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Review - "Wood Wiz

Post in 'The Gear' started by Gooserider, Aug 24, 2007.

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  1. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Those who came to the Hearth Party at our house earlier this summer may remember that Web brought along a splitting tool that he had gotten a while back. Since he realized it didn't work well on pellets :lol: he left it with me. I thought it would be worth posting a review on it to let folks know what I thought...

    This was a variant of the "slide hammer" style splitters, I have seen several different brands, and while this review is only of this one tool, I'd expect that the others of the same general design would operate the same and give similar results.

    The tool is the "WoodWiz Splitter" made by "Easy Motion Inc." The tool is still being made, and you can order it online for $99.95 Their website is quite well done, and includes an owners page with repair instructions.

    The splitter is basically a 4' length of 1/2" gas pipe with a rubber bicycle handgrip on one end and a 4lb. spring loaded steel wedge tip on the other, with a 4lb. sliding steel "hammer" peice in the middle. The tip has some ridges milled into it that are supposed to prevent it from bouncing out of the log, and the spring is supposed to isolate the tip from the handle. The basic operation is to place the point of the tip on the log (they reccomend using a natural crack) then, while holding the handle with one hand, pick up and drop or "throw" the weight down with the other until the log splits.

    How does it work? I would say that I have mixed opinions about it, but have actually found it to be a tool that I'm using quite often. I have split a little bit of elm with it, and a quite a bit of oak. It isn't replacing my monster maul or my sledge and wedges, but it has a useful niche.

    It WILL split logs, but it is considerably slower at it, and takes more work than my monster maul. Compared to the sledge and wedge it's a bit more of a tossup, but still it is not my first choice for splitting from the start. The 4lb hammer just doesn't pack enough oomph per blow, and so it takes a lot of picking it up and tossing it down to get through a log.

    I also find that the tool is LOUD compared to even the sledge and wedge - it makes a loud "crack" noise every time the weight hits the tip which sounds louder than my sledge and wedge, not sure just why, but it's borderline on needing hearing protection.

    So what is it good for? I find it has a few areas that it works well at - all use particular properties of the tool to advantage.

    Because the tip is placed on the log and then driven in, it is incredibly accurate, ideal for those times when wanting to split in a particular place. This is good for when the monster maul has started a split but not gone all the way through and separated the chunks. The Wood Wiz works well as a "finishing tool" it allows a follow up split into the exact same crack that the maul made.

    If the crack goes fairly deep, the fact that the hammer is the same diameter as the tip makes it possible to hit the tip after it is "buried" inside the log, long after it would no longer have been possible to hit a wedge with a sledge.

    When dealing with a partial split that just doesn't want to come apart, the long handle gives extra leverage to pry the split open. However you need to be careful not to apply to much force as the pipe handle WILL bend - (I know from doing it....) However the website gives repair instructions on how to replace the handle with another peice of pipe, so it would be a reasonably low cost thing to fix.

    Lastly, I find the Wood Wiz to be good for those odd rounds that have angled ends, or are bent so that they don't want to stand up on the block. The Wood Wiz can be started while propping the log up any way you can, and once started the handle lets you hold the log upright while hitting it.

    The tool would also be useful for those who don't feel comfortable swinging a heavy sledge or maul, or lack the strength to do so. While I feel it takes more work per split than my other tools, it is mostly because it takes more hits to make the split, but each hit is a very low effort task - it's the number of reps that's tiring. I would also consider this a quite safe tool. Aside from dropping it on one's toe, about the only real risk is pinching your hand between the hammer and the tip. All the moving bits are well constrained, and I've never seen it send a split flying the way my maul sometimes will, or have a wedge come bouncing out of the round.

    Bottom line -

    Is it useful? Yes.
    Could I live without it? Probably
    Does it make a good addition to the hand splitter's "arsenal"? Yes
    Is it worth the price? Probably not... $99.95 plus shipping is more than a Monster Maul, or a Sledge and a few wedges - almost more than the total combined, but is not quite as useful. However if one were to be able to pick one up at a yard sale or other "bargain" opportunity it would be a good deal.

    Gooserider

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  2. kellog

    kellog New Member

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    Goose,

    excellent summary. I have a similar tool (the original) I bought back in 1982. I only use it for re-splitting splits that I didn't split small enough in the first place. It works well for that. The big advantage is that you can use it in the garage (you don't have to swing it). So if you discover a few over sized splits you can just break them up without going out in the cold and snow.

    I would never buy another but like you said if you find one really cheap it is a useful tool sometimes.
  3. ChrisN

    ChrisN Feeling the Heat

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    So what's the bottom line in your guys opinions? In my case I've been using an el-cheapo 6lb maul I picked up at a surplus hardware store about 5 years ago for less than $10.00. It has no special features, simply a fiberglass handle with an 'hecho en Mexico' head, no spurs or mini-wedges built into the sides of the head, nothing. I can split most reasonable rounds with just the maul in 3 or 4 strikes. For larger rounds, oh, maybe 15 inches in diameter and over I use the maul to start a dent in the middle and then a 10lb sledge and a wedge to split the rounds in half and then finish with the maul. The other day I was thinking I might look into a fancier design maul, but do you think it will provide any more efficiency than I already get?

    Another general questino: does anyone sharpen their maul head? I've read somewhere that a blunt edge provides a better splitting surface. I've never sharpened mine, but when I was inspecting it the other day I noticed the edge is very blunt now, but I've been using it so long I'm wondering if it's effectiveness has deteriorated so gradually I haven't really noticed.

    Finally, we've had a few discussions about whether it's better to split directly on the ground, or on a base, like another large round. I think I've found the perfect compromise. In on of my scrounges of a large Oak tree I took the last cut round closest to the ground, it's about 6" tall and 2 feet across. It's a PERFECT base, it provides a solid foundation on which to split, but is low enough that I still get a good swing arc to build the velocity of the maul head.

    Chris
  4. yukiginger

    yukiginger Member

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  5. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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  6. GeeWizMan

    GeeWizMan Member

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    That is one nice write-up review Mr. Gooserider. Thank you very much for a well written summary.

    George
  7. DiscoInferno

    DiscoInferno Minister of Fire

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    Two flat surfaces hitting seems to be a lot louder than a (semi)-sharp tool hitting a surface. Sometimes when I get the "super-splitter" stuck in a smallish log I'll raise the whole mess up and slam it down on the block to either finish the split or free the splitter. That usually makes my ears ring really badly.
  8. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    I have an 8lb splitting maul that I use mostly as a sledge, with occasional use of the maul end to deal with rounds where the wedge is stuck and I need to bludgeon it apart. However my primary splitter is a "monster maul" clone purchased from Northern. This has a 12lb head and about a 30" handle (I wish the handle were longer) and does a really good job on most rounds. I think it is more efficient in terms of "hits / split" ratio than either my lighter maul or a sledge and wedge, however the sledge and wedge will split stuff that the monster maul won't. Large rounds I often divide with the wedge, then whittle down from there with the monster.

    As to sharpening, I think there is a happy medium. You won't get much splitting if you hit the logs with a flat surface (i.e. the sledge w/o a wedge) but a real sharp edge will tend to penetrate w/o splitting. The idea is to make the downward swing force transform into outward spreading pressure to force the splits apart and crack the round. In order to do that energy transfer, you need to have at least some penetration. I don't know just what the optimum shape is, but I would think it should be about the same as the taper on the tool in general.

    I haven't been using a slab of log for splitting as I'd be worried about my maul going through an "easy splitting" log and cracking the slab under it. Instead I have a splitting area that is a bit of a nuisiance in that it's away from where I cut my rounds, and my woodshed, but is the stump of an old maple that I had cut down a few years ago... It's about 3-4" above ground level, and has just enough tilt to be good for angling logs that aren't quite square on the ends. Until it rots away (which it isn't showing any signs of doing) I don't plan to split on anything else. I've seen some folks talk about partly burying a big gnarly round, which sounds like a good idea to me, but I think my stump works better for now.

    Gooserider
  9. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Also, I had a couple pictures that I forgot to post earlier...

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  10. waynek

    waynek Member

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    I have been troubled with pain in my left shoulder for about six months, especially when splitting wood with a maul. After a series of tests an Orthopedist told me I have "frozen shoulder" and recommended physical thearpy. OK, fine, but I have wood to split...about 4 cords.

    I do not want to buy or rent a mechanical splitter. The WoodWiz seems to be a plausible alternative.
    Are there other similiar devices?

    Jackpine
  11. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    There are a great many others that all use about the same general concept, and I suspect would score similarly on a review... As to splitting four cords with one, all I can say is "good luck" - I found that my best speed using the Wood Whiz was about a third of what I could get with the maul... Now I use a hydraulic, (after Dr.'s orders to stop splitting by hand due to elbow problems... - his opinion was that I'd be risking permanent disabling injury if I continued to hand split) and I'm not anxious to go back...

    Gooserider
  12. TreePapa

    TreePapa Minister of Fire

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    I've used the 'Wiz for a few years now. I second most of what Goose is saying. For me, the Wiz is most useful for small stuff and stuff that won't "stand up" for splitting w/ ax or maul. If I prop the wood up against my splitting stump, I can split pieces that otherwise would just fall over before the ax ever hits it. The Wiz is also good when my back is too f'd up to swing an ax (but again, mostly for smaller stuff).

    You might want to check out the "Smart Splitter" (http://www.baileysonline.com/itemdetail.asp?item=15720&productid=15720&channelid=FROOG). The big difference between it and the Wiz is that the Smart Splitter gets mounted to a splitting stump or other sturdy platform so you don't have to hold the pole up while splitting. This could make a difference for your shoulder.

    Peace,
    - Sequoia
  13. waynek

    waynek Member

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    Thanks for the feedback on the splitting devices. There has been a turn of events since I posted on this thread. My wife came into my office a while ago and asked what I was doing... I replied look on the computer screen.. I am going to order a manual wood splitter and was entering my credit card number... she replied STOP! You got help coming. What do you mean, I replied?

    It was supposed to be a surprise...five of our neighbors in the valley are coming this Saturday to work up your wood pile. Wow! bless her heart. She knew I was too proud and stubborn to ask for help so she called a couple of her woman friends and explained my issue...All it takes is to talk to a couple of people and before long the whole valley knows the gossip.

    So my dilemma is solved for this year.

    Jackpine
  14. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    I mostly agree with TreePapa, that was what I used to use the WW for, in part... I also used it on some of the gnarlier rounds where I'd gotten a wedge or two driven below flush with the rounds surface w/o splitting it - because the wedge and hammer were the same diameter, you can drive below flush with the thing. I also sometimes (ab)used it to pry apart stringy rounds, such as elm where they round had split but the sections wouldn't come apart - this is NOT reccomended, and is why my unit now has a slight bend in the handle :red:

    You couldn't do that with the bolt to a stump unit - one can debate whether or not this is a good thing..... The bolt up unit might be better performing since you wouldn't have to worry about holding it up - no promises though, and I wouldn't bet on it either way.

    I don't figure these outside cases as part of my reason not to like the WW even though they were slow - I was using the tool outside it's design parameters, so I can't fault it for what it did or didn't do. However on comparable splits, using fairly straight, nice splitting rounds, I tried both my monster maul and the Wood Wiz, and it would take me several times as many hits to make a split... If it was a good round, I'd usually get a split on the first hit with the monster, sometimes two. With the WW, I was surprised if I got a split in less than 4-5 hits, and often needed twice that many - usually you could see a crack starting after the first hit or two, but it would only grow very slowly with each hit, so it took several before the round would finally give.

    IMHO the problem with any of the "slide hammer" style units is that it's very hard to accellerate them with muscle power because it's not a natural motion, so you are mostly dependent on gravity accelleration, which limits you, plus the friction losses of sliding the weight down the shaft. Bottom line is that it's hard to get a lot of energy into the hit.

    Gooserider
  15. TreePapa

    TreePapa Minister of Fire

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    I have an extra handle kit you can have for the cost of shipping. I ordered after I did basically the same thing you did, but I was unable to remove the old handle. I took the 'Wiz to a local lawnmower and saw shop and the guy straightened out the handle so I didn't need the kit. PM me if you want the handle.

    Sounds like the OP doesn't need anything right now 'cuz he has good firends and neighbors. More valuable than $$ in my book.

    Peace,
    - Sequoia
  16. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    I agree on the value of good friends and neighbors... I appreciate the offer on the handle kit, but right now I don't really feel the need - I haven't split anything by hand since I got my 30 ton "hydraulic hammer" and don't anticipate needing to in the future...

    Gooserider (seduced by the hydraulic side of the Force...)
  17. waynek

    waynek Member

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    Seven guys and their girlfriends/wives showed up yesterday to finish splitting up my woodpile. I got to be the "straw boss." of the outfit. Weather and temperature was excellent for the work at hand...mid twenties and partly sunny. It turned into a feastive event with a "dish to pass" meal after the work was done.

    God bless the neighbors and friends...and God bless America.

    Jackpine
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