Firewood & Log Splitter Guide

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If you depend on firewood for heating, there are a few things you should know before selecting a log splitter. Should you already be an expert on different firewood and wood-fired stoves, you can jump straight to  log splitter specifics  below, but if you would like to learn how to get the most out of your stove, keep reading...
Choosing firewood
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HOW TO OPTIMISE YOUR HEATING
THE LIFE OF A FIRE
PERFECT FIREWOOD
LOG SPLITTER SPECIFICS
CHOOSING YOUR LOG SPLITTER
ABOUT EDISONS

 
HOW TO OPTIMISE YOUR HEATING
Fire depends on three elements: fuel, heat and oxygen. And whilst it’s true that you can make any kind of wood (fuel) burn by adding enough heat and oxygen, there’s an art to creating a long-lasting fire that maximises heating efficiency and minimises pollution, keeping your stove glass door clear, the flue and chimney unclogged and the air nice and fresh. This has implications for what wood you will want to burn and what log splitter you will require to prepare it. Read on to learn all you need to make an educated choice.
 
THE LIFE OF A FIRE
To understand what constitutes good heating, it helps to know that firewood goes through three phases as it burns:
 
  1. Boiling
    Water vaporises at +100°C and is the first to leave the building when a fire is started. As it does so, it consumes a lot of energy. The wetter the wood, the more heat is needed to set it on fire, and even when you manage to do so, the heating efficiency will be significantly decreased as a lot of the energy will be used to vaporise the high water content. Wet firewood equals wasted firewood; you’ll want your firewood to be seasoned.
     
  2. Smoking
    When the temperature is sufficiently high, the wood itself will start to decompose and vaporise into a smoke cloud of combustible gases. This smoke represents much of the wood’s total energy, so you should always keep the temperature high enough to burn it; a golden rule is to never let a fire smoulder until you’re ready to put it out. If the smoke doesn’t burn in the firebox, this valuable fuel will either condense and gradually clog the flue and chimney with creosote deposits or be expelled and pollute the outdoor air.

    You can check that the fire is burning properly by looking at the glass door of your stove: if it is clear, all is well; if it quickly develops dark stains, the temperature is too low. The flame itself is another indicator: a complex flame that whirls around above the wood shows that the gases are being burnt as they should. Lastly, the exhaust from the chimney should be clear in warm weather and white with steam in cold weather; plumes of blue or grey smoke are a telltale sign of poor combustion.
     
  3. Coaling 
    With water and most of the gases gone, all that is left of the wood is charcoal, which consists of nearly 100% carbon. Charcoal is a good fuel that burns easily, but it also creates carbon monoxide – a lethal pollutant that you cannot smell. This is why you should never use BBQ coals in your fireplace and why it’s vital to ensure that the flue system remains clear and functioning. As an added safety measure, you should also install a quality CO detector together with your standard smoke detector.
     
Of course, these three phases usually occur at the same time; wood gases can burn and the edges of a piece of wood can have turned into glowing coal while the water in the inner parts is still boiling.
 
PERFECT FIREWOOD
Bearing the above in mind, when starting a fire, you should increase the temperature in the firebox quickly, making water boil off rapidly and wood gases burn with a bright flame before entering the flue system and chimney. The way to do this is to use softwood kindling, which ignites easily and burns quickly, to set alight medium-sized pieces of hardwood, which are more difficult to ignite but burn slower.
 
Once the fire is raging, you feed it with large pieces of hardwood. This will keep the fire going for a long time without any need for further tending, generating a much higher heat output per volume unit than if you were to use softwood. A piece of sugar gum will for instance produce more than twice as much heat as an equally large piece of radiata pine. If you use hardwood as your main fuel, you can consequently halve the amount of required cutting, splitting and tending to the fire. Unsurprisingly, hardwood is however relatively difficult to split, asking for a more powerful log splitter – as does large-diameter and freshly felled, unseasoned (wet) wood.
 
In summary: now that you know that hardwood is the optimal fuel, you can balance this against the fact that the harder, larger and wetter the wood, the more powerful a log splitter you will need. Have a think about what kind of wood you’ll want to use and what condition it will be in, and then use the below table to decide what capacity splitter you should buy. 
 
Species Heat per volume unit (%) Hardness (kg per cubic metre) Splitting Ignitability Coaling Availability
 Grey Box 100 1121 Difficult Poor Excellent Good
 Red Ironbark 97 1005 Difficult Poor Excellent Good
 Yellow Box 91 1041 Difficult Poor Excellent Good
 Red Box 91 1073 Difficult Poor Excellent Good
Yellow Gum 90 993 Difficult Poor Excellent Good
River Red Gum 80 897 Difficult Poor Excellent Good
 Mountain Ash 53 673 Excellent Excellent Fair Good
White Cypress Pine 60 673 Good Excellent Poor Limited
Radiata Pine 45 512 Fair Excellent Poor Good
 
(Please note that, since knotting, wetness and overall grain structure can vary significantly between logs of the same kind of wood, this table is for general guidance only. It does not provide definitive advice. Also note that some species are rare in certain areas; check with your authorities before harvesting.)
 
Now that you have an idea of how much power you need, it’s time to consider the other qualities of the log splitter.
 
 
LOG SPLITTER SPECIFICS
 
Electric or combustion 
Petrol and diesel log splitters are generally more powerful than electric models, and since they don’t require to be plugged in, you can use them far out in the field. However, since they emit toxic fumes, you must not use them indoors. There, an electric model is your only option. But don’t despair if you were planning to split tough hardwood in the shed. Today, there are electric splitters that give you the power previously only offered by petrol and diesel models – and they are a lot quieter than combustion engines, enabling you to work indoors without waking up the rest of the family.
 
Horizontal or vertical
petrol log splitterKeeping in mind that hardwood is a lot denser – and therefore heavier – than softwood, if you will be splitting logs that are relatively easy to lift, you can use a horizontal log splitter. This is also a good option if you will be working on an incline, where logs will not stay upright for vertical splitters. If you’ll be splitting very large logs, however, you will probably have to use a splitter model that can be operated vertically. With a vertical ram, the log stays on the ground; you simply stand it up on the base plate and split it. Of course, in addition to fixed-plane models, there are splitters that can be operated vertically as well as horizontally, giving you the best of both worlds.
 
Log size
Aside from their capacity to split wood of varying degrees of hardness, splitters are built do deal with a certain range of log lengths and diameters. Simply make sure that the splitter of your choice can handle the log sizes that you will be feeding it.
 
Hydraulic system
15 tonne petrol log splitterLog splitters use a hydraulic pump to push logs into a wedge, splitting them through the use of force rather than by using impact and speed like when you swing an axe. We’re talking about very high pressures that put high demands on all components in the hydraulic system. Oil leaks are a known problem in many splitter models, sometimes causing irreparable damage to the motor. Make sure that you choose a model that features heavy-duty hydraulics, and remember that a quality oil filtration system will decrease the frequency of required maintenance.
 
Split cycle time
12 tonne electric log splitterThe split cycle time is the time it takes for the ram to travel to the log; split it; and return to its original position. So, if you will be splitting a lot of wood, choose a model with a short split cycle. And consider using an accessory four-way wedge to produce kindling and medium-sized pieces with every pass instead of having to split each log three times. 
 
Mobility
7 tonne electric log splitter Whether you’re only going to roll the splitter a short distance or tow it for miles on the open road, make sure that it can be moved effortlessly. Quality splitters feature wheels and handles appropriate to the kind of work they are built for. Of course, if you do need a towable splitter, also ensure that it adheres to Australian coupling and connection standards and will pass a roadworthy inspection.
 
Safety
Log splitters are safe tools, if used correctly. Nevertheless, you should only purchase splitters that offer Australian standard dual redundancy, meaning that both of your hands have to be kept away from the wedge in order for the ram to move. (Also avoid wearing any flappy clothing or loosely hanging objects when working with a splitter, and use goggles and gloves to protect yourself against splinters.)
 
50 tonne diesel log splitterWorking height
The height of lightweight splitters is not of major importance as they can be placed on any table that suits your very needs, but heavier splitters should offer worktables at an ergonomic height. You may also wish to consider splitters that feature removable or adjustable worktables. Either way, make sure that your chosen model offers a worktable large enough to deal with the logs that you will be splitting.
 
Durability
Log splitters should be able to take a beating. To last over time, they should feature a solid steel frame and a reinforced splitting head.


CHOOSING YOUR LOG SPLITTER
Armed with this knowledge, you should now be able to make a wise choice when purchasing a log splitter. The very last question you might want to ask yourself before settling for a particular model, is just how much you will be using it. Again as a general guide only: the average family of four uses between six and ten tonnes of firewood annually to heat an insulated house. With an uninsulated house, that figure is up to 20 tonnes. So, do the maths for your particular situation; make the call; and start looking forward to a future where you can enjoy the warmth of a good fire without having to first swing an axe for hours.

Here are the quality range of log splitters Edisons provide to cover all your wood splitting needs:
 

7 tonne electric log splitter
Baumr-AG 7-tonne electric 

  • Good for hardwoods up to 160mm (W) x 250 (L)
  • Quiet
  • Lightweight enough to be put on table
 


7 tonne electric log splitter
Baumr-AG 7-tonne electric 'Black Series'
  • Good for hardwoods up to 160mm (W) x 250 (L)
  • Lightweight enough to be put on table
  • Extra wide log support for stability
 

 

12 tonne electric log splitter
Baumr-AG 12-tonne electric 
  • Good for hardwoods up to 350mm (W) x 620mm (L)
  • Adjustable ergonomic work table
  • Split cycle of only 15 seconds



 
15 tonne petrol log splitter
Baumr-AG 15-tonne petrol 
  • Good for hardwoods up to 400mm (W) x 620mm (L)
  • Split cycle of only 16 seconds
  • Easy to move around on uneven ground
 

 

 
50 tonne petrol log splitter
USA Splitters 50-tonne petrol 
  • Good for hardwoods up to 650mm (W) x 620mm (L)
  • Horizontal as well as vertical operation
  • Roadworthy with all-terrain tyres


 


50 tonne diesel log splitter
USA Splitters 50 + tonne petrol
  • Good for hardwoods up to 650mm (W) x 620mm (L)
  • Horizontal as well as vertical operation
  • Roadworthy with all-terrain tyres 





7 tonne log splitter wedge
Baumr-AG 7-tonne four-way wedge attachment
  • Accessory that creates four pieces of firewood with every pass
  • Heavy-duty welded steel
  • Lock-in bolt
 

 


12 & 15 tonne log splitter wedge
Baumr-AG 12 &15-tonne four-way wedge attachment
  • Accessory that creates four pieces of firewood with every pass
  • Heavy-duty welded steel
  • Lock-in bolt





ABOUT EDISONS

Edisons has been eBay's largest seller over the last four years, with over 180,000 eBay customer reviews (99.8% positive).  Read more about what our customers have to say about us here

Our top quality tools, chainsaws, construction items, outdoor power equipment, lawnmowers, pressure washers, generators, automotive items, pumps, welders and much more can be seen in our  eBay Store .
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