pedal-powered log splitter

Just a quick note on another pedal-powered sustainability idea. Whilst sitting on the can and leafing through a Northern Tool catalog not too long ago, I ran across a hand powered log splitter. Now, a splitting maul is actually a pretty good balance between dirt simple technology and efficient use of human labor. But the work is slow and a bit awkward; you have to get the log up on the block, then when you split it the pieces fall off; you have to put the maul down, pick up the pieces, put them back on the block, grab the maul, swing it, etc. and there’s the danger of chopping into your foot.

Gas-powered log splitters are very effective, but they are loud, stinky, and use a fair amount of fuel. The actual amount of mechanical work necessary to split wood is relatively modest, but I can imagine it would get tiring to work the reciprocating levers of the hand hydraulic splitter – leading to the idea of a hydraulically coupled pedal-powered log splitter. The key would be coupling two pumps, one a high volume, low pressure pump that engaged to quickly advance or retract the piston, and the other a high pressure, low flow unit that would come into operation when the wedge engaged the log, effectively “gearing up” the pedaling effort to deliver the several thousand pounds needed.  Most annoying thing is, it would pretty much be a 2-person device – one to load and stack, one to pedal.

Anyway, I’ll probably never build one, but it seems like a pretty cool idea, so I thought I’d post it. And I’m not the first to think of it; a web search turns up a pedal power book that includes the idea at least as a concept. Featured prominently is David G Wilson, an MIT pedal enthusiast who I by chance actually met at one point, in the context of his high-tech regenerator company.


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