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What Size Log Splitters Do I Need?

A comprehensive guide to choosing the perfect partner for your log-splitting needs.

With the rising cost of heating gas oil, most of us now consider shifting to more economic alternatives – like using firewood.

However, the thought of painstakingly dragging a heavy ax and trying to strike it accurately to get the perfect pieces of firewood isn’t the most appealing scenario. This is especially true for those who are new to the whole log-splitting gig.

Luckily, log splitters are now made more accessible to small-time woodcutters. Here now lies the question: what size log splitters do I need?

To correctly answer that question, you have to look into several factors, like the diameter of your log, its density, and whether it’s seasoned or not.

A Note on Sizing

The size of a log splitter greatly depends on the pressure it can apply in slicing the wood. This pressure is measured in tonnage, and it is determined by the wood’s diameter, density, and whether they’re freshly cut or not.

So basically, the lower the tonnage you need to apply, the smaller the log splitter you need – and vice versa.
With that settled, let’s now proceed to discuss the factors that will determine the size of the log splitter that you need.

Log Diameter

One of the main factors you have to consider is the diameter of the log. This can simply be measured by running a tape measure across its face with inches used as the common unit of measurement.

Aside from helping you determine the tonnage needed for your log splitter, identifying the diameter also helps you determine if you need a vertical or a horizontal splitter.

As a rough guide, here is a chart to help you determine the log splitter size you need depending on the diameter of the wood:

Diameter Tonnage Needed
6 inches or lower 4 Tons
6 to 12 inches 4-12 Tons
12 to 18 inches 12-20 Tons
18 to 24 inches 20-27 Tons

Wood Density

Aside from the wood’s diameter, you should also consider its hardness and density. Keep in mind that the tree is made up of long, fiber-like cells that run from its root to its branches.

Some trees have a lot of spaces between fibers, making them easier to cut through and which is why they’re called softwood. On the other hand, trees that have densely-packed fibers – otherwise known as hardwood – would require higher tonnage to cut through.

A log’s density is usually measured in pounds, so it can be easily determined by using a weighing scale.
To give you an estimate of the tonnage needed depending on the density, consider the following chart which is based on a 6-inch log:

Density Tonnage
300-600 pounds 4 Tons
601-900 pounds 6 Tons
901-1500 pounds 7 Tons
1501-2200 pounds 10 Tons

Keep in mind that this is merely a guide for you based on a log with a 6-inch diameter. The tonnage will vary as the diameter increases.

As to determining which types of wood are harder or softer, I suggest that you consult the Janka Hardness Test. But to give you an idea, hardwood trees include mahogany, oak, and maple while softwood trees include pine, juniper, and cedar.

Fresh Cut Vs Aged Wood

Among the three factors, the trickiest to determine is how fresh the wood is. Freshly-cut wood, also known as green wood, appears to have a greenish or yellowish hue. It contains more moisture than aged or seasoned wood, therefore making it harder for log splitters to cut through.

On the other hand, seasoned wood appears to have a darker brown color, and was already left to dry for at least six months. Since most of the moisture has already left the log, these seasoned woods are a lot easier to cut.

Considering all these factors together, we can now understand why a 12-inch seasoned wood would only require a 7-ton log splitter, while a same-sized green wood needs a 16-ton log splitter.

Types of Log Splitters

To help you determine the right-sized log splitter for you, you must also get acquainted with the different types of log splitters.

As to the method by which the log is split, the category is often divided into hydraulic splitters and kinetic splitters.

Hydraulic Splitters

Hydraulic Splitters. As the name implies, this type of log splitter uses a hydraulic cylinder which effectively pushes the wood into a blade or any sharp wedge.

Hydraulic splitters are the most common since they offer the best variety as to sizes. Thus, both homeowners and large-scale log splitters won’t have problems looking for the model they need.

Kinetic Splitters

Kinetic Splitters. On the other hand, kinetic log splitters use stored energy from spinning flywheels, then blasts it onto the log to cut it as swiftly as possible. These log splitters are generally bigger than their hydraulic counterparts, thus requiring bigger storage spaces.

They also have faster-splitting speeds, so it’s better for commercial purposes.
As to the weight and size of the log, splitters are often categorized into vertical and horizontal splitters.

Vertical Log Splitters

Vertical Log Splitters. For bigger and denser pieces of wood which are usually almost impossible to lift, vertical log splitters are the best option. These machines cut wood from the ground, so users don’t have to worry about having to do a weightlifting performance.

Horizontal Log Splitters

Horizontal Log Splitters. Conversely, horizontal log splitters require users to mount the piece of log onto the splitter. This is the better alternative if you’re only cutting smaller logs. As to the power source, log splitters are classified into gas-powered, electric-powered, or manually-powered.

Gas-powered Log Splitters

Gas-powered. The most common type of log splitters is the gas-powered hydraulic log splitters. This is due to the fact that they come in different sizes, usually ranging from portable cutters to bulky choppers.

Electric Log Splitters

Electric. Electric log splitters are the modern solution to gas-powered alternatives. This type of log splitter usually come in portable sizes, so it’s the best choice for residential use.

Manual Log Splitters

Manual. You can also consider manual log splitters. As the name implies, you would have to pump the handles of the log splitter to put pressure into the hydraulic piston, which then pushes the wood onto the blade. Due to its manual nature, this type of log splitter is incredibly low maintenance.

Conclusion

In determining the proper size of log splitter for your needs, you have to primarily consider your purpose: is it for heating your home, or is it for your business?

Once you’ve determined your purpose, you now have to consider the characteristics of the wood you need to use. Remember that the size depends on the tonnage and that the tonnage is determined by the diameter, density, and age of the wood.

With all these in mind, you can now accurately determine what size log splitters you need.

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