Kinetic Log Splitters 101
Kinetic vs Hydraulic Log Splitters
Most log splitters are hydraulic log splitters. They use the power of a hydraulic pump to move the ram that forces the splitting wedge deep into a log.
However, there is another type of log splitter that you’ll find on the market: the flywheel log splitter or kinetic log splitter.
In place of hydraulic pump systems, kinetic splitters use massive flywheels to convert energy from a motor or engine into a burst of force. That force drives a moveable rack and push plate into a log and pushes the log against the splitting wedge, breaking the wood apart.
So what are the advantages of using flywheels instead of hydraulics, and how do kinetic splitters compare to hydraulic models? Read on to find out!
Why Use a Kinetic Log Splitter
The biggest and most commonly considered advantage of kinetic splitters is their speed.
Kinetic splitters are fast. Many of them have cycle times (the time it takes the splitter to split a log and return to its starting position) of 2.5-3 seconds. Compare that to the typical cycle time of hydraulic log splitters, which falls in the range of 12-15 seconds.
The reason for this high speed is that the energy that drives a kinetic splitter is built up by the spinning flywheels and stored until the moment the log splitter’s operator releases it by moving a lever. Once the energy is released, it explodes as a powerful, quick push of the ram. The splitter’s ram then automatically returns to its starting position.
Keep in mind, the high speed is the reason that you won’t always see a tonnage rating for a kinetic splitter. Tonnage is a measure of gradually applied pressure, and it’s easier to measure on a slower-moving hydraulic log splitter. If you do see a tonnage rating for a kinetic splitter, it was calculated by comparing that machine’s splitting ability to the tonnage on a hydraulic unit.
Don’t think that speed is the only advantage, though. Kinetic log splitters also receive praise for being easy to maintain.
With kinetic splitters, there are no parts like hydraulic hoses or pumps that you might have to replace. You will have to maintain the engine on a gas-powered kinetic splitter, just as you would for any gas-powered equipment, but kinetic splitters have fewer parts to worry about than hydraulic splitters.
They also don’t need hydraulic fluid. Not only does hydraulic fluid need to be checked annually for contamination and periodically drained; it also can leak, especially if a hydraulic splitter’s hoses have worn down.
One more benefit: gas-powered kinetic wood splitters are incredibly energy-efficient tools that use less fuel than their hydraulic counterparts.
Obviously kinetic splitters have a lot to offer. However, in certain cases, a hydraulic splitter still might be the better option for some people.
Details to Consider When Buying a Kinetic Log Splitter
One reason that not everyone chooses a kinetic log splitter is the cost. Kinetic splitters usually come with higher price tags than hydraulic models, which might place them out of consideration for budget-minded shoppers.
Kinetic splitters also lack the ability to shift into the vertical position. Some hydraulic models are combination vertical/horizontal splitters. When those splitters are turned vertically, they offer users the ability to split large logs without having to lift them onto the splitter. Kinetic splitters lack this option due to their construction.
Finally, kinetic splitters work best with medium and soft woods, such as the wood from cone-bearing trees like pine. Extremely dense hard woods, as well as woods that contain knots and other abnormalities, sometimes present challenges for kinetic units.
With harder woods, you might need to attempt the split more than once to get through the log. However, because kinetic splitters are so fast, this process still might take less time than one hydraulic cycle!
Who Should Use a Kinetic Wood Splitter?
As they say, time is money, and the speed of kinetic splitters makes them appealing for firewood sellers and other commercial users, who need to split wood quickly in order to maximize their sales volume. The price point on kinetic units makes them a natural fit for the commercial market as well.
However, anyone who wants to spend less time splitting firewood and more time enjoying it by sitting beside a roaring fire can benefit from a kinetic splitter.