I believe it was Henry Ford who once famously quipped that you should chop your own wood because it would warm you twice.
Sage advice, but frankly, most of us these days don’t have time for all that on a busy homestead. Chopping firewood takes a lot of time and effort, and it also takes a toll on even the strongest back…
And time is money, or rather time has an associated opportunity cost on the homestead, so taking care of this necessary chore quicker, more efficiently, and with a lot less energy will help you get more done.
A log splitter is just the ticket, but buying one of these things can be really expensive. Naturally, the solution is to build your own.
It isn’t as hard as you think if you are crafty, and to help you do just that I’m bringing you 12 useful sets of plans below.
Table of Contents
1. Vertical Log Splitter with Loading Arm
Without a doubt, the Cadillac of DIY splitters on our list, this large vertical wedge splitter was featured in Grit magazine, built by Ed Hollmen of New York.
Showing obvious technical skill and attention to detail, this hydraulically-powered splitter utilizes a moving wedge and a winch-powered loading arm that allows the user to stack logs at ground level and then raise them up to be fed into the machine easily.
This is a truly elegant design, one that will save you a ton of labor and time not just when it’s time to actually split the log, but also when it’s time to move them into position for splitting. Very clever!
The maker even gave the whole thing a nice coat of paint to protect it and to show off his obvious pride in his creation.
Truly remarkable, and a machine that the craftiest homesteaders might aspire to build.
2. Mobile Log Splitter
A small, mobile wood splitter built as part of a tow behind trailer or carriage, the maker used a variety of salvage and scrap parts, including the axle off of an old car to complete construction.
Admittedly, some corners were cut when it came to the grade of materials- check out the beer keg oil reservoir!- but he shows that it is effective and safe so long as it is used with appropriate judgment.
Notably, the entire thing folds up for easier transport and deployment and he even fitted an umbrella to it to provide him a little bit of shade while he is splitting his wood.
For homesteaders that want a light-duty splitter that’s easy to push around by hand or pull behind a truck or utility vehicle, this could be considered a great model to base your own design off of.
3. Salvage Engine Wedge Splitter
Using little more than scrap metal, a spare salvaged engine, and a good working knowledge of hydraulic principles this maker built a functional log splitter for less than $200.
This is another totally achievable DIY design that most of us will be able to make with a little bit of scrounging and ingenuity, and perhaps a little bit of help from a technically-inclined friend.
It just goes to show what can be achieved using parts that others would consider bad or no good.
The builder admits that the engine was already passed its prime and many of the hydraulic components, including the reservoir and piston, or sourced from a local junkyard with the frame and other miscellaneous bits being made from scrap metal.
This design is one that uses a pusher to force the wood into a fixed wedge, which is nominally one of the safest splitter designs out there and one that I prefer.
4. Tabletop “Unicorn” Log Splitter
A super-simple, lean and minimalist splitter design, this so-called unicorn splitter comes to us from Russia. There’s a video within the link provided here, and some really good technical diagrams, but no instructions in English otherwise.
That doesn’t matter, because you’ll be able to see that this splitter is nothing more than a small motor attached to a jury-rigged frame with a motorcycle chain driving the splitting head.
And it definitely works because all you need to do is gently press the wood into the turning head which will dig into it, bite, and then drill deeper, splitting it easily with minimal noise or force.
It’s a bit of a contraption, but definitely a functional splitter and a lot easier to transport compared to some of the behemoths elsewhere on this list.
5. Manually Operated Splitter
Surprise! Not all of the log splitters on this list are motor-driven. This clever design comes to us from a Dutch design engineer, who created a vertical wedge splitter that’s foot-powered.
That’s right: you pump a lever with your foot to drive a hydraulic jack which forces your wood into a fixed wedge.
It looks like a bit of a workout in the video at this link, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to do than swinging an ax all day and requires much, much less force on your part.
Plus, you can switch legs when you get tired with no real risk compared to switching hands with an ax!
It’s adaptable for different sizes of logs and something that anyone with a little bit of welding experience can easily put together themselves.
One of my favorite designs on this list both for its portability and because it only needs muscle power for fuel!
6. Screw-type Log Splitter with Square Tube Frame
A great garage or shop-size splitter made from welded square tubing, an electric motor and a screw-type splitter attachment, this is one of the best in its category that I’ve seen for efficiency, portability, and ease of construction.
I especially appreciate the fact that common square tubing is used for the frame as it is certainly sturdy enough to make a safe machine and it’s strong enough to support the weight of all the other parts and any abuse that you might put it through.
There is some intricate machining involved and a little bit of work using additional pulleys to create enough power for fast and efficient splitting, but the walkthrough is quite good, and this is something that anyone with welding and machining experience could make well.
7. Tractor-attached Log Splitter
A really clean and classy DIY log splitter, one that is designed to attach the back of a tractor or other similar vehicle.
Intelligently designed with a good layout designed to maximize efficiency and decrease operator fatigue, it also has a nice powder-coated finish for durability and weather-resistance.
The tilting loading arm is also a nice touch, one which will save your back.
Also notice in the video how the fixed cutting decks and wedges process the log on both sides of the stroke, and likewise there are chutes on either end to catch the split wood. This one’s a winner in my book!
8. Bottle Jack and Scrap Steel Splitter
Another super minimalist manually powered design, this simple log splitter uses a fixed wedge and a 20-ton bottle jack capable of splitting even the toughest logs.
Designed to bolt to a wall or other sturdy vertical surface, with a few modifications, it would also work well enough horizontally.
You can tell the owner put extra time into this one to make it really nice, including a good finish, but if you wanted to whip one together in a hurry, this is something most of us could make with what we have lying around in our shops.
9. Lightweight Towable DIY Splitter
Another lightweight towable design made with reclaimed components, specifically the motor, hydraulics, and parts for the frame, this is a horizontal splitter with a fixed wedge that could easily be towed behind most lawn tractors and other light duty utility vehicles.
10. Lathe-Made Splitting Screw
Have you seen those fancy tapering screw splitter attachments on various designs throughout this list? Sure, you can go buy one of those for a pretty penny, but if you’ve got a lathe and a little bit of skill using it you can make your own!
This could be a great component to produce yourself for any of the designs above that utilize it, or you can chuck it into a heavy-duty drill and split logs that way. When it comes to sheer portability, nothing is better!
11. Flywheel Splitter
You’ve probably seen a few designs like this floating around the internet and thought the same thing that I did: that is insanely dangerous! And you’d be right.
Compared to most of the other log splitter designs out there, these flywheel types are most likely to hurt you unless you’re really paying attention and being safe.
But, you might also have noticed how fast these are when it comes to getting work done. For some, it is a trade-off that is worthwhile. You can see how easy they are to make by how this one is set up in the video.
12. Four-way Manual Splitter
Another clever manual splitter that relies on four fixed wedges, in this case actual axe heads, to help you fully process logs of manageable size or allow you better safety and control when processing down halves into quarters.
You do need to tap the wood through it using a mallet, but compared to swinging an axe it’s a whole lot easier and safer since you aren’t swinging the cutting part at high velocity!
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.
Find out more about the team here.