My Woodsplitter Goes To Eleven: Part 10: Crude Engineering

Usually I write silly stories and jokes. Lets face it, if you can’t make a joke about spindle diameter you don’t belong in a garage. That said I’m just going to provide a few facts. These are crude generalizations and I may have the nomenclature a bit off. All I can say is that all fabrication starts with understanding the underlying situation and once I was stuck with a one wheeled wood splitter I had to brush up on a few details. If you already know this stuff, you may ignore this post.

First of all little tires suck because they have small circumference. They’ve got to spin faster to go the same speed. This annoys the Gods of friction, makes bearings hot, and is generally un-good. The solution is big tires.

On the other hand every increase in tire radius means I’ve got to lift a cookie higher. Every inch I lift is a chance to buy my chiropractor a new boat. Also the splitter is narrow. Tall things that are narrow tend to fall over. If sparks from a rim are a “bad day”, an inverted splitter sliding down the highway is “nuked from space”.

So bigger tires are both good and bad. Life is like that.

Bigger spindles can accept bigger hubs. Bigger hubs have studs for lug nuts. At this size they come in either 4 or 5 bolt patterns. Four bolts wheels hold tires that range from small to a bit bigger. Five bolt wheels cover the full range of the 4 bolt pattern but also goes all the way to full sized vehicles. I never figured out what the point of a 4 bolt hub was if a 5 bolt does the same thing and also opens a larger range of options. Nobody else knew either.

The spindles are welded on to the frame. The frame is actually the hydraulic fluid reservoir. This also serves as an axle. So what you’ve got is a beefy metal box that is frame, reservoir, and axle. Cutting off the spindles and welding on new ones requires equipment I don’t have.

Little tires come in “high speed” and “not high speed”. Think of it as “boat trailer at 55 MPH on pavement” versus “lawn tractor at 5 MPH on grass”. Obviously the OEM wood splitter tires were “not high speed” and I had deserved what I got after several years of gingerly limping around at 45 MPH. I had no intention of messing with anything like that again.

Spindles welded to a solid frame/axle/reservior have no suspension. No suspension means no give (except the tires themselves). There’s a reason why everything has a suspension. Even if I welded on monster spindles and ginormous tires I’d have no suspension.

Trailer suspensions come in two flavors; leaf spring and torsion axle. Both are suitable. I found a thousand parts for leaf springs in every hardware store. They’re common on utility trailers, ice shacks, boat trailers, you name it. They’re cheap. Torsion axles are almost impossible to find and much more “fiddly”.

A leaf spring requires a few feet between  a front mount point and a rear mount point. Not possible on a five inch (about) wide fluid reservoir. If I wanted leaf springs I’d almost end up making a whole mini trailer frame. This isn’t without it’s own possible neato magic… but I like the “smallness” of the splitter for slipping around the forest behind an ATV. Mounting  on a 5′ wide trailer would be kinda cool because I could stack the wood on the same place as the splitter… but I’d have to lean waaaaay over on every cookie I lifted. Ergonomics is very important to me. I ruled it out and started wandering the earth looking for a torsion axle… which wasn’t working out so well.

Bored yet? Not all sagas are about dragons you know.

About Adaptive Curmudgeon

I will neither confirm nor deny that I actually exist.
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24 Responses to My Woodsplitter Goes To Eleven: Part 10: Crude Engineering

  1. Norbert says:

    Telescoping axles, perhaps? It’s an affront to the eyes, but on a towed gizmo that’s got only two wheels they don’t actually have to be in the same vertical plane. A couple inches between axles won’t make any difference in how it tows, and provides room for a telescoping mechanism.

  2. Mark Matis says:

    Horse trailers do not generally have springs, even when they are used to transport horses worth many thousands of dollars. Even when those horses are pets. Don’t hit a pothole at 75 mph and you don’t need a “suspension”. And do recognize that you have not had a suspension on that splitter since you bought it…

  3. Mark Matis says:

    Square spindles:

    If you do decide to put a suspension in your rig, what springs do you intend to use that will actually function with a rig that light?

    • Phil B says:

      No reason that you couldn’t flip the leaf spring over an have the leaf spring going on top of the axle with the tips lower than the middle to lower the arrangement that amount. The leaf spring will work fine as it is being compressed in the same direction whichever way up it is. The few inches might make all the difference.

  4. David says:

    Why not just put another small wheel on the splitter and, if you need to take it on the road, load the damned thing onto a trailer and move it that way. Having the trailer will also give you more cargo space.


    • That defeats the purpose. If I can lift a 600 pound splitter onto a trailer why not lift a 600 pound log onto a trailer? Then bring the log home to the splitter and never move the splitter at all. The point is I don’t have handy equipment for moving any 600 pound object (woodsplitter or log) onto and off of a trailer. My solution is to hitch something to the bumper that has wheels and turns a 600 pound log into a 10 pound bolt of firewood.

      • David says:

        You don’t have to lift a 600 lb splitter onto a trailer.

        You WHEEL it onto a trailer up a ramp using itty-bitty little wheels which are designed for wheeling things around by hand.

        Once you’ve got it onto the trailer, then you tie it down (this is important) and then you can take it to other places at reasonable speeds.


      • I’ve tried pulling it up a ramp… not so easy. Dragging it up a ramp with an ATV is easy. I suppose a little “come a long” or small winch would work. I did consider that option.

  5. aczarnowski says:

    I never figured out what the point of a 4 bolt hub was if a 5 bolt does the same thing and also opens a larger range of options. Nobody else knew either.

    See also 1-7/8″ and 2″ trailer hitch balls. The hell?

  6. Titan Mk6B says:

    If you can check out a junkyard. I seem to remember some old Subaru models that had torsion-type rear axles. It would have to be one of the older 2wd models. I thought about building a trailer with one once. I think the only attachment point off the axle was for a shock absorber. And it was cheap. At the time $75 and that included wheels and tires.

  7. Mark Matis says:

    What are your state’s licensing and lighting requirements for trailers? Will you need to buy a tag and rig lights for the modified rig you plan to create?

    • I chose to rig lights because I just plain wanted to (I think it’s cool that way). In my state you do not need to tag a “single purpose” object that’s under 3,000 pounds. Meaning that a small trailer that can carry many different things needs a sticker but a cement mixer/wood splitter/generator gets a pass.

  8. Gosh, I don’t have a picture of it, but a couple of old geezers (I am 7 years away from that designation) that split wood for free for the local church – go around after storms and do the cleanup and haul away the wood – have a sweet rig – added a hydraulic lifter that drops to ground level, you push the cookie onto it with foot or pole, then it lifts it for you and rolls it onto the rail. No lifting involved until after first split. I don’t think it was that complicated a jerry rig. As to larger tires, raise the axle position up along the back of the tank and weld new axle there (I note you lament not having a welder which is surprising given all that machinery – how much egg money can you squeeze from the Mrs?). New larger tires will allow same ground clearance but better rolling with that adjustment. As to the suspension, now you are basically re-designing from ground up but not getting away from wider spacing if you want stable at high speed. Seems like catch 22 and more bucks for the OEM tire (hopefully high speed rated) 😉

    • I really want one of those “cookie lifters”. Some high end woodsplitters come with them. Mine doesn’t. I haven’t yet decided to fabricate one but I sure like the idea.

      Moving the axle further to the rear was one of my ideas but it didn’t happen. I was kind of painted in a corner by the small reservoir.

  9. Phil B says:

    Well, when things are going badly, you could sing THIS song to cheer you up:

    And just to show you that backwoods America doesn’t have a monopoly on poor customer service (and poor customers for that matter) try this little gem. (I’m sure that you actually yearn for shops like this …)

    if you can’t laugh at life’s misfortunes, then they are probably happening to you ! >};o)

  10. I know I’m probably nowhere near you, but I have a habit of collecting free rotted-out pop-up tent trailers, stripping off the axles and burning/scrapping what’s left- because, free axles and wheels.

    Were it me I would just slide a road-rated square-tube trailer axle under the splitter axle, fab up some brackets to attach the existing spindles to the trailer axle- or maybe just big heavy-duty U-bolts to join axle to axle- and be on my way with only a 2″ gain in total height. Run 4.80-8 5-lug wheels & road rated tires (and you can buy them with or without wheels at Wal-Mart, Tractor Supply, Rural King, or any halfway decent such place in the US) and never worry about this again.
    I converted many trailers from 4.80-8 tires to real car and truck wheels because 5-lug on 4.5″ bolt pattern is one of the most common ones out there, just make sure the offset is far enough out so the tires don’t rub on the frame. I find Toyota 2wd truck wheels, Ford Ranger/Aerostar, Jeep Cherokee/Wrangler, Dodge RWD car and truck- all good. The extra height may not be what you want but these wheels/tires will last a lot longer.
    I use the 4.80-8 trailer tires on my wheelbarrows, because the original wheelbarrow tires are nothing more than an inner tube with grooves. I have yet to have a 4.80-8 trailer tire get a nail pop on a wheelbarrow.

  11. Knucklehead says:

    I am probably missing something important here, but why not mount something like this on the cookie hauler and stop moving the splitter?

    • That would work for cookies but it would take forever. Far too slow for production work. Figure five minutes to tie up a cookie, hydraulic jack it up, swing, lower, untie. Then figure 30+/- cookies a truckload. On the other hand it would be perfect for lifting a splitter onto the truck and back off… in that case five minutes a load is no big deal (though you’ve used up half your truck’s payload space).

  12. Knucklehead says:

    I see your points. Perhaps log lifting tongs could speed up the cookie loading by crane, or roll the cookies onto a cradle (appropriately size tire chains pressed into service?) of some sort that you lift into the hauler and then roll off the cradle. Can’t see how that would require a whole lot more time than getting the cookie to the hauler and lifting it and positioning manually.

    Or you could just get a relatively cheap trailer to haul the lifter around, as is – a version of Mr. Johansson’s potential solution without all the welding or clamping. Don’t bother reworking the splitter frame, just crane it onto a trailer when needed.

    • I did the boring thing and turned a splitter with low speed tires that couldn’t be towed far or fast into a splitter with high speed tires and an upgraded suspension that can be towed anywhere you want to go at any speed you see fit. Not as cool as some ideas but it works great. Frankly the “splitter that’s integrated to a wood trailer” sounds like the coolest idea ever (because I’ve never seen one) but I’m not about to “tie up” my trailer for one use (yes this is the “pony trailer” of earlier posts).

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