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A Better Chopping Block | Winter 2008 Out Here Magazine

A log splitter is a whole lot easier on the back than using an ax. It’s also faster and more convenient.

Log splitters make it easier to be self-reliant

By David Frey
Photograph courtesy of Tractor Supply Co.

Rising fuel costs have more and more people burning a different kind of energy these days. They're working up a sweat as they split their own wood to keep their woodstove or fireplace burning through the winter. Wood can be a convenient, inexpensive way to keep warm. And of course, nothing says winter like a cozy fire in the hearth. Splitting your own wood, on the other hand, is a tough chore, and it can mean hours of chopping to keep a good supply of firewood stacked up for the winter.

A log splitter makes the task a lot easier and more efficient, and if it's not quite as good at working out your frustrations on a woodpile, it's a whole lot easier on the back.

"Over the years, we've seen a pretty steady increase in log splitter sales," says Steve Rolin, vice president of marketing for Special Products Co., in Golden, Colo., makers of the Speeco log splitters.

The boom is due thanks in part to high fuel costs that have many people looking for an alternative to gas and heating oil to heat their homes, Rolin says. But it's also due to more and more people seeking out homes in the country, even if their jobs are still in the city.

"They're still working a 9-to-5 job," he says. "They want the outdoor lifestyle, but they also want to do it a little more efficiently, if they can."

Log splitters differ in power and design, but the basics are pretty much the same. Place the log on the channel, usually horizontally. The engine drives a wedge into the log, splitting it in two. Put the pieces back on one by one, split them again, and they're quartered. Safety features such as log cradles hold the wood, so you can keep your hands well clear of the machine and not have to worry about the logs tumbling free.

Options like a log catcher can be handy, too. It mounts on the side of the beam and holds the split log when it's ready for quartering. That makes it easier to load again, saving time and effort — a big deal when you have a lot of wood to split.

When it comes to engine size, Rolin says, the choice comes down to how much wood you plan to split. The bigger the job, the bigger the engine. There are other considerations, though. Some models may have features that others don't. Some bigger engines run more quietly than smaller ones. He recommends buyers look at the features they want and buy the model that makes the most sense for them.

All log splitters have one thing in common, though. They take the tough job of log splitting and make it a little bit easier as more and more people look for alternative ways to heat their homes, not to mention alternatives to the city lifestyle.

"People are becoming more self-reliant," Rolin says. "They're realizing because of natural disasters and high fuel costs, they need alternative ways so they're not so dependent on gas and oil to heat their homes."

David Frey writes in Carbondale, CO.