Best Wood Splitting Mauls
With the coming of fall and the winter heating season rapidly approaching, plenty of people with fireplaces or wood stoves are thinking about splitting firewood for the winter. Or maybe you work with big logs and need something to split those up into more manageable pieces. In any case, you’re looking for the best splitting maul for your situation and your wallet. This is what this list is all about – the top wood splitting mauls on the market, readily available online and spanning the whole price range.
Mauls are easily the best tool for splitting wood out there. Unlike most axes, mauls rely on the weight and profile of their axeheads and cutting edges to force apart wood fibers, not cut into them. This leads to more power and energy in each swing and more forceful splits. If you’re processing a lot of wood, or especially hard or knotty wood, this is a good thing – you want those logs or rounds of wood to burst apart.
Splitting mauls usually weigh between 6 and 8 lbs. They’re heavy, and need to be, but you should also consider your strength and endurance levels and what kind of wood you’ll be splitting. An expensive, top-of-the-line, 36-inch 8-pound maul will do you no good if you’re a short person who gets winded fast – in that case, a 32-inch 6-pounder will probably serve you better overall. But if you’re a tall, strong, regular wood splitter and need to take apart, say, a big round of tough maple or some other hardwood, a long-handled 8-pound maul will probably be the right choice for you. In any case, read on to see the full reviews of 6 full-sized mauls! If you’re short on time or attention, I’ve created a comparison table with the most relevant information and my comments below. Let’s get into it!
First and at the top of the list is the Fiskars Isocore maul. There is just so much to love about this thing. The main things are probably the patented shock-absorbing composite handle and the axehead design.
It’s no secret that using such a heavy tool is tough on your arm joints and whole upper body. You might be ok during the splitting, but afterwards feel aches and pains. This is especially the case with wooden handles, and if you ever miss your swing and an overstrike happens (hitting the piece of wood with the handle, not the axehead edge) then you can expect quite a shock. Fiskars were determined to address this and with this design, they did – the Isocore maul is noticeably easier on my arms and joints than other mauls.
The axehead is also interesting – it has more of a hollow grind than other mauls (that is – a narrower cutting edge, whereas most mauls have wider, “fatter” cheeks), but the design is such that it improves penetration, but doesn’t lead to the maul getting stuck any more than normal mauls do, which is certainly a bonus in my view.
Finally, the Fiskars Isocore maul has some nice perks – it has a plastic oversleeve of sorts on top of the handle (with a steel sleeve beneath it), just beneath the axehead, to prevent damage from overstrikes, a rubber coating on the bottom third of the handle, an oblong-shaped handle (that is also smaller than most wooden maul handles) to prevent rolling in your grip, and a hardened hammer striking face on the back side of the axehead to drive in wedges – you can also strike it with another tool to hammer the maul deeper into the wood.
The main drawback is that you can’t easily replace the handle if it does break, but the Isocore maul comes at such a good price that you will definitely get your money’s worth before it does break (if it ever does).
All in all, the Fiskars Isocore maul is excellent value for the money, a real workhorse with a polished and very functional design. You can get it in two sizes – 36 inches and 32 inches, with the first weighing 8 lbs and the second – 6 pounds. I give it the top spot on this list and a 9.5 out of 10 rating.
Note – after this the mauls are listed in no particular order. I wanted to put the best splitting maul first, the rest will be rated individually.
Another excellent, more traditional splitting maul is the Council Tool sledge-eye splitting maul. Council Tool have been manufacturing axes in the USA for many years, and haven’t moved their operations abroad. That makes the value they provide for the money all the more impressive.
This maul is an 8-pound, wood-handled, 36-inch classic maul with a straight handle. The axehead is hardened and, like with the Fiskars, you can use the poll end to drive wedges or strike it itself. The axehead comes with a clear lacquer to deter rust, and great care has been taken (such as kiln-drying the hickory wood, but also drying the eye section to below 10% moisture to ensure no funny business) to put everything together in a way that will make the maul reliable and safe to use.
The great thing about this maul is that it comes at a low price, but you can be sure of American quality, you’ll be supporting an American business, and, of course, you’ll get great customer support if you do have a problem with it. With a wood handle, of course, you can replace it easily if it ever does break. The Council Tool maul isn’t flashy, but it is an excellent tool that comes at great value for the money. By the way – it also comes in a 6-pound version.
Husqvarna are a forge owned by Hultafors Group, the same company that own and operate the Hults Bruk forges. More known for their chainsaws and other power tools, Husqvarna nevertheless manufacture some fine axes, and the Husqvarna 32-inch splitting maul is no exception.
Weighing in at just under 7 pounds, this straight-handled maul is hand-forged in Sweden and comes with everything you would want in a maul – a hardened poll end for striking wedges or being struck, an axehead fastened to the handle with both a wooden and steel wedge for that extra bit of security, and it comes with a leather cover to protect the edge against the elements, which is always a welcome touch.
While not as high-end an axe as what Gransfors Bruks and Hults Bruk offer out of the box, it is nevertheless a very good workhorse that will be able to split wood without the need to improve or polish it when you receive it.
Helko Werk axes are not widely known in the US, but this is German design and production at its finest, as evidenced by the attention to detail and small features that you didn’t know you needed.
Weighing in at a hefty 8.5 lbs in total, the 36-inch Helko Werk Traditional splitting maul is one of the finer examples of traditional mauls available on the market. For example, the edge of the axehead has a small hook at the bottom to assist in moving and turning logs over. It has a steel overstrike protector just below the axehead to save the handle in case you miss a swing, reducing damage to the handle and the chance of breakage.
Helko Werk take care to select American hickory with the right grain orientation and density for their handles, further reducing the chance of the handle breaking, and they sand the handle down with 150 grit sandpaper for a smooth and pleasant grip.
The Helko Werk traditional splitting maul also comes with a full-grain leather sheath and a 1-ounce bottle of protective oil for the axehead. Since it doesn’t come that cheap, this is a welcome freebie. But then again, for the quality you’re getting, the price is actually quite good, and considerably less than axe brands such as Gransfors that enjoy more “hype”. Recommended for those who want a true finely-crafted tool that will stand the test of time.
The Wilton Tools 36-inch B.A.S.H. splitting maul is the heaviest maul on this list. It has an 8-pound head and, to make it just about indestructible through regular use, a steel core in the handle. They even offer a $1000 “bounty” for anyone who does manage to break it. Judging by the feedback, nobody has yet.
It has an “anti-vibe” neck to reduce shock to your joints and arms, which is much-appreciated as the total weight of this beast is 10 pounds – the less shock you get from each strike, the better. A non-slip grip from vulcanized rubber ensure a secure hold, although some people might not like it. To each their own, but the maul won’t be slipping out of your hands in any case.
As good mauls do, it has a hardened hammer face on the poll end of the axehead for driving wedges, being struck, or use as a sledgehammer.
The main drawbacks of this maul are the weight – 10 pounds is a lot to swing – and also the fact that some users report the edge being dull on arrival. That’s nothing you can’t fix with ten or twenty minutes of work with a file, though.
Overall – for a heavy, practically unbreakable maul – the Wilton Tools maul is something you might be interested in.
Gransfors Bruks axes are the cream of the crop, and their 31.5-inch splitting maul is no exception. Everything about this maul says “perfection”, or as close as you can get to it.
While other mauls tend to have duller edges, the Gransfors Bruks splitting maul is meant to be used sharp. The hard, high-quality steel and concave grind attest to that. The steel is way better than almost all other splitting mauls out there, and once you sharpen it (although that isn’t necessary – it comes sharp and absolutely ready to use straight out of the box), it’ll hold an edge for a long time.
Balance is excellent, which is important when swinging a heavy maul for hours on end. Speaking of heavy, the Gransfors splitting maul weighs 7 lbs in total (5.5 lb axehead), so it is a pound lighter than many mauls, which tend to weigh in at 8 pounds, and it also has a shorter handle. Even so, it splits better than almost all bigger mauls. It acts like a sharp axe in soft wood even when chopping tough old oak – the sharp edge that holds and holds for many cords of wood certainly helps with that.
Feedback on the axehead geometry is glowing, and I agree – the edge is sharp and digs easily into wood, and the shape of the axehead follows up and blows the fibers apart. It is perfection honed by not just tens, but hundreds of years of axe making.
Carefully-selected straight grain American hickory wood forms the handle, with a very sturdy steel guard just under the axehead protecting it from overstrikes. The fit and finish are top notch, with everything fastened together nice and tight. You should expect no less from one of the world’s oldest and most renowned axe-making forges.
All axeheads are hand-forged and quality inspection on these axes is possibly the best around – Gransfors have a reputation to maintain, and defective axes just won’t do. The Gransfors Bruks splitting maul is pricier than almost all mauls out there, but this is not a middle-of-the-road splitting maul – it is truly premium quality, and will last your lifetime and more with the proper care. The maul comes with a full-grain vegetable-tanned leather sheath.
You get what you pay for, and here you’re paying for tool-making excellence. If you’re ready to invest in tool like this, you’ll not want to go back to anything of a lower quality.
When your body is old and tired and you’re done splitting cords of wood, you’ll be able to hand this off to your descendants or a dear friend and let them discover the joy of splitting wood with a Gransfors. It’s just that good. I give this axe a 10/10, and the only reason that I didn’t put it at the top of the list is because of its price.
Overall, I feel more comfortable recommending the Fiskars Isocore maul because it is much less expensive and you probably won’t hesitate to really go at it with the Fiskars, simply because you won’t be afraid of damaging it as you might be with the tool-slash-work-of-art that is the Gransfors Bruks splitting maul. But between us – the Gransfors is definitely the better maul, it’s in a different class altogether.
How to use a splitting maul
- Use your hips and abdomen to swing. Don’t place all the effort on your arms. Instead use your abdomen muscles to help bring the maul up and then swing it down, and when you do swing drop your hips and bend your knees slightly (you should be sticking your behind out). This will give extra force to your swing and put more energy into the strike.
- Stretch before use. Even a short warm-up will have your shoulders, arms, and upper body in general thanking you later. By the same token, stretch after splitting wood as well.
- Pace yourself. Slow and steady wins the race. Nothing good will come out of trying to split wood – big or small – in a hurry.
- Visualize your strike. What I like to do is imagine myself striking an exact spot on the log or round of wood and then “lower” it by an inch or so. For some reason, this seems to impact the force of my swing and make it more effective.
- Use wedges and/or wood grenades. These tough pieces of metal will make it so much easier to split a log cleanly. If it would just be you with a maul, you might get it done, but it would take you much longer and would probably be a lot messier, not to mention more dangerous due to the extra fatigue you would rack up. Wedges are a mainstay in an experienced wood splitter’s arsenal – don’t ignore them.
- Take a breather now and then. It’s fine to get into the flow, but it’s also good to take a break once in a while, shake your arms out and loosen them up, roll your shoulders back and forth, have a drink of water and then get back into it.
- Use safety gear. The more the better. Simple workman’s glasses will protect your eyes from any nasty flying splinters or chips of wood, steel-toed boots might save a toe or three. If you’re using metal splitting wedges, you might want to even consider ear protection – metal striking metal can, in some cases, damage your ears.
- If you’re exhausted – stop. That wood isn’t going anywhere. Terrible accidents can happen when your body and mind are exhausted. Come back after resting, either later that day or the next.
- Keep your maul in good shape. Take care of it. Don’t let it rust. Treat it with protective oil (simple mineral or gun oil is fine). Sharpen the edge when necessary. Keep it in a dry place, away from moisture. Don’t leave it in freezing temperatures – wood and fiberglass handles alike are more prone to breakage if left in such conditions.
Last but not least – enjoy! Wood splitting is something that usually isn’t “necessary” nowadays. But it is great fun in the way that simple, honest physical work can be. It can be calming and meditative, and it’s definitely very satisfying to see raw material – either logs or rounds – turn into what you need them to be. And you can be happy knowing that it was your energy and skill that transformed one into the other. Alright – thanks for reading, and get splitting