Anyone who has ever spent an afternoon splitting firewood with a wedge, sledge and maul can attest that this is work of the highest order. It is great exercise, I’ll grant you, and in modest quantities indeed makes for a decent workout. However, if you use firewood for heat in the winter, then splitting wood with a maul gets old in a hurry. I’m happy to say that around the Dabbs household those days are gone forever.
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Nice tools are investments. My grandfather taught me that, and he could contrive, build or repair literally anything. His mantra was that for things you would count on for a long time quality was paramount. With that in mind, the Powerhorse from Northern Tool and Equipment is the sort of wood splitter you buy once and use forever. With a little attention, it should outlive you.
The Powerhorse is a robust and efficient design that comes in several flavors. I chose the smallest of the lot and was still amazed at its power. The device is built into a modest wheeled chassis, making it maneuverable around a worksite. There is also a handy 2-inch hitch that fastens on to a four-wheeler, truck, tractor or SUV should you need to move the splitter long distances.
Power comes from a 208cc gasoline engine. Once serviced, the engine cranks on the very first pull and is both simple and powerful. This compact power plant is fairly quiet and fuel-efficient while sporting a generous fuel tank. It also allows the device to operate wherever you might be harvesting wood.
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The Powerhorse has two basic modes of operation. The splitter can be operated horizontally with the bed at roughly waist height. In this mode the logs to be split are dropped in place and the two split halves are caught on either side of the device via built-in racks. The appeal is that the process is controlled and entirely predictable. The downside is that the logs in question must be hefted into place. For really big, heavy stock this can get tedious.
Pull a single pin and the entire ram and trough assembly pivots so that the machine now operates in the vertical plane. In this mode heavy logs can be slid into place and split without lifting them off the ground. Heavy steel strippers pull the wood off the wedge when it retracts in either mode. The single hydraulic control lever is mounted on the top of the device for easy access. Everything is heavy and over-engineered for a lifetime of service.
Up And Running
The crated package that arrives on the truck is really heavy, on the order of 600 pounds, but it may be manhandled on a dolly if needed. The instructions were well organized and easy to use as a result. Assembly requires about an afternoon and requires a few specialized tools.
The splitter arrives completely unassembled, but if you are robust and hearty enough to own a decent wood splitter, you will be sufficiently mechanically adept to assemble and use the device. The hardware is metric and to do the assembly right you will need a torque wrench and some large metric sockets and wrenches up to about 22mm. However, most of the assembly tasks can be undertaken with a pair of thin crescent wrenches if, like mine, your metric socket collection is inadequate for the task. All hydraulic fittings are either simple screw-in sorts or sealed with standard hose clamps. None of it is particularly daunting.
The finished machine is robust, heavy and exquisitely well designed. The center of gravity is almost over the axle, so maneuvering the Powerhorse around a worksite by hand is not a chore despite its robust mass. There is a fold-down leg on the front of the frame to provide a nice steady work platform as well as an integral waterproof tube in which to store the manual mounted directly on the machine.
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It had been a longer winter than was typical for my area and the wood racks were bone dry. I had dropped a pair of large trees the previous year to get the shade off the garden and the wood had seasoned in place throughout the previous fall. I had left the trunks where they fell because my previous store splitter was simply not up to the task. Every time I walked by this wood I felt a bit sorrowful at the wasted fuel.
This time the splitter came with me and the odds had changed. My swarthy German chainsaw made quick work of the trunk and the mobility of the splitter brought the machine to the work rather than the other way around. The Powerhorse splitter makes quick work of the largest splitting chores, and I was not able to challenge the device. With a 22-ton capacity, the Powerhorse split the largest oak and hickory I could find without hesitation.
Abraham Lincoln would have killed for one of these marvelous machines. Back in the Dark Ages, I toiled away in the backyard with a maul until my shoulders ached. When I outfitted my maul with an indestructible fiberglass handle, I thought I had taken a real step up in the world.
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The Powerhorse is what other wood splitters aspire to be. There are larger models but this machine split everything I could find without slowing down. The pivoting action of the Powerhorse allows it to manage the largest stock without any undue lifting, and it will run and split until you get tired of feeding it. The device was utterly reliable and easy to start. It has literally taken the heavy lifting out of our winter preparations. Whether the wood is green or dry, large or small, soft or hard, the Powerhorse splitter makes easy work of it all.
I like wood heat in the winter because my wife of 30 years and I can snuggle up to it and tweak the size and intensity to fit the environment and my mood. A similar exercise in front of the metal register of a central heating unit is simply not quite the same. With the Powerhorse splitter and a pair of free Saturdays, I can stock up on enough fuel to keep both of our fireplaces humming along throughout the cold months with essentially no incremental costs.
A modest investment on the front end in a quality chainsaw and a Powerhorse wood splitter takes all the pain out of laying in a healthy store of firewood. The Powerhorse splitter is adequate to serve my needs several times over and, so long as some trivial maintenance is rendered, should yet service my children when they grow to have need of it. It may seem ridiculous to develop an emotional bond with a piece of farm equipment, but one that so deftly improves our lot is deserving of our affection.
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Major pieces of equipment on the Dabbs family farm earn their own names. We call our big German chainsaw Beavis. After our first season, we christened our Powerhorse wood splitter Spike. It connotes strength and competence and as such seems a fitting moniker for such a fine piece of equipment. To learn more, call 800-221-0516 or visit northerntool.com.
- Powerhorse Horizontal/Vertical Wood Splitter
- Fuel Type: Gasoline
- Power: 208cc OHV
- Pump: 11 GPM
- Weight: 600 pounds
- Construction: Steel
- Log Capacity: 25×16
- Cycle Time: 13 seconds
- MSRP: $1,000
This article was originally published in The NEW PIONEER™ Winter 2016 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.