Ask any individual or even some seasoned woodchoppers – what is the difference between splitting maul vs splitting axe, and they’ll probably tell you that they’re the same thing! However, there are significant differences between these two tools, and the confusion generally stems from the fact that they’re both bladed tools used to chop wood and for other tasks.
To add to this confusion, there are many different types of hatchets, which again offer similar functionality as a maul and axe, but are different tools altogether. There are several questions that crop up among consumers trying to decide between these two tools, most notably what is a wood splitting axe, the best splitting maul and best axe for chopping wood?
In this article, we aim to breakdown the differences between a maul and to help you make an informed choice on whether you should use a maul or wood chopping axe for the job. And to ease your buying decision, we’ve also after diligently researching this space put together a list of best mauls and axes available today.
- 1 What’s Better For Splitting Wood – Maul Vs Axe?
- 2 What is A Splitting Axe?
- 3 What is A Splitting Maul?
- 4 Best Splitting Maul
- 5 Best Splitting Axe
- 5.1 1. Fiskars X27 Super 36″ Splitting Axe – Best Splitting Axe
- 5.2 2. Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe 19″ – Best Splitting Axe
- 5.3 3. Snow & Nealley Penobscot Bay Kindling Axe – Best Splitting Axe
- 5.4 4. Husqvarna 26″ Wooden Multi-Purpose Axe – Best Splitting Axe
- 5.5 5. Barebones Living Pulaski Axe – Best Splitting Axe
- 6 Best Uses of a Maul
- 7 Best Uses of an Axe
- 8 Factors to Consider when Buying a Maul
- 9 Factors to Consider when Buying an Axe
- 10 Conclusion
What’s Better For Splitting Wood – Maul Vs Axe?
Getting to the big question of what is the difference between maul vs axe, there are a few significant differences that set the two apart. Chopping was once a popular way of obtaining firewood until a few years ago but was taken over by the crosscut saw and then a chainsaw.
Even though it was once a popular method, chopping wood proved to be an inefficient process of getting wood, because a large amount of the wood is turned into chips, which sits in the forest and eventually rots.
Splitting wood, however, is a remarkable technique to turning chunks of tree trunk into firewood with little or no waste whatsoever. And if the wood happens to be knot-free white ash or straight, then the splitting task is mostly an effortless process. Both these techniques are different from each other, and it is highly important to use the right one and the right tools to prevent any injury.
What is A Splitting Axe?
Though it’s fairly easy to call any tool that has a large blade attached to a wood handle an axe, a real axe blade is defined by two important characteristics – thinness and sharpness.
With that said, axes are designed to hack through the wood, makings it’s away almost instantly through the fibers in a single swing. The sharp part of the blade slices into the wood first, followed by the thin slice of the blade to cut through the fibers.
The fat part surrounding the handle is then used to separate the wood and pop out the resulting wood chip. This is the true definition of chopping – splitting instead of chopping. So, the process of chopping wood is to grab a log splitting axe and hack away across the grain, digging right into it, knocking out the wood chips as you whack until you reach the far side of the wood.
What is A Splitting Maul?
Sometimes known as a wood splitting maul or a maul axe, this bladed tool features the opposite qualities of an axe, starting with the fact that it is blunt and fat. It is designed to cut hack a piece of wood into two pieces, where the flat side creates a crack between the fibers, and the V-shaped head applies continuous pressure to force them apart.
If you attempt to split a piece of firewood with an axe, the sharp, thin side will probably get stuck in the wood and in worse cases will damage the axe blade. Although you will learn most of these cutting techniques with practice, another easy way to tell the difference between a maul and axe is that mauls are heavier than axes. Adding to this, the handle length of a maul handle is longer than an axe to help guide it towards the ground after it splits the wood.
Best Splitting Maul
1. Fiskars X27 Super 36″ Splitting Axe – Best Splitting Maul
Whether you’re just learning how to split wood with a maul or are a seasoned logger, the Fiskars Iso Core Maul should serve you well. It is an ideal choice for driving wedges and stakes and is equipped with a geometrically optimized blade that offers superior penetration to cut even tough logs with minimal effort.
This maul by Fiskars features an IsoCore Shock Control System that helps absorb shock and vibration to reduce the toll on your body, and minimize the shock and vibration by twice as less when compared wood handles. Speaking of which, the handle of the Fiskars Iso Core Maul is appointed with an insulation sleeve that absorbs the shock of the first strike before it can even reach your hand.
Weighing just 10.4 lbs and measuring 3.2 x 7.8 x 36 inches, this rugged and powerful maul by Fiskars is coming with a high-performance handle that is designed to fit comfortably and securely in your hand, and features a slip-resistant flare and texturing for improved grip.
The Fiskars Iso Core Maul offers top-notch performance in all weather conditions and is made from forged, heat treated steel. Adding to this, it is also rust resistant and is backed by an impressive lifetime warranty against any manufacturer defects.
- IsoCore Shock Control System
- Lightweight at just 10.4 lbs
- Can be used in all weather conditions
- Made from forged, heat treated steel and rust resistant
- Comfortable and easy to grip handle
- Shock absorption system may not work well in some conditions
- May occasionally get stuck in the wood
2. Gransfors Bruk Splitting Maul 31.50″ – Best Splitting Maul
If you’re looking for a maul that can whack through thick and knotty chunks of wood, look no further than the Gransfors Bruk Splitting Maul. Weighing in at 7 lbs, and measuring 32 x 11 x 3 inches, this maul is equipped with a forged, concave blade that is engineered to easily and effectively split through the wood without you breaking a sweat.
The handle of the Gransfors Burk Maul features a protective steel collar located right below the head of the axe, which along with the circular grooves provide a superior firm grip. The maul comes with a sheath made from tan leather, and an English language axe book.
- Forged, concave blade
- Protective steel collar
- Circular grooves on a handle for a great grip
- Comes with sheath and axe book
- Beveled corners make it a great choice for striking a wedge
- A little on the expensive side
- Does not come with a carry case
3. Husqvarna 32″ Wooden Splitting Maul – Best Splitting Maul
The Husqvarna Wooden Splitting Maul can be ordered in a choice of several different styles, each of which designed to engineered to split chunks of wood and poll for driving cracking wedges. This maul weighs just under 7 lbs and can be used as a sledge or combined with a cracking wedge owing to its hardened striking face in the neck.
The head of the Husqvarna Wooden Splitting Maul is mated with a hickory shaft with the help of a steel and wooden wedge for secure fastening. With proper care and maintenance, this maul will last you several years to come thanks to its Swedish forged construction.
- Lightweight at just under 7 lbs
- Available in a wide range of styles
- Can be used as a sledge or with a cracking wedge
- Head attached to a hickory shaft
- Forged with Swedish axe steel
- May snap if not maintained properly
- Does not come with a sheath
4. Estwing Fireside Friend Axe 14″ Wood Splitting Maul – Best Splitting Maul
The Estwing Fireside Wood splitting Maul is in a league of its own, owing to several reasons, most notably its forged one-piece construction. Made in the USA and from solid American steel, this maul is a great choice to split smaller chunks of wood and comes with hand-sharpened edge for superior performance.
It features a weighted wedge to make chopping logs and firewood easy, and a shock resistant grip that prevents shock the moment it occurs. The handle of the maul comes with a hand sanded and lacquered finish that reduces impact vibration by an astounding 70 percent.
The Estwing Fireside Maul is easy to use for both novice and seasoned wood loggers and comes with a sheath made from ballistic nylon to protect the sharpened cutting edge. It can be ordered in a choice of two colors – blue and black, special edition, and is a must-have for campers and outdoorsman.
- Forged one-piece construction
- Made in USA, and weighs just 7 ounces
- Available in two color choices
- Sheath made from ballistic nylon
- Shock resistant grip
- Pockmarks may be present in the hammerhead
- Black finish quality could be improved
Best Splitting Axe
1. Fiskars X27 Super 36″ Splitting Axe – Best Splitting Axe
The Fiskars x27 Super Splitting Axe can be ordered in a choice of 8 different sizes, and are geared towards both short and tall users looking to split medium to large size logs. This axe is designed to offer unmatched efficiency, so you cut more with each strike.
Adding to this, the Fiskars x27 Axe is fitted with a textured, non-slip grip that improves overall control and reduces strain on your hands. This axe features an advanced bevel convex blade geometry, which not only adds a surge of power but also makes it easy to remove from wood after each slice.
With regards to the blade, it is crafted using a proprietary grinding technique that renders better contact and cleaner cuts and stays sharp over a longer period owing to its low friction coating. This axe features uniform weight distribution for increased swing speed and is impossible to break.
Tipping the scales at just 5.85 lbs, the Fiskars x27 Super Axe is lightweight compared to other models in its segment and is appointed with a FiberComp handle that is lightweight yet stronger than steel. The Fiskars x27 Super Axe is backed by a lifetime warranty to protect against any manufacturer defects.
- Delivers optimal wood cracking performance
- Unique V-shaped wing design
- High-quality steel blade
- Weighs just 4.5 lbs
- Sharpened edge for easy cutting
- Does not come with a sheath
- Edge may flatten quickly if not sharpened well
2. Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe 19″ – Best Splitting Axe
The Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe measures 19 inches in length including its handle, and weights a nifty 2 lbs. It makes a great choice for those looking to split small sticks or cutting limb wood and delivers super clean cuts with just the right amount of leverage to take down small rounds of roughly between 6 – 9 inches.
It is worth mentioning a few of its noteworthy features such as the fact that it arrives razor sharp right out of the box. It is small enough to fit into your rucksack, and comes with a premium quality sheath made from vegetable tanned leather and the original Gransfors “Axe-book.”
- Lightweight at just 2 lbs
- Great choice to split small sticks or medium size wood
- Comes with sheath
- Razor sharp blade
- Package includes original Gransfors “Axe-book.”
- Only available in 19-inch size
- No colors available
3. Snow & Nealley Penobscot Bay Kindling Axe – Best Splitting Axe
The Snow & Nealley Penobscot Bay Kindling Axe is mentioned in several best maul review articles, most notably for its powerful 3/4″ carbon steel axe head. Adding to this, it is fitted with a handle made from real American hickory, so you can rest assured it is built to last.
Tipping the scales at just 2.6 lbs, and measuring 5 x 5 x 5 inches, the Snow & Nealley Penobscot Bay Kindling Axe comes with a leather blade guard to protect the blade from harsh elements and is made entirely in the USA.
- Made in the USA
- Measures 17 inches overall
- Leather blade guard included
- Features 3/4″ carbon steel axe head
- Handle made from American hickory
- No carry case included
- Maybe a bit heavy for some users
4. Husqvarna 26″ Wooden Multi-Purpose Axe – Best Splitting Axe
The Husqvarna Wooden Multi-Purpose Axe just as the name suggests is a tool that is good for several different tasks including wood chopping, tree felling, etc. it can be ordered in a choice of several sizes including 26 inches, and features a long handle that equips you with the required amount of power to cut with ease.
The head of the Husqvarna Wooden Multi-Purpose Axe is connected with the hickory made shaft via steel and a wooden wedge for secure fastening. Furthermore, this 26-inch wooden axe comes with a leather edge cover, which protects its blade when not in use.
- 26 inches long
- Long hickory made shaft
- Comes with leather cover
- Can be used for many wood related tasks
- Weights just over 2 lbs
- No color choices available
- Lacks extra handle grip
5. Barebones Living Pulaski Axe – Best Splitting Axe
If you’re looking to cut wood without breaking your back or simply wanting to enhance your bushcraft axe skills, the Barebones Living Pulaski Axe is worth checking out. It weighs just 3 lbs and rings in with a hand sharpened 1055 carbon steel head that is mated with a 21 inch highly durable beechwood crafted handle.
The handle of the Barebones Living Pulaski Axe is embedded with a 1/3” solid steel core, which is designed to secure its head via a tightening hex bolt with its steel pommel tip in a bid to help you easily maneuver around rooting and trenching. The package of the Barebones Living Pulaski Axe comes with the axe, 1 HEX key, and a leather sheath to protect its blade.
- Removable hex nut for easy adjustment
- Rounded blade for chopping
- Weights just 3 lbs
- Comes with hand-sharpened 1055 carbon steel head
- Leather sheath and hex key included in the package
- No choice of finish available
- Only available in one length
Best Uses of a Maul
Although the intended use of a maul is to split wood, it does prove handy for several other unique applications. Starting with logging assistance, almost all loggers experience a situation where they’d like to fell a tree, but the tree may not be willing to go fall in that direction.
In the event this happens, loggers generally take several precautions to prevent the tree from falling in the unwanted direction and trapping their chainsaw such as the use of a wedge. A wedge is generally made from plastic and is a small object that looks similar to a thin slice of pie.
But rather than using a hammer or mini-sledge to drive the wedge, loggers can use a maul to drive the wedge in and prevent it from pinching the saw. Another great use a maul is to use as an alternative to a mini-sledge. Even though it may not be as strong as a sledgehammer, some of the best mauls are perfectly suited when looking to tasks such as tapping a board into place or deconstruction.
Best Uses of an Axe
Just like a maul, an axe can be used for several different tasks apart from just slicing through barks of trees. For example, a compact axe can be used as a utility axe to trim branches when out in the woods, especially the ones that are easily worn on your belt.An axe is a great alternative to using a hammer in certain situations and may be safer to use as well. You can use an axe to drive down the pegs for your tent with its blunt edge. Regardless of the tool you use, it is important to educate yourself on hand tool safety to prevent injury.
Factors to Consider when Buying a Maul
Although mauls are pretty much straightforward tools to use, there are a few factors to consider when buying the best one for your needs.
1. Length of a handle
The length of the handle matters when you need to complete jobs that require more power, so the longer the handle, the more power to swing the maul.
2. Handle Material
The handle of a maul can be made from several different materials, but it is important to ensure that it is extremely solid such as made from hickory wood to prevent it from falling apart.
3. Maul Head
This is the business part of the tool because it helps to make a world of a difference in its splitting capabilities. Speaking of which, you should also ensure that you buy a maul that’s lightweight especially if you’re going to be hauling it around often.
Factors to Consider when Buying an Axe
Most of the things to consider when buying a maul applies to axes as well, where you first need to determine whether you’re going to be chopping or splitting wood. Splitting wood means cutting a vertically positioned log with a single downward stroke, whereas chopping means cutting horizontal logs into segments.
Next, and something that’s often overlooked by woodcutters is the size of wood they’re looking to cut. Some axes are designed to split small logs, whereas others can be used easily on both small and large trees.
On that note, if you are going to be cutting large chunks, you should think about buying the best log splitter to make it easy to split them into smaller pieces. With both tools – maul and axe, safety should be the top priority, so consider buying a tool that comes with a protective sheath to protect the blade and people around it when not in use.
Axes and mauls may look similar in design, but they are intended to be used for two different types of tasks. Moreover, now that you’ve read our buying guide buying the best maul or best axe for the job should be easy. The five best mauls and axes mentioned on this list are some of the best you can get in the market, are brought to you by leading brands such as Fiskars.
Some even come with lifetime warranties, so you can rest assured that you won’t be shopping for another maul or axe anytime soon as long as you maintain the axe or maul properly.