If you’re going to be splitting a lot of wood for burning throughout the winter or year, you’ll be much happier doing it if you have an axe suited for the task. Splitting axes and mauls are made for the task of splitting wood, whether it’s cured, dry rounds of wood for firewood or green, freshly-felled logs. Their profiles are wider and cheeks – fatter, their axeheads are generally heavier than those of regular axes, and the polls – the back end of the axehead – are often hardened, meant for use as a hammer to drive in splitting wedges. Wood splitting axes and mauls won’t make good felling axes, but they’ll tear apart wood when it’s on the ground better than any other type of axe.
The issue with general-purpose and especially felling axes is that their profiles are often too narrow (put another way – their cheeks are too thin), and their axeheads too light, to really deliver the force needed to split apart a large log or round of wood. Axes with narrow profiles also tend to get stuck (pinched) in wood more, leading to frustration when you have to pull the edge out of the log you’re splitting for the fifth time.
If you don’t have the time, here is a handy table that sums up my research:
|Check Price on AmazonCheck Price at Walmart|
Best for Tall Users
|Check Price on Amazon|
|Check Price on AmazonCheck Price at Walmart|
This is an in-depth guide to the best splitting axes (and some mauls) that you can get for the money on the market today. They’re not ranked in any special order, but I tried to find a balance between the cheaper (but still good) axes and the more expensive premium splitting axes and mauls. Read on to find out all about ‘em! If you don’t have the time, here is a handy table that sums up my research:
Table of Contents
6 Best Splitting Axes
1. Fiskars X25 Splitting Axe, 28-Inch
First up on the list is the Fiskars X25 28-inch splitting axe. This is a great tool and lives up to the reputation Fiskars have for making well-designed and tough-as-hell tools and selling them for a fair price. How is that? Well, the Fiskars X25 has a composite material handle that’ll take much more use and abuse than wooden handles will. Its axehead starts with a very sharp and quite thin edge but then widens dramatically towards the handle.
This means that it’ll bite in well into the wood, but immediately after that it’ll force the wood fibers apart as if it were a maul. This, along with the low-friction coating on the axehead, means that it will practically never get stuck in the wood as other axes might, a real boon if you’re splitting lots of wood at a time or throughout the season.
The only potential drawbacks to this axe are that it might not be large enough if you’re a tall person or plan on splitting dense hardwoods. In that case, you might want something that can have more oomph in each swing – such as the X25’s bigger brother, the X27 (which we’ll be taking a look at next). Also, the handle is molded around the axehead, and if the handle does break, it’ll be much harder to replace than a wooden handle (and at this price point, not really worth it).
All in all, the X25 is a splitting axe very well suited to splitting small to medium-sized pieces of wood such as you might get in a typical cord of unsplit firewood, very sturdy and well-designed, and comes at a great price for the performance you’ll be getting.
I have given it my rating as the best splitting axe due to its combination of performance, durability, and low-cost leading to high value-for-money. It is well suited for splitting logs and chopping wood.
2. Fiskars X27 Super Splitting Axe 36-Inch
The Fiskars X27 36-inch splitting axe is the bigger brother of the X25. It’s ideal for taller people as well as those planning to use it to split medium to large-sized logs and rounds of wood. It weighs 5.85 pounds in total, and is the largest of the splitting axes that Fiskars offer. It is identical to the X25 in all ways except for the length of the handle. Remember that if you get an axe too long for your arms, it’ll be harder to handle and increase the likelihood of an overstrike (which is bad for the axe and can be bad for you, too, if it rebounds on you).
This is known as “lagging behind the line of the arms.” It doesn’t mean you won’t be able to split wood with it, however, please be confident of your ability to handle and swing an almost 6-pound axe. If you’re not going to be doing really heavy-duty splitting and you’re not sure of your strength, then consider going for something smaller, such as a 28- or 31-inch axe.
The two main drawbacks of the X27 are it being potentially too large and long for your needs (don’t get it if you’re planning on splitting 8-inch logs for firewood, it’ll be overkill) as well as the handle not being replaceable if it does break (which it shouldn’t, considering how durable everyone reports it to be).
In general, though, the Fiskars X27 super splitting axe is an excellent choice for heavy-duty splitting of large pieces of wood, especially dense hardwoods. And at the price point it’s at, it’s certainly one of the most affordable chopping axes out there.
3. Estwing Camper’s Axe – 26″ – All Steel Construction & Shock Reduction Grip
Estwing is a classic made-in-USA brand of tools that are made for heavy-duty work and which are known for being virtually indestructible. Their axes are forged from a single piece of American steel at their factory in Rockford, Illinois. The Estwing Camper’s axe, at 26 inches, is smaller than many axes on this list but makes up for it with its durability and weight.
This is both a strength and a weakness – but more of a strength as long as you know what you’re going to be working with. One the one hand, you’ll never have to worry about overstrikes shattering the handle. Indeed, you’ll never have to worry about replacing the handle at all.
On the other hand, it does make it much heavier than other similar-sized axes with wooden handles. Steel also conducts shocks and vibrations very well, but that’s why this axe has a patented shock-absorbing and reducing grip. It is more of an all-around general camping axe than a proper splitting axe, but you can reprofile the edge to make it duller and better for splitting (instead of cutting and potentially getting stuck in the wood), and I included it in this list because sometimes you just need something that you’re sure won’t break on you.
4. Husqvarna 30″ Wooden Splitting Axe
Husqvarna is another highly-regarded name in the axe world. The company is owned by the same parent company (Hultafors Group) that owns and makes the Hults Bruk brand of axes. In fact, Hults Bruk manufacture Husqvarna axes, so you get the hundreds of years of Swedish axe-making experience and knowledge going into Husqvarna axes. Think of these axes as a more affordable, less “premium” line of Hults Bruk axes.
The Husqvarna 30-inch splitting axe is made specifically for splitting wood and it excels at it. It is designed with a geometry that allows the edge to penetrate the wood, but then quickly expands to force it apart and split it with as little effort as possible. Replacement handles are available and the straight handle makes for the most efficient use of your strength and the force of your swing.
It seems that a few years ago, in 2016 or so, there were problems with quality control and the axeheads breaking, but all the most recent reviews have been glowing and it seems the Husqvarna have addressed the issue that was causing the problem (which was the place where they stamped their brand name on the axehead). Since it is less expensive than Hults Bruk or Gransfors Bruks axes, or even Helko Werk, the axe won’t come with as finely sharpened an edge or as polished a handle, but those are both easy things to solve yourself with a sharpening stone, some sandpaper, and some type of vegetable oil.
It also comes with a fine leather sheath to protect it from moisture and the elements – a very welcome touch that not all axes have. All in all, it’s a great axe for splitting wood (but not felling, or as an all-round axe).
5. Gränsfors Bruks Splitting Axe with Collar Guard 31″ Handle
Gransfors Bruks axes are one of, if not the best axes that you can get on the open retail market today. Everything on their axes says “quality” – from the razor-sharp finish straight out of the box, to the grain orientation on the handle, the fit of the axehead, their ability to take and hold an edge, and their overall construction and durability. The Gransfors Bruks splitting axe (31 inches) is no different.
This beast of a splitting axe, with a 3-½ pound axehead, comes with a steel collar on the handle just beneath the axehead. This protects the handle in case of overstrikes (missing your swing and hitting the piece of wood with the handle instead of the axe edge), the most common cause of handle breakage.
The axehead has a concave wedge shape, perfect for forcing apart big rounds of wood and logs. The orientation of the grain on the American hickory handle is perfectly straight, as with all Gransfors axes, and in any case each axe comes with a 20-year manufacturer’s warranty, so if you do get one with a defect they’ll replace it quickly and free of charge. It’s a joy to handle and use, as the Swedish axemakers who make these tools by hand know how important that is, so it has flawless balance which makes all the difference in effort and ease of use.
The head design also makes extraction of the axe from wood easy and smooth, which is often not the case with cheaper axes. The Gransfors Bruks splitting axe also comes with a very sturdy leather sheath (bolted, not sewn together), and an “axe book”, with everything you need to know about using and maintaining your axe.
Of course, all of this craftsmanship and premium features come with an appropriate price tag, but you’ll understand why it costs what it does when you use it. Even good inexpensive axes such as Fiskars don’t really stand up to a Gransfors – these glide through wood and leave you confused as to why you aren’t feeling more tired or bent out of shape. A real joy to split wood with. I highly recommend this axe.
6. Council Tool Jersey Classic, Forged Bevels, 36-Inch Curved Wooden Handle
Council Tool have been making axes and other hand tools in the USA for over 100 years, and their classic Jersey pattern 36-incher is an all-American workhorse and a beautiful, well-crafted axe. Council Tool hold themselves to high and rigorous standards, which is why they ensure that the bit of the axe is hardened to Rc 48-55 at least 1¼ inches back from the cutting edge.
The axehead is secured to the handle with a serrated aluminum wedge, which improves the grip and doesn’t change shape and size with humidity and temperature changes. It has what are called “phantom bevels” or hallows (the curves you see in the middle of the axehead) to reduce sticking in the wood, always important whether you’re splitting wood or felling trees.
Speaking of, this is a good general-purpose axe, and will fell a tree as well as allow you to split wood. The bevel is neither too thin (which would make it more of a felling axe) nor too wide (which would allow it to excel at splitting at the cost of making cuts). This is good in situations where you’re doing several jobs – the Council Tool Jersey is so big and packs such a punch that you’ll be able to both fell a tree and split it up.
Since it’s an American company, Council Tool also offers excellent and fast customer service, and will replace your axe in case of any manufacturer’s defects.
How to Choose a Splitting Axe
Splitting Axes vs Mauls – Which are Better for Splitting Wood?
People who don’t know the difference between an axe and a splitting maul can be forgiven. After all, not many people in the US and other modern countries spend their time on splitting wood and knowing the answer.
The simple answer is that splitting axes are great for splitting apart rounds of wood and smaller logs. If you have a pesky piece of hardwood that doesn’t want to split in one clean break, for example, you can also use the sharper edge of the splitting axe to cut into the edge of the wood, weaken the whole piece, and make it easier to split.
Mauls are essentially sledgehammers meant for splitting wood. They work best of large, hard pieces of wood. Their extra weight and blunt edges will simply break apart the wood from the force of the blow. But, they’re generally heavier than an axe for chopping wood and slightly harder to use, especially for smaller people and those not experienced with splitting wood.
How to Split Wood with an Axe
You split wood by preparing a splitting area (a classic approach is to use a level tree stump or larger piece of wood as a raised base, so that you don’t bury your axe or maul in the ground). Then you raise your wood chopping axe over your head and, when bringing it down, drop your knees slightly and pull back with your hips (or, put another way, stick your butt out). This adds force to your swing and makes splitting easier, as you don’t bend your back so much. In fact, keeping as straight a back as possible is key to saving it from a lot of soreness or pain.
Firewood and Dry Wood
Dry wood is easier to split, in general, than green wood. That’s because the drying process allows mini-cracks to open up, with the fibres holding the wood together, weakening their hold.
Green Wood and Timbers
Some people, though, like splitting firewood when it is freshly felled and still wet. That’s because it allows for the wood to dry faster. In some places, splitting wood when it is freshly felled is necessary to stop it from rotting while curing. Finally, some woods – such as oak – split better when green.
How to Use Splitting Wedges
Splitting wedges are especially useful when splitting large, long logs. Wedges should be forced into one end of the log, aiming for any cracks that might be visible (and avoiding knots as much as possible).
Then, depending on how many you have (two is a good number to start with, because a single splitting wedge can easily get pinched and stuck in a log), you can work with your splitting tool to lengthen and expand the crack and place another wedge, or use the opening created by the first wedge to use your axe or maul to split further down in as straight a line as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
How heavy should a splitting axe be?
Splitting axes should be between 4 and 6 pounds in total weight. This allows significant force to be generated during every strike. Splitting mauls are often up to 8 pounds in total weight due to their larger head shape.
How long should a splitting axe handle be?
The best axe for splitting wood should have a handle length of 28 to 36 inches, depending on the user’s height. This allows a lot of force to be produced during each strike to split large rounds of hardwood more easily.
What is the difference between a splitting axe and a felling axe?
The main difference between a splitting axe and a felling axe is the width of the axe head. Felling axes are thinner and designed to penetrate deeper into the tree trunk during each strike to cut through a tree more quickly. A splitting axe has a wider axe head designed to force the fibers apart when cutting firewood.