How to Use A Log Splitter

Want to learn the basics of operating a log splitter? In this video, we cover safety tips, starting your splitter's engine, how to operate the valves, the difference between splitting horizontally vs vertically, different types of blades, how to shut down, and much more.

Video Transcript

Welcome back to RuggedMade. I'm Jared. Today we're talking about how to use a log splitter. If you’ve recently purchased your first log splitter, we think this video will be helpful. How to use a log splitter is a big topic. There are a lot of different makes and models of machines out there. Each one has its own unique features and operating procedures and every log you split can be a little bit different. It depends on the variety of the wood, the size of the round, how dry is it, is the grain straight, does it have knots, so we can't possibly cover every different scenario. This video is geared more towards someone who's just getting started with their first splitter and hopefully we'll be doing a series of videos in the future where we'll be looking at some more advanced techniques.

Let's talk about safety. If operated properly and with common sense, splitting with a hydraulic log splitter can be done safely. Nevertheless, these are powerful machines and they need to be respected. The main thing to be concerned about is pinch points. Pinch points are any place where you’ve got moving parts. For example, this blade, and the log knockoff is a potential pinch point. Of course, between the blade and the push plate is a pinch point. With this log lift, when it raises, there's a bit of a pinch point between the log lift and the beam, so these are the places where you just need to really be careful about where you're putting your hands. Some other safety basics include wearing eye protection and gloves. Some form of hearing protection is always a good idea, and wear suitable clothing like pants and work boots. Never turn your back on a splitter when one of the cylinders is cycling and keep pets and kids at a safe distance. Find a level piece of ground to work on, or if you can't, make sure to put some wheel chocks behind the wheels of the splitter, especially when you're disconnecting it from the tow vehicle because that's when it could easily run away from you on a slope.

Maintaining your splitter to keep it in tip-top running order is important but that topic is beyond the scope of today's video. Today, we're just going to go over some of the basic things that you should do before every splitting session. It's really important before running a splitter to give it a quick once over. Check the condition of the hoses and check for any leaks, especially by the connections. Lubricate the beam with grease or oil. If your splitter has Zerk fittings, it helps get grease under the beam. Before starting the engine, make sure the splitter is set up properly. In the case of the 700-Series, it's in the, what we call, the storage or the towing mode configuration, so we need to get this catcher tray positioned. The upper half of the log lift stores in the top of the lower half. Now, if you try to start the engine right now, and we’ve heard stories where a tarp was resting on the splitter, maybe it was holding this lever in the outward position, the cylinder rod would immediately start extending and that could damage the log lift. So, that's why you want to make sure everything is set up before starting that engine. In the case of this 500-Series, note that it has two support legs and both need to be down and locked for splitting.

And, now we're ready to get the engine started. To start the engine, follow the instructions in the engine owner's manual but generally starting this type of engine involves the following:

  1. Cycle the valve lever to make sure it is in neutral. If a lever is not in neutral, it will prevent the engine from turning over.
  2. Make sure you have a sufficient amount of fresh fuel. Most of the problems with hard-starting engines or engines that don't run smoothly are related to stale, old fuel that has water in it.
  3. Check the engine oil level.
  4. Move the fuel lever to the “ON” position.
  5. Move the choke lever to the choke “ON” position.
  6. Set the throttle to about the 1/3 position.
  7. Turn the ignition switch to the “Run” position.
  8. If you have an electric start, turn the key to the “start” position and let the engine crank until it starts.
  9. Gradually turn the choke off as the engine warms up.
  10. Once the engine is warm, advance the throttle. Always operate your log splitter at full throttle.
  11. Now you're ready to split.

This 500-Series is a horizontal vertical splitter. This is a very popular style of splitter because it gives you two ways to split. We'll get started in the horizontal position.

  • Start by positioning a log on the beam between the cradles.
  • Push the valve lever toward the foot of the beam to extend the rod. You need to hold the lever. There's an internal spring that will shift the valve back to the neutral position as soon as you release the lever. This helps keep your attention on what's happening.
  • Keep your other hand clear of any pinch points.
  • Extend the rod until the log is fully split. When logs are relatively dry and straight-grained, you'll find it's not always necessary to run the blade all the way out for a full stroke.
  • Push the lever in the other direction to retract the rod.
  • Most log splitters have a return detent feature. You can release the lever and the valve spool will stay in the return position. Once the rod is fully retracted, the valve will sense a spike in pressure and this will dislodge a ball inside it and the valve will shift itself back to the neutral position.
  • It's now ready for the next cycle.

This return detent really helps increase efficiency by freeing your hands to get the next log ready but don't take your eyes off the splitter while that rod is retracted. Some pieces of wood may stick to the blade. The 500-Series has a heavy duty log knockoff that should strip these pieces off.

After splitting a log, toss the split pieces into a cart, into the back of your truck, or just onto a pile on the ground, but try to keep the area around the splitter clear. If you want to split some larger rounds and don't feel like lifting them, you can pivot the 500-Series to the vertical position. Now you can drag or roll the logs onto the foot. For large logs, start by taking bites out of the edge and work your way in.

Now let's take a look at how to split with a horizontal push-through style of log splitter. This is a 700-Series RuggedSplit. The blade is welded to this end of the beam, a push plate is mounted to the end of the rod, and it comes with a log lift, which makes getting logs up and onto the beam in position for splitting really easy.

Once you have finished setting up the splitter by inserting the lower half of the log lift and mounting the catcher tray, fire up the engine and put a log or a few logs on the foot of the log lift. Raise the log lift and roll the log into position. Push the valve lever toward the blade to extend the rod and start the split. The secret to the high productivity of a push-through splitter is you don't need to remove the pieces of wood after each split. Most of the time the next log will push the previous log past the blade and onto the catcher tray in a continuous process. From the catcher tray, you can toss them into a cart or the back of your truck, you can let them drop into a conveyor, or just let them pile up on the ground, but these machines split a lot of wood quickly, so it's going to pile up fast. Push the lever in the other direction to retract the rod and push plate. This also has a return detent. If you notice the lever is not returning to neutral as soon as the rod is fully retracted, the internal detent mechanism may need to be adjusted.

Watch our tech video on how to do that.

Now you can roll the next log into position or lower the log lift to reload. The log lift also functions as a work table. This can be a handy place to put partially split pieces of wood when a larger log needs a couple of extra splits. For some logs, you should remove the slip-on, 4-way blade. Logs that are large, knotty, or green should be broken up into smaller pieces first using the straight blade.

When you're finished splitting, retract the rod. If your splitter has a log lift, lower it. Close the throttle and let the engine idle down for a moment before turning off the ignition. If you're done splitting for the day or you're going to be towing or transporting the splitter, the best way to shut it off is to turn off the fuel and let the engine quit from fuel starvation. Then turn off the ignition switch. This will leave less fuel in the carburetor and that will reduce the chances of fuel-related problems.

Just a few final tips. To keep your splitter in good condition, store it out of the weather, such as in your garage in a shed or at least under a tarp. In colder weather, be sure to let your engine oil and your hydraulic fluid come up to operating temperature before running it at full power and splitting. If operating a splitter with two or more people, use very clear communication about who does what. The person running the valves has most of the responsibility for safety, but anyone else who's helping “feed the beast” needs to watch where they're putting their hands and feet. If you're going to tow your splitter, check out our Intro to Towing video.

That brings us to the end of our video. Let us know in the comments if you found this video helpful and also send us suggestions on other topics you'd like us to cover in future videos. Thanks for watching and happy splitting.