Introduction: Foot Operated Log Splitter

About: I am a Dutch design engineer, living in Wales (UK) and working in steel industry until recently, as my request for voluntary redundancy did get accepted. I am married, and I am a father to a little boy. I like…
My relative Ken was in need for a log splitter. I made one up for him, using a cheap bottle jack and various bits of stuff I already had lying around. The resulting splitter is foot operated and capable of splitting logs of various sizes.

Although this project falls in the category of Redneck projects, it is still important to think of safety. For example, I did not only look away when grinding steel, but I also squinted my eyes at the same time! *

Richard Tegelbeckers

* Just kidding: WEAR GOGGLES!!!

Step 1: Main Frame

For the main upright I used a section I salvaged from a store display unit. It has holes along it's length, which will be useful for adjustment purposes. I also used 25X50 rectangular box and 50x50 square box, which I recovered from other redundant fabrications. I did sketch up the main frame and sliding block before making them. After completion of the frame and the slider, I did not make use of any drawings and made it all up as I went along.

Step 2: Sliding Block

It is the intention to push a log upwards, into a wegde. This will cause the log to split. This step shows the sliding block, for the log to sit on. It will be pushed by the bottle jack and will be guided along the main upright section. In order to get a good fit, I used shims (+/- 0.1mm thick) I cut from beer cans. As it happened, I did need to remove the paint from the upright in order to achieve a good sliding fit. If I were to do it again, I would go for much more of a gap.

Step 3: Bottle Jack

The jack is a 10 Ton Silverline jack, bought from Amazon for less than 20 GB pounds. It is a bargain!!!. In order to enable the jack to be used for something else, I made sure it can be removed. The pedal needs to be guided as it would otherwise be wobbling sideways. I added a bungee to automatically return the pedal in the upper position. To guide the bungee, I used an old timing belt tensioner from a MK1 Volkswagen Golf (= VW Rabbit in USA...). The bend in the pedal was achieved by wacking a tube with a large sledge hammer.

Step 4: Wedge

In order to split a log, it needs to be forced into a sharp wedge shape. I did consider fabricating a wedge out of thick plate, but then I noticed an ideal piece of material on the front suspension of the MK3 VW Golf I scrapped some time ago. After a bit of welding, cutting and grinding, a chunky wedge emerged.

Step 5: First Use

After assembly, the splitter was tested and the initial results were good. However, a close inspection of a video showed bending of the upright...

Step 6: Disaster Strikes!

O no!!! Email from Ken, showing a bent upright...

Before being able to address the concern I had regarding the bending of the upright, the splitter already got damaged. At least this did highlight the weak spots in the unit.

Step 7: Fixing & Strengthening

A few more salvaged sections were required to beef up the splitter. First of all I cut the bent upright and replaced it with a new section. Removing the paint was fast, as I used an agressive twist knot brush on my 9 inch angle grinder for this. It did not take long to cut a few box sections and some angles. A few moments later, the whole lot is welded together. Not pretty, but very strong!

Step 8: Conclusions

The splitter works as intended, with the only item purchased being the bottle jack. It would probably look a lot better with a lick of paint, but who has the time for that sort of thing...

A few remarks:
The bottle jack used is rated at 10 (metric) tonnes. This is a lot for what it is supposed to do. Unless some really heavy and large sections of steel (eg. girder) can be used for a splitter frame, it might be better to use a smaller, 6 tonnes jack. It is too easy for a heavy jack to bend a frame out of lighter sections... The strengthening sections should address this issue, but needs one more addition. The bolt for attaching the wedge is potentially pinching the upright to the stage where it deforms. This can be solved by adding a thick plate to spread the load. As the finishing touch, I will quickly knock this up before handing over the splitter to Ken.

Update (13-01-'13): I welded two 8mm thick plates together, for spreading the load of the bolt. I also added a handle bar on the top of the frame. As a final test I put in a difficult piece to split, which was no problem at all.

Finally a word to Ken: Have much fun splitting those logs!!!
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