Leave it to the Swedes to help take the backache out of splitting wood.
With great success, we’ve been testing out the Smart-Splitter designed and manufactured by the Swedish company, Logosol Smart Products, and distributed in the US by Lucky Supply America. We found it simple to use, effective on most logs we tried, zero-energy, zero emission and definitely safe.
We first came across these handy units at the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania, and had to know how well they worked on our elm and knotty logs. Sure, the Smart-Splitter handles 13-inch long, 10-inch in diameter, well-seasoned logs of maple, oak, locust and black cherry. But how about stringy elm, or logs with multiple limbs or those that are unevenly cut? This is our first hand experience.
As homesteaders at our wind and solar-powered Inn Serendipity Farm and B&B, we’re always exploring efficient ways to meet our energy needs without using much — or any — fossil fuels. We heat our farmhouse with wood from downed trees, readily available and free for the taking in neighboring woodlots, on our farmstead or in our community. To the extent we can — in how we heat our home, generate electricity or grow our food (organically) — we strive to turn back the clock on climate change and build resilience.
For evenly cut, seasoned 13-inch-long and 10-inch-in-diameter logs without limbs, the Smart-Splitter worked like a breeze. Lining up the splitting wedge with existing radial cracks in the log usually allowed us to split the wood in less than six thrusts downward with the roughly seven-and-a-half-pound striking weight.
Unless you have lots of practice with a maul, or “splitter axe,” and the strength to heave the maul over your head for hours, the Smart-Splitter does the work quicker, safer and with less effort. It’s a tool that the whole family can use. Both my wife and teenager son, neither of whom would normally be found splitting wood, embraced the Smart-Splitter thanks to its safety and relative ease of use.
Generally speaking, the number of downward thrusts of the splitter’s striking weight increased in proportion to the type of wood logs we were splitting, their length and/or their diameter. While we followed the directions to use only well-seasoned and dry logs with lots of radial cracks, elm required the most effort — upwards of eighteen slams for a couple pieces. Others logs, like maple, oak and hickory, were split within six to ten thrusts. Impressive, for the little amount of physical energy we actually expended. We did encounter a few logs with limbs or knots so twisted that we were forced to set these aside to cut in half with a chainsaw later. The shorter the logs and straighter the grain, the less likely any issues.
Like many homesteaders, we don’t get every log cut perfectly straight. This leads to an uneven log, logs with a slight angle to a cut side. If you perch these uneven logs on a splitting log to split with a maul, it can be a very frustrating balancing act. With the Smart-Splitter, however, this is less of an issue, since the splitter holds the wood upright. Just line the splitter edge up with the radial cracks in the dried log and you can safely split away. And you’re guaranteed to hit the wood in exactly the same spot until it’s split. That’s not to say you want to split uneven logs; it’s just a bit easier and safer to do so with the Smart-Splitter.
Once you get this tool set up, there’s no learning curve or eye-hand coordination. With the Smart-Splitter, it’s just a matter of lifting up the weight with both hands and thrusting it downward. No more deflections or bouncing the maul head off the side of the log.
Knots can be a challenge, though. If you get the splitting wedge lodged into the log, as we did on more than one occasion, there’s a stop nut on the bar to reverse thrust the striking weight to easily remove the wedge from the log. We’d then reposition the splitting wedge on a different radial crack and try again. The bigger the log, the more the effort, regardless of the type of wood. For those who like to get a little exercise while stacking up cordwood, you’ll get that too, just in a much safer way.
You should never try making kindling with a gas-powered hydraulic splitter, lest you want to tempt fate with your fingers. Swinging a hatchet can also take a bit of practice. But the Smart-Splitter also has a kindling blade so that small pieces of firewood can be cut safely and quickly. We’re going to keep our splitter set up inside our shed for when we start running out of kindling near the end of the winter (which we usually do).
To set up the Smart-Splitter, you’ll need hardwood log base at least 12-inches in diameter and about 10 to 20-inches high. A steel supporting rod is inserted about 5-inches into the hardwood base; a drill bit is provided for this initial setup. Once done with the base, we could set-up our splitter in less than thirty seconds.
John D. Ivanko, with his wife Lisa Kivirist, have co-authored Rural Renaissance, Homemade for Sale, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and Farmstead Chef along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by the wind and sun. Both are regular speakers at the Mother Earth News Fairs. As a writer and photographer, Ivanko contributes to MOTHER EARTH NEWS, most recently, 9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam, millions of ladybugs and a 10 kW Bergey wind turbine. Read all of John's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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