What is a Maul? Design Features and Uses

Updated on December 20, 2022 by

A maul is the generic name for a tool that can be used for anything from fighting battles in medieval times through to splitting firewood in the modern age. They are one of the most commonly used tools to cut wood that works by forcing the wood fibers apart using their blunt blade. Here’s what you should know about mauls.


Maul refers to different types of large hammers, such as war hammers, spike maul, post maul, and splitting maul. While these hammers may look similar, they have some unique features that differentiate them from one another. For instance, a war hammer is a medieval weapon, and a splitting maul is a big wood-splitting tool more similar to an axe than a hammer. 

The maul’s origin dates back to the 14th century when warriors used it for combat in battle. At the time, a maul was a heavy weapon, and a single blow could prove fatal. Over time, the maul upgraded according to its users’ needs and requirements. Later, manufacturers designed mauls equipped with a blunt axehead for lumberjacks, loggers, and landowners to easily split firewood. These mauls were perfect for splitting a piece of wood in a single swing of their heavy head.

Since the primary purpose of mauls is to split the wood into pieces, these tools have a composition of high-quality and durable materials like wood and steel. The handle is normally made of wood, such as American hickory, or modern fiberglass composites.

The main purpose of a modern maul is to split firewood.

Council Tool splitting maul
A splitting maul by Council Tool

Design and Features

A standard maul has a large, blunt axehead with a flat poll on the other side. The axehead is used to split firewood, while the other side can be used as a hammer for putting stakes in the ground. Mauls generally have long handles of around 28 to 32 inches to generate as much power as possible. Selecting a maul’s length and weight based on your own strength and frame is crucial. 

You can tell the difference between a splitting axe and a splitting maul because of the blade’s sharpness and shape.

Just like with other tools, mauls have gone through serious upgrades. Most of them have the following features:

  • Thick profile bit
  • Blunt blade
  • Variety of weights and handle lengths
  • Straight handle
  • Different materials for the handle, like fiberglass or wood.

Nowadays, a maul is the most common tool for people looking to cut wood for the fireplace.

Husqvarna Splitting Maul

Modern Brands

I have seen mauls in local stores and each one comes with standard features and designs. However, they often lack quality and can be damaged after a few uses. People looking to make a one-time investment in quality products should go for reputable brands. These brands offer quality and deliver unique features that differentiate them from alternatives.

You can find mauls with non-slip handles to keep them from falling from your hands if you lose your balance or if it’s wet. Modern brands also off lightweight mauls, which are much more maneuverable and suited for smaller frames. I understand how challenging it can be to lift heavy wooden mauls, let alone swing them. This is why many brands are not using wood to create handles. Instead, they’re using lightweight materials, like plastic and fiberglass. In addition, you can find mauls with different colors and designs depending on your that give you a different look (although I prefer the wooden aesthetics).

Looking for reliable brands in the market? Here are a few options you have. 

I have written a guide reviewing the best splitting mauls manufactured today if you are looking for more details on these individual products.

Editor’s ChoiceBest OverallBest Value for MoneyBest Premium Maul
ProductFiskars Isocore MaulHusqvarna Splitting Maul1844 Helko Werk Splitting Maul
PreviewFiskars Isocore Splitting MaulHusqvarna Splitting Maul1844 Helko Werk Splitting Maul
Total Weight8 lb7 lb8.5 lb
Length36 inches32 inches36 inches
HandleShock Absorbing CompositeHickory WoodHickory Wood
More InfoCheck Latest PriceCheck Latest PriceCheck Latest Price

Frequently Asked Questions 

Are mauls and axes the same?

An axe and maul are different. Though they both help split and cut wood, mauls are generally much heavier due to their bulky head and can generate more power into the log. Mauls also have blunt heads that don’t cut the wood as much as break it apart. Axes are much more versatile and can perform various tasks, while a maul is much more specialized.

How heavy are mauls?

Splitting mauls are generally some of the heaviest axes on the market and weigh between 5 and 8 pounds. The length of the handle and its material significantly impact on the total weight of the tool.


A maul is a tool similar to an axe but has a blunter axehead shape. The handle can feature materials like wood, fiberglass or even plastic. They are generally larger and heavier than axes, and their primary purpose is to split dense logs for firewood. Manufacturers have made numerous upgrades to the historic design, creating new types of mauls. It’s important to approach the right brand for a high-quality maul. 

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Michael Culligan

I am a lumber worker who performed logging services for Oregan's forestry industry for over a decade. I have spent years honing my skills and experience to become a well-rounded axeman. I enjoy timbersports and have ranked in my local lumberjack competitions. I'm exited to share my knowledge of axes and lumber tools with everyone to help. I also have a large collection of restored vintage axes that I carefully maintain.