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Wood splitter advice

Post in 'The Gear' started by relayer, Sep 20, 2011.

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  1. relayer

    relayer New Member

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    As a very long time hand splitter of fire wood age is catching up with me. I thinking of getting a log splitter. My question is what should I be looking for in a log Splitter. I helped people before using a splitter and they all seems to split wood but I want to go deeper in it. Things like clyinder size, speed of return and other things that someone who has very little knowledge of a wood splitter be looking for. I listed below what I will be splitting and how much.

    I will only be splitting 15 inch long logs.
    The trees on my property are no bigger than 24 inches and most are less than 14 inches.
    I split about 3 to 4 cords a year. Not really sure on the amount - new stove and new house.
    It's all hardwood - Oak, maple, birch, cherry

    Thanks for the help.

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  2. TreePointer

    TreePointer Minister of Fire

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    3-4 cords/year is no problem for a consumer model 20-22 ton hydraulic splitter with a 2-stage pump. Some folks like to split in vertical and especially for large rounds, so an hydraulic vertical/horizontal model is what they like. Others like horizontal only splitters with the wedge on the beam instead of the ram. Bad back? Look for a more expensive splitter with a log lift.

    About 14-15s cycle time (down and back without load) is what you'll get with a decent hydraulic model, and there are faster (Iron & Oak makes an 8 second hydraulic). Note that a fast factory rated cycle time on a 20-ton model may actually be slower in practice than a slower rated 35-ton model because the 35-tonner will spend less time in the slower (but more powerful) second stage of the pump than the 20-ton model ON TOUGH ROUNDS. Cycle times are highly debated here and many say they're overrated, but IMO, stay away from 17+ second cycle times. The bottom line is you don't want the splitter to be slower than you can work.

    Flywheel models like Super Split, SpeedPro, DR, and WoodWolf will get you ~3 seconds cycle time. There are videos of this type on YouTube.

    As part of your search, stop by a Tractor Supply store. Around here, they'll start their Huskee (SpeeCo) splitters and split some wood for you.
  3. Stihl_WoodBandit

    Stihl_WoodBandit Member

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    I've built two and bought one from Tractor Supply. I enjoyed giving the two homemade ones my personal touch and customizing them to suit me. Most common is a 24" stroke on the hydraulic cylinder which will take eat up cycle time if you're only splitting 15" logs. I would go with a 4.5 or 5" bore x 20" or so cylinder-always good to have a few extra inches just in case. And the larger the bore size (and the ram/piston itself) the stronger it will be when you split through tough wood.

    Think about the orientation of the splitter...horizontal versus vertical. If you're fit and only manhandle managable size wood, then a horizontal model might be your choice. Big rounds (without quartering) might lean someone towards a horz/vert model. I tried the H/V kind from TSC and didnt like it. I would rather put a wedge through it and halve it or quarter it and do everything in the upright position.

    Western PA....Tractor Supply, Rural King, Northern Tool, Swisher, Ramsplitter, American MSR, or if you have money to blow you could go with a Timberwolf. Google "log splitter", ebay it, or search it on here.
    Keep us posted.
  4. MasterMech

    MasterMech Guest

    The Iron & Oak in my signature has been blasting through rounds for 3 seasons now. I, and everyone who splits with me, LOVE it. I have used/rented bigger and better but can't justify $6000 machines, no matter how much I want to. :coolgrin:

    Horizontal machines with log lifts and tables to catch the splits are probably the most productive if you split big rounds fairly often. I use the vertical mode on my H/V to halve or quarter rounds into manageable sizes before going horizontal to resume production. Log tables/cradles and log dis-lodgers are fantastic if not must-have features to add-on if the machine doesn't already have them.

    Ton ratings are to be taken with a grain of salt. I have seen 16 ton machines split the monster rounds and seen 27 ton machines struggle with a 15" knotty bough.

    Cycle Time (Cylinder Size vs. Pump GPM) should be the #1 consideration as to the productivity of the machine. Some here will disagree saying you don't have to use the full cycle, can't outwork the machine anyway, etc. All true. The way I see it, with the splitter running, I'm not there to multi-task, I'm in it to make big rounds into small splits. I don't stack while I split. I usually split and toss the splits into a pile to stack later or a vehicle to haul home. If the wedge on the machine isn't moving, I'm wasting time and fuel. Don't fret over a 1 second difference but there is a huge difference between running a 18+ second machine as opposed to a 12 second unit.

    Machine construction is often overlooked (especially at lower price points) but there have been problems reported with units that have the cylinder mounted mid-casing as opposed to a heavy clevis on the end. If the cylinder hangs off the end of the beam, these are the machines I'm talking about. There have been weld/casing failures causing hydraulic leaks. You do not want to swim in hot hydro oil.

    Larger hydraulic reservoir usually mean lower fluid temps and longer hydraulic component life as a result.

    2-Stage pumps are almost universal now unless you find a older used machine or a home-built unit. They actually are 2 pumps in one with the second pump having it's pressure relief set lower than the primary stage. When enough resistance is met, the pressure rises and that pressure relief opens, effectively disabling that half of the pump. The other stage continues to the higher pressures required to split the log but the total flow from the pump is usually halved, slowing cylinder travel and reducing power requirements from the engine. This allows smaller, more affordable engines to be used for a given ton rating while maintaining fast cycle times for small logs and the return stroke.

    Engines: I personally do not care for the units that use a vertical shaft "lawn mower" type engine as they are usually noisier and tend to be less reliable than other choices. On the upside they are relatively inexpensive to replace and you may not have any alternative depending on your price range. Any engine that you take care of will last for many years on a log splitter. I will offer a professional opinion tho. I am a fan of Robin/Subaru small engines. They start easy, run quiet and are rock-solid reliable. They typically are much less $$ than a Honda GX series engine as well. I have nothing against the Hondas other than the price tag as they are a great engine as well. Briggs & Stratton is probably the most common engine out there and they do make some good engines too. But they have many levels of quality and often the difference are near impossible to see by the exterior of the engine. They have a base level, the Intek, Intek I/C, and the Vanguard line represents their best efforts. Here's a hint that applies to ANY small engine. Look for the EPA emissions tag attached to every new engine. Does it say the engine is rated for Moderate, Intermediate, or Extended use? That's a very good clue as to what your buying and how long that engine was designed to last. Pay no mind to any actual hour rating (ie. 100hrs) that may be listed as the engine's useful lifespan will far exceed that number. Only the Moderate, Intermediate, or Extended rating is important.

    It doesn't look like you want to split crazy huge rounds so I'd say the 20-22 ton machines offered by various manufacturers would suffice quite nicely. Remember even if your not splitting long pieces you don't have to retract the wedge all the way so you can shorten the cycle that way.

    Some links to the different machines available that many here own:

    http://www.timberwolfcorp.com/log_splitters/
    http://www.ironandoak.com/itemlist.php?mode=category&categoryid=103&parentid=0
    http://www.braveproducts.com/itemlist.php?mode=category&categoryid=103
    http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/category_logging log-splitters
    http://www.tractorsupply.com/outdoor-power-equipment/log-splitters
    http://www.troybilt.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/category2_10001_14102_55971_54998_54998_-1

    I'm thinking this thread belongs over in "The Gear".
  5. relayer

    relayer New Member

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    Thanks for all the information. A lot of good information already. Was not sure of which one to post in as I was looking for information on what makes a good log splitter as oppose to different makes or what people use. Like the information of return time -- from what a read so far you can only work so fast so if it takes me 12 seconds to load the wood each time then buying a more costly 3 seconds machine not going to help. And it turn I do not want to be standing there forever waiting for the the machine to come back wasting time and gas. I'm sorry if I did make a mistake and posted in the wrong place, if so is there a way to move this post.
  6. kettensäge

    kettensäge Feeling the Heat

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    I wouldn't worry much about cycle times. Most good splitters lock the control handle while the cylinder is returning, you can be reaching for the next round at the same time. You will be so much more productive with power equipment VS. manual labor and will be hard pressed to completely utilize the equipment when you first use it, although you will improve with time. Cycle times are for marketing, most popular machines will be competitive. To me max log length is more important than cycle time, with only a 24" stroke you will inevitably have some logs the won't fit and will have to trim them. A 30" capacity machine eliminate the need for that.
    When I switched I looked for a name brand and bought the highest capacity I could afford. I like to oversize power equipment VS my actual need to allow for future growth and have a machine that hopefully tougher than anything I can throw at it vs. being just enough. Higher upfont cost is usually off set by a better resale price in the future.

    You will also need a way to move whatever you buy whether you rig a hitch onto your ATV, lawn tractor or other motor vehicle.

    Any of the company's listed in MasterMech's post should be able to supply what you need.
  7. Got Wood

    Got Wood Minister of Fire

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    Based on the size of the wood (15" long , most less than 14" diam) you may be able to get by with an electric splitter. I have no experience with them but have read on this site that some folks find it sufficient.
    I have the Huskee and cant see needing anything more - it handles everything I throw at it

    Current thread in Gear forum on electric splitters:
    http://www.hearth.com/econtent/index.php/forums/viewthread/78750/
  8. oldspark

    oldspark Guest

    "I have the Huskee and cant see needing anything more - it handles everything I throw at it"
    +1 I have the 22 ton Huskee (Spenco) and most of the wood I split pops right away, seems to be very well built for the price.
  9. certified106

    certified106 Minister of Fire

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    Same here, It's just hard to beat it for the price
  10. charly

    charly Guest

    A SuperSplit would do you fine. Fast, no hydraulics and can even be ordered with an electric motor. I had one for 20 years. Sold only because I bought a gasafacation boiler that would take 30 inch length's of wood. Went with a hydraulic SplitFire splitter. Loved it. Sold my place. New place installed a regular wood stove,,,,,sold my SplitFire not needing all that stroke, and back to another SuperSplit. Happy again! You should check one out in person. You won't look back! Splitter is always waiting on your for another piece to be split, your never waiting for the splitter. 3 second cycle time.
  11. TreePointer

    TreePointer Minister of Fire

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    The decision gets easier when you visit the stores/dealers so you can see them in action. You might not be able to get a demonstration at Lowe's/Home Depot, but TSC and local dealers should accommodate.

    Look at beam height
    Thickness of metal on various parts
    Loudness of engine
    Solid toe plate?
    Engine position
    Shape of wedge
    Lift tongue to feel weight/balance
    See it cycle, etc.

    Also check out chain and local rental stores--many of them can order new splitters for you and you might run into a deal on a used model.
  12. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    Only my opinion . . .

    Size: I would think a 20-22 ton splitter would be fine for 99% of what you would run across . . . and truthfully just about any splitter of that size or larger will be less taxing on you physically vs. using a maul, ax, etc.

    Brand: Iron and Oak seems to be the Cadillac of splitters . . . but I suspect that unless you want to shell out a lot of money for what you will split a MTD (or one of their many clones) or Huskee splitter will work fine.

    Engine: Honda engines are nice . . . but not all are created equal. I ended up with a Briggs engine on my splitter and to be honest it has worked out well . . . hasn't failed to start with just a few pulls in three years . . . plus parts are cheap and easily available . . . and if I need to I can just pull the engine and put another one on it for not a lot of cash -- although so far that doesn't seem to be an issue.

    Tech Stuff like Speed/Cylinder Size/Etc.: I'm no engineer . . . I just split wood. All I want is a splitter that does the job safely and reliably. I suspect most any hydraulic splitter will do so. As for speed . . . I think my splitter is a bit on the slow side, but it's rare that I have to a) split all the way through for the full stroke and b) typically it works as fast if not faster than I can.

    Features: Different folks have different opinions on features. Me -- I would not even consider a splitter without the ability to split horizontally or vertically (or at the very least have a log lift) -- Dennis and I kid each other about our splitting habits, but truthfully I like the ability to split vertically on those rare times I have a monster split that is just too heavy to man-handle on to the beam. Another feature I like is a table or cradle to support the split wood -- it supports those pieces that you may want to split again and keeps you from constantly bending over.
  13. charly

    charly Guest

    Relayer, another nice thing with the SuperSplit, is even with the production table, you can lift it up and wheel it around by hand. They are not set up with high speed bearings in the wheels to tow down the road. It is set up to take a 2x2 inch piece of pipe so if you want to tow it around your place something can be installed. I have a dedicated place I split my wood, so simply roll it out of my garage by hand and roll it back in when I'm done. No tow vehicle needed for me. Plus it easy to move as you build a large wood pile in front. It sips fuel as well for what you get split. If you call SuperSplit, they might have someone near you who could demo the splitter for you. Anyone over the years who has watched me split with it has been blown away. My first one went to a guy who sells firewood, he had it 2 months and another guy who sells wood, drove up to check it out and paid my friend cash for the SuperSplit, it went on it's way to another owner. Get what you feel comfortable with, but it would be worth your while to see one in person. I used my first one for about 20 years, splitting 10 cords a year , zero problems. It's still going now some where's.
  14. jdinspector

    jdinspector Feeling the Heat

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    I have a RamSplitter electric 16 ton model that I've used for about 2-3 years now. I've pushed 6-10 cords through it no problem.

    Some benefits:
    Made in USA
    quiet compared to gas- really quiet!
    no gasoline usage
    nobody can borrow it because they don't have a 240 volt plug at their house! (unexpected benefit)
    cheap to use and maintain.

    Some negatives
    not transportable further than your extension cord is long. I bought a 12 gauge 100 footer for $100 and then had to put on the 240 volt male/female plugs. That whole thing cost about $130 of unexpected cost (included the extension cord)
    not as strong as my old gas powered unit, but it will split just about anything I throw at it. I haven't been stuck yet- just had to whittle away at some larger rounds.
  15. DanCorcoran

    DanCorcoran Minister of Fire

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    Food for thought: I've read on this forum and heard elsewhere that most people end up buying a lot more splitter than they need.
  16. golfandwoodnut

    golfandwoodnut Minister of Fire

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    Relayer, welcome, I am another Western PA guy. Seems like TSC is hard to beat, I have looked at the 22 Ton MTD for quite awhile, I think it is on sale now ($999) which is hard to beat. I haven't gotten one yet, they also recently started selling a supersplit clone as I understand it. I have not seen one yet.
  17. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    If you are looking at splitter choices, you have gotten many. I will approach it from a different direction with specs. This is only my opinion based on the info that you gave in your first post.

    4" ram X 20" stroke (or 4.5" x 20" with 4 way wedge)
    16 GPM 2 stage pump
    8HP engine.
    Horizontal with work table.

    This will be a tough combo to find, BUT there is logic in my choices. A 4" ram with a 16GPM pump will have outstanding cycle times. A 4.5 with a 4 way will logically even produce more. You have NO need to go with a larger ram with the wood described in your first post. A larger cylinder will offer you nothing but slower speeds (this coming from a dude running a 5" diam.)

    Now comes the debatable part - Horizontal with work table. We got off of all fours many years ago. I don't really care to regress. The ONLY argument I find valid for vert. splitting is to break apart large rounds. IF you can lift any basic round that you would be working with, the vert option is off the table in my opinion. THIS IS ONLY MY OPINION and many will refute it. Dunno, maybe you got back problems that would lend itself to sit'in and split'in. When I am in front of my splitter I am all about production.

    The Iron and Oak is one of the few that I know of with this combo, but they are a bit pricey in comparison to some of the other machines. Ain't nothing wrong with the 22 ton units that were commented on, above.

    One dudes opinion.
  18. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    relayer, I don't recall welcoming you to the forum before so consider this a warm welcome.

    I fondly recall many moons ago when we were faced with the same situation you are in. I had never seen a store-bought splitter work at all before we purchased ours so I was really in the dark. However, we lucked out and talked to a manager of the Quality Farm and Fleet store (since bought out by Tractor Supply). They had a sale on splitters and my wife and I had talked for quite some time about buying. Long story short, we got a real deal and bought a 20 ton MTD with a Briggs and Stratton engine 5 hp. The pump is a 2 stage. I have no idea what cycle time is nor do I care. That is the most highly over rated thing about splitters. The reason for this is that you rarely will use the entire stroke! For some wood, you'll drive that wedge just a few inches into the wood and it splits. You then raise the wedge, not to the top, but only high enough to clear the next log you will set in. Doing it that way the splitting will go really fast and you will not be concerned with cycle time. However, if you want to do this commercially and split 10 cord per day then it might be worth thinking about.

    So you see, we bought a small 20 ton. We did not buy a Honda engine and our engine is only 5 hp. Since purchasing that splitter it has split everything we wanted to split and we have split well over 100 cord and probably over 200 by now. The only problem we have had with the splitter is that I had to shorten the starter rope earlier this year as about 6" broke off. That has been the total repair of this splitter.

    The MTD that we have is very comparable to the present Huskee 22 ton splitter. From what we've seen and heard, some of the larger splitters are faster and some are actually slower. It seems to get faster you would have to go well over 30 ton but I see no reason to spend the extra dollars in buying one. I also see no reason to spend the dollars to get a hydraulic log lift. If you split your wood vertically, there is no need for the added cost of a lift and the biggest reason is if you split vertically, you do not have to lift every log before splitting. You can sit on your backside and split all day without lifting those logs. I try to not be lazy, but I also try to not work harder than necessary.
  19. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    I have an H/V splitter, and I have NEVER used it in horizontal mode, and can't think of any reason that I ever would (assuming that I could still process any sort of wood... :long: )

    I would always stack my to-be-split wood to one side and behind me, and SIT on a short stool or appropriately sized round, and split away, tossing the finished splits to a pile away from the splitter. I used a couple of pulp hooks to increase my reach, and sometimes help w/ positioning rounds. By the time I would get done with all I could reach, I would be ready for a "motion change break" and either move more wood to within reach, or shift the splitter position depending..... If you have assistants that can keep feeding raw material to you, then you can split as long as your butt holds out.... No need to bend to pick up each round... I've used Super-splits, and they are fast, but the constant bending to pick up the wood makes them far more tiring to use IMHO. (Although again the use of pulp hooks can help a lot...)

    Most "standard" splitters are going to have a pump / cylinder / engine combo that will give a roughly similar cycle time, and IMHO it is RARE that there is any real justification for more than the ~20-ton models, so I would not pay significantly more money for a larger size. (I have a 30 ton, with a pressure gage and it was VERY rare that it would ever even get close to the (calculated) 20-ton pressure range, even doing big rounds of curly maple, or elm....) Using a friend's 20 ton, I almost never had a split that I couldn't break down, though a few might take multiple "hits". Almost not worth splitting those rounds anyway as they always came out as twisty ugly things that were a pain to stack, etc...

    I personally did not like the "auto-return" on most valves, and preferred to operate manually both up and down - especially if you are doing shorter rounds - sure you have the ram go up all the way while you get rid of the old splits, but you then have to WAIT while it manually travels all the way back down.... I found most rounds would split within the first inch or two of ram travel once you contacted the round. Long as the "raw material" is consistently sized, it was MUCH faster to manually cycle the machine just the two-three inches needed to split one round and then go back up to the inch or less above the round position you need to place the next round... Even a "slow" machine works fast if you are only using a 3" or less "stroke length" You can get add-on clamps to limit automatic stroke return length, but they are a pain to remove to deal with the occasional oversize round....

    (I posted lots about picking splitters and such a couple years ago before I got hurt, might be worth digging up some of those old threads....)

    Gooserider
  20. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Goose, good to see a post from you again. I hope things are going well for you.
  21. John the Painter

    John the Painter Member

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    +1 I have an electric splitter and I do 6 or so cord a year and it will do 99% of what I need.
  22. relayer

    relayer New Member

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    A lot of information to take in. Have been looking at splitters online and will be heading to Tractor Supply tomorrow to take a look at some splitters.

    Thanks for all the information and the welcomes.
  23. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    I was wondering if the Goose would be making an appearance on this thread . . . in my mind he's always been one of the foremost experts here when it comes to the nuts and bolts of splitters . . . even though I see that he is clearly in Dennis' "Only Splitting Vertical" Camp. ;) It's good to hear from you Goose.
  24. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    relayer, don't be afraid to take some tough splitting wood logs with you when at TSC. Make them show you how well it will work.
  25. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Right Jake. One more who splits the right way. :)
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