What Is A Wood Splitter?

Splitting wood by hand is an arduous and unnecessary process. And while axes and saws have their place, jobs that require a lot of wood to be split can become overwhelming.

Fortunately, tools like wood splitter make this necessary task much simpler.

So, what is a wood splitter? Wood splitters are machines used for splitting different types of wood, whether softwood or hardwood. It makes use of a hydraulic or an electric piston rod.

Wood splitters are often rated by the amount of force they can generate. This means the greater the amount of force it can generate, the larger the wood it can split.

Before getting a wood splitter, you have to understand how it operates.

We’re going to be discussing how wood splitters operate, the difference between powered and manual wood splitters, what they’re made of, and, most importantly, how to safe while using one.

Pile of split wood with a man operating a wood splitter in the background

How Does a Wood Splitter Operate?

When thinking about using one of the best wood splitters, you have to know how it operates.

This information gives you an idea of the mechanisms behind these machines and insight on how to operate them.

There two main types of wood splitters: the powered and the manual wood splitters. Powered wood splitters can be further classified into horizontal and vertical wood splitters.

These two types make use of different components, and they will be discussed further below.

Powered Wood Splitters

If you’re looking for efficiency, powered wood splitters are the ones for you. They make use of a hydraulic or an electrical piston rod, and they are distinguished by the amount of force they generate.

These devices, whichever is being used, push the log of wood towards the blade or vice versa, causing the wood to split.

It’s basically an ax without the swinging. You don’t have to do anything since the log automatically slides through the blade. It saves time and energy and allows you to split as much wood as possible in a short time.

Powered wood splitters have different energy sources. They could be powered by an electric motor, a gas engine, or they could be tractor powered. 

The gas-powered wood splitters are most commonly used since they work independently of a power source. The electric ones are, however, more environment-friendly.

Powered wood splitters are divided into horizontal and vertical wood splitters.

Horizontal wood splitters are the most commonly used by homeowners because they are small and portable.

Due to their size, they can only process small logs of wood. It’s a similar situation for those that make their own log splitters.

Vertical wood splitters, on the other hand, can take any size of wood thrown at them. They are larger and are more expensive than horizontal ones. Professional tree removers mostly use them.

Manual Wood Splitters

If you’re the type that loves doing things the not so easy way and working up a sweat to show you’ve been productive, a manual wood splitter is your perfect match. The mechanisms deployed in manual wood splitters vary depending on the type you want to get.

For example, the manual hydraulic wood splitter utilizes hydraulics to cut the wood; it’s just powered manually. All you have to do is move the handles in a back and forth motion. This motion will cause the piston to push the wood through a blade. 

It’s just like the electrical wood splitter, but you’re the one doing all the work.

What is a Wood Splitter Made of?

A wood splitter consists of different components that make it tick. Before walking into a store to spend a bunch of money, you have to know what these tools are made of.

Most wood splitters use a hydraulic system. This usage means that wood splitters have all the typical features of a hydraulic machine.

Whatever the power source, be it an electric motor, gas engine, or tractor powered, the components remain the same.

The main hydraulic components of a log splitter are as follows:

  • Hydraulic fluid tank
  • Hydraulic cylinder
  • Hydraulic pump
  • Hydraulic control valve
  • Power source
  • Splitting blade

There are three main components you should look out for when looking to buy this machine: the hydraulic cylinder, hydraulic pump, and the power source.

These components determine the amount of force your wood splitter generates. 

1. Hydraulic Fluid Tank

This part of the wood splitter holds all the hydraulic oil. While you’re operating the wood splitter, it feeds the hydraulic pump with the oil, creating the desired amount of pressure. A filter is usually installed to keep the oil clean.

2. Hydraulic Cylinder

The hydraulic cylinder is the chief support of any hydraulic wood splitter.

The cylinder pushes the wood into the splitting head, causing the wood to split. When operating the wood splitter, you have to make sure the amount of power the hydraulic cylinder generates is not below that of the hydraulic pump.

The cylinder may get damaged if that happens.

3. Hydraulic Pump

It generates a flow of high-pressure oil, which runs into the valve. A two-stage pump is commonly used since it saves time.

You will have to make sure the power the hydraulic pump generates matches that of the hydraulic cylinder so you can have the desired effect.

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4. Hydraulic Control Valve

Consists of a lever that allows you to operate the wood splitter. It should be placed where you can easily access it and safely operate it.

5. Power Source

The power source gives the wood splitter the power it needs to do its work. It could be run by electricity, a gas engine, or tractor powered, as previously stated.

The basic principles remain the same no matter which power source is being applied.

6. Splitting Blade

There are three different types of splitting blades and are distinguished by the number of pieces you would like your wood to be split into. They are the two-way splitting wedge, four-way splitting wedge, and six-way splitting wedge. 

How to Safely Use a Wood Splitter

When it comes to machines like wood splitters, safety measures must be taken so you can avoid nasty injuries.

You need to know the dangers of what you want to buy when it’s not handled properly.

To emphasize how dangerous these machines are, one hospital recorded a total of 131 patients who suffered from hand injuries while using wood splitters in a six-year period.

Safety Tips

  • First things first, make sure you read the owner’s manual before you start operating the machine. Follow the instructions to the letter.
  • Wear protective clothing like work gloves, metal padded work shoes, safety glasses, and ear protection. 
  • The only person operating the log splitter should be you. 21% of patients injured with wedge splitters stated that having someone operating the machine with them was a cause of the accident. Also, please keep children away from the machine!
  • When you’re setting the log on the machine, keep your hands away from the ends. Also, while the wood splitter is on, keep your hands away from the log.
  • Pay attention to the wood and the wood splitter at all times. Make sure there are zero distractions around you.
  • If you ever feel the need to reset the log of wood into a proper position, turn off the wood splitter. That way, you will avoid any sudden accidents.
  • Just like using other potentially dangerous equipment, do not use the wood splitter when you’re intoxicated.

What Projects are Wood Splitters Used for?

Wood splitters can be used for various projects; it all depends on what exactly you want to use them for. 

If you’re looking for a wood splitter to split wood for the fireplace or a wood-burning stove, you should get the domestic electrical or gas engine wood splitter.

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Electric wood splitters are commonly used for indoor domestic use since there is a need for you to connect it to a power outlet. 

The gas engine wood splitter cannot be used indoors because of the dangerous gasses they emit. It is best used for domestic outdoor projects.

The tractor powered wood splitters are mainly used for farm projects and commercial forest and firewood projects.

You should only look to buy these if you own a farm or partake in any commercial activities that involve splitting wood.

You should always look at the tonnage force a wood splitter generates when purchasing, to see if it meets your needs. 

Most wood splitters are meant for domestic use.

Domestic models usually have a tonnage force of about 10 tons and are used by homeowners to do simple domestic work like splitting wood for the fireplace or wood-burning stove.

Those who are technically and mechanically inclined can build their own log splitter, but this should be done by those with a working knowledge of log splitters.

Professional models may exert a force of 30 tons or more. The professional models are used for professional forest clearing or waste disposal projects. 


Wood splitters are convenient machines when you’re looking to cut wood. They get the job done easier, faster, and with a lot more efficiency than your axe or saw.

They come in different shapes and sizes, depending on the job you need them for. 

Always remember to take proper safety measures when operating these machines as they can be very dangerous and cause very nasty injuries and we don’t want that, now do we? I thought so.