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Homelite 5 Ton Electric Splitter Review

Post in 'The Gear' started by Beave, Dec 22, 2011.

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  1. Beave

    Beave New Member

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    I maxed out the 5000 character limit, and this site will not allow me to attach a word (.doc) file at 950K w/ pictures.

    I spent a bit of time putting this review together and would like to be able to share it. Any work-arounds?

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  2. bogydave

    bogydave Minister of Fire

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    Don't know
    Do you like the splitter?
    Ask if anyone wants to read the review & email it to them ?
    Post pics of it in action anyway :)
  3. Beave

    Beave New Member

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    I was hoping I could send it to the moderator and they could override the character limit or something like that.

    I do like the splitter. The review tells all.
  4. DanCorcoran

    DanCorcoran Minister of Fire

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    Split it into two posts, part one and part two?
  5. Beave

    Beave New Member

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    Homelite 5 Ton Electric Log Splitter Model UT49102

    As per Brother Bart’s request, here is my review of the Homelite electric splitter I’ve mentioned in some of my previous forum posts.

    [​IMG]

    I bought the splitter for less than $300 from Home Depot a little over a year ago, thanks to a coupon. I believe the MSRP is $300 + tax. I think this may be a seasonal item, as it had to be pulled off a top shelf about 30’ above the aisle way. I had to inform the store clerk that yes indeed, they do carry them and yes, they did have one in stock. Initially skeptical, I did some homework prior to purchasing and by most accounts, people seem to review this machine favorably. I have used it to process a few cords of wood (mostly pine, fir, cedar and maple), have lent it to friends to use on several cords, and overall am very happy with the purchase. Would I like to own a gas splitter? Sometimes yes, but the majority of the time, no. If I tow anything, I’d prefer to tow a trailer instead of a splitter so I can bring home more wood. And in my residential area, I know that one less gas-powered apparatus is appreciated, even by me. But maybe most importantly, at the time I bought this, a gas powered splitter was not financially in the cards for me, and still is not for the foreseeable future. With this machine comes limits, and I will try to inform you of those limits so you can make the right choice if thinking about purchasing one. In a nutshell, this splitter allows me to process wood faster, with less wear and tear on myself. Particularly, my wrists appreciate not having to swing a maul for hours on end.
  6. Beave

    Beave New Member

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    Machine Design:
    Being a tool designer myself, overall I am impressed with the design of this machine. The main rectangular frame houses the hydraulic cylinder and oil tank, and is wrapped in nice beefy tubes. The grip diameter tends to make you think it was designed for king-kong. The powdercoat finish has been durable and looks nice. The machine stows vertically, and takes up a very small footprint in my garage. The wheels are a welcome addition when lugging this beast to the backyard or the pickup bed. The ram features a knurled plate that helps grip the log, especially when your saw cut is not exactly square. On the other end, the wedge is heartily welded to the frame, and in my experience has yet to lose its crisp, sharp edge.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Down at the hydraulic actuation lever, a pin and lanyard are supplied for locking the handle during transport, and alternately, a padlock can be used to prevent unauthorized use.

    [​IMG]

    Being keen on serviceability, I appreciate that the tool is lubed for life (nylon ram slider plates) and features a dipstick with hi/lo marks for periodic fluid level checks. Dipstick is right/center bolt.

    [​IMG]

    Down at the power box, we find my first complaint; the power cord is secured with a plastic nut where it enters the box, and is prone to being hit by falling splits. So far, only an annoyance. But this may require rewiring or fabricating a shield later on down the road.

    [​IMG]

    My second annoyance is the bleed screw and specifically, the need to open and close this port when beginning a splitting session, and when ending one. It is required to unthread the screw prior to splitting so that air can pass freely from the oil tank as the ram extends and retracts. It is then necessary to close this after splitting, to block contaminants and prevent oil leaks. If I were the designer, I would use some sort of diaphragm that would automatically open and close as needed. The consequence of not opening the bleed port is that you blow the oil seals and potentially ruin the unit. So important, that I wrote myself a permanent reminder note on the power box.

    [​IMG]

    On a final note, this machine was designed for rounds that are at least 4†round up to a maximum of 10â€, with a 20.5†maximum log length. I routinely exceed the maximum diameter, with no ill affects to date. You must make that decision on your own. My experience is that it will either split or stall, and the machine doesn’t seem to mind either way. A potential weakness I have noticed but not experienced, is the connecting rods from the cylinder rod end to the ram are not as strong as I would like to see. If under compressive force, they would surely buckle. But under the tensile force seen in this machine, they seem to be OK so far.
  7. Beave

    Beave New Member

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    Power Plant:
    Obviously, this unit is an electric motor powering a hydraulic pump. The pump is factory set to 2320 psi, which produces 5 tons of maximum force via the force multiplication of the hydraulic cylinder piston area. I do not know the type of hydraulic pump, but am guessing it is a simple geared type. The motor delivers 1.75 HP and is powered by a 120VAC @ 15 Amps. It is fan-cooled in addition to having cooling fins on the aluminum housing. In the event of an overloaded motor, a reset switch is provided near the power plug entry. I have not had to employ that feature. When using it in the backyard, with a long extension cord on a 15A house circuit, once or twice I tripped the breaker in the house when stalling on a large log. Typically, I use a short extension cord on a 20A garage circuit, and have no circuit breaker issues. The motor is quiet enough for residential use, and should only cause minimal annoyance to your neighbors. Often, the popping or cracking of a splitting log is noisier than the motor.

    [​IMG]
  8. Beave

    Beave New Member

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    Fit, Form and Function:
    It takes both hands to run this unit, a feature that you either like or don’t. I don’t mind and neither do my 10 fingers. By pressing the green button on the power box, the motor begins to run and the pump begins producing pressure, or “flow†if you’re a hydraulic geek. Then, depressing the valve handle (spring return) routes this pressure to the ram and the splitting begins. The ram extension time is reasonably fast (about 10 seconds to full extension), and is largely dependant on how long your splits are, and how much travel is required to fully split the log. I usually cut 18†rounds, so I don’t have a lot of empty space between the ram and the wedge. Often times a round will fully split after only an inch or two of wedge contact. Releasing either the motor button or the valve lever (but not both) will stop the ram at its current position. Releasing both will initiate a spring-assisted ram retraction to the home position, which takes about the same amount of time as the extension. The ram does not have to fully retract before initiating another extension, which is handy if you are splitting shorter rounds and can reload the splitter quick enough. Something you may notice is that the ram does not fully extend to meet the wedge; it’s about 6†shy.

    [​IMG]

    This can be problematic with “stringy†wood that really needs a full stroke to split successfully. Incomplete splits can be overcome by using good ol’ fashioned body language, or a 4x4 block between the ram and the round, which will effectively lengthen the stroke. I found it convenient to use a permanent marker to make some measurement marks so I can quickly length check my rounds. I typically shoot for 16-18†since 19-20†will only fit my stove East-West, and often causes stove loading problems that result in a flaming log being tossed out into the rain.

    [​IMG]

    There are potential pinch points during ram retraction, so be careful after removing your hands from the controls. However, the ram is spring retracted so it might just be an embarrassing stuck finger or blood blister. Don’t quote me on that though. But last week I did have a thin wood chip get lodged in the works and prevent retraction. My hardware pack was missing two of the four wheel washers. According to other reviews, this is common. Although easily remedied, I have not bothered to add the missing washers and have had no problems.
  9. Beave

    Beave New Member

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    Ergonomics:
    Weighing in at 100 lbs, this splitter is easy to wheel around and my 32 year old bones don’t mind picking it up to load onto a table or into the back of my truck. Speaking of which, I do not recommend that this splitter be used at ground level. It is a chore to kneel down and operate the controls, and your back will be telling you so in record time. I have found it is best to be set on a tailgate, table or other surface that brings it up to about crotch/abdomen level. I have a perfect rock wall in my driveway that serves this purpose well.

    [​IMG]

    When raised off the ground, I find it easy and comfortable to use. Obviously, it was meant to be used in a horizontal position. Now that you have it at an appropriate height, you now have to figure out how you can capture the splits that will fall from both sides of the machine after a split is complete. This becomes more important as your round size increases. Retrieving halves from the far side of the machine and reloading them can be just as tiring as the initial loading. I have found that my hand truck (movers dolly) provides a nice catch for the far side, and I take-on the catching on my side.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Another point about larger rounds, is that loading them is not exactly a cakewalk, since they must be lifted a few inches off the ground. Depending on the ground surface and your finesse, loading a large round might upset or tip over the splitter from its position in some cases. In this situation particularly, nothing beats the large-round loading ease of a vertical splitter. Here is my guideline: If you feel like you are going to slip a disc or have a hernia while lifting the round onto your tailgate, you will have a hard time managing that same round in this splitter. It will split above and beyond the stated maximums, but you will pay with your own expended energy, as it does require a bit of gumption. I recently started using my hand truck to deliver and load large rounds onto the splitter.
  10. Beave

    Beave New Member

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    Maintenance:
    The manual says nothing beyond changing the hydraulic fluid after 150 hours of use. The listed capacity is 3.7 quarts, however no specific type of hydraulic fluid is specified. Use good judgment, don’t mix and match, and keep the fluid change operation as clean as possible. Hydraulic system-killing contaminants are measured in microns.
  11. Beave

    Beave New Member

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    Usage Observations and Conclusion:
    An important consideration; Do you split then load your truck or trailer, or do you load rounds and bring them home to be split. I am the latter, but loading rounds and bringing them home to split is definitely more work and more risk for back injury or muscle strain. Does your collection site have available electric? Do you pull a trailer, and thus can’t have a towable splitter? All important things to think about.

    Not much to report about the actual usage. It splits logs. Sometimes the logs will split with an authoritative “pop†and will propel themselves 1-2’ beyond the splitting wedge. Also, if your chainsaw cut on the round was at an angle, the log can be ejected upwards if not loaded correctly against the ram. So be careful where you stand, and be watchful of onlookers that could be struck by ejected or propelled splits. As the rounds get bigger or knottier, you will have to increase your effort to use this splitter successfully. This includes loading the logs, “catching†the splits and reloading them, and re-orientating and/or inverting the log on the splitter rails to split around a tougher section. I know for me, it splits about 95% of what I throw at it. For me, this means it splits 95% of pine, maple, cedar and fir. Your experience may vary based on tree species.

    I have had a couple issues with this log splitter since owning it:

    1. I was splitting last week and the pump starting making strange noises and producing a weak stroke. Knowing a bit about hydraulic systems, I feared cavitation was happening, and immediately stopped using it. I checked the hydraulic fluid, and it was full and visibly clean, but sure enough I did notice some small bubbles on the dipstick. This is very bad for any hydraulic system and can ruin your pump. After setting for several hours, I checked the fluid again and the bubbles were gone. I have since used the splitter without issue. However I did learn something important from this. While the unit was de-bubbling, I browsed the owners manual and found nothing helpful in diagnosing the problem. After doing some searching online, I found a manual of an almost carbon copy remake of my exact splitter, only this one came with a better manual. In this manual I found that they stated the importance of no air bubbles in the hydraulic oil, and thus they recommend fully cycling the ram 3-4 times, with no load, prior to using it. They claim that this will purge any air out of the oil that may have accumulated during storage or transport. Google “Swift Split by Mantis†for a .pdf owners manual of this other splitter. This document also includes an exploded diagram, which the Homelite manual does not.

    2. During my last splitting session, I had a very large maple round that did not split all the way through and was still tight on the wedge. I rotated the split up and over the wedge, and in the process, part of the split leveraged on the bleed screw and bent part of the threaded portion. Nothing that cannot be fixed in a vise.

    3. I once brought it to a friend’s house to split some monster-rounds of an unknown tree species. This tree species, whatever it was, had a very twisted grain, and this splitter had absolutely no chance against them. On that particular day, I ended up renting a gas splitter, which of course completed the job without incident.

    Pros:
    1. Quiet enough for residential use
    2. Portable and does not occupy your trailer hitch
    3. Low maintenance and decent serviceability
    4. Safe (two hand operation) and lockable
    5. Durable
    6. Unlimited “fuel†assuming electricity is available
    7. Faster and less tiring than hand splitting
    8. Small storage footprint
    9. Affordable
    10. Built-in overload protection

    Cons:
    1. Sometimes it can stall on heavily knotted or very large rounds
    2. Bleed screw design is not fool-proof and can ruin the machine
    3. Not recommended for twisted-grain wood
    4. Having to horizontally load a large round is much harder than with a vertical splitter
    5. Not very ergonomic for your spine unless used on a table, tailgate or anything else that gets it off the ground
    6. The splitting ram does not travel all the way to the wedge
    7. Power plug entry point needs to be rerouted to avoid being bashed by falling splits
    8. A system for catching the split halves should be designed and used, instead of always having to pick the splits up and load them again and again.
    9. Shipped with an incomplete hardware set (missing 2 washers, which has been mentioned in other reviews)
    10. Must be near electrical outlet and have the appropriate size and length extension cord
  12. DanCorcoran

    DanCorcoran Minister of Fire

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    Very thorough review. It should allow anyone looking for a smaller splitter to decide if an electric is for them. Your comments are very similar to ones I would make about mine. I, too, figured out that I could use a hand truck to haul large rounds to the splitter and then roll them horizontally onto the splitter. I may fabricate some sort of stabilizer/outriggers so that the splitter won't rock from side to side when it has large (18" diameter) splits on it.

    Thanks for taking the time to post.
  13. bogydave

    bogydave Minister of Fire

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    Nicely presented
    Great pictures.
    Can yo modify it to go vertical ?
  14. PNWBurner

    PNWBurner Member

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    How big is that round in the last picture? I'm guessing way more than 10 inches.

    The reason I ask is I was about to rent a gas splitter to deal with a bunch of 2-3 foot diameter pine rounds but if that little electric one can handle bigger rounds I'd rather buy it than rent a gas powered one.

    Thanks, that was a very good review.
  15. Beave

    Beave New Member

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    Bogy, I assume that this splitter will run vertically w/o issue, as far as the system is concerned. The challenge would then be to find a way to prop it up. As mentioned in the review, the "Swift Split" by Mantis is almost a dead-ringer copy of my splitter, only it is mounted vertically on a hand cart. However for my splitter I see no advantage to vertical orientation, as to me it seems like this would amplify all the log handling challenges that are already present in the horizontal position.

    PNW Burner, I would estimate that maple round was about 16"-18". Regarding your situation, I am very hesitant to say "yes, it will do everything you want it to, you should go buy it". Instead, maybe we can arrange a trial session where you can try mine. I see we are both PNW folks, so depending on your exact location this might be a really easy arrangement. PM or email for more details. (P.S. Did you get your blower? If so, did it improve your heat circulation?)

    Glad you guys liked the review.
  16. DanCorcoran

    DanCorcoran Minister of Fire

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    I doubt that my 7-ton unit could handle much more than 18-20" rounds. It would be very difficult to balance 24-36" rounds on these smaller splitters, even if they could split them.
  17. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Thank you for a great review. My little Pow' R' Kraft version of it arrived late last week. Don't have any big stuff to try it on but will have a boat load in a week or two. Your experience helps.

    Funny to note that the motor is the same size and the hydro pressure is the same and that one is rated five ton and mine four. I know that only ram size could make the difference but I am betting they are both the same in capacity. I like those tubular rails on yours and the handles and wheels better than mine.

    But for $257 shipping included I can't complain. Yet.

    Thanks again.
  18. Beave

    Beave New Member

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    Yeah, from what I have seen (yours included), there seems to be many different hats that this same base splitter can wear. Interesting to see how different manufacturers complete their individual designs. I know mine has a "Maximum Pressure Limiting Screw" somewhere (it's mentioned in the owners manual), but I have not really looked for it and it is not obvious. Meaning yes, our two splitters are probably exactly the same, but your manufacturer decided to reduce the force by 1 ton, for whatever reason.

    Best of luck with your new splitter Bart. Glad you liked the review.
  19. MrWhoopee

    MrWhoopee Minister of Fire

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    I have the same model, it has handled 30+ in. diameter Douglas Fir and nearly that big (28 in.) oak, it will have no trouble with pine that size. Soft woods split more easily when dry. Buy it, you'll love it.
  20. Beave

    Beave New Member

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    Well, even after a well-intentioned review, my splitter decided to crap out on me today. Seems it does not like the fanfare from Hearth.com, or maybe it was being offered to strangers that did it.

    On the third split of the day, she started gushing hydraulic fluid from the pump casting. Two hairline cracks are visible, one on each upward leg. My fault? Maybe. Just last week my wife cringed when I threw a gigantic round onto the splitter. She thought that was abusive, and I have a history of using tools uummm..... "with authority". Either way, better the splitter take it than my back is what I was thinking at the time. Same thing this morning, only the splitter had had enough of my crap. You see, the hydraulic pump casting is also the foot casting, so any shock load applied to the splitter frame is transmitted to the ground THRU the hydraulic pump casting and then the feet.

    Now I could pull the "bad design" card, but the truth is it wasn't bad enough to notice until it was too late, AND if I had been using the recommended log size, this probably never would have happened.

    But, I have a tendency to abandon tools that disappoint, my fault or otherwise. Not sure what to do at this point. I was able to track down the Home Depot receipt, and I bought it on 4-24-10, so it's been in my possesion for about 1.5 years. On one hand I feel like it's my fault, on the other hand they might just laugh me out the door. And on my foot, I feel like I have gotten my moneys worth, since I spent the rest of the session splitting by hand and instantly remembered how much more work that is. Maybe I can buy a new pump from Homelite?

    And the moral of the story is: Exceed maximums at your own risk, and gently load this splitter.

    Directly above the 6 bolts, there is a horizontal hairline crack on each upward leg of the casting. The cracks are not visible but you get the idea:
    [​IMG]

    Old Reliable:
    [​IMG]
  21. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Bummer. I have to get to bed but take a look on searspartsdirect.com and see what you find. They seem to have parts for everything.
  22. MrWhoopee

    MrWhoopee Minister of Fire

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    My Homelite from Home Depot came with a 3 yr. warranty. Check it out.
  23. Beave

    Beave New Member

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    Bart, thanks for the parts resource.

    Craig, did you buy that warranty, or was it otherwise stated on your receipt?

    My receipt says no returns after 30 days, although obviously I would not try to return it, rather I'd just like to get a replacement unit. Also, my Homelite manual says the warranty period is 2 years for a non-commercial user.

    I wonder if Depot would at least honor the Homelite warranty?
  24. DanCorcoran

    DanCorcoran Minister of Fire

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    Why not let Homelite honor the Homelite warranty? Maybe they'll just send you a replacement for the faceplate and/or housing with the splits in it.
  25. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    No joy on the Sears parts site. Looks like they have stuff for everything Homelite except the splitter.
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