I went with a 2nd hand, few years old 28 ton Huskee,(Speeco) after realizing that the shoulder cannot take the impact of doing it by hand any more, which I did not mind, a little at a time, but a lot of cords over the years.
I like this model, its got a 5 or 6 hp Honda GC 190, 11gpm 2 stage pump, and I think 6 gallon capacity hydraulic reservoir.
I like the way its built, I did get the optional log catcher, (useless without it) so I can hold a large half split log or any other split wood. Also got the 4 way wedge to use for certain diameter straight grained wood, softwood, etc, that works pretty good too, not for all wood, but its worth having just the same.
I burn Elm as well and theres a method to deal with it, follow the grain, fracture lines and or take from the outside along with the grain, still stringy, use a hatchet to sever what the wedge does not, takes longer but with all the dead elm here, I try and get elm that has just died, as the trunks punk up in a relatively short time, year or 2. Even some degree of punk is ok, some burns faster, so much of it, you can mix or what have you. Elm crotch wood or large diameter, fresh cut, un-punked can bog the splitter right down, but I've not found a piece it won't split or often times shear. 2 stage pump is the key here, it just powers its way through.
I thought I'd want to upgrade to the 35 ton Huskee(Speeco), or similar as the larger and some equal models, (tonnage) have a 16gpm 2 stage pump, and a few seconds faster cycle time, but i don't think I really need it, and the cycle time on this one is comfortable, (safety wise) not sure quicker is better, as I am not in any hurry or selling firewood. I'd have to try one to see, I suppose, but this is a well made unit, TSC is across the road from me, so I can get parts, not much to these anyway. Honda motor starts easily, sips the fuel, exhaust fumes are no issue, it works well, decent size log catcher and the 4 way wedge are nice features you can get with these, so I decided this brand was fine for my needs, I am happy with it for sure, and thankful to have it, given the alternatives.
SOme ideas on using one of these to help save your back, make it easier:
When I split wood, I use a Lockhart log gripper, 15"-18" (Baileys sells these) to grab logs off the ground to load my gardenway cart, loader bucket etc. I don't have to bend or reach all the way to the ground, then when working off the cart or bucket, its relatively easy. Split wood goes into a pair of old Jackson M11 wheelbarrows, (steel folded trays), then stacked from there, I can go all day like this, not the quickest but I feel fine, no back issues or what have you, actually makes it fun to do an otherwise labor intense task. The other handy item when bucking and or towing is the Log Peavey, with the stand on it, to raise up logs, thats just an indispensable tool. Properly sharpened chains, depth gauge kept right, is also key on ones saw, keep a few fresh chains on hand or get the file guide that will keep an accurate sharpen, makes a huge difference, saw does the work, not you LOL !
I sort of enjoy doing firewood, early fall, winter when not too cold, and spring before it gets hot and humid, bugs etc. good clean work and exercise.