As more and more homeowners heat their homes with wood, more and find out just what a chore it is to split the stuff. It takes up to six cords of wood to beat the average home for a winter. And six cords of wood comes to a lot of time, work - even blisters, if you have to do it all by hand.
Fortunately, the resurgence of wood heat has been accompanied by an increase in the number of mechanical log-splitters designed with the homeowner in mind. Until just a few years ago, most were big heavy-duty units designed for the commerical firewood producer. Most of these are more than you or I need, and, at around $1,000 each, more than we can afford.
But today you can get a splitter for a small fraction o the cost of those commercial rigs, and some of these home splitters will actually outperform the big rigs, splitting more wood in less time with less effort.
The most interesting of the new splitters is the screw/wedge type. It's a large, coneshaped screw that simply threads its way into a log and rips in apart. It can come with its own gasoline engine, or a design that bolts to the drive wheel of your car, truck or garden tractor.
I personally prefer the latter type. It's cheap because you need't pay for an extra power plant to run it; it's powerful because it's driven by the large engine of your car or truck instead of a four-to eight-horsepower engine; and it's extremely quiet, making no more noise than you idling car.
Best of all, this splitter is very fast. You simply take a log and swing it lightly agaisnt the tip of the spinning screw. The screw digs in and you let go of the log. Either the ground or a special stop keeps the log from spinning as the screw digs in deeper. Meanwhile you can pick up another log, and as soon as the screw tip emerges from the first log you can start the second one.
Very occasionally, a screw/wedge splitter will get stuck in a log and stall. When that happens just put your vehicle in reverse and back the screw out.
There are two disadvantages to these vehicle-driven splitters: you have to jack up your vehicle, support it on a block or stand, possibly remove a wheel, and then bolt the splitter to the bub; you can use this splitter only in places you can drive to, so you can't split in the woods.
The splitter with its own engine overcomes both these problems, but at an increase in cost, noise and starting effort (most are rope-pull start) and a decrease in power.
Vehicle-powered splitters are produced by The Tackery Company, 1879 Frebis Ave., Columbus, Ohio 43206; Garden Way, 1300 Ethan Allen Ave, Winooski, Vt. 05404. A splitter with integral gas engine is made by Trans-America Power Equipment, Inc. 8308 Washington St. Chagrin Falls, Ohio 44022. Prices run $200 to $300.