When An Axe Is Not Enough

by Steve Smyser

Log splitters have been on the market for years, but until recently they've been a rath<:r specialized tool used exclusively by professionals. When the energy crunch pushed oil prices up and wood stove sales spiraled, many homeowners started looking seriously at commercial splitters. Certainly nobody is about to predict the demise of the axe, sledge, and wedge. Many folks still cut their entire year's supply of fuel wood by hand, enjoy it immensely, and have no interest whatsoever in mechanical alternatives. The commercial splitter has yet to be invented that can simulate the pure joy of chopping wood on a crisp October afternoon tnd stacking it away in warm anticipation of winter's worst.

On the other hand, sales figures and a proliferation of new manufacturers in the field bear witness to the steadily increasing number of people who heat with wood and prefer to cut it themselves, but who lack the time or inclination to do it all by hand, For this gToup, which often includes neighbors making a joint purchase, or individuals interested in starting a part-time cordwood business, the mechanical splitters have been a real boon. It takes most of us the better part of a day to cut, split, and stack a cord of poplar or apple with a chain saw and wedge. With a power splitter, the job takes about half that time.

Wood-splitting devices being sold today are principally of either the hydraulic wedge type or the screw type. The latter variety comes as either a self-powered unit or a bolt-on type that attaches to a tractor PT0 shaft or to the rear wheels of a car or truck.

woom.or and orc hard management

Splitting Stringy Wood
The larger hydraulic units tike this go through a cord of ivood on A our with ease. Their heavy-duty rams (10 tons of splitting force) make them the choice for frequent splitting of exceptionally dense, stringy wood.

The hydraulic wedge-type splitter used by most professionals is basically a hydraulic cylinder forcing a log through a splitting wedge. The better models generate about ten tons of splitting force from heavy-duty cylinders and gas engines ranging from four to eight horsepower. Most manufacturers offer two sixes of bed (the I-beam or square tubing on which the log rests), one for logs up to 19 inches and another for logs to 26 inches. Cycle times (the time required for the ram to travel to the wedge and return) for various models range from 12 to 30 seconds, a difference that would be important if you are in the cordwood business. Most hydraulic splitters can get through a cord of wood in an hour with no trouble.

As logs are split, they will shift around a bit to follow the grain of the wood. For this reason, the forward speed of the hydraulic ram should be slow enough to give the operator time to avoid a mishap. Some makers offer two-stage hydraulic pumps with this in mind: the two-stage pump provides fast speed with low force for normal operation, then shifts automatically to low speed/high force when additional pressure is needed to split tough or gnarled Jogs.

The cost of these hydraulic units ranges from §600 for most of the popular four and five horsepower models up to $1,200 and more for some of the more sophisticated professional versions.

A real breakthrough in the design of commercial wood splitters occurred three years ago with the debut of the auger screw-type splitter. Designed largely in response to the burgeoning farm and home market, the screw-type splitters are made to penetrate logs up to 28 inches in diameter and literally screw them apart. In addition to portable, self-powered units, the screw-type splitters come in models that bolt onto auto and truck wheels and tractor PTO shafts. The bolt-on models cost less than the self-powered splitters ($200 as contrasted will $400 and up), but require an adapter if you switch to a vehicle with different size lug holes on the wheels.

While quite rugged and satisfactory for almost all home-scale splitting requirements, these eight-and nine-horsepower units must take a back seat to the more powerful hydraulic models when it comes to continual cutting of dense, stringy woods like locust, elm, and willow.

To use the bolt-on type of screw splitter, you press the log into the turning screw, making sure each log is offset so that its lower end butts against the ground and prevents the log from spinning. The threads simply pull the log onto the widening screw and split it open, usually in about 10 to

Screw Woods Spliter
12 seconds, A safety switch is attached to the engine, allowing the splitter to be turned off from the work

Along with the advantage of operating independently of problem-prone small engines and hydraulic system», the bolt-on screw permits the operator to split large, heavy logs without lifting them of! the ground. The self-powered screw units, on the other hand, do not require jacking up your car or truck every time you need to do some splitting.

How do you determine which type is right for you? It depends largely on what kind of wood you work with most often. If you're splitting nonstringy wood like ash, beech, maple, birch, apple, or any wood that splits cleanly with a wedge or an axe, you should probably lean toward the screw-type splitters, which are generally faster and less expensive than the hydraulic units. If you're splitting heavy, dense, and stringy wood like black gum, elm, locust, yellow birch, hackberry, oak or any wood that does not split cleanly with a wedge—any wood that requires an axe to cleave off stubborn strings or strands that prevent a clean spit—then you need a hydraulic unit. If you try to split dense, stringy wood on a screw-type splitter, you will spend as much time trying to pull the wood on the screw as you spend on splitting.

What size machine should you buy? Again, it depends on your objective. If you're splitting logs 12 inches wide by 16 inches long, there's no reascn to buy a te»ton hydraulic ram with a 24-inch bed.

Conversely, don't count on a small screw-type iinit to routinely split oak logs three feet long by 30 inches .¡cross.

In general, if you're splitting logs under 19 inches in length or 20 inches in width, you can buy what most manufacturers tall their homeowner models and be fully confident that the machine will do your work. You can, on occasion, split larger logs if you follow the instructions that come with the uutchme; but if you're going to split larger logs on a tegular basis, you should look at professional models, Buying a homeowner model to split logs 30 inches long by 30 inches wide is like buying a halfton pickup to deliver ten tons of coal every day—you're going to destroy the machine by forcing it to do more than it was designed for.

Point Hitch Power King 1617

Mounted on a three-point hitch, this hydraulic attachment for the Power King Tractor splits logs up to 26 inches in a 15-second cycle.

Engineering Products Co.

Mounted on a three-point hitch, this hydraulic attachment for the Power King Tractor splits logs up to 26 inches in a 15-second cycle.

Engineering Products Co.

An increasing interest in woodlot harvesting has encouraged manufacturers to develop tractor-run equipment. The Wheel Horse D-Series demonstrates both log splitter and saw.

An increasing interest in woodlot harvesting has encouraged manufacturers to develop tractor-run equipment. The Wheel Horse D-Series demonstrates both log splitter and saw.

Wheel Horse Sereis

How much should you pay for a splitter/ Don't be fooled by price—the least expensive machine you can buy is the unit that fits the requirements of your work. Buy a machine that's smaller than you need, and you're going to spend your savings in repairs. Buying a unit that's larger than you need is wasteful in that you're spending more than you have to in order to get the job done.

When shopping, beware (he dealer who stocks one or two models and tells you that his machines wil! do anything. How does he know? Has he ever split wood? If you're going to buy a splitter, find a dealer who has paid his dues, someone who has split and burned a lot of wood, and who knows the difference between a sledgehammer and a splitting maul.

There is no one machine that will do everything. The inexperienced dealer or manufacturer may try to persuade you that his equipment will handle whatever you're splitting. A good dealer will demonstrate his product thoroughly, and perhaps even let you use it for a week. Who knows, you may discover you prefer swinging that axe after all!

SOURCES OF COMMERCIAL WOOD SPLITTERS

Hydraulic Wedge Types

Mighty Mac

This unit comes in 5 and 7 h.p. models.

Amerind-MacKissic, Inc. Box HI

Parkerford, PA 19547

Hydra-Splitter

Available in a 4 h.p. unit, the Model 26 TM hooks to tractor hydraulics.

Didier Mfg. Co.

Box 163,8630 Industrial Dr.

Franksville, WI 55126

Lickity Splitter

This model is available from: Piqua Engineering, Inc. Box 605

piqua, oh mm

Futura Enterprises West Bend, WI 53095

Hum Sales ft Service Toledo, OH 43601

Lindig Splitters

These splitters come in a 3 h.p. compact size, and 5 h.p. two-stage model; both have a tractor-mount option,

Lindig Splitters 1875 W. County Rd. St. Paul, MN 55112

Power King Tractors

This firm markets tractor-mounted hydraulic splitters.

Engineering Products Co. 1525 E. Ellis St. Waukesha, WI 53186

Famum Log Splitter Farnum Companies, Inc. Box 12068 Omaha, NE 68112

Futura

Futura Master Corp. 5069 Highway 45 South West Bend, WI 53095

Woodsman

Jackson, WI 53037

Household Wood-Splitter Box 143

Jefferson ville, VT 05464

Screw Types

Stickler

This splitter can be wheel-mounted or run from a tractor PTO.

Taos Equipment Manufacturers

Box 1565

Taos, NM 87571

Bark Buster

This is a self-powered screw-type splitter.

FW ami Associates, Inc. 1855 Airport Rd. Mansfield, OH -HW3

Quick Split

This self-powered splitter comes in 5 and 8 h.p. models.

Trans America Power Equipment, Inc. 8308 Washington St. Chagrin Falls, OH 44022

Derby Splitter

This self-powered portable splitter is available as an 8 h.p. model or a tractor PTO-driven unit.

Derby Splitter Bo x 21

Rumson, N j 07760

The Unicorn

This is a wheel-mounted or bolt-on splitter.

Thackery Co. Columbus. OH 4S216

Nor tech Splitter

This company offers a self-powered 8 h.p. splitter.

Nor tech Corp. Midland Park, NJ 07432

Knotty Wood Splitter

This unit is driven by a tractor PTO.

Knotty Wood Splitter Co. Route 66

Hebron, CT 06248

Other Splitters

Pokrandt Splitter

This is a tractor-mounted combination cordwood saw and wood splitter

Pokrandt's tractor-mounted cordwood jaw and wood )plitler. Units may be purchased and mounted separately, like the hydraulic wedge splitter. Richard Pokrandt Manufacturing

Cordwood Saw Pto

MATCHING THE SPUTTER WITH THE WOOD

Clean and Easyto-Split Woods

Hemlock, ash, beech, poplar, hickory, hornbeam, maple, cherry, apple, aspen, while birch, spruce, basswood, oak.

For logs up to 19 inches long by 20 inches wide, use a homeowner screw type splitter.

On logs 19 to 36 inches long by 20 to 30 inches wide, use professional hydraulic or professional screw-type unit with a minimum of 8 h.p.

Stringy, Hard-to-Split Woods

Elm, black gum, hackberry, eucalyptus, pinyon, locust, willow, yellow birch.

On logs up to 19 inches long by 18 inches wide, use a homeowner hydraulic splitter. (Screw-type units are often inadequate for these woods).

On logs 19 to 36 inches long by 18 to 30 inches wide, use a professional hydraulic splitter. (Screw-type units not recommended for these woods).

Richard Pokrandt Manufacturing RD. 3, Box 182 Tamaqua, PA 18252

Jiffy Woodsplitter

This is an upright, guided-wedge-type splitter.

C Sc D Distributors, Inc.

Old Saybrook, CT 06475

Thrust Log Splitter

This is a nonhydraulic horizontal wedge.

Thrust Mfg., Inc. 6901S. Yosemite Englewood, CO 80110

Knotty Wood

They offer a tractor-driven cordwood saw.

Knotty Wood Splitter Co. Route 66

Hebron, CT 06248

Woodland Splitters P.O. Box 976 Oak Brook, IL 60521

Hand-Operated Hydraulic Splitter

Woodland Splitters

Oak Brook, IL 60521

Tractor-Mounted Log Splitter

SI Mac Design 9 Vista Verde

Portola Valley, CA 94025

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