Manual Log Splitting Tools and Tips
How to Pick the Perfect Manual Wood Splitter
There's nothing like having the time to enjoy a warm, glowing fire. The best way to get that time is to have your firewood split, cured, stacked, and ready to go whenever you want it.
Powered log splitters make the task easy, but even we recognize that there are many different ways to split a log, all of which have their charm.
If you've ever been fascinated by the idea of standing outside on a brisk autumn day, swinging an axe to build up your firewood stash, then this guide to handheld and manual log splitting tools is for you.
Reasons to Use Manual Log Splitter Tools
You might just say it's because you look good in flannel. However, you can find many other completely practical reasons for using some kind of manual wood splitter:
- Environmentally responsible
- Good for exercise
Possibly the biggest draw of handheld log splitting tools is their low cost. Splitting logs by hand may cost you time, but it will save you the upfront cost of the tool.
Manual log splitters depend on only one power source: you. By draining neither electricity nor gasoline fuel, manual log splitting tools prove themselves the most environmentally friendly tools. Plus, when using manual log splitters, you never have to worry about running out of fuel or losing power during a power outage!
Finally, although you certainly can find better exercise programs to target your quads and abs, it's hard to deny that using handheld tools to split logs provides a good workout. Just be sure to stop when tired and be mindful of the strain placed on your joints and back.
Types of Manual Log Splitters
The types of tools you can use to split logs by hand range from simple tools with a single part to dynamic tools with several moving components:
- Splitting axes
- Wedges and sledgehammers
- Splitting mauls
- Sliding manual log splitters
- Hydraulic manual log splitters
Contrary to what you might have learned from 20th-century cartoons, you can't pick up any old axe and use it to chop firewood. To split logs into firewood-sized pieces, you need a splitting axe.
Unlike a felling axe, which cuts wood fibers short and is suited to chopping trees down, a splitting axe is designed to wedge its way between wood fibers and force them apart.
Lightweight, with a thin blade and a short handle, a splitting axe is a popular choice for splitting small logs.
Wedge and Sledgehammer
If swinging a sharp tool overhead doesn't appeal to you, you still can enjoy splitting logs by hand by using a sledgehammer to drive a one-piece wedge into a log.
While one person holds the wedge in place, another taps it into the log, similar to using a hammer to tap a nail into a board. Then, once the wedge is set, one person strikes the wedge with the sledgehammer to split the log apart.
Using a wedge and sledgehammer is a time-intensive two-person job, but it can be a budget-friendly option.
A splitting maul combines the best parts of a splitting axe and a sledgehammer. Although the edge of the blade is thin and sharp, the back of the maul's head is wide and weighty to drive the blade's edge quickly into the wood.
Splitting mauls weigh more and have longer handles than splitting axes, which makes them better suited for larger logs.
Sliding Manual Log Splitters
If you don't want to use a powered log splitter but you would prefer that your log splitting tool do most of the moving, a sliding manual log splitter might be for you.
These types of tools feature a wedge attached to a pole that slides up and down another pole. The kinetic energy drives wood fibers apart.
Don't think they're limited; some models can apply up to 14 tons of force.
Manual Hydraulic Log Splitters
You'll find plenty of electric and gas-powered log splitters that use hydraulic pistons to drive a wedge into a log. If that appeals to you, but you still want to avoid tools that use an external power source, you might be interested in using a manual hydraulic log splitter.
Instead of getting the power to drive the piston from gas or electricity, a hydraulic manual log splitter requires you to pump a set of handles, similar to pumping a car jack. The resulting force pushes the wedge through wood and splits it apart.
When NOT to Use a Manual Log Splitter
As budget-friendly and eco-friendly as manual log splitting tools are, they won't be the best choice in every situation. These are some of the instances when you might be better served by a powered log splitter:
- When you have a lot of wood to split
If you live on a large lot, or if you're trying to sell firewood commercially, you won't be able to get through all the wood you need to split in a day with a manual splitter.
- When the logs you're splitting are large and dense
An oak log that measures 24" in diameter simply might be too hard and thick to split with the force that a manual wood splitter provides.
- When you need to split logs quickly
If you're splitting wood on a cold winter's day, you probably won't want to spend much time on the chore. Powered splitters are fast splitters, and electric splitters can even be used inside (never use a gas log splitter indoors).
- When you're physically unable to use manual tools
Age, injury, and disability can make using manual tools difficult, risky, or impossible. For some people, using manual tools also might put them at risk of developing an injury.
For every situation, you can find a log splitting tool to suit your needs. Whether you choose a manual or a powered log splitter, you still can enjoy getting your firewood ready for nice, long nights by the fire.