Self-Propelled Wood Splitter Serves A Great Cause

You've never seen anything like this self-propelled log splitter built by Ed Thornburgh of Marcellus, Michigan, that's built on the frame and running gear of a 1978 Chevrolet Blazer.

The machine is equipped with a hydraulic-operated splitter on front and a 10-ft. long conveyor on one side (off an an old New Idea corn picker) that drops wood into a wagon box. The operator sits in the comfort of a homemade wooden cab. There's even an electric horn on front that's off the same Blazer.

Thornburgh belongs to a volunteer wood cutting group that uses the machine to help families in rural southwest Michigan with home heating needs. All the group's members belong to Wakelee United Methodist Church and call themselves the "Wakelee Woodcutters". The machine is called the "Edovator" after its inventor.

The Blazer originally belonged to Steve Lehman, another church member, and was in bad shape. "The body was rusted out and one of the windows was broken. My wife told me she didn't want the car to be seen in our neighborhood any more. When I mentioned that to Ed, he got the idea to convert the Blazer into a self-propelled log splitter," says Lehman.

Thornburgh stripped the car to the frame, keeping the engine, 3-speed transmission, steering wheel, dash and controls, and running gear. The splitter is a commercial model originally mounted on wheels.

Thornburgh removed the wheels and axle and bolted the rest of the unit, as well as the elevator, to a home-built steel frame that's welded to the front part of the Blazer's frame.

Both the splitter and elevator are operated by a gas engine-driven hydraulic pump. The pump lacks the power to operate both the splitter and the elevator at the same time so Thornburgh "double valved" the pump, allowing him to operate the splitter and elevator independently.

One of the valves is wired to a foot-operated pedal, which is used to operate the elevator. "To split wood, the operator extends the cylinder to split the log, and then as the cylinder is returning he depresses the pedal to activate the elevator and make room for the next log," says Thornburgh. "The elevator slats are 16 inches apart, which is about the same length as the wood we split."

The box was made by cutting down a gravity flow wagon, keeping just the straight-sided top part, and mounting a homemade wood floor in it. The box mounts on a subframe that's also made from wood. "When I got the Blazer there was only one mounting bracket still holding the body on, so the subframe was needed to keep everything together," says Thornburgh.

He kept the top part of the Blazer's hood but cut away one side to make room for the elevator. The front grill is the side panel shield off the corn picker. There are two compartments on the driver's side for carrying saws and oil.

The wooden cab has glass windows with windshield wipers on front and doesn't have a heater but uses heat off the engine during the winter. A blower fan is used to keep cool during the summer.

"We drive the machine into the woods where we cut and split the wood, and then we bring it back to my place and unload the wood from the wagon by hand and stockpile it," says Thornburgh. "Last year we served 51 pickup loads of wood to 17 different families. It's often difficult for men to find a men's ministry in a church, especially in a rural area. That's why our wood cutting project has been a true blessing."