Comparing RuggedMade Log Splitters

Watch and listen as Jared and Jake from @Dude Ranch DIY compare three popular RuggedMade log splitters. Learn about the special features of each model and gain valuable insight to help pick the best splitter for your needs.

Video Transcript

Welcome back to RuggedMade. I'm Jared, and today we have a very special guest. We've got Jake from Dude Ranch DIY. How's it going, everybody? So, Jake came up here from Connecticut. He's visiting us up here at the RuggedRanch. I figured Jake's had one of our splitters for a number of years and a lot of you've probably seen all the great videos he's made about it, but one thing Jake hasn't had a chance to do is try out some of our other machines. So, we thought we'd take this opportunity and get them all out for the first time and kind of do some side-by-side comparisons and have some fun. What do you think, Jake? Yeah, I'm really looking forward to it. As a lot of you probably know, I have an older version of the RuggedMade RS737, so I'm looking forward to playing around with its two younger brothers and seeing what kind of firewood they can produce.

Yeah, so we know you're most familiar with the 700-Series, so I thought we'd dive in with the RS-322. Like you said, it's kind of the little brother and it's got the log lift, it's got the catcher tray, and throw some logs on there and see what happens. Yeah, I'm looking forward to trying it out.

So, the 322 basically came about because a lot of people were looking at our 700-Series but they just didn't always need something that big. I mean, you're in the tree service as a professional. I know you're doing some firewood sales so a bigger machine, maybe, is the right fit for you, but we had folks who it's really just to do a little bit of home heating. So, that's why we came out with this. But, the goal was always to try to retain most of the cool features and the ergonomics that made the 700 a success. Yeah, so it looks like it. It really is just kind of a shrunk down 700-Series. The log lift catcher tray comes standard with the four-way and, of course, you’ve got your dual-valve setup. This is one of our newest versions where we've added this feature where you can kind of dial in the valve platform the way you like it. Yeah, I really like that feature. Can it be spun the opposite way, too? Not on the fly, so when you're assembling it, you decide then how you want it. Although, you could go back and reconfigure it, it's meant to pretty much stay that way once you've set it up. Your options go to the extreme of facing that way 90-degrees or this 45-degrees, my personal favorite. Whichever side you angle, the 45 makes it nice and ergonomic. And, the reason I asked if you could switch it the other way, I know that a lot of these you can switch the log lift. Yes. And, based on how you plan on seeing your wood yard being laid out, it only makes sense to be able to switch this the other way. Yeah, I mean, some of the things that we know from operating ourselves and from feedback from customers is, are they operating it alone or with friends? Sometimes if you're operating alone, you might want the valves angled to the same side as the log lift so you can load and control the levers. Other people are tag teaming. One guy is loading, someone else is running the valves, and then we also have folks who just have a preference for whether they're running the valves with their right hand versus their left hand, and which hand is on the log. Absolutely. So, this basically gives them that flexibility. Yeah. But, it can still be in the original position. I know on your machine, it's just pointing straight forward down the centerline. Right. That's still kind of the default position but I like the 45 to one side or the other. Yes. No, I can definitely see that being a nice feature and you'll get to try it out in a minute. Can't wait.

And, as far as tonnage, we call it the 322. It's a 4” inner diameter cylinder. It's got kind of a trunnion mount so as you can see the back of the cylinder is hanging out and that just makes for a more compact machine. It still has, from what we've found, plenty of power unless someone's tackling some really big, gnarly stuff, more commercial stuff. Or, if someone dropped off the stump of some tree they pulled out, this isn't really designed to get through that stuff, but the kind of stuff we're splitting today I think is very typical for what people are splitting for firewood, whether for business or for personal use. Right.

Now, what do you find a typical cycle time on a machine like this to be around? Well, let's fire it up and you can see for yourself. We did give it a large diameter rod and this one is more the premium package. It's got a 10-horsepower engine turning the 16-gallon-per-minute pump. Okay. It is also available with a 6.5-horsepower engine with a 13-gallon-per-minute pump, so that's definitely going to change your cycle time based on the flow rate but this one is going to be the faster machine. So, I think we'll probably see some pretty pretty quick cycle times. Cool. I think we should just break out the clock and see what we get in real world conditions. Yeah, let's do it. All right.

That was pretty great. So, real world conditions? Getting just under 10 seconds out and back. I think we found for a hydraulic splitter, that's about as fast as you're going to get, unless you get into some really extreme spec with the rod being almost the same diameter as the inner bore. Right. I was getting a little confused there. I'm so used to my machine with the auto-cycle that I was forgetting to actually push this back to have it retract back. But, once you push it, that detent holds it in and it snaps right back. So, you have that whole return cycle to be able to take your next piece, if you have to re-split, and position it, cycle it back to be split again. This is nice… I really like… the working height is great. They all seem to be about the same height for working height but it's really nice that it comes, for a smaller machine, with this catch tray, the four-way wedge. This is a great option for those who aren't splitting 30 cords of wood a year or something but for recreational burning, some small home heating, or a good budget-friendly splitter for a couple guys in the neighborhood to probably chip in on and split all the wood for their winter firewood season.

Yeah. And, we've had this available for a while and from feedback from customers we've heard quite a few people are using it for kind of a little side firewood business. Right. Really, I think if they're getting the right wood, they're getting the relatively straight grain stuff, that people really should be splitting and burning, it really can handle it and that kind of cycle time, the productivity really is there. Oh, I’m sure. Especially if you have a second guy, like in this instance, feeding the log lift. You don't really ever have to stop beyond dropping that thing down and raising it back up to load it. So, I could definitely see this being a great machine. Yeah.

I mean, really, the main difference is power. This is only available with this 24" stroke whereas the 700-Series is available with that 30" stroke. That's what you have, I believe. Yes. So, most people still end up restricting it to the 24" position or sometimes even the 20" position. Right. This does have the stroke restrictor so we could hook that up to the 20" position and then we would have, if someone's splitting that 16” to 18" kind of sweet spot, a smaller round, then you're going to see probably around an 8 second cycle time. Maybe faster, yeah.

I have to say, I really do like … I know it's such a small adjustment, but it just makes so much more sense pulling this directly towards you instead of that awkward, going this way, following the I-beam of the splitter. Being that it's the first time I'm using it, it's really nice. Especially without the auto-cycle having to go back and forth, it's basically … you're pulling it twice as much, so it's nice that it's in that 45-degree angle. I think that's a great feature. Yeah. The original center axis design was great for being able to reach it from both sides of the machine, whether you're standing on alternate sides or you're working with someone. But, as you say, it is less ergonomic to be shifting it side to side. This push-pull works out great and, really, it would be easy for me to operate from this side as well. Yeah, definitely. That's something. I never really operate mine from the log lift side just because if I'm by myself I find that it does kind of get in the way for me to be pulling back the wood to re-cycle because a lot of the time, like you said, I do tree work professionally. I don't always have that perfect size wood. Yeah, definitely. You could just stand there [and] very easily to be able to pull it back from the opposite side even with it angled this way. Yeah. These weren't very big logs but still we were kind of breaking it down to almost kindling size so the re-splits are just as convenient on this with the flat-plated work table, the lift table, as on the 700-Series.

And, another thing with the 700-Series, there's a few different positions where you can mount the tank depending on where you want to stand [and] how many people are operating it. If someone doesn't want to have a really heavy tongue weight to lift to maneuver it around, they have to move the tank kind of closer to the end but, with this machine, even with some wood on it, it's just a much more compact, lighter machine for a lot of folks to move around their yard or if they just don't want to be lifting as heavy of a machine.

Yeah and I really like how it has the bipod as well. Even, again, for a smaller machine, it seems like you guys took all the features of the bigger 700-Series and just kind of shrunk it down for this smaller tonnage machine. But, it definitely still cranks out the wood. Yeah.

Basically, our goal was to try to bring those kinds of pro-level features down to a machine that's a little more compact, a little more affordable, and just make it more fun, make it more convenient, and maintain that productivity, which is also why we offered it with the bigger motor. When we started out, it was only available with a smaller motor but, again, we do have people running small firewood businesses with this machine and they wanted a little more cycle time. Or, should I say, a little less cycle time. More speed. It seems like you nailed it. More speed, less cycle time. Yeah.

All right, so now you've operated 322 and I think the only other machine that you haven't seen before is our 500-Series so, why don't we move on to that? Yes, let's check it out.

So, the 537, the machine that started it all for RuggedMade. It's your traditional horizontal-vertical splitter. Have you ever operated this format of machine? Yes, actually, my first log splitter was an old, I think, it was like a Troy-Bilt horizontal-vertical that my first major welding project was to build a slip-on four-way wedge for it but I see that's already something that you have on here. Yep, comes standard with the wings. They're bolt-on wings. Yeah, and I think it's a great splitter for those who might be working by themselves or don't necessarily need the log lift. That way, when you have a bigger round, you can just flip it up and save your back a little bit. Yeah, well, I figured today we'll try it in both configurations. We'll start out horizontal and this is a 24" stroke it's got the 5” ID cylinder, so this is your typical, rated for up to 37-ton splitter. A lot of power. Yeah. It's going to split most stuff. The wings are removable, but you'd have to get out a wrench just to get the bolts off. So, generally we wanted people to not have to take them off constantly, so it's got plenty of power. Hence the higher tonnage. Yeah. So, it'll get through most stuff and then I think these rounds aren't too challenging to split. But, if it was something a little greener or stickier, something stringy, the logs can get stuck on the blade. The one you modified, did you find that sometimes logs would stick to the horizontal blades? It would sometimes, but it did have something, not nearly as beefy as this, but it did have two bars that came back act as like a log dislodger kind of thing but this looks far more beefy and thicker steel than what the Troy-Bilt had. Yeah, I mean through a few generations, we got this to where it protects the engine, it strips the logs off, and it is beefy for those times when the logs do get stuck on the blade. You don't want to have to get out a mallet to break them off. Exactly. So, why don't we fire this one up [and] split some logs in the horizontal position? All right. Let's do it.

So, we were getting pretty consistent 15-second cycle times, which is pretty standard. Eight seconds out, comes back a little faster. It's typically not loaded up on the way back and also the thickness of the rod in there means less fluid has to be displaced on the retract stroke, so about eight out, seven back’s pretty standard. Yeah, that was nice.

I really like the four-way wedge. I didn't think that this thing was going to be used as much but that wood really does, with the four-way, kind of get stuck to it, but this thing is nice and big so it both protects the motor but it also acts as a really nice way for the wood to just be pulled off so you don't have to really fight with it too much. Yeah, I mean, this ended up being kind of a stringy, sticky piece so it did come in handy to knock it off. A lot of it comes down to how long are people going to season their wood for, how straight are the logs, what is the wood type, but that's where that'll strip it off and enough power to get through it.

Now, since we're doing kind of a compare/contrast today, what do you think of the difference between how much handling you had to do per split? So, this one, definitely, I feel like you do have to handle it a little bit more, especially if you're going to be by yourself. In this instance, having you here, it was nice because when you do split that, the wood either is going to fall on the ground or it gets pushed off over here. You have to pick it back up. So, having that catch tray is nice but it's definitely not necessary. I guess we'll see in a little bit once it's up in the vertical position, all the wood’s going to already be on the ground and you're likely kneeling or kind of sitting on a five gallon bucket kind of thing. Yeah. So, the bending over isn't really a factor as much anyway. So, it's been quite some time since I've used a vertical splitter so I'm excited to see how this one does because, as I mentioned, I made a four-way wedge for mine and it was a little bit janky, so I'm looking forward to seeing how this one performs. Yeah, but I would say a janky four-way is better than no four-way. I'd have to agree with you. All right. So, let's flip it up and we'll do a couple logs in the vertical position. All right. Cool.

Now, can you show me what all is involved in flipping it up? Yeah, the first thing we want to do is make sure that this leg is down. Of course, the rear leg would be down so the machine's stable. It's not best practice but you could have just, maybe, moved this around the yard and forgot to deploy this leg and you could get away with that as long as you're not splitting some really heavy logs here. Okay. But, before going to the vertical [position], you definitely need to lock that leg in the down position. So, that leg is for the vertical orientation? Well, I would say it's really necessary for all splitting but if you're splitting light logs, I mean, this thing is heavy enough that it wouldn't tip just because you didn't have that leg down. Right. But, it should be down for all situations and it really has to be down because it would block this from pivoting. Gotcha. Okay. So, it's already down, so all we need to do is come over to this side. We’ve got a handle for lifting. All right, let's make sure our area is clear. It's basically going to land right there, so we're good. Okay. Mainly, there's a spring-loaded pin we're going to pull as we lift it and we also just want to kind of prep our hoses so that they're not going to catch on anything. If they were like that, they might hook on the beam and we want to make sure it goes up smoothly and so just pull that. I see, okay. There we go. And, that's really it. Both legs are down. It's basically ready to split. Okay. Yeah, that's a nice, big, beefy handle. I like this big pin. That's a pretty strong spring there. The end of the pin has a taper so when we're lowering it, I like to put my foot on that leg so it doesn't come up. And, again, we're just making sure we're not going to pinch any hoses or body parts as we lower it. Okay. It just comes down and it self-locks. Let me give that a shot. So, you're saying you pull this pin? Yep. Lift up. And, that's why the hoses are long. That's a common question we get: “Why are the hoses so long?” It's to accommodate the vertical position. If it was locked in the horizontal position, the hoses would be a little shorter and tidier like they are on the other two. Right, sounds good. All right. Throw a couple logs in there. Let's try it out. Cool.

That worked really well. Yeah. So, I mean, these aren't really big logs but where this configuration really comes into its own is if you've got that big log and you don't have either a tractor to lift it up or it's too heavy for one or two people to lift. All you do is just drag it over. Roll it over. Right. Just pop it in there and you can even take multiple bites out of it. You might have to kind of work your way around before it gets into small enough pieces but this means you're not lifting it. Absolutely. Yeah. You’ve got gravity on your side. As some of the logs you saw that were stuck on the blade as it came back, some hit the stroke restrictor before they got knocked off, some just kind of fell off. Well, right. Exactly. No, it's nice and I do like how the cradles are there on the backside so it kind of helps position the log up against the I-beam. And, when it's splitting, it kind of holds the splits in place so that they're not constantly falling all over the place.

I do think it's important to make sure you keep your hands away from this thing as it's coming down because I think in this orientation, for some reason more so than the push-through style, especially when you're getting down, if you're splitting up kindling or something, you could, by accident, have your hand there and then come down not realizing if you're kind of in the zone of splitting. But, the cradle also kind of helps it so you could leave it and then go and operate the machine safely. Of course. No, you're right, Jake. The pinch points are always something to be cognizant of when you're operating a splitter and they're a little bit different. Of course, when you're splitting between the log and the blade, wherever the blade is, that's the number one pinch point to watch out for, but as you say, when this is coming back, you still don't want to have your hands anywhere near that catcher tray. Right. Some people are a little eager to get that split piece pulled out of there and that's really it's[better to] just wait until it's fully retracted. Right, and because you're switching the orientation, you just have to be mindful that the pinch points kind of do change. Yeah. Shift from being more so here to on this other side, but all in all it's a great machine.

I know you mentioned before that this was the original flagship machine from RuggedMade. I did not know that, but I can see why. It's a very versatile machine. I think it would appeal to a lot of people and it's nice that it has that higher tonnage to be able to power through the bigger stuff when in that vertical orientation. It still serves its role because in order to get some of these enhanced features like the log lift, the catcher tray, there's more cost there. There's more metal, there's another valve, and there's more hoses, so this still does the job for a lot of people if they're not really as focused on high-production volume. Like you say, there's a little more handling after you split the log. You still have to touch it one more time to get in your pile or get it into your wheelbarrow and get it to your drying area. Right. But, for some people, it's just not about watching the seconds the way we were doing. Exactly. And, this is going to split a lot of stuff between the power and the option of horizontal and vertical. This style of machine has been getting it done for a lot of people for many years. Yeah. It solves the issue of getting the log to the splitter without all the extra hydraulics. Yeah. So, that is the 500-Series and that just leaves the 700-Series, [which] is just a more updated version of what you have. Yeah. The “Big Daddy.” Yeah. So, I don't think you've operated this this newer version of it. I have not, so I'm looking forward to it. All right. Want to roll over there and put a few more?

So, Jake, this should feel pretty familiar to you. This is a 737-24. So, you have the 30" stroke but this is the 24" stroke. It does still have a stroke-restrictor position, so if someone's doing 16 - 18” rounds they can restrict it to the 20" position. Okay. But, we can break out the clock. We can see what the cycle times are like. Maybe when you get back home, you can put yours at the same position and see how it compares after the later generation. Cool. Like you saw on the 322, one of the main things that we've added recently is that ability to have the valves angled. Yes. You seem to like that. I do like that and I also noticed that this is set up with the log lift on the opposite side, the motor side, so I think that's cool how easy that is to do when you're initially setting it up. You can choose which side you want it [on] and if things change, you can always move it. Yeah. I think this one's going to be the most familiar to me so let's fire it up and push some wood through. All right.

All right. Well that seemed familiar. Yeah, other than the valve. Less muscles required to shift those levers, right? Yeah, exactly. I mean, this is a great machine. Obviously, the RS-737 is near and dear to my heart. It's got all the features of the 300-Series but in a slightly larger package with a little more oomph and it's a great machine and that's why I choose to use it day in and day out. Yeah.

So, in terms of cycle time, we were getting pretty consistently sub-6 seconds out and 3-3.5 seconds back so we were doing full cycles in under 9.5 seconds. Yeah. The standard spec on all the 700-Series regardless of what cylinder or stroke you get is like a 420cc, 390-420cc engine running a 22-gallon-per-minute pump and then as you saw when that rod extended, it's the same cylinder you have. Yep. So, other than 24" stroke versus 30" stroke, and, that allows the retract to shave off entire seconds by having to move less fluid because of that oversized rod. That's why, I think, there are plenty of homeowners who are running this machine because they value their time. People doing firewood for either on the side or as a full-time business, the speed, the productivity of this is really what they want. And, they don't want to give up the power either. Right. We do have the 728 version which is kind of like a nice in-between. Still lots of power but it's even faster because even that same pump and engine package has to move even less fluid. Yeah. I mean, something's always got to give but yeah, I mean, this is a great machine. It's nice getting to use one like totally stock and seemingly brand new. Yeah and it's a great machine.

So, [we] got to do the whole family. This has been a really great opportunity to have you come up and visit and get to break out all the different models. Kind of do a nice side-by-side, something we've been wanting to do for a while but it's a rare opportunity to get a pro like you in to get your real-world feedback. Absolutely. Especially the fact that you've been running to 700 for years. Yeah, this has been a great opportunity. It's something I've been wanting to do: try out your whole fleet for a while now and now I can honestly say that I have and I think all the machines have their own unique niche, so to speak, for the consumer and they all do an excellent job of producing a lot of firewood pretty quick. Yeah. Depending on what someone's trying to do, how much wood they need, what kind of wood they split, what their budget is, we try to have something that'll work for them. Yeah. There's a machine for everyone.

This has been the wrap up for our video of the comparison to the three machines with Jake but Jake's going to be visiting us for a while, so we're going to have some more videos coming. So, stay tuned. Yep, thanks for having me, guys. This was a lot of fun. All right.