There is something infinitely satisfying about splitting wood by hand for the fireplace, but if you burn a lot of wood during the course of a season in a woodstove, investing in a log splitter can save you a lot of back pain. Would-be lumberjacks will have to choose between an electric or a gas-powered model. The diameter of the logs you want to split and the type of wood you’re splitting will determine how many tons of pressure your log-splitter will need to generate. Soft woods, like pine, may be perfectly handled by an electric splitter, but for tougher types of wood like, oak, elm, locust, and cherry, you’ll need a much heavier gas-powered model that produces 25 tons of splitting pressure (or more). Do you want a horizontal or a vertical splitter? A single or a dual-wedge design?

Starting to get confused? Don’t be. We’ve taken the hassles out of shopping for you with these three tips to help you choose the best log splitter for your needs.

Great Value

This can handle wood up to 10 inches in diameter. A handy stand saves bending over to work. WEN

Log splitters are rated by the number of tons of splitting pressure they produce. The more splitting tonnage you have, the larger the diameter (and the tougher the type of wood) you’ll be able to split. Whether gas or electric, models producing 5 or 6 tons will generally handle logs up to 10 inches in diameter (provided the wood is not too hard and the grain is fairly straight). For larger logs with diameters up to 24 inches or so, you’ll want a splitter that produces 20 to 25 tons of splitting force. And for really big logs, a 35-ton capacity may be just the ticket.

Top Pick

This horizontal, electric model features an automatic ram return that brings the ram back to the starting position. Boss Industrial

Like most electric tools, electric log splitters tend to be smaller (easier to store) and lighter (easier to maneuver). Most electric models run between 5 and 6 tons, so they can generally handle logs up to 10 inches in diameter without too much strain. And because electric models produce no fumes, they are safe to use in the garage—a nice plus if you just want to split a few larger pieces for the fireplace on a cold night. The disadvantage, obviously, is that you’re limited by the length of your extension cord in terms of how far out in the yard you can go with your electric splitter.

Also Consider

This model’s 2-inch ball hitch and 16-inch tires makes it easy to tow to wherever you want to use it. Champion Power Equipment

For logs larger than 10 inches (and for tougher types of wood), gas-powered models are the only way to go as they produce the higher tonnages (20 tons or more) needed to get the job done. Horizontal splitters are great for splitting pieces you can easily lift, but for heavier pieces of larger diameter, you’ll want to get a model that splits vertically. Dual-wedge models are designed so that if one wedge hits a knot, the log will continue to be split by the wedge on the opposite end. Look for models that are easy to clean and have heavy-duty hoses and connectors that will wear longer. And be sure the machine you choose has parts and services that are readily available.