Log Splitters Work: How Do They Work?

Without a log splitter, the log splitting process is fairly self-explanatory. You can either use an ax to chop the wood or use a wedge and mallet. Log splitters work similarly to the second option but are automated.

The benefit of a gas powered or electric log splitter is that they save you some legwork and sweat. If you do all of your wood splitting by hand, you will end up exhausted or, even worse, injured, by the end of a longer project.

Another related benefit of mechanical log splitters is that they allow you to split more wood in a session. Since you are not using your own strength to split the wood, you can do a lot more log splitting.

Even though gas and electric powered log splitters serve the same basic purpose, they work in slightly different ways. Both options share the ultimate goal of splitting the wood in an easier manner.

 How gas and electric log splitters work

Although they have different strengths and weaknesses, both gas and electric log splitters work in the same basic way. Additionally, at the end of the day, the end result they produce will be the same.

Regardless of whether it is gas or electric powered, a log splitter incorporates all the aspects of a hydraulic machine. It is made up of an engine, a hydraulic oil pump, a valve, a tank, and usually a filter.

The engine portion of the log splitter can either be electric of gas powered. As with other machines, the engine provides the power source for the hydraulic system.

Attached to the engine is the hydraulic oil pump. The oil pump creates high-pressure oil which runs the valve. Although electric log splitters do not require gasoline, basically all log splitters require oil for the hydraulic pump portion.

The valve portion is what actually operates the hydraulic cylinder to split the log. When the valve activates the cylinder, it drives the wedge through the log.

Finally, the tank is what holds the oil before it enters the hydraulic pump and the filter keeps the oil clean in between changing.

The entire log splitting action is controlled by levers. The best log splitters incorporate a two-stage pump. This means that when you pull the lever, the pump uses two different pressures to drive the ram into the log and then retract it again.

Based on the amount of flow rate, the hydraulic pump exerts differing levels of pressure. When a higher pressure is required, the flow rate will be low and the cycle time of the log splitter will be on the longer side.

Due to the nature of a hydraulic pump, smaller logs and softwood will split at a faster rate. Because less pressure is required, the flow rate will be higher, making the cycle time shorter by default.

As far as the operator is concerned, typically all that is done to operate a log splitter is pulling a lever. When you pull the lever, the valve routes the fluid from the pump to the hydraulic cylinder, activating the hydraulic pump action.

At the end of a cycle (when the log has been split), older models of log splitters require that you remove the log and return the wedge to its original position. On newer models, the pump retracts again after splitting the log. This makes the cycle time ever shorter.


Ultimately, all you are physically doing while operating a log splitter is pulling a lever. In extreme cases, you may also have to move the wedge back to its starting position when the log has been split.

Although it feels like you are just pulling a lever and splitting the wood, the hydraulic pump system makes the process easier and streamlined. In newer models, you will not even need to move the wedge back to its original position because the pump does it for you.

Without the hydraulic oil pump, you would most likely be hacking away at logs with an axe, wedge, and mallet. The hydraulic pumps in both electric and gas powered machines take away this added struggle.

They may seem like totally different types of machinery, but log splitters actually work in much the same way that backhoes and bobcats work. All these machines use hydraulic pumps to exert more force without the manpower.