How to use log splitters (electric, petrol, and manual)

How to use log splitters (electric, petrol, and manual)

If you’ve ever tried cutting a lot of firewood with an axe, you’ll know that it is much harder than it looks. Even trying to split a small pile of logs for your fire pit can be really tiring if done the old-fashioned way, and that’s why most people favour the use of log splitters these days.

Log splitters come in many different guises, from simple metal wedges to large machines powered by powerful petrol engines. If you haven’t decided which type of log splitter you’d like to buy yet, then perhaps this article that will explain the differences between them, and more importantly- how to use them, might be just the thing to help you make up your mind.

Obviously, there will be slight differences from product to product, even in the same category, but the information here should give you a good idea about what to expect when it comes to operating them, and we’ll soon have you singng-

So, let’s begin by looking at what your options are when it comes to log splitters…

Types of log splitter and what they are best suited to

Here we will take a look in turn at the main types of log splitter and try our best to guide you in the right direction. Log splitters can vary in size, performance, and price massively, so it’s important to have a good idea of the main differences and their capabilities.

Manual log splitters

If you just want something inexpensive to split smaller logs or something that you won’t use that frequently, then a manual log splitter will probably be the right choice for you. As well as models that stand vertically, there are also foot-operated manual log splitters, and log splitting wedges.

Log splitting wedges usually only cost between 10-20 pounds, but they are the most labour intensive and will require you to have a sledgehammer or mallet, drill, and maybe some other basic tools, to make them work efficiently. Log splitting wedges are capable of splitting thicker logs, but it will take quite a long time to do so, and also some skill. However, there are articles and videos out there that show you how to do this.

Standing or hand-operated log splitters work like mini-guillotines. You place the log in the correct spot, then raise the blade up and either let gravity do the rest, or turn a handle to build up the force to split the log. They can be surprisingly effective but are only really meant to be used to split logs that are around 18 inches long and 6 inches thick.

Foot-operated log splitters work a bit like foot pumps. You build up the hydraulic pressure and then that splits the log via the blade/wedge. Again, they can work really well, but only for smaller logs like the standing manual log splitters. this photo gives you a good idea of what tey are best used for-

Electric log splitters

Powered by electric motors, these log splitters are far more powerful than any manual machine, and even the smaller models will probably be enough for most people. Having said that, there are large electric log splitters out there that can produce many tons of pressure, and they can make light work of even large and very thick logs. The products are much more expensive than manual log splitters though and will cost hundreds of pounds.

Petrol log splitters

These machines are used for commercial purposes more than home-based tasks, but if you really need to split a load of logs in a very quick time, or you have very large logs of oak or elm, then you might want to spend the thousands of pounds it costs to own one. For most people though, an electric model is going to be more than enough, and they won’t ever need the power of a petrol log splitter.

Here’s a video comparing how easy it is to split logs with a powered splitter than with an axe, just to give you an idea of how much effort you save-


How to use different types of log splitters

Here we will give you the basic rundown on how to operate manual, electric and petrol log splitters. As you will see, using and maintaining them ranges from very simple to a fair bit more complex, and will also be affected by what accessories you use. Still, like anything, with the right information and a bit of practice, it would all soon become second nature, no matter which type of log splitter you decide to buy.

Splitting wedge

Splitting wedges are really easy to use, but they can’t be used on their own, and you’ll need either a sledgehammer or a strong mallet in order for the wedge to do its job.

All you need to do is place the tip of the triangular wedge in the grain of the log, or drill a small pilot hole to get you started if you can’t get the wedge to sit in right, and then drive the wedge into the log. The shape of the wedge should split the log, but if it doesn’t, you can always try again from the start.

If the wedge gets stuck in the log, you’ll have to find a way to get it out, perhaps by using a chainsaw or axe, or even a crowbar to pry the log open enough.

Manual log splitting machine

Whether you’re using a hand or foot-operated manual log splitter, the basics are pretty much the same.
To start with, place a log into the jack and then tighten it up. It’s important to really screw the jack nice and tight to prevent the log from slipping or moving around, so don’t go easy on this part.

The next thing is to locate the handle or pedal and keep turning or pumping to increase the pressure and eventually split the log that is sat in the jack. It is important to follow the safety advice that we have included lower down in this article when using any type of log splitter, so please make sure that you read that section too.

Once the log is split, you can return the cylinder and wedge back to where t started and then remove the split log and rinse and repeat. Pretty simple, I’m sure agree.

Electric log splitters

First things first, check that there are no loose parts, screws, or damage to important parts of the tool, next check that the machine is set to neutral, and then plug the machine into the mains, generator, or extension lead because you won’t be splitting anything without power.

Place the log in the machine so that it is on top of the splitting wedge. It doesn’t matter if your machine is a vertical splitter or a horizontal one, the same basics apply, but you should always read the instruction annual of any power tool that you use to be aware of any specific features it may have.

With the log in place, you just need to either press the right button, move the handle, or lever, to change the machine from neutral mode to forward. This will drive the tool forward and split the log without any help from you, so keep your hands very clear of the machine.

Once the log has been split, simply pp the machine in reverse by using the appropriate button or lever, then slip it back into neutral once it’s back at the start position, remove the log, and you’re ready to go again.

When you’re done using your electric log splitter, you can simply love it back to the garage or shed, and this is usually much easier than with a petol machine as they are more compact and weigh less. Just check this one out as an example-

Petrol log splitter

Just like a petrol lawnmower, chipper, or strimmer, a petrol log splitter won’t work without fuel, so you’d better make sure to fill her up before you start.

Most petrol tools are run from two-stroke engines because they produce a lot of power relative to their displacement. However, this means that you will have to mix the oil and petrol together to specific ratios for that particular machine before filling the tank. You can find this ratio in the instructions of your splitter.

Most petrol garden tools will require you to prime the engine before trying to start it, and this is usually done by pressing a purge button multiple times to get fuel into the carburettor. Then you open the choke and pull the starter cord to start the engine. Once the engine is running, you operate the machine the same way you would an electric log splitter, as we outlined above.

It is important to know that with any petrol tool, there will be services and maintenance to take care of occasionally, so please don’t buy one if you’re not prepared to take care of it, or at least ay someone else to do it for you.

Just for your information, here’s an example of how to start a petrol splitter-

Safety tips for using log splitters

· Don’t ever use a log splitter at night without very good outdoor lighting, and I would even say that it’s better to avoid it altogether until daylight. These tools are very powerful, and the slightest mistake can cause serious injury, so it’s always best to play on the safe side.

· Once you have set the log in place, keep all your body parts away from the working parts of the machine, and never do stupid things like try to hold the log in place with your hands or feet. You should wear gloves when handling the logs to avoid getting nasty splinters, and also other protective clothing such as safety glasses.

· If you have someone helping you, limit their duties to placing the logs near the machine. The person who is operating the machine should be the one who places the logs in the jack. This is to avoid any unfortunate accidents caused through miscommunication.

· Don’t overload the machine, even if it is a powerful petrol model. Please just stick to splitting a single log at a time, as the tools are usually only designed for that and operating it in a different way than intended is probably going to send you to the hospital.

· Always check that the beam is in place and feels solidly locked in place. If your beam won’t lock properly, get it fixed before operating it again.

About Terry Smith

I’m Terry Smith from, a professional landscape designer, hobbyist gardener, and barbecue fanatic with 20 years experience building and restoring. So as you go through my site you'll watch me document some of the professional garden installs I make as well as the major projects I take on at home. While sharing those experiences and guiding you, I'll be recommending some great tools I use to enable this along the way so you can really buy in confidence. Always feel free to pop me a message:

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