Electric splitter conversion with 4 way wedge

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Isaac Carlson

Minister of Fire
Nov 19, 2012
545
NW Wisconsin
Begreen asked me to do a writeup on my recent splitter work. There seems to be some interest in how well an electric splitter can actually do, so I am going to do my best to explain it in as much detail as I can.

My splitter used to have a gas motor. It also had a single wedge, and it was not fast enough for me. I decided to build a 4 way wedge because it was cheap and would increase productivity by 3x on most wood. You can't beat that kind of investment. I knew the wings had to be set back far enough to let the round split in two before it hit them so I wouldn't stall the ram. I split a bunch of wood and marked on the wedge where most of the pieces finally cracked open. I used this as my base line for the wings and then set them back just a bit more. I decided to make it removable in case it couldn't split the tougher rounds. I used 3/8" steel for the main wedge and 1/2" steel for the wings. I angled the wings up toward the rear so the wood would not get wedged under them. I also only sharpened the tops of the wings for the same reason. The wings angle toward the pusher. My thought on this was to keep the wood from wanting to slide out on the wings too much. It worked really well, and I have not needed to remove it yet, even with tough crotches. If there is a tough piece that might not go through, I will use the top or one of the wings to make a single pass and then bust it up from there. 4 ways rule!
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Now for the part with the motor. It was loud, it made fumes, it vibrated like crazy, it was hard to start because of the high compression, and it was thirsty. My wife hurt her arm trying to start it, so I had to be home for anyone to use it. I had been thinking of converting to electric for some time, but just never did it. Then my motor locked up and quit right in the middle of splitting! It had burned all of it's oil. I try to check the oil before splitting, but I had just checked and run it the day before, so I figured it was safe. It wasn't. It lost most if it's power and smoked like a Weber grill. I did some calculations to see how feasible it would be to convert to electric and was very happy with the results.

A hydraulic pump needs 1 hp for each gpm @ 1,500 psi or the equivalent of that. To figure hp, all you have to do is multiply your gpm x psi and divide by 1500 to get the hp required. You need to do this for both the high and low stage to make sure you know how much hp you need.

My pump is 11 gpm on low pressure and 1.6 gpm on high pressure. I can run up to 500 psi @ 11 gpm with ~3.5hp and up to 3300psi @1.6 gpm with 3.5 hp. I'm using a 3hp motor with a service factor of 1.15, so it works just fine. Service factor is how much you can overload the motor and still be safe. 1.15 means it can do 15% more work than the label indicates and not burn up. I found a 3hp, 3500 rpm, 220v motor for a great deal, so I bought it. The shaft height on electric motors is a bit different than gas engines. I had to raise my pump about 1/4" to make the shafts line up. If you use a c-face motor, you can mount the pump to the motor and avoid this issue. All you need is an adapter.

One important thing to keep in mind is direction of rotation. Most pumps turn clockwise, but most motors can turn either direction. You need to check this before you buy your motor or mount your pump.

Motor speed and pump size are interchangeable. What I mean is that most pumps are rated at 3600 rpm. You can use a 1725 rpm motor and a pump that is twice the desired flow rate. This will reduce heat and noise by quite a bit while using the same hp to give the same gpm.

Every splitter should have a pressure gauge. Without it you are guessing and shooting in the dark. An electric motor will not stall the same as a gas engine. A gas engine will lose rpm or stall when overloaded. An electric motor is different. It will draw more amps as the load increases, well past it's rating. It is not uncommon for an electric motor to develop 2-3x it's running torque. This makes it impossible to tell if you are overloading your motor unless you have a pressure gauge or an amp meter. You must have some way of seeing how much power the motor is making.

My old pump was so worn out that I had set my relief WAY higher than it should have been. The worn pump on the gas engine was bypassing fluid so bad that adjusting the relief did nothing. When I went to check the relief pressure with the electric motor and pump, I found it was set to ~4,600 psi! If I had run it like that, my motor would have surely burned up because it was making 5hp at that pressure. It is now set to 3,300 psi, where the motor will happily make just over 3hp and never burn up. My kick down pressure is set at ~500 psi for the same reason, I don't want to burn up my motor.

I am using 100 ft Of 12 ga wire for my power cord. This will safely handle 15 amps and allows me to move the splitter around my wood splitting area. A 5 hp motor would require 10 ga wire. A wood splitter has no starting load, so starting torque is not a big deal when looking for a motor.

I have spent a few hours running the splitter since the swap and I absolutely love it. The 4 way is amazing and the electric motor has no trouble running the pump. It's quiet, smooth, and my throat doesnt hurt from the exhaust fumes. I don't have to worry about running out of gas and I don't need hearing protection. You can talk over sound of the pump. I think cameras pick up the pump noise really well and can make it seem louder.

If you are worried about the cost of power, it's way cheaper than gas. I can run mine for about 25 cents an hour. That means I can run it all day for less than it cost to fill up the gas tank once. It uses 15 cents an hour with no load on the cylinder. I don't have to take a gas can with me if I go to a friend's house, I just roll up the cord and plug it in when I get there. I'm really looking forward to winter time, because pulling on a frozen splitter with thick oil is nuts. My back can't take that because I broke it almost 20 years ago. I can put wood on the splitter, but pulling that rope will wreck me.

Here is my splitter working on a few pieces. Thwo of them are tough customers that end up getting sheared apart, but the maple pops right open. My splitter makes 42,000 lbs or 21 tons with the 3hp electric motor.
I will be running it tomorrow and might get more video.


 
Last edited:

duramaxman05

Minister of Fire
Aug 17, 2014
539
Perryville, Mo
Nice weld job.
 
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Isaac Carlson

Minister of Fire
Nov 19, 2012
545
NW Wisconsin
Nice weld job.
Thanks. I learned to weld in high school and then continued to learn on my own. Learning with gas helps you to understand the pool and how it moves/changes. Moving to mig after that is pretty easy.

This was done with a hobart 140 running .030 flux core wire. I have had all of 21 tons on the wedge and it seems to be holding up better than the pusher that was welded by someone with a 220 mig....I just repaired another torn weld in it this morning and it is doing much better.

Wood splitters take a lot of abuse. Any off angle of the wood puts untold stress on the parts. It's amazing they hold up as well as they do.
 

duramaxman05

Minister of Fire
Aug 17, 2014
539
Perryville, Mo
Thanks. I learned to weld in high school and then continued to learn on my own. Learning with gas helps you to understand the pool and how it moves/changes. Moving to mig after that is pretty easy.

This was done with a hobart 140 running .030 flux core wire. I have had all of 21 tons on the wedge and it seems to be holding up better than the pusher that was welded by someone with a 220 mig....I just repaired another torn weld in it this morning and it is doing much better.

Wood splitters take a lot of abuse. Any off angle of the wood puts untold stress on the parts. It's amazing they hold up as well as they do.
My experience with flux core is they burn a little hotter than normal gas mig welding. I used a lincoln 255xt with .045 flux to do a lot of welding on equipment just because I couldn't get it in the shop at the quarry I worked at. It took a little bit to get used to it but it did great. I also use gas mig as I have a esab 250 mig master at home and a little lincoln sp125. I too have learned when in ag in high school. I cant weld like I used to when I was younger but still do alright. I do like metal fabrication. I'm building a set of pallet forks for our little tractor. I'm hoping one day I can teach my little son to weld.