Although the larger hardware stores here carry 2 ton (meaning pressure exerted) electric splitters, sometimes even 4 ton, these are not powerful enough to split larger pieces or harder woods. Most people I talked to seemed to be of the opinion that 7 tons was about minimum for home use, and I`d been to one kiln where they`ve been using a 7 ton electric with success, but even that cost around $1000. Splitters are expensive here, around 3 times what you`d spend in the States, I think. Anything over 7 or 8 tons is gas engine powered and pricey. Most hover in the range of $3000 with the bigger ones even more.
Thinking about how to get a decent wood splitter that I could afford, I came up with yahoo auctions. In Japan, it`s the biggest online auction, much like ebay in the US. I found a 7 ton model for sale that I researched and found to sell normally at about $700. I waited for the last minute of the auction and bid $350, held my breath, and lo and behold, I won it. So, ended up getting it at half the discount price and about 30% of the MSRP. It came yesterday, and I finally got to try it out this afternoon.
Works like a dream for the kind of wood I`ve got. There`s a low torque/high speed setting, and a high torque/low speed setting, which really speeds things up. The power setting splits even the tougher pieces with knots down to smaller chunks, then the speed setting lets me chop the chunks into nice uniform slats for stoking.
The major drawback to this small size splitter is not the power but the body length, which won`t allow anything over 20 inches to be split. But, once I got the hang of keeping a bunch of properly sized wood on hand, this splitter went through it in no time. One more thing is not so much a drawback as an annoyance: The power switch must be depressed manually for the motor to run, if you take away your hand, the motor switches off. I`m sure it was meant to be a safety feature but it`s ridiculous, because with the location of the button and as stiff as it is, you`ve got to be as strong as the God of Thunder, and as flexible as a teenage Soviet gymnast to operate the thing realistically. Luckily, though you would never mistake me for Thor or Olga Korbut, I happen to be the owner of some nice little wood clamps, one of which happens to clamp down just right on that little green button, keeping the motor running while I work continuously.
You can see from the pictures that the pine slabs are a fairly uniform 4 to 5 inches thick, and they split down nicely into sizes from about 2 inches thick, to 3/4 inches thick. The stack in the picture took about 90 minutes, MUCH faster than the axe, and much more uniform in size.