It’s October, and we’ve just had our first snow as well as our first sub-freezing weather of fall in Colorado. Just, as in, just this morning. Yesterday afternoon hit 80 degrees, but now quite suddenly it’s time to think about firewood. I usually split firewood with one of my favorite mauls or splitting axes (as a “casual” collector, I have 70+ axes), but I was intrigued by a new product called the Logosol Smart Splitter. The Swedish brand Logosol is known for their portable sawmills, molder/planers, and related log processing tool. The Logosol Smart Splitter promised to be a more ergonomic and efficient way to split firewood. And while not economical compared to a simple splitting maul, at around $120, it’s a much cheaper alternative to many other mechanical wood-splitting devices. Our friends over TheGrommet.com sent us one to test out. Join me as I take it for a spin to see if it’s time to swap out your splitting axe for a less back-breaking log splitting technique.
I call this a device rather than a machine, as the Logosol Smart Splitter is primate-powered like other manual splitting tools. It consists of a slide hammer on a guide rail that is attached to the top of a splitting wedge. The wedge assembly is attached to a guide post that allows it to move up and down, and this post is what anchors the Smart Splitter to the chopping block of your choice. Slamming the slide hammer down onto the wedge is what provides the splitting power, and positioning the wedge exactly where you want it before the slamming commences is what provides the aim. There’s even a smaller splitting blade attached to take care of kindling. That all covers the “Smart” half of the name.
Assembly and Ergonomics of the Smart Splitter
To set up the Logosol Smart Splitter, you need only a drill and a stump or log section suitable to split your firewood on. Using the included 20mm spade bit, you need to drill a hole to fit the unit’s guide rod a few inches in from the edge of the stump and about 4” deep. The rod simply slides into the hole, so the unit can easily be lifted out and stored inside, out of the weather. Spaced properly, the wedge assembly can be rotated past the stump’s edge to help dislodge wood stuck on the wedge. Be sure your block is low enough to allow you a full swing of the slide hammer, but not too low that you have to bend down too far to set the wedge every time.
The guide rail for the slide hammer is tall enough to keep us non-NBA’ers from poking our eyes out, but the mounting post is low enough to bash an arm on. Make sure to position your body to avoid the post. I found that my arms went out sideways when letting go of the slide hammer so I felt safest behind the post with my arms on either side of it. Standing in front of the post at the far side of my chopping block had me leaning over too far, and standing to either side gave me several close calls with the post.
Now you’re ready to split some firewood. Oh, I should have mentioned that you’ll need a bunch of firewood to make this all work, just like you would if you were doing this the old-fashioned way.
Here’s a very soothing video of the Logosol Smart Splitter in Action:
Strikes, Splits, and Misses with the Logosol Smart Splitter
Using traditional striking tools to split wood requires more brute force than the Smart Splitter. More importantly, those traditional tools require precise aim to process wood effectively. Overstrikes will break a handle, glancing blows send firewood flying like a bowling pin—sometimes straight into your shins, and misses will still knock your balanced piece of firewood over, requiring you to stop and set it up again, like a bowling pin.
But worst of all is the dreaded wood piece that splits part way and clamps onto the head of your maul or axe. If you’re lucky, you can invert the stuck stick and bang the butt of the axe on the block, using the weight of the wood to split itself. But more often than not, you’re stuck lifting the whole mess up at the end of your tool and slamming it against your block repeatedly to split or dislodge the wood. Though I may be quoted differently by any nearby neighbors when this happens to me, I am actually just saying “Hateitwhenthishappens” or “Oh, Bother” and I think they mis-hear my frustrated lamentations.
All of these problems with traditional log splitting techniques are non-productive, (and the latter is quite exhausting). The Logosol Smart Splitter was designed to do away with these issues: A.) you aim it perfectly ahead of time by setting the wedge directly on the wood, B.) misses are impossible, but even if it takes more than one hit to split, the wood stays put and the wedge stays right on target (getting more than one hit in the same spot takes some real talent when swinging a striking tool), C.) even when stuck in springy wood, I found that enough blows of the slide hammer would eventually drive the wedge through, or alternately, D.) attentive readers of the instruction manual will learn the handy trick of rotating the stuck wood/wedge so it hangs out past the edge of block and then slamming the slide hammer upward to free the wedge, using the wood’s inertia to combat its clamping power. It worked for me!
The Smart Splitter Is Smart, But It’s Still Exercise
The Smart Splitter is also designed to be easier on your body than other manual wood splitting techniques. While your elbow and shoulder joints don’t suffer the impact shock of using a maul, splitting axe, or a sledgehammer pounding on wedges, the downward flinging motion used to accelerate the Smart Splitter’s slide hammer toward its target still requires a vigorous, forceful action that many of our physiques may not be used to. There is no physical connection to the wedge as it strikes the wood, but wrists, elbows, triceps, and shoulders all still get an uncommon workout.
One other bodily comfort feature of the Logosol Smart Splitter is very small, but very much appreciated. A durable plastic grommet sits between the slide hammer and the top of the splitting wedge which greatly reduces the impact sound of the hammer and wedge collision. I don’t know about your ears, but the staccato steel-on-steel cacophony of a typical sledge and wedge makes mine ring for hours, but I don’t even wince at the sound of the Smart Splitter.
Top Tips for Quick Splits
The splitting force delivered by the Logosol Smart Splitter is simply not on par with the full swing of an 8-pound maul. During my testing, results with modest sized firewood was very positive, especially with straight-grain pieces. But with larger and tougher pieces, my production rate slowed. Difficult wood could eventually be split with the Smart Splitter, but after six or more vigorous strikes on the same piece in the exact same place, I began to feel a bit silly, and a bit overworked.
Pro-Tip: To help with tough wood, it helps to start the wedge on the very outside edge and start with a smaller bite. If the wood stays intact, turn it 180 degrees and start another perimeter split in line with the first one to exploit the plane of weakness you established.
Kindling is easily split with the thinner splitting blade that forms the connection between the wedge and the sleeve around the guide post, and the recessed design of this feature also holds slender pieces captive so they don’t spring away when struck. Instead of standing up and delivering a full blow, I found it easier to keep the slide hammer in hand and tap away when preparing kindling.
Similarly, this inner blade excels at splitting curved pieces of firewood, something that is very difficult to do with handheld striking tools. To facilitate this advanced feat, lean the top end of a curved log firmly against the guide post. Keep the convex side up to keep it from deflecting upon impact. Use the guide rail for support with larger curved wood too, though the wedge will do most of the splitting rather than the smaller recessed kindling blade. That covers the “Splitter” half of the name!
The Bottom Line on the Logosol Smart Splitter
After my years of experience with woodsy whimsy, I’m a whiz at swinging most any bit (axe head) attached to the end of a helve, haft, or handle, all right on target. Yet I can’t match the mechanical accuracy of the Smart Splitter. My swing provides more power than I can muster with the Smart Splitter, but my joints are made to pay for all my traditional lumberjacking later.
To get the balance right, I think I’d throw-down (literally) with the Logosol Smart Splitter for modest-size and even larger straight-grain wood, as well as any bouncy curved pieces. But I’ll save all the gnarled, branch-whorled, and knot-pegged pieces for later to meet my trusty maul (actually, If I was smart, I’d give those pieces away…hmmm…). Likewise, splitting kindling is easier when held and swung together with a sharp hatchet. I’ll conclude by saying that the well-designed and well-made Logosol Smart Splitter is a gentle alternative to traditional log splitting techniques. It’s easy to use, and effective, but not an overall time-saver for splitting firewood.
Featured Image – Logosol