At Dude Ranch DIY: Log Splitter Modifications

Check out these modifications to a RuggedMade RS-700 Series log splitter made at the Dude Ranch DIY.

Video Transcript

Hey, guys! Mike with RuggedMade. Usually, I'm behind the camera but I wanted to give a little intro. Today, we are on a RuggedMade road trip down to Connecticut going to invade the Dude Ranch DIY. Heading over to see Jake right now. I am with Jared here in the captain seat and we've got Joe back in the little kid's seat back there. So, what's the plan today, guys? Well, we're heading down here to visit our buddy, Jake, at Dude Ranch DIY. I'm sure you guys have seen some of his awesome content he's done doing a lot of work at his new place. He's got some great new toys. We've got a top secret toy we're bringing down to show him and check out some of the stuff he's been doing on his lot and some cool mods on one of our earlier splitters. So, we're just down here. We got some great weather. We're going to have a good time. That's right. All right. So, Joe, say hi to the camera. Hey! I got Dunks here. Ready to go for the morning. I'm ready to split some wood and tackle some tough stuff. That's right. So, we'll see you guys over there in a few minutes.

All right. Welcome back to RuggedMade. I'm Jared and I'm here with Jake from Dude Ranch DIY. Did a little road trip today. We're down here at the new location of the Dude Ranch and Jake's got this awesome machine; one of our earlier machines. And, as you've probably seen in some of his other videos, he's just done some awesome mods that a lot of other people have asked about or are doing themselves, so we just have a great opportunity to come down, hang out, probably split some wood later, and have him kind of tell us the tale of all the cool stuff he's done to this machine.

Yeah, thanks for coming down, Jared. We're really excited to have you here and, as you know, I've done these modifications and I'm excited to share them with you and any other potential viewers that might be interested in doing them down the line.

Jake, this has got so much going on. I love what you've done with this thing. Tell us a little about how you even got your hands on this machine. So, I got my hands on it probably about three or four years ago. At the time, I had a Troy-Bilt 27-ton horizontal-vertical log splitter and we heated my parents house with it. I was still living with them at that point. I was in college, and my dad and I decided that it was time to kind of upgrade to be a little bit more productive, so I started perusing the internet, Facebook Marketplace, looking for a more productive splitter. This machine popped up and, to be honest, I had never really heard of RuggedMade. It looked like what I was looking for. I was looking for a horizontal, push-through style splitter and I immediately went up and looked at it and the gentleman who was selling it said that he had bought it brand new from RuggedMade and they actually switched over to a pellet stove so they didn't need to split firewood anymore. So, we made a deal and brought it home that night and split about a cord of wood the next day in the driveway and me and my father just fell in love with it. Between the log lift arm and it had the four-way wedge on it and the catch table, just made it so much easier. And, then, because I had this machine, the gears started turning in my head. I can never leave anything alone. I love to modify and tinker, so I started doing more and more research on this style splitter and what they're capable of. So, that's when I got the idea for the auto-cycle valve and some of the other modifications that you see on the splitter here today.

So, what did you tackle first? Was it the auto-cycle valve? So, the auto-cycle valve was the thing that really got me going but my motto is "do it once, do it right," so I was going to bring it to my buddy's shop and he was going to help me with all the welding and modifications and stuff like that so I actually made a list. I went through YouTube for about a month looking at all the different types of splitters and features that they offer and I made a list of what I wanted to do. The auto-cycle valve was definitely number one and then talking to some people online and hydraulic suppliers and stuff, we decided that a dump valve would be the second logical thing to do because the auto-cycle valve would really, not so much increase the cycle time, but it's just going to be pushing a lot of fluid going back and forth and back and forth so fast. So, the dump valve definitely helps cut down on some of the heat and restrictiveness of the hydraulic system. So, those two were the two big things as far as hydraulics go.

The other thing that I had determined I wanted to do was a hydraulic wedge lift. Yeah. This we get asked about a lot. Yeah. I mean, [it's on] peoples' short list of a feature they'd like to see. Definitely. It's a great feature. The six-way wedge I bought from you guys, and I also have the four-way wedge. Yeah. This thing has definitely seen some wood. It's great, but when you have different sizes… That looks like an original. Well, that may be not so original. That one's not so original. Like I said, it's been through a bunch of wood but I found that when you have different size rounds, it is nice to be able to, kind of, center the wedge. That way, you don't always have to re-cycle through two or three pushes to get those nice, uniform pieces.

How long after we started offering the six-way did you get your hands on one of these? We haven't had this for that long. So, it was actually out of stock for the longest time and then one just happened to pop up on Amazon, of all places. I found it and I bought it through your RuggedMade store. I actually had set a notification on Amazon to let me know when it was back in stock, so the day that I got the email, I immediately bought it. And, I'm so excited to get it and I actually made a video of me using it for the first time way back when, when I first started the YouTube channel. This six-way wedge is great and, especially, because it's hydraulically adjustable. It's almost essentially a six-way wedge, a two-way wedge, or a four-way wedge depending on where I move it. So, I find myself using the six-way wedge more than I thought I would, honestly, just because it is so versatile.

Now, I'm sure we'll see it later when we start splitting some wood together, but what kind of throat does this have? How has this come up? So, it's an 8" cylinder but we actually extended the shaft of it to fit into this tube here to make it go up and down, so it will go a little bit past this. So, it's probably about 5" when it's all said and done because the cylinder itself is kind of countersunk down into the machine.

Another thing, just for ease of transport and storage, I made the... yeah let's get it closer to this. Yeah, it started out with the ability to sort of separate into two pieces. As anyone who's seen our videos or has one of our splitters knows, it kind of has a storage transportation mode where we can take this lower half out, but what Jake's done here is pretty cool to make this more of a hinge. Of course my rope is a little short, there we go. So, yeah, I made this hinge to kind of fold, and also for a little bit of safety reasons, when I'm splitting with somebody else, I would be putting this thing down and if the foot gets caught under it or something, at least this would kind of fold up and it kind of helps contour it to uneven ground better. I'm sure you know as you split, it makes a lot of garbage, little shards and stuff, and when they get built up, this was just a little feature that I thought of that would be pretty quick and easy and kind of make it a little bit more compact when trying to store it and transport it through the woods. Yeah, no, that's really smart. I mean, it definitely saves some time when you are folding it up to move it somewhere. I mean, Jake's got it hooked up to his quad here and I'm sure he's towed with his tractor and I like that safety feature as well. I mean, no one wants to have that come down on their foot, especially when you got two people operating and the person operating it might be on the other side and they're not thinking about where their buddy's foot is. Right. And, with the auto-cycle, things start getting really quick. You kind of get into the motion and sometimes that momentum that you have can get a little dangerous, so anything we can do to make it as safe as possible was another goal of mine. Yeah.

So for that auto-cycle, I'm sure anyone who's watched some of Jake's videos has probably seen it in action. I'm sure a lot of our viewers know what that is as well but if you haven't seen an auto-cycle valve, we'll show it in action later, but basically, the typical valve if this was the main valve that would normally extend your rod, you would hold it out and have to hold it against spring tension to extend it, more as a safety feature than anything else, and then I think a lot of people know about the return detent. These basically take that detent idea and apply it to the extend-stroke and then it would come back as well, all out and back with one hand motion. Yeah, we definitely get asked about that a lot. Yeah. I think we have some things in the works we can talk about later. That might make it a little bit easier to make that upgrade on your own without having to do some of the cool stuff that Jake's done here, which he’ll show us some of these plates he’s created to mount that.

Do you want to show us some of the details? Yeah. So, when I was doing this, I actually realized that I was going to need three separate valves. One being the auto-cycle, which I bought new. And, I actually reused both of the original valves. One, obviously, to control the stroke and the other to control the log lift. Yep. Being that the auto-cycle obviously takes the brunt of the flow and needs the most power, this one's first. Yep. Got that upstream. This valve would be just downstream because this requires the second-most amount of force to lift up those heavy logs. We use a 2x8 on there. Right. And, it makes it seem small compared to this until you get to the little guy doing the blade height. Right. And, then I reused the third, or, the second valve from the original machine to control the up and down for the hydraulic wedge lift. So, it all worked really well. The one thing I needed to make sure of was to get an auto-cycle valve with Power Beyond. Yeah. That way, when I'm not using this, it still can flow through and I can control these separately from this. And then, the auto-cycle valve also required… since it is pushing a lot of fluid, I decided to hook up the dump valve, which really ended up complicating things as far as all of the valving and hosing and routing of the hoses. But, my hydraulic shop was happy to assist me and we ended up figuring it all out. It works really well and I can't wait to show you guys in action. Yeah.

The dump valve is great. We've had other people talk about hooking up dump valves. It basically reduces the amount of distance the fluid has to travel. As Jake mentioned, it's going to reduce some of the heat build up. It basically creates a shortcut for the fluid to get back to the tank rather than having to go back through the valve again. And, it looks like he's done a great job hooking this up. There's a cool module down here which we can get a close-up of. So, there's a tap to sense pressure and that's what triggers a little pilot valve in here to open and close at the right time. That is definitely something you'll see on a lot of commercial machines that are moving a lot of fluid like this. Looks like it's still got the original. Is that the original 22-gallon pump that it came with? Yep, original pump, and it works great. I had thoughts of upgrading to a 28-gallon-per-minute pump but I think that would probably require a little bit more horsepower to get the power that I wanted, so I decided to leave well enough alone and we're still running the same pump, to my knowledge, as came on the machine when it was new. Yeah. The only new thing that I've added was this valve. Everything else is just the way it came from the factory and I think that really just goes to show how well these machines are built. I mean, it's definitely not the cleanest machine out there. It [has] seen a lot of wood but it still functions beautifully, and I'm very thankful to have it. Yeah.

Well, we don't care whether someone's splitting one cord a year or a hundred cord a year. This one's obviously leaning a little more towards the big numbers of cord. We love them when they're being used like this. And then, when you add in the cool mods to get more efficiency, more productivity, more ergonomics, and in some cases, more safety features, we love it. Yeah. I think with going to the 28, as you said, you pretty much have to go from these 420 CC like a GX-390 or … this is still running the original Lifan engine. Yeah, which is fantastic to see. It runs strong. Yeah, you pretty much … Typically, when we consider putting a 28 on here, and we've had customers put a 28-gallon-per-minute, two-stage log splitter pump on there, they pretty much have to go to a GX-690 or a Harbor Freight Predator V-Twin size engine. And then, once you're moving that much fluid, then you start hitting the limits of what a 12-gallon hydraulic fluid reservoir can do in terms of cooling. I'm sure with some of the things you've done, you've probably seen some pretty good temperatures, so have you considered putting some cooling on here? It's definitely a thought that's crossed my mind. My buddy is pretty good with log splitters. He actually builds his own log splitters so that's something that we've talked about because, right now, the thing, like you said, that would stop me from going any bigger beyond the checkbook is the size of the hydraulic tank. And, I'll be out here using it for three or four hours at a time but I do have a full-time job. It's not like I'm doing firewood full-time, so the three or four hour mark is usually about my limit. And, I don't split in the direct sunlight all day where the temperatures get too crazy but for somebody that would be using it in that application, I think a radiator cooling system or a separate auxiliary, just larger, tank for more fluid would definitely be something to look into. Yeah.

We talked to customers who are all over the country. I mean, down south in the summer especially, if they’re all-day everyday commercial users, they're going to probably see higher temperatures. Up here in Connecticut [and] Massachusetts, where we're based, not as big an issue. We can tend to also run the thinner AW-32 fluids but yeah definitely see that pump still going strong is great.

So, what other cool stuff have you done to this thing? So, I changed up the - I don't know - I kind of call this my staging tray because I'll have all my rounds put up there and then as it splits, sometimes you have a large piece that you need to send back through, so I'll just kind of stage it right here on this little table thing. And, this little bar my buddy put in. You can see it's gotten some good use. Sometimes when you roll around down off of two levels, it kind of has a little bit of momentum, so put this little back stop here to prevent it from coming all the way into me and crushing me, but this is a great little thing that we did here. We also extended the tongue in the front. Yeah. That way we could tow it while the sorting tray was in position. Sure. And, we also put another receiver hitch on the backside. Let's take a look at that. We get asked about this. Yeah, that’s great. So, it was a pretty simple little… Is that an off-the-shelf kind of dimension? Was it 1.5” or something? I believe it's 1.5” and it was just some, I think, some metal that my buddy honestly had laying around his shop and he just welded it on there. And, we got two pin holes, only one pin in for now. That way, when you're splitting, all the wood is going off that side but the hitch was on that side, so you would kind of get wood-bound almost, unless you have somebody there constantly shuffling that wood because this thing puts out a lot of wood pretty quick, especially if it's nice, straight stuff. So, this way, we can just simply pop out the receiver, put it on this side, and pull it back with either the tractor or the ATV and just continue splitting. Yeah.

Our first machine, some of you might know, is the more conventional horizontal-vertical kind of machine and our 500-Series, we sell the 537. But, when we got into these horizontal, push-through, fixed blade or, they go by different names, but this design, its main advantage is you just keep funneling that wood through and you get that pile going unless you've got a conveyor or something, and then we've had people talk about, “I can't get my truck in there.” “I can't get my ATV in there.” So, we've definitely had a lot of requests for something like that. And, what we have had people do is just drill four more holes to match the same dimensions as the main towing tongue that bolts onto the front and then we have extra smaller shorter tongues that didn't have to be as long because there's no catcher tray on say the 500-Series, so we actually have extra, shorter adapter plates. So, if someone just wanted to drill four holes instead of getting into welding, they could have an extra tongue right on the back. Oh, wow. Because, yeah, I think that a lot of people just want to be able to pile up that wood, get this out of the way, and back it out, basically. Exactly. And, it's still going to be pretty nose-heavy. Absolutely. It might lift the back wheels of your ATV right off the ground. Yeah, you’re not moving it by hand. Normally, I'll actually use the tractor and kind of put the tongue out there and just press down on it and kind of shuffle it around but it gets the job done. Yeah, I think whatever you might have used to tow it into place, I think pulling it out with all that front weight probably like a tractor or hook it up the truck in that case. Right. But, definitely, once you fold up the leg, it'll just pull right out of the way. Yeah.

That was a great thing that we did. How often do you actually find yourself in that situation with that big pile of wood? Not often, because usually I'm stacking right into the IBC totes. Even if it's by myself, I find that it's easier on my back to fill up the sorting tray almost and then have the IBC tote right there. Yeah. So, I'll just shuffle it right in. That way, I prevent having to bend down and pick it up off the ground, getting dirty and getting wet, and it gives me a good reason to kind of stop, take a break, stack some wood, and kind of calm down from the hustle and bustle of cutting and loading and splitting, because it does get a little crazy sometimes. Yeah.

Well, you just made a good point about not having to bend down because I think what people like about this design, particularly with the log lift, is having to touch the log fewer times and then with the fixed blade, that last time having to pull the log out of place after it's been split. When you've got more of the foot at the end, I think that's what people really love about this. And, it's about as close as you can get to a processor until you get up into that, you graduate to a full blown processor. Absolutely. So, what do you have? You mentioned maybe looking for a conveyor. We've had lots of people ask us when we're going to offer a conveyor. Or, if you're just feeding into the totes. I hope I'm the first to know once you offer a conveyor. Yeah. We'd love to get some feedback for someone who's just using it, just normal everyday use.

Going back to that. What’d you call it? Your guide tray or your staging tray? Yeah, my little staging tray there. Yeah. We like that. I mean, a lot of people use the log lift. One of the reasons we wanted a solid plating instead of more of a grate is to have it be more useful as a table but what you've done is great because you can still be using that to lift up the next log while you have something on there.

So, often are you splitting with two or more people as opposed to operating by yourself? I try to split with two, at least two, people as much as I possibly can, just because it really does - I wouldn't say it doubles production - I would say it's almost like two and a half times production, just because this machine goes through the wood so fast with the auto-cycle that if I have to constantly be going back and forth loading this and cutting rounds and moving it, I really can't keep up. Honestly, I can split wood as fast as I can load wood. The machine is not the bottleneck. I am the bottleneck, and I'm in it for the long haul. I'm a younger guy, and I don't want to hurt my back. I know that my body is my biggest tool, so if I get hurt, then there's no wood being split. So, I try to have two people as much as possible but even with one person, this machine makes it so easy. If you're not in a high productivity setting you can load up five, six, seven rounds on this sorting tray and it just makes it so easy because you don't have to pick it up. You can roll it right up if you have your rounds right here and then use a pick-a-roon or hookaroon, which I know you guys offer, to just pull them over. You don't even have to bend over and get in the way of the push ram or anything like that. So, I mean, I started out with one guy and then demand for firewood with COVID and everything has just gone through the roof. Everybody's enjoying the outdoors, which is great. I just needed to be able to put out as much wood as I could. So, when I'm not splitting with two people, I'm usually prepping to split with two people, either moving logs or cutting rounds. Stuff like that.

So, when we talk about some of these cool features, should we, I know we're not gonna split wood right here, maybe fire it up for a minute? Yeah. Show folks what new things do? Now, it hasn't been fired up in a couple days. First pull, hopefully. Second pull, if not. I do take this exhaust shield off, actually, because I cover the splitter. Okay. I like to keep it out of the elements and I found that if I have somewhere to go right away, this exhaust is still so hot from splitting. So, I actually take the shield off when I'm splitting and set it on the ground and then when I'm done for the day, this is nice and cool so I just put it back on and it won't melt my cover to the exhaust. So, I am going to take this off. That’s new - the quick-release exhaust. It came to me once both of the screws fell out and then a light bulb went off and I was like, “Oh! I can actually make this work, I think.” So, I don't want that rattling around but let's see how she does.

First pull! Nice! Yeah. So, that basically makes the same person running that now free to do a whole bunch more work. Right. My hands are free. I can either be moving wood into my IBC totes, getting a log, picking them up. All of that's great. And then, obviously, we have the up and down. I'm not going to test the foot function. I'll just take that… That's probably smart. All right. And, this actually took some getting, some figuring out, because at first it was so fast because this is putting out so much pressure. I actually had to put on a pressure valve to be able to adjust the speed of this going up and down. Yep. So now, you can kind of control it instead of it going crazy fast like that. Yeah. I think you definitely… even with the smaller 2x8 cylinder for the log lift. This pump, this 20-gallons-per-minute pump has the flow rate to supply a 5x30. Right. So, it's over-pumped just for that 2x8, and you said that's, what, what do you know the dimensions on that? I think it's 1.5x8, I think, or something like that. Yeah. That works nice. It works great. Yeah, it's actually pretty nice and progressive still.

Yeah, and then if I want to switch out to the single or the four-way, I just simply pop it off. It slides right off and what we did here was just weld on some tubing that's more spacer. So, now that gives a little bit of float. Absolutely. It’s not going to damage the hydraulics system if a log is sort of jamming it up. Right. So, some guys have suggested in the comments section of my channel that I should have this pinned or something, but I think it would put a lot more stress on the cylinder itself and just on the machine. So, that way, if I got a piece with a gnarly knot or something in it or that's when something happens, this just simply pops off and it's not fixed in the thought of safety. No, I think that's smart. I mean, if you look at the standard blade when it's free-floating on here, you'll see it float up and down a little bit so you've maintained that, which I think is smart. I mean, we've got the bevels on this, if you notice, are opposing. An earlier design had them both facing the same way and that sort of tended to trap the wood. Exactly. So, that lower one pretty much acts as a deflector so you really want to have it free to go up. That's nice. And then I guess there's one more little piece here that… Yeah, we added on this little plate here just because the hydraulic connectors for the actual cylinder are right there. So, because these bottom wings do deflect the wood down, I wanted to be able to protect this as much as possible and, as you can see, it wasn't always bent like that. So, it has served its purpose. Yeah, for sure.

I can see some wood getting sandwiched there and there's quite a bit of downward force on that. Yeah. It's nice to give it a … does that give it a little bit of protection for the cylinder as well? Have you had any issues with this being in the way? You know, I haven't, because, I mean, the shape of the front of the wedge is angled in such a way that the wood really just splits around it. I mean, you can see a little bit of paint has worn off but that's pretty much the extent. You can see, right here, we've got the dimension just right so logs really shouldn't be able to wrap around there too much. Yeah, it just kind of goes right around it. And, we keep on trucking.

The last thing I did, which is probably the smallest modification but makes a huge difference when I'm moving the splitter from property to property, I use my dump trailer. It has a winch in it, which I use for my log lift or a log arch but the one thing was when I'm winching it up the ramps, they’re equipment ramps. They have big gaps in them for tracks or tires like the tractor. These legs on the bipod here kind of fall down into them. So, we welded on some angle iron to kind of extend it and it actually makes it a little bit more stable, too, when loading up big logs. These things just kind of glide right on top of the ramps and completely avoid the big angle iron gaps on the ramps. I can just winch it right up. I attach it to the coupler right there on the trailer and I can pull it right into the trailer, strap it down, and be on my way. It's just as easy, too, for unloading. I just tilt up the trailer a bit and let gravity do the work and slowly let out the winch and I pretty much don't even have to touch the machine except for having a hand on it to make sure it goes down those ramps nice and smooth.

I think we've pretty much covered it all. I know there's a lot of little things and a couple bigger things. Yeah, I see you've made some… you’ve had to adapt the catcher tray to notch this area for the cylinder. We've actually brought a new catcher tray, which I think won't be able to bolt right on because it's going to need similar modifications, but this thing has definitely seen some use. I think as we rolled up this morning, Jake was actually working on a little weld patch here, which is the nature of the beast when you're dropping, how big of the rounds you're dropping on this thing. Oh, some of the big red oak rounds that we did back when I was at the other property. They were all of this big, and me and Chris or me and Sam, whoever was helping me, because I definitely don't tackle those big ones by myself, were just using the single wedge to just pop them in half and then quarter them. And then I would throw back on the 6-way once we had those quarters. But, those big halves, they've got to be all over 150-200 pounds still, especially when you're dealing with red oak and stuff like that. So, when they would get pushed through, they would kind of just flop down on this and I guess it was just a little too much abuse after all the cords of wood. A little pop there, but yeah, the weld came out great. Looks like it’s ready for more wood. I think so. What do you think, should we head over to your lot? Yeah. Jake told us he's got a whole bunch of empty totes and a whole bunch of piles of logs and, I guess, somehow we got volunteered into helping split some wood, so I guess that's where we're heading next. Yeah, so let's hook it up to the ATV. We'll get it back on the new road to the wood yard and we can get going. All right.