Log Splitter Buyer's Guide
How to Pick the Perfect Log Splitter Tonnage
Rather than wearing yourself out with an ax, you can split more wood with much less effort using a log splitter.
Log splitters work by focusing a great amount of pressure against a small surface area to split logs apart. But how do you know how much pressure you need?
The amount of pressure a log splitter can apply is measured in tonnage. Choosing the right log splitter tonnage will depend upon a few factors:
- The size of the log measured across, or its diameter
- Whether the wood is green or seasoned
- The density of the wood, or its hardness
Start with this handy chart to get a basic idea of how much force you'll need from your wood splitter. Then, read on to learn more!
How Large Are Your Logs?
Here's something you might not have known about wood: some of the most important cells inside a living tree are long and fiber-like, and they run up and down the length of a tree's trunk or branches. When we look at cut wood, we see this arrangement as the wood's grain.
Log splitters work by applying pressure that splits wood along the grain, instead of cutting the grains short. Splitting along the grain is easier; cutting grains short requires specialized cutting tools like chainsaws.
The thicker a log is, the more wood there is to force apart on either side of the grain. Logs that are larger in diameter need more pressure to split.
That's why a 4-ton log splitter will work well for 6" branches, but a 24" tree trunk will require at least the force of a 20-ton splitter.
Green-Wood vs. Seasoned Wood
Green logs are freshly cut logs. They still contain much of the moisture that they held while they were part of a living tree. They'll look slightly green or yellow in color.
As wood ages, the moisture inside of it slowly evaporates, making it more brittle. As a result, older firewood splits and burns much more easily. This process is known by several names:
- Aging wood
- Curing wood
- Seasoning wood
Properly seasoned wood, which is wood that has had at least six months to dry, will look closer to brown than greenwood.
Freshly fallen wood is very moist and difficult to cut, so it takes more tonnage (or a little more time aging) to split through it effectively.
Professionals recommend waiting until your wood is cured to split it. If you plan on splitting green wood, you’ll need either a more powerful log splitter or some old-fashioned, inexpensive patience.
Wood Hardness and Density
Simply knowing how thick your logs are and whether or not they're seasoned can go a long way in helping you choose the right amount of tonnage in a log splitter.
However, if you want to dive even deeper, you can also consider the kind of wood you plan to split and its hardness.
Remember those long, fibrous cells mentioned earlier? It turns out that different kinds of trees have more space in between those fibers:
- Hardwoods are dense woods that have little space between fibers
- Softwoods are lighter woods with lots of space between fibers
Woods like oak and hickory are considered hardwoods, while pine and other cone-bearing trees produce softwoods. Looking up the Janka hardness value of the types of wood you plan to split can help you figure out if you need a splitter that uses more force.
Once you have an idea of how much tonnage you need from your splitter, you can choose the style of log splitter that will provide it!