Splitting wood is hard work, so having the right tool is critical. There's nothing worse than using the wrong type of axe to chop firewood. I made that mistake for years.
Are you looking for the best splitting axe or best splitting maul? In this guide, I review 3 of the best ones out there. I also discuss the top factors to think about when picking one.
When selecting tools for survival, a splitting axe or maul is an incredible addition to your gear, especially if you'll be splitting a lot of firewood.
However, if you're just trying to stay warm when civilization is chugging along just fine, it's smart to have the best tool available to make your job faster and easier.
I know what you're thinking (as I used to think this): an axe is an axe. Any axe will get the job done. But that's not true, and it could cost you a lot of wasted time and effort.
Using just any axe can significantly increase the amount of time, effort, and energy required to get the job done.
Truth be told, you want an axe or maul designed specifically for splitting wood.
Let me explain:
With every swing, you want to have these 3 things optimized:
- Weight of the axe head: optimized to maximize momentum while also being manageable by the user.
- Length on the axe handle: optimized to achieve maximum mechanical leverage.
- Bit/head design: optimized to split wood along the grain with energy transfer.
With every swing, you want to maximize the amount of momentum (energy) you have in the swing, but at the lowest energy cost to you.
You also want the ability to transfer the highest amount of that energy into the wood when you hit it (in order to split it). Makes sense, right?
My name is Paul, and I'm a machinist that loves to dominate wood. Below I share my top 3 recommendations for wood splitting tools.
Then I discuss the most important factors to consider when making your selection.
After that, I discuss each of the top 3 recommendations in detail.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, where I make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Best Splitting Axe & Maul Comparison Table
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Hardened Forged Steel
There are several factors to consider when choosing the best maul or axe for log splitting. Let’s take a look at each one in detail below.
Which One is Best: Maul or Axe?
It depends mostly on your preference and what type of logs you will be processing.
Both mauls and axes are effective tools. If you will be processing very large blocks of wood, a splitting maul or a splitting wedge might be ideal. If you will be processing small to medium sized blocks of wood, I would recommend a splitting axe.
A maul has a sledge-hammer (maul) on one end and a wedge shaped blade on the other. It’s also referred to as a sledge axe, block splitter, or block buster. A maul breaks wood along the grain when you hit a log to split it.
A splitting axe typically doesn’t have the sledge-hammer end, and it usually weighs less than a maul. It also has a wedge like blade, which is ideal for splitting.
Advantages & Disadvantages
The advantage of an axe vs a maul is that an axe can also be used for other wood cutting tasks if needed, although there are other specialized axes designed for chopping and other wood processing tasks.
Both tools generally have a wedge like blade, which is the optimal geometry for splitting wood.
In contrast, one advantage of a maul is that it’s sledge-hammer end can be used to drive splitting wedges into larger logs. It can also be used to drive stakes into the ground.
One disadvantage of a maul is that it is typically heavier than an axe and therefore increases the possibility of injury if used improperly. In addition, you might get tired faster using a heavier tool like a splitting maul.
Personally, I prefer a splitting axe for its lighter weight, which makes it easier to use. I also like that it’s more versatile for other wood cutting tasks.
Weight and Length
Weight and length are critical criteria in selecting a maul or axe for splitting wood.
Your size and strength need to be taken into consideration as well as any concerns of injury or exhaustion. Lots of folks start to prefer a lighter axe over a maul as they get older.
One important factor to pay attention to is the design of the axe or maul. There seems to be two philosophies out there on what's better: wood handles or composite handles.
Both have their advantages and disadvantages. For example, a composite handle is a little more forgiving if you overstrike during a swing vs. a wooden handle that is far more likely to break during an overstrike.
One advantage of a wooden handle is that you can replace it if it breaks. A composite handle can't be replaced if it breaks, which is definitely a negative for some folks and rightfully so. Although, composite handles are designed to be very tough with some companies claiming they're stronger than steel.
Ultimately, you have to decide which one is best for your situation. Again, there's advantages and disadvantages to each design type. I prefer composite handles for wood splitting due to the overstrike protection.
Another consideration is cost. Going with the cheapest isn’t always the best option, but neither is buying the most expensive tool you can find.
I recommend picking one that is in the medium range of cost, being sure to balance quality with the price point. All of the recommendations I make in this article are in this middle price range, have the best reviews, and are of the best quality I could find on the market.
Top Splitting Axes and Splitting Mauls
1. Fiskars Splitting Axe
The Fiskars Splitting Axe is ideal for splitting medium to large logs.
It's the best wood splitting axe and my #1 recommendation due to being an excellent choice on so many levels.
If you prefer an axe over a maul, this is the best one on the market.
Fiskars is a company based out of Finland and makes some incredible axes.
This axe has a head made with hardened, forged steel and comes with a lifetime warranty. The handle is made from a composite material that Fiskars claims is stronger than steel.
Multiple Sizes Available
Fiskars' best selling “Splitting Axe” comes in 4 different lengths, allowing the user to select the perfect size for their height and desired tool weight.
Here's the 4 length options: 17” (the X11), 23.5” (the X17), 28” (the X25), and 36” (the X27).
I recommend the Fiskars X25 (6 lbs, 28” long) for most folks and the Fiskars X27 (8.6 lbs, 36” long) if you're tall or want more axe weight and leverage.
If you're shorter or want less weight to swing, then I recommend the Fiskars X17 (3.9 lbs, 23.5” long).
The Fiskars X11, which is 17” long, is pretty small. If size is the biggest factor for you, then I recommend the 3rd option below (the Estwing Splitting Axe/Maul) over the Fiscars X11.
Ideal for: anyone that prefers an axe over a maul for splitting wood and wants the best one on the market at a very fair price.
Pros: A beast of an axe. Comes with a heavy duty sheath. Lifetime warranty. Great brand. Great price. Tremendously good reviews.
Cons: Who came up with the model names? They're confusing as the model names don't match the lengths. The X17 is not 17” long, but the X11 is 17” long. Trivial gripe, I know, but confusing to the consumer! The composite handle is also a potential concern for wood handle lovers.
2. Fiskars Splitting Maul
The Fiskars Splitting Maul is my 2nd recommendation, only because I'm more of an axe guy vs. a maul.
It’s the best wood splitting maul on the market.
If you are looking for a maul instead of an axe, then this is the one you want.
This maul is a war hammer. No log will survive battle with it.
Fiskars is a top brand in this area. The Fiskars Maul comes with a lifetime warranty and it has a head made with hardened, forged steel. The handle is made from a composite material.
Ideal for: Anyone that likes dominating logs with a maul. This mail is 36” long and weighs 10.2 lbs.
Pros: Lifetime warranty. Excellent reviews. A well designed product by a great brand. It's the best splitting maul for the money.
Cons: Large and heavy. That's why I prefer the Fiskars Splitting Axe. If you're a man beast and like mauls, then the length and extra weight is a positive for you.
3. Estwing Splitting Axe/Maul
The Estwing Splitting Axe/Maul is a great choice if you want a smaller tool to split wood.
This small axe/maul combo is great for processing small to medium logs or for situations in which size and weight are a concern.
The Estwing Splitting Axe/Maul is 14” long and weighs 4 lbs. It’s made with a single piece of forged steel, in the USA.
Ideal for: Anyone wanting a smaller and lighter weight maul/axe. It's 14” long and weighs around 4 lbs. Perfect for lighter duty splitting and if size is a concern.
Pros: Made in the USA. Smaller and lighter weight. Also much cheaper than a full size tool. Perfect for smaller to medium logs and less frequent splitting.
Cons: Sheath not included.
I hope this article saved you a ton of time and helped you make your selection.
In summary, the article discussed the top 3 recommendations for a maul and axe for splitting wood. These options are of course if you are manually doing all of the work, which will be the case in a survival situation.
If you have the money, there are electric options as well for when times are good and civilization is still running along fine.
In addition, it discussed the main factors to think about when making your selection for a splitting tool. These factors included deciding which one you want (maul vs axe), design, weight/length, and cost.
The top recommendation for an axe designed to an outstanding job at splitting wood is the Fiskars Splitting Axe.
My top recommendation for a maul is the Fiskars Iso Core 8 lb Maul.
If you also need a folding shovel or e-tool, I wrote a separate article on the best ones out there.
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