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10 Best Manual Log Splitters: Which Is Right For You?

Processing firewood makes for a hard day’s work. While there are lots of affordable and easy-to-use mechanized wood splitters on the market, a manual log splitter is a great way to efficiently and safely streamline your workload.

These style devices are wonderful for folks who heat their homes with wood but don’t necessarily have the need for an industrial strength/speed splitter. That being said, there are a few innovative man-powered options listed below that offer exceptional splitting force in order to separate BIG rounds without the use of power, so don’t necessarily rule a manual splitter out if you have a heavy-duty job to complete.

We’ve tracked down the best manual log splitters for dealing with large and in charge rounds all the way to halving smaller pieces of kindling, so whatever your processing needs are, there’s something here for you!

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Hydraulic Log Splitters

If you're seeking a truly powerhouse device for separating BIG rounds that otherwise require a ton of effort and time to split the old fashioned way, consider the benefits of a manual hydraulic option.

These innovative tools require very little strength to operate, and can process some impressively massive logs when compared to the vast majority of other manual methods. If you're physically impaired, or struggle to swing an axe or hammer, this is probably the best option for you.

Some of these (surprisingly affordable) options even offer greater splitting force than mechanized options, so if you have some heavy duty work to complete, definitely consider one of our top picks above.

Kindling Splitters

If you purchase a load of cordwood each season for burning at home and simply need to halve or quarter your logs in order to make them the ideal size for your woodstove or hearth, a kindling splitter is likely the tool for you.

This style of splitter does not offer the heavy-duty splitting force of mechanized options but is instead intended to quickly and efficiently process smaller-sized logs with far greater safety than wielding an axe.

If you find yourself trying to balance awkwardly shaped cordwood on top of your splitting stump and then struggling to connect with a small diameter target while swinging your axe, this style of splitter will be a massive game-changer for you. 

The above listed options that feature a safety-ring or recessed blade under the frame are furthermore MUCH safer than swinging an axe or maul because your hands are never anywhere near a blade or moving object. 

These splitters are also built quite compact and lightweight despite their robust construction, so they are awesome portable tools for campouts, roadtrips, beach bonfires, and more! 

In summary, if you want to rapidly and safely process regular cordwood, this is likely the style splitter you're seeking.

Don't forget to get yourself a well-built sledgehammer for knocking logs through these types of devices, a few of our recommended favorites include:

Electric Log Splitters

If you really want to lighten your workload and take the time and effort out of processing your woodpile, consider the benefits of an electric-powered splitter.

Unlike gas-powered splitters that are loud to operate and require engine maintenance, they are great for residential use, and exceptionally easy to use. There is no exhaust and therefore carbon monoxide risk, so you can even utilize an electric option inside your garage or workshop.

Best of all, many electric-powered options are quite affordable, so you don't necessarily have to break the bank in order to set yourself up with a reliable machine.

Learn more about this style machine and why one might be right for you within our top list of the best electric log splitters.

Gas Log Splitters

If you're looking for a tool to split truly tremendous rounds that would otherwise demand a huge amount of strategy and effort to process with manpower, you'll want to consider a gas-powered machine.

Internal combustion engines designed for this purpose are noisy and put off exhaust, so you'll have to operate this style of machine out in the open air. The engine will also require some periodic maintenance, unlike electric splitters that you simply plug in and operate.

Gas splitters are furthermore quite heavy and cumbersome, so chances are you'll have to trailer it around or utilize a large truck bed in order to move it.

While there are several downfalls to gas-powered options, the splitting force they provide is not even close to matched by other methods. You can push through logs with diameters upwards of 25-inches with certain gas models, so those who are processing big beefy trees will find a friend here.

If you think you need the maximum amount of power for making quick work of BIG logs, a few of our top recommended picks include:

Splitting Mauls

A splitting maul is an underrated tool for processing cordwood that employs a duller edge and wider wedge than splitting axes to push the log apart, rather than slice it.

Although wielding a heavy maul requires much more effort than the other manual and mechanical splitting methods listed here, sometimes stubborn, knotty logs are simply best split by hand. Regardless of your preferred wood-processing style, a maul is a great tool to own as a backup, and to finish the jobs your other manual methods might fall short on. 

You can also of course use the backside of a heavy maul head like a sledgehammer in tandem with kindling splitters, further boosting their versatility. We recommend pairing a manual kindling splitter with a maul for this reason - you can use it to knock logs through your device, and also to split logs by hand that are either too large or too tough.

A few of our favorites worth checking out include:

Seasoned Wood vs. Green Wood

Don't forget that newly harvested wood is not ready to be split until it dries out, or cures enough to cooperate. Thoroughly dried logs will split MUCH more willingly than logs that were recently harvested, so don't expect most manual splitters to power through fresh rounds. The same goes for mechanized log splitters as well - if the wood is green, then it's going to pose a challenge.

According to the experts at BILT HARD, "Green logs are freshly cut logs. They still contain much of the moisture that they held while they were part of a living tree. Freshly fallen wood is very moist and difficult to cut, so it takes more tonnage to split through it effectively. Professionals recommend waiting until your wood is cured to split it."

How long should wood cure/dry before it's ready to split?

Most tree species when properly stacked/stored take around a season to dry - but this very much depends on the type of wood and environmental conditions. Typically, wood that is felled in the early spring will be effectively dried and ready to split and burn by the fall, but you'll have to wait and see how your woodpile develops over the year to decide on an ideal timeline for processing and burning.

In summary, stack your wood in the dryest place possible (inside or out) so it has some airflow between logs, and keep an eye on it! Logs will become significantly lighter in weight as they dry, and much more willing to separate when put under pressure or struck with an axe, so telling the difference between ready and not ready is easy.