firewood in areas where people depend on it for cold weather warmth.

Whether you simply want to keep yourself in stock, or are interested in making a business out of it, there are many available models of splitters available for your consideration. Reviewing several types of log splitters that exist allows you to pick the best product for your specific needs, all of which are explained below.

What a Log Splitter Actually Is

Man is using a electric log splitter

A log splitter is a tool that takes the effort out of splitting wood by hand. These various models and designs are specific to your wood cutting needs and are popular to help solve the problem many faces when attempting to stockpile firewood for various uses. These machines depend on manual, electric, or gas power to supply splitting force. Many use hydraulics to create strong pressures to handle various sized jobs.

Although they can vary in style from simple, hand-held tools to powerfully large, gas-powered machines, all have the ability to make your splitting job easier. Read on to see what options are available for you to choose from.

Horizontal vs Vertical Log Splitter

To begin to explain the types of splitters from which you can choose, you need to be aware of the differences that exist between horizontal and vertical type splitter. Also know that there are some models that can do both, and are typically larger, more bulky, but extremely powerful.

wood splitter in action

Vertical Splitters

When you have large diameter logs that are more dense in nature, or larger amounts of wood to cut at any given time, a vertical splitter is often an excellent choice. These machines are typically gas driven and are designed to leave your log at ground level to avoid your lifting of heavier pieces.

There are smaller, more compact vertical options as well- usually powered by manual operations and are designed for homeowners who occasionally split wood.

Horizontal Splitters

The most common design is a horizontal style model, and are made to cradle your log which requires you to lift into position. Many gas, electric, and manual hydraulic as well as kinetic splitters rely on this design for efficient splitting. Although not always as powerful as most vertical splitters, these come in a wider range of styles and options to choose from.

Types of Log Splitters and How They Work

The basic differences between splitters pertain to how they are powered and what they are capable of. Before choosing a splitter you should always pay attention to the types of logs you are splitting to ensure you are purchasing a machine that has the strength for the jobs you need it for. Log size, wood type, and age of the log are all details to consider as they require varying degrees of pressure to split.

Gas Splitters

Log splitter machine splitting a birch log

Gas models vary in size from smaller, more portable options for personal firewood splitting, to more powerful, large, tow behind machines designed for heavy workloads and commercial businesses. These splitters are powered by a 4-stroke gas engine that builds pressure within a hydraulic oil pump. Once pressure is built, the high pressure oil activates a valve which can be released actualite the hydraulic cylinder to split the log. Many also are able to cut both horizontally and vertically.

  • Most models to choose from
  • Most powerful choices
  • Durable, long lasting investments
  • Loud
  • Requires regular maintenance

Maintenance Needs:

Gas powered splitters require regular maintenance which includes checking and replacing tubes, changing out hydraulic fluid, lubricating moving parts, and keeping the engine in good working order (i.e. spark plugs and air filter cleaned, carburetor cleaned, oil properly leveled, and proper storage practices). None of these are difficult to check on and correct when needed, but it is time consuming and does take a regular schedule of attention. Without it you might run into some problems with how it runs and spend more time than you like making repairs.

Electric Splitters

electric log splitter with wood and trunks

Lightweight and small in comparison to many gas models, electric splitters are designed more for residential use as they are compact, easy to transport, store well, and are quite. They run directly from a standard 110/120 Volt outlet, making them a convenient tool, plus they can be run indoors without worry of fumes from an engine. These are somewhat limited in what they can handle, but average sized logs for firewood pose no problem to their power.

  • Powerful for their size
  • Compact and easy to move and store
  • Can be used indoors
  • Limited to most average firewood log sizes
  • Almost all models are horizontally designed

Maintenance Needs:

Because they depend on hydraulics for power, they do require some basic regular maintenance. Tubes and fluid levels should be checked regularly, and fresh hydraulic fluid replaced with regular use or after long periods of storage. Moving parts also need to be lubricated. As with any electric powered tool, always check your cords for wear as well.

Manual-Hydraulic Splitters

Man split the wood using log splitter

These splitters rely on manpower to build pressure to the hydraulic oil for log splitting, and are actually highly efficient. These can be either horizontal or vertical in design and require you use handles or a foot pedal for hydraulic pressure movement. They are the perfect size for small to medium sized logs and smaller firewood stockpiling jobs, and help cut the time and effort you apply to your wood pile drastically.

  • Very powerful for their design
  • Lightweight and easy to store
  • Reduces splitting time drastically
  • Log length is often limited
  • Requires a lot of bending due to low profile

Maintenance Needs:

Manual splitters are very easy to maintain as they are a very basic design. Moving parts should be lubricated and hydraulic fluid replaced or added as needed. Some have springs that may need replacing over time and with heavy wear as well.

Three-Point Splitters & Skid Steer Splitters

hydraulic ram and sliding plate log splitter

These are large, very powerful machines that hook directly to your tractor, Bobcat, or front end loader for both power and hauling. With the ability to handle massive loads of logs of various sizes, this design is popular for farm and ranch work, when clearing land, and in commercial businesses.

  • Incredibly powerful
  • Uses an existing power source
  • Makes short work of large amounts of wood
  • Requires your own power source machine
  • Some may need to attached via your own means

Maintenance Needs:

Hydraulic hoses, fluids, and moving parts all need careful maintenance. You most likely will also need to tool the splitter a connection to your machine in a manner that works for you as not all connections are universal.

Kinetic Splitters

Closeup of large log being forcefully split by hanging timber jaws and hydraulic log jaw wood splitter

Either gas or electric powered, kinetic splitter do not use hydraulics, but stored energy applied by spinning flywheels. The release of this built up energy happens all at once and powers through a wide variety of log size and ages. These work quickly, are very powerful, and handle both large logs and green, dense woods with ease.

  • Powerful and convenient
  • Handles large logs easily
  • Easy to DIY your own
  • Not as easy to find compared to other styles
  • May take up a lot of surface area

Maintenance Needs:

General maintenance is required for a kinetic splitter such as lubricating moving parts, and taking care of your gas engine if it has one.

Screw Type Splitter

Screw, or auger type, splitters are popular DIY makes even though you can find them for sale, or buy a kit for your own needs. These are powered either with a gas or electric engine and power the turning of a screw head that you push your log against to split. These are considered highly effective and powerful, and since they are easily made, can be customized to your needs.

a man cutting a log using screw log splitter machine
Image Source: www.instructable.com
  • Easy to make and customize
  • Highly effective
  • Allows you to work quickly
  • Limited in what can be purchased

Maintenance Needs:

As with any splitter you do need to lubricate any moving parts and keep your belt replaced when needed. You also need to care for your gas engine properly, watch for cord wear on electric engines, and watch for any inconsistencies while in use.


If you are still unsure of what might be best for your needs, or are curious about various models within each category you can always find a place that sells or rents the machines for a closer look. If you are wondering where to buy a log splitter or where to rent a log splitter, simply look for your closest garden and building center. Many are also sold online, but it’s never a bad idea to see up close and personal for size and use purposes before making an investment.

If you have a favorite style or model, we’d love to hear about it below, as well as any questions you may have. And, as always, please share!