What size log splitter do I need? – A Comprehensive Guide

May 31, 2023

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So you’ve found yourself wondering ‘what size log splitter do I need?.’ I guess that means you intimately know that splitting logs is an arduous, back-breaking, time-consuming, pain-in-the-backside type task.

If you need firewood for heating in particular, you really have no choice but to split wood on a regular basis.

As I can already tell, because you’ve found your way here, you know that if you are splitting logs manually, it takes a lot of time and effort.

A wood (or log) splitter can seriously save both your back, and your time by splitting logs much faster than otherwise would be possible.

However, as you can imagine, there are so many types and sizes to choose from. You’re not alone in wanting to know

What size log splitter do I need?

– you, (today).

Well, you may find the answer in the following buying guide based on the questions you will most probably ask before buying a log splitting machine:

What type of woodpile do you have?


You need to choose your splitting machine based on the hardness of the timber you will be cutting. All woods come in different levels of hardness, and its hardness or softness determines by the amount of tonnage or force needed to split it.

Softer woods like poplar, birch and pine are best used in autumn as they burn faster, and are easily split with less tonnage and pressure. Hardwoods like maple, oak and hickory may burn longer to give more heat in winter seasons, but need more tonnage and pressure to split.

On a scale of 1-5, the softer poplar and pine stand at 1 and 2 respectively while the harder oak and hickory are 4 and 5.

What is the size of the logs?

Choose your log cutting machine based on the width of the widest logs in your woodpile as the more powerful machines can split logs with bigger diameters. If you have to split more oak tree logs with a 24-36” diameter, a 35-ton unit may be what you need. However if you are a homeowner where the largest log you may split is a 6” diameter softwood, then a 4 ton unit is just right for you.

Are your logs green or seasoned?

This is very important in determining the amount of force needed to split the wood. Freshly fallen logs are greener and wetter, and thus need a higher tonnage to split than seasoned wood that’s dried out over time. Sometimes too green wood may need as much as an extra 10 ton force.

What about log splitter tonnage?


Log splitter tonnage is the amount of force the machine exerts on the log to split it. Obviously higher tonnage means more force is exerted onto the log to easily cut through hardwood and bigger logs. Log splitting machines with lower tonnage are generally smaller machines that consume less energy and exert less force.

Log cutting units come in a range of tonnages ranging from 4 to 60 tons. You have to choose based on the type, and diameter of wood you will cut. It’s essential you know how much power you need as it’s a waste of money investing in a splitter that’s bigger than your requirements.

So what size log splitter do I need?

Don’t assume that a big unit is a better selection as big is not always better. In fact, big devices are rather cumbersome and unwieldy to use. Generally, big units are a better choice only if you have to split big logs while smaller electric ones are better for cutting small timbers.

The chosen unit should not only have enough tonnage to split your woodpile but should also be able to quickly split wood. Many units with a high tonnage usually come with a low cycle time when compared to other smaller units. And cycle time is the amount of time needed for the piston to push out and retract while splitting logs.

How much wood do you have to split?

If you want to buy your machine based on the amount of wood you have to split, check the machine’s automatic ram return time. This feature ensures your wood is quickly cut, a necessary feature if you have lots of wood to cut. Remember, the less time that is spent on cutting woods, the more time you get to spend enjoying your fire!

What is log splitter cycle time?

This is the amount of time the splitting machine needs to split logs. If speed’s your priority, fast log splitters are a better choice, instead of machines with a long cycle time. On the contrary, you only end up tired trying to keep up with machines with too fast cycle times. Generally a machine with a 15-16 second cycle time is a reasonable choice.

What is the machines motor power and quality?


Find out the splitting machine’s motor capacity to ensure it has sufficient horse power to cut your wood. Also find out its hydraulic capacity and level of construction and engineering as they all determine how well the machine can handle your wood splitting tasks.

Are replacement parts easily available?

This is important as it’s better to buy a splitting machine with manufacturers you can rely on to quickly provide you with replacement parts. This is to avoid wasting time waiting for new parts to reach you in the middle of your wood cutting project.

What is the machine’s average log length?

Choose your splitter based on the average length of the logs you will be splitting. The machine is useless if it can’t split the long wood logs of your woodpile. Of course, you can always chop the logs short, but this is a waste of your time and efforts. And as it’s easier splitting longer logs vertically, it’s better buying the larger gas log splitters to split your wood both in a horizontal and vertical positions.

Are all the logs in one place or do you need a portable machine?

If you have logs to split in different places, you may need a splitter with wheels or at least a ball hitch for its easy transportation.

Do upgrades and design enhancements cost extra?

If you want features like log trays, metal fenders and dual-loading capacity in your machine, find out if they are included in its cost, or come at an extra cost.

How long is the splitters warranty?

You can tell how confident the manufacturer is with their product based on the warranty they offer where 2-year residential warranties are standard.

Do you have electrical power available?

Choose your device based on your power source as you can use a clean electric splitter if there’s an electrical outlet nearby to plug it into. If there’s no power source near the woodpile, then it’s better to choose a cordless gas-powered one.

Homelite 5-ton Electric Log Splitter Review - 25 in Oak Log

The answers to all these questions should give you a good idea about what size log splitter do I need. You just have to collect all your data, and compare it with the features of different log splitting machines to make your final decision.

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