Common Manual Log Splitter Problems

Logs in a pile.

A manual log splitter can be a tremendous help when preparing your firewood. There are a number of common problems that you should be prepared for.

Log Fails to Split

If a log fails to split, there are several possible reasons.

The splitter may not be powerful enough. Your splitter should be rated by the diameter of wood it will accept, and the tons of pressure it will apply. Some splitters are acceptable when trying to cut softer trees or even some knottier wood.

Try trimming the log, as your splitter may have a shorter ram rod and cannot accept lengthier logs. Sycamore, mulberry, oak, and beech are among the hardest varieties to split, even when the splitter is working properly.

For any splitter, make sure the log is positioned correctly. The wedges need to be at a precise angle, and need to hit the log correctly to work.

Wood that has large knots in it may not split when using a hydraulic-assisted manual log splitter, because the wood tends to crack off at the knot's knuckle. Tender wood can be problematic as well, and ends up shattering instead of cutting most of the time.

For any splitter, try to split the wood when it is dry. Wet wood will not split as easily.

Wedge Doesn't Cut

If the log is positioned correctly and is the right length, but the wedge still does not cut through, turn off the machine and check the wedge sharpness. Look for burrs and nicks. Sharpen with a file, if necessary.

Oil Leak

If you have a hydraulic splitter, check for oil leaks. Any loss of oil will impact the hydraulic pressure, which reduces the ramming force or makes the machine overwork. Add oil as necessary, check the seals, and make sure that your bleed valve/bleed screw is in the proper position.

Log Pusher Jerks or Vibrates

This is usually caused by air in the hydraulic system. Use your bleed valve/bleed screw, and top up the oil. If the problem persists, your system may need to be flushed.

Loss of Driving Force

If your splitter uses a hydraulic piston, a loss of driving force can be the result of an oil leak or air in the system. Use the bleed valve first, then check the oil level and top up if needed. Your oil may lose viscosity in cold weather. You may want to store your splitter in a shed or garage to help keep the oil slightly warmer.

If this doesn’t work, you may need to replace a piston.

A manual log splitter is an economical way to cut logs that would be time-prohibitive by using an axe. Whether you choose a manual splitter that uses a foot pedal, an air-compressor assist, or a hydraulic assist, you should always exercise extreme caution. If you decide to make a homemade log splitter, make sure that you follow the log splitter plans exactly to prevent injuring yourself.