Picking the Perfect Log Splitter
Make free firewood from your woodlot or hedgerow using a log splitter.
Logsplitters offer a less labor-intensive way of splitting firewood.
Photo By iStockphoto/Craig Cozart
No doubt about it, one of the most sustainable forms of heat for your homestead is delivered through careful harvest and processing of trees growing around your place. If you have sufficient acreage devoted to woodlot, woods and hedgerow, you might even be able to cut a little extra and sell the resulting firewood. In any case, one of the keys to producing high-quality fuel wood is to split 4- to 6-inch-diameter billets in half and larger sizes into thirds, quarters or even more — to ensure that the wood will season properly and burn efficiently. But how do you go about splitting, and what is the ideal log splitter?
If you have images of Paul Bunyan employing his double-bitted ax for everything from felling trees to limbing them to bucking and splitting, it’s time to rethink. Under no circumstances should you consider the ax to be a splitting tool, it was designed as a cutting tool. However, if you wish to get the most heat from your firewood, you will definitely get an extra dose of warmth when you split the stuff using hand tools such as a splitting maul, wedges and sledge hammer, or a combination of the three. For those of you not interested in swinging mauls or sledge hammers, but with relatively small firewood needs, you might consider a dedicated hand splitter (such as the WoodEze Smart-Splitter) — essentially a splitting wedge attached to a slide hammer that you raise vertically above the log and slam into it. The wedge follows a guide so your chances of missing the log are minimal. Carry it one step further and you also can choose a hand- or foot-powered hydraulic splitter — you supply the pumping power and the hydraulic ram does the rest.
Some folks hand split a few cords of firewood each season, but when you find yourself short on time or energy, or routinely split several cords, you might find that a powered splitter is an ultra-efficient luxury worth the investment.
When your firewood needs expand to several cords each season, it might be time to graduate to a larger, higher capacity hydraulic splitter. Most hydraulic splitters use a power source such as an internal combustion engine or electric motor to pump hydraulic oil into a hydraulic cylinder (ram) at high pressures, causing the cylinder’s piston to move. The end of the piston is generally attached to a flat plate or anvil (on models with a stationary wedge) or a splitting wedge (on models with a stationary anvil) and is positioned on a track such that when it moves, a log placed on the track will get squeezed between the wedge and the plate until it splits. Some wedges feature a crossed design and cause the billet to split into fourths, but most just split the pieces of wood in half.
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