If you burn a lot of firewood then a log splitter can be an indispensable tool that saves you time, money, and a lot of hard work. They operate with a hydraulic ram forcing a log into a wedge thus splitting the wood in 2. In some cases you can find 4 way wedges or dual wedges which can save you from having to make multiple passes. That amount of force is rated in tons and is the main spec to look for.
There are two main types of log splitter machines – gas powered and electric. Gas powered models are more expensive, but they are also more powerful, have more tonnage – ranging from about 10-50 tons, and typically have larger frames that can be towed. All that means you can handle larger rounds both in diameter and length in addition to harder woods. Electric units are cheaper, but they typically only have between 4-7 tons of force which limits the size of rounds you can use and is better for softwoods.
Besides tonnage some other things to consider include the cycle time – how long it takes for the ram to move all the way forward and then all the way back, engine and motor size, horizontal and vertical operation capabilities, and the warranty.
We reviewed dozens of models to come up with our list of the best gas powered log splitters and the best electric log splitters which you will find below. If you want more information on the hardness rating of different woods and what force is needed to split them see our tree hardness ratings and log splitter guidelines.
We chose the $2000 Ariens 917002 as the best gas powered log splitter. With 34 tons of splitting force this thing is for the professionals out there or home users who need the power to split any kind of wood, even extremely thick logs up to 25 inches long. It is powered by a 211 cc Subaru engine with 10.26 ft-lbs of torque. It is easy to switch from horizontal to vertical splitting mode which makes it easier to tackle those heavy rounds. The controls can also be operated from either side of the machine which makes it more convenient to use. The 18 second cycle time which is a bit slower than some models, but not too bad. Overall we highly recommend the Ariens 917002 for professional users.
The Dirty Hand Tools 100342 is another excellent choice for a gas powered log splitter with a pricetag of $1700. The biggest advantage of this 633 pound machine is the shortest cycle time of any model at just 10.5 seconds which can be a big time saver over the long haul. The 277 cc Kohler engine with 13.2 ft-lbs of torque and 28 tons of splitting force will handle almost anything you can throw at it. The only reason we did not rate it as our number one choice is because of the lower 28-ton force compared to the 34-ton Ariens model. Users also love this model with everyone on HomeDepot.com so far rating it 5 out of 5. We strongly recommend the DHT 100342 for all users including professionals.
Next on our list is the $1600 Ariens 917001. Another popular choice with users who rated this 500 pound machine at 4.7 stars on HomeDepot.com. Many people liked the design of the unit and many also said it saves your back since you can operate it in a fully upright position. It can handle almost any logs you want to split with 27-tons of force powered by a 169 cc Subaru engine with 8.34 ft-lbs of torque. If you are a professional you might want to step up to a splitter with more force, but we would not hesitate to recommend this Ariens model to any serious home user.
Another solid choice is the Cub Cadet 24BF552B756 which sells for $1400. The thing we like most is the proven reliability of the 160 cc Honda engine that this Cub Cadet machine uses to generate 25 tons of splitting force. It can get bogged down on large, knotty hard wood, but otherwise it can handle pretty much anything else you throw at it. This 580 pound unit also has the slowest cycle time of any model on our list at 19 seconds. It goes from horizontal to vertical positions very easily and can be towed by a four-wheeler. We would recommend this model for any home user.
The Dirty Hand Tools 100171 is tied for the cheapest gas powered splitter on our list at $1200 and might be the best value you can get as far as price vs performance goes. Users overwhelmingly love this unit with not even a single negative review on HomeDepot.com or Amazon. This thing is rigid and sturdy at 634 pounds, but that weight also makes it a bit more difficult to move around. It has a Kohler 196 cc engine with 9.1 ft-lbs of torque and 22 tons of splitting force. The very short 10.9 second cycle time will probably be quicker than your pace to keep up. Overall the performance is outstanding, although it can get a bit bogged down by very large pieces of hard wood. We highly recommend the Dirty Hand Tools 100171 for any home user.
It is also available at HomeDepot.com.
At right around $1200 the Ariens 917011 is tied for the cheapest gas powered model on our list and at 367 pounds is also the lightest version as well. This unit features a Subaru 174 cc engine with 8.26 ft-lbs of torque and 22 tons of splitting force. It also has a short 12 second cycle time. A whopping 97% of users said they would recommend this model to a friend and gave it an overall rating of 4.7 out of 5 on HomeDepot.com. So while it is cheaper than many other gas splitters, its performance is certainly not lacking. In fact it will handle just about any type of wood you can throw at it, although it can get a bit bogged down on large chunks or very hard woods. Therefore we would recommend the Ariens 917011 for any home user.
Our pick for the best electric log splitter is the Boss Industrial ED8T20 which sells for about $625. This 160 pound unit is powered by a 2 HP electric motor which runs on a 15 amp 115V circuit and provides 8 tons of splitting force which can split logs up to 20.5″ in length and 10.5″ in diameter. It is equipped with two 5-inch wedges on each end of the frame and a dual-direction ram so it can split in either direction which cuts down on the cycle time. This thing is as good as it gets for an electric splitter and user reviews back that up since they are all positive. Like any electric machine, it can struggle with rounds larger than about 11 inches and/or harder woods. However it is perfect for those small to medium sized jobs with softer logs.
One step down from the ED8T20 is the Boss Industrial ES7T20 which sells for $450. The main difference with this unit is the 7 tons of splitting force and the face that it only has one wedge, so it does not have the bi-directional splitting ability. This 128 pound machine has a 14 second cycle time which is OK, but not great. We would recommend the Boss Industrial ES7T20 for any home user with small to medium sized jobs.
The $400 Powerhouse SM-380 is the best-selling electric log splitter on Amazon. It requires a 20 amp 120v circuit for the 3 HP electric motor that generates 7 tons of splitting force which the manufacturer says can handle logs up to 20.5″ long and 12″ in diameter. It also has a 15 second cycle time. While it is the best-selling unit, the user reviews were not quite as good as the top rated models with a 3.8 star average out of 5. Some users have complained about the construction quality and parts failing prematurely, so buyer beware. However, reviews on some other websites are more positive and many users also really like the 104 pound SM-380 which is about as cheap as it gets for a 7-ton unit.
Available for $300, the Homelite UT49103 is the highest rated electric splitter on HomeDepot.com with an average rating of 4.6. This 5-ton model can handle soft wood logs up to 20.5″ long and 10″ in diameter, but cannot handle that size in hardwoods. This cycle time is longer than we would prefer at 20 seconds, but overall this unit is pretty well built. Since it really struggles with hardwoods, we only really recommend it if you are going to be splitting soft woods of a small diameter – it is a good machine for that purpose and the affordable price makes it a good buy.
The cheapest log splitter on our list at the time of writing is the WEN 56206 at less than $290. This 99 pound machine has a 2 HP electric motor that can generate 6 tons of force and can handle logs up to 10 inches in diameter and 20.5 inches long. The 25 second cycle time is very slow and adds time to your task. It will handle small jobs, but like other similar electric versions it struggles with hard woods or green, knotty logs.
The Dirty Hand Tools 100481 will cost you about $345. This model is well built, but it has a very long cycle time of 25 seconds. Weighing 99 pounds it features a 2 HP electric motor which can create 5 tons of splitting force capable of splitting logs up to 20 inches long and 10 inches in diameter. The DHT 100481 is a decent choice for home users with small jobs when dealing with dry, soft woods.
It is also available at HomeDepot.com.
Wood Hardness Ratings & Log Splitter Guidelines
Here are some of the most common types of trees and their Janka hardness ratings which is a way to determine how hard a wood is.
Dogwood – 2150 lbs
Hickory – 1820 lbs
Locust – 1700 lbs
Oak – 1620 lbs
Elm – 1540 lbs
Birch – 1470 lbs
Maple – 1450 lbs
Ash – 1320 lbs
Beech – 1300 lbs
Magnolia – 1020 lbs
Walnut – 1010 lbs
Cedar – 900 lbs
Pine – 860 lbs
Sweet Gum – 850 lbs
Boxelder – 720 lbs
Fir – 710 lbs
Alder – 590 lbs
Catalpa – 550 lbs
Poplar – 540 lbs
Spruce – 510 lbs
Cottonwood – 430 lbs
Aspen – 420 lbs
Basswood – 410 lbs
Buckeye – 350 lbs
In the table below we tried to estimate what the minimum tonnage it would take to split various types of wood based on their Janka hardness. Besides the diameter and length of the round, there are many other factors that affect how easily firewood will split including how dry it is, the grain, and knots. Therefore this table is not perfect, but should give you a good approximation of what each model is capable of.
Appx Minimum Tonnage
|Wood – Janka Hardness (in force pounds)