A guest post from Uncle Buck sharing his experiences with his new DR Rapid Fire wood splitter – APB
A couple of years ago we decided to heat primarily with an “alternate” fuel. A fuel that wouldn’t send our hard earned FRN’s into the pockets of people overseas that might not have the best of intentions for us here in the west. We decided on wood. Pellet stoves are great. Good ones are easy, automatic, and clean to run. And it is a reuse of a product that would normally go to waste. But, pellets are still a manufactured product. Natural gas is not available in our development. And propane requires delivery and a large outside tank that wouldn’t fit in well with the neighborhood aesthetic. That, and we are working to reduce our dependence. So, wood it is.
After a couple of seasons of “just in time” splitting with my new favorite manual splitter, the Fiskars Splitting Axe (absolutely awesome), we realized we’d be leaving “Auntie M” in a lurch if something were to happen to me. Auntie M just doesn’t have the confidence to be swinging a maul. And the Fiskars is so sharp and fast that proper technique is an absolute must. Just not her forte.
We needed a way to process the wood efficiently before the heating season began. We have a very busy schedule and time is critical. A simple, easy to use machine is required so Auntie M can manage it by herself.
I spent quite a bit of time researching wood splitters. I came across the Super Split, which has been around for a very long time and has a very loyal following. This seemed like a clever, simple idea. Use a low HP drive to spin up some flywheels and use the stored energy in the wheels to drive the ram. Much simpler than hydraulics. Incredibly fast. Few parts to wear out. No hoses to pop. etc. Plus, the design means it can be powered by a number of sources. Electric motor is already an option. I can easily see a water wheel being connected.
This simplicity was eliciting a premium price tag. AP’s hydro unit was at least 1/3 cheaper to buy. I did some quick arithmetic, and looked at the time savings people were achieving in their reviews and realized the payback in free time would pay the difference back in reasonably short order. Justification complete.
I then discovered that Country Home Products, the parent company of DR Power Products, had developed a clone of the Super Split. Now in it’s 2nd design iteration (minor changes), the DR Rapid Fire looked like an able competitor. DR has an outstanding reputation, built up over more than 20 years. They have made some improvements to the original design. Guides on the table, a “dead man” lever which is moved in the direction of machine operation, a towing setup included, and more. DR indicated that both their machine and the Super Split were very well designed, and that either would serve most people’s purposes well. They believe they have value add, and I have to agree. They offer a 6 month 100% return guarantee, no questions asked. A 2 year warranty for commercial and residential use. Add in a lower price and we were sold.
Took delivery on Monday, and on Thursday I finally had enough time to give the machine a good once over.
Well packed, in extra firewood, no less!
It’s a stupid simple, clean design that seems very solid. Of course I had to peek under the “hood”.
Eight bolts to set it up. Oil and gas and she’s a running. Started just as easy as any Honda powered piece I have used. About the same noise level.
The carburetor is set up for both cable and manual throttle operation with the default appearing to be cable. I had to adjust the tension on mine to get the throttle to stay put, but that was minor. That would definitely cause a customer service call for a less mechanical type. “… it won’t stay on the bunny rabbit!”
The manual shows very simple maintenance. Oil, plug and air filter changes, greasing the R&P. How to replace the only wear item. How to clean and what to use to preserve the top of the i-beam to reduce the wear on the wear plate (not lube). Additional parts replacement if required. And adjustments. All bearings are permanently lubed and sealed, and the service life meets or exceeds design life of the machine. They do recommend using an oil vacuum to suck the used oil out of the machine. You can see why when you look at the engine mount.
I only had time to put a couple of pieces of slab and one good sized round through it. Splits just like in the videos. Not at all too fast for comfort, which I was a little concerned with. Takes a little getting used to the R&P engagement, but not an issue.
Confirmed: the table is a MUST! It is a lot more substantial than the pictures show. Re-splits would involve stooping to pick up otherwise. Plus, it adds a safety margin by forcing you to stay in the “operators zone”. Splits that you want to, just let fall off the end.
You have to keep the lever pushed forward in order to keep the R&P engaged, unlike the Super Split. But I am already a fan of the “dead man” feature. It splits so fast your hand isn’t on it for any real length of time anyway.
Those flywheels are massive. The shroud is a must (doh!). Like pretty much any power tool, you’ve got to watch out for loose clothing – especially drawstrings on hoodies and the like. The injury that could result from them doesn’t bear imagining.
Unlike the Super Split, DR throws in a towing kit. SS has it as an option that is “coming soon”. Neither machine has it as an over the road option. These things are just too top heavy for that. These are just to get them around the yard. Otherwise they are “trailer queens”. I’ve never been a fan of towing a hydro machine around anyway, so any I owned would be trailered as well.
So, after I process more than 8 chord on her I’ll decide if I’m going to keep her. If I do, I am likely to order the electric option to have JIC.
On a final note, I mentioned earlier that Super Split has a very loyal following. In some cases people are clearly offended that anyone would so closely copy the original design. While I pay great credit to Paul and his father for pioneering the original Super Split design, I am also an advocate of healthy competition. DR has not broken any laws, and have provided some genuine improvements. I’m sure Paul will be able to step up the game on his end. In the end, we consumers will greatly benefit by having more choices available.