The Best Axes, Tested

Save money on firewood supply by splitting and stocking your own with the help of an axe that's a cut above the rest.

Best Overall

The Best Axe Option: Fiskars X27 36-Inch Super Splitting Axe

Fiskars X27 36-Inch Super Splitting Axe

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Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Axe Option: Estwing 14-Inch Fireside Friend Splitting Tool

Estwing 14-Inch Fireside Friend Splitting Tool

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Upgrade Pick

The Best Axe Option: Gransfors Bruks Outdoor Axe

Gransfors Bruks Outdoor Axe

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Enjoying the warmth of a wood-burning fireplace is priceless to many, but buying firewood can be expensive. A cord, which measures 8 feet long by 4 feet wide by 4 feet deep or 128 cubic feet, can run as much as $400, depending on where you live. You may be able to avoid this cost if you’re lucky enough to have oak, maple, or ash trees and the know-how to harvest and split your own firewood. Still, it’s important to select the right tool for the job.

Axes can be, and most often are, job specific. Some of the best axes are specialized for certain types of splitting or felling, while a few offer multiple uses. To help narrow the field to the best axes for specific tasks, we considered 20 axes, tested 13, and whittled those down to the top picks for our list. In our tests, we used each axe to split rounds of cedar and cottonwood trees. And since many axes function as multipurpose tools, we also tried them out splitting logs, making kindling, pruning, and doing general clearing.

An axe’s handle length and weight influence effectiveness and ease of use based on the user’s height and strength, so we had more than one person test these axes. Both a 5-foot-11-inch and a 5-foot-4-inch tester took swings with these axes, noting blade sharpness, head weight, overall balance, and material quality. These features were evaluated in accordance with the axe’s designed purpose.

If you aim to split your own firewood, keep reading to learn what to look for in an axe. You’ll also find out why we chose the following axes and hatchets as some of the best for most DIY lumberjacks.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Fiskars X27 36-Inch Super Splitting Axe
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Estwing 14-Inch Fireside Friend Splitting Tool
  3. UPGRADE PICK: Gransfors Bruks Outdoor Axe
  4. BEST WITH WOOD HANDLE: Husqvarna 26-Inch Swedish-Style Multipurpose Axe
  5. BEST HATCHET: Hults Bruk Almike All-Purpose Hatchet
  6. BEST SPLITTING MAUL: Fiskars Pro 36-Inch IsoCore Wood Splitting Maul
  7. BEST THROWING AXE: Cold Steel Professional Throwing Axe
  8. BEST BRUSH AXE: Woodman’s Pal Multiuse Axe
  9. BEST SURVIVAL AXE: Camillus Camtrax 3-in-1 Hatchet 
  10. BEST FELLING AXE: Fiskars 28-Inch Chopping Axe
The best axe option stuck in a log target
Photo: Stacey L. Nash for Bob Vila

How We Tested the Best Axes

Swinging an axe is hard work, but a well-designed tool makes that work more manageable. We scored each axe on performance and efficiency and noted their handle length and head weight. These measurements play into an axe’s balance, which greatly influences how well and how long they can be used. We rated each axe for usefulness and whether or not we would want to swing it again. Wrist fatigue factored into ease of use as well.

We tested the axes using an established rubric—splitting at least five pieces of wood and making kindling with each one. If the axe had a specialty design, we also tested that axe within its specialty—felling trees, throwing at targets, or doing some woodworking.

Our Top Picks

Our testing revealed the features that help make an axe qualify as one of the best on the market. Handle length, head weight, and overall design determine how easy and convenient an axe is to use. In testing, we found that many of our favorite axes are made by brands with a long industry history and the knowledge and experience to create well-honed products. Still, some designs are better for certain types of tasks, such as making kindling or splitting large wood rounds. We tested each of the following axes to determine if they held up to the manufacturers’ promises and see how well they worked in action.

Best Overall

Fiskars X27 36-Inch Super Splitting Axe

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For the power and velocity that only a long-handle axe can deliver, look no further than the Fiskars X27 Super Splitting axe. At 36 inches long and 6.3 pounds, it requires strength and coordination to swing, but once the blade strikes, it leaves a decisively powerful cut.

The Fiskars axe doesn’t have a full maul head, but you can use the back side to drive a splitting wedge if needed. The handle, manufactured from a fiberglass composite, absorbs some of the shock of each strike, reducing wear and tear on your arms. It also has a slightly textured but comfortable feel and flared end to help you maintain a firm grip.

During testing, this model performed beautifully. It’s a heavy axe that takes strength and skill to control. However, with a little practice, the X27 can take on large rounds that other axes fail to tackle. One of our testers owns an older model of the X27 that’s lasted 15 years despite regular use. This latest rendition felt just as good and didn’t disappoint.

Product Specs

  • Length: 36 inches
  • Head weight: 6.3 pounds
  • Handle material: Fiberglass composite

Pros

  • Long handle works well for taller users and creates good swing force
  • Head weight helps build momentum and power to maximize effectiveness
  • Fiskars’ proprietary blade-grinding technique produces a sharp blade that cuts through rounds easily

Cons

  • May be too long and heavy for shorter users and those with limited upper-body strength
  • Requires strength and practice to learn to control

Get the Fiskars X27 axe at Amazon, The Home Depot, Walmart, or Blain’s Farm & Fleet.

Best Bang for the Buck

Estwing 14-Inch Fireside Friend Splitting Tool

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There’s no need to struggle with a large axe when the Estwing Fireside Friend 14-inch axe is powerful enough to effortlessly split chunks of wood into smaller pieces or make kindling. The Estwing features forged-steel construction and a maul head for driving splitting wedges.

The Estwing’s handle is wrapped in a rubberlike material that absorbs shock and provides a comfortable grip. Aeration holes offer breathability and add a grippy texture, too. This axe’s small size makes it a great choice to keep on a hearth for quick splitting or to take camping to clear a site, make kindling, and split a few small rounds.

We like that the Estwing balances functionality with price. It’s not the type of axe used to split wood daily, but it works beautifully in a pinch and for light-duty tasks. It’s easy to store behind the seat of a truck or tuck away in camping gear, so you always have a cutting tool on hand. While it isn’t the most elegant axe/hatchet we tested (the heavy 4.3-pound head could easily get out of control), it’s perfect for driving wedges, pounding tent stakes, or taking out brush.

Product Specs

  • Length: 14 inches
  • Head weight: 4.3 pounds
  • Handle material: Forged steel wrapped in rubberlike material

Pros

  • Small size makes it easy to store and stow
  • Secure, durable nylon sheath protects the head when not in use
  • Heavy head can split wood, create kindling, or drive wedges and stakes as needed
  • Single-piece forged-steel design adds durability

Cons

  • Heavy head can tire the wrist
  • Not designed for larger splitting work; suitable for light-duty tasks only

Get the Estwing axe at Amazon, Lowe’s, or Walmart.

Upgrade Pick

Gransfors Bruks Outdoor Axe

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Gransfors Bruks enjoys a well-deserved reputation as a premier maker of axes and hatchets, and its outdoor axe goes beyond expectations of what an axe or hatchet can be. The tight-grained hickory wood handle is lightweight but feels stable and fits well in hand. A lightweight 1-pound head may not sound like it would split well, but it’s deceptively sharp—so sharp, that if we rated it on a scale of 1 to 10 for sharpness, it would get an 11.

That sharpness comes into this axe’s true strength: fine detail work. The Gransfors Bruks can function as a traditional axe as well as a woodworking tool to carve and create furniture and art. It only took a few swings to fall in love with this axe during the testing process. It may come with a high price, but it outshines any of the other models we tested.

The handle and head design offered excellent control, and the sharp head dug into the wood with every swing. We also tried it as a woodworking tool by scraping and carving a piece of wood. The head, which can be held in hand for better control when doing fine work, moved through the block of wood like soft butter. It’s a beautiful axe that makes others pale in comparison. However, the small size makes it better for splitting kindling than large rounds.

Product Specs

  • Length: 14.57 inches
  • Head weight: 1 pound
  • Handle material: Hickory wood

Pros

  • Incredibly sharp head easily chops and splits hard- and softwood
  • Light weight makes it easy and fast to swing, offering excellent accuracy
  • Impressive quality and craftsmanship that can be handed down from one generation to the next
  • Head design allows for handheld detail work for diverse uses

Cons

  • Comes at a higher price than more utilitarian options

Get the Gransfors Bruks axe at Amazon

Best with Wood Handle

Husqvarna 26-Inch Swedish-Style Multipurpose Axe

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When only the feel of a real wood handle will do, check out the Husqvarna 26-inch wooden multipurpose axe. Husqvarna might be best known for its chainsaws and lawn mowers, but the brand performs with this manual cutting tool, too. This model features a 26-inch tight-grained hickory handle that’s smooth to the touch and feels solid and strong in the hand.

The Husqvarna doesn’t have a maul head, but the back side can function as a hammer to drive a splitting wedge or tent stake if needed. The 1.87-pound head is lighter than most, but it’s well balanced, so needed momentum easily builds. In testing, the light weight was an asset because the axe is balanced in a way that makes each strike effective. The thoughtful design of this tool makes it easy to use single or double handed, depending on the job.

This model from Husqvarna comes with a leather cover that protects the blade and keeps it from damaging anything around it with its sharp edge. It’s definitely the kind of axe to keep along on a hunting or camping trip for any splitting or chopping jobs that arise.

Product Specs

  • Length: 26 inches
  • Head weight: 1.87 pounds
  • Handle material: Hickory wood

Pros

  • Light weight allows for continuous long-term use with 1 or 2 hands
  • Excellent materials and construction make it a showy but functional axe
  • Durable leather sheath protects the blade from knicks and the user from cuts
  • Well-oiled tight-grained handle adds strength and durability

Cons

  • Length is too short for bigger splitting jobs; best for small-scale jobs only
  • Head seemed duller than some of the other axes we tested

Get the Husqvarna axe at Amazon, Walmart, or Husqvarna

Best Hatchet

Hults Bruk Almike All-Purpose Hatchet

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The Hults Bruk Almike hatchet provides ample splitting power in a small package. It also carries the Hults Bruk name, known for forging quality axes since 1697. This model features a 16-inch curved hickory handle with a tight grain that adds strength and beautiful oiling that maintains the wood and adds visual appeal.

This model is incredibly comfortable in hand, and its svelte 1-pound head balances the design. While it may be lightweight, the combination of the handle design and head weight makes it easy to swing over and over again. Its sharp edge easily glides through wood, allowing for efficient splitting with minimal effort.

The ability of the Hults Bruk to split logs was surprising since hatchets aren’t usually the most efficient option for this task. Yet we found its design highly effective for splitting and making kindling. We didn’t get tired when using it, and we got incredible accuracy with each swing. The Hults Bruk is on the pricey side for a hatchet, but it’s the type of tool that will get passed down and maintain its functionality.

Product Specs

  • Length: 16 inches
  • Head weight: 1 pound
  • Handle material: Hickory wood

Pros

  • Comfortable curved handle maximizes the force of each strike
  • Design offers excellent control without fatiguing the wrist, arm, or shoulder
  • Durable leather sheath protects axe-head from damage while transporting or storing
  • Slight imperfections show handmade construction, giving the hatchet added character

Cons

  • Not efficient for large rounds or a high splitting volume

Get the Hults Bruk axe at Amazon or REI

Best Splitting Maul

Fiskars Pro 36-Inch IsoCore Wood Splitting Maul

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Fiskars knows axes, and the IsoCore splitting maul can take on those large wood rounds that make other axe-heads bounce like a rubber ball. A sturdy 36-inch handle made of a vibration-reducing composite keeps it comfortable while pounding through knots and other tough spots.

We used this 8-pound axe for the most difficult tasks we could find. Even large rounds filled with knots and branches (that typically require a chainsaw to split) were no match for this maul. The head has a blade on one side and a sledgehammer on the other for splitting wedges. The sledge side is also nice and wide, making it easier to hit the target. Plus, the added weight of the head drives the wedge in deep for a better, faster split.

While its weight goes above the more comfortable 5- to 6-pound heads, the extra pounds give it the power to build momentum that hardwoods and large rounds require. Just keep in mind that the weight is overkill for everything but the thickest, toughest, largest wood rounds. And it will be too heavy for those with limited upper body strength.

Product Specs 

  • Length: 36 inches
  • Head weight: 8 pounds
  • Handle material: Fiberglass composite

Pros

  • Heavy head splits large wood rounds, even those with knots and branches
  • Wide sledge side makes it easier to hit a splitting wedge, driving it deeper for quicker splitting
  • Handle design makes it more comfortable to hold and absorbs vibration to reduce fatigue

Cons

  • Heavy head is overkill for everything but the toughest, largest rounds

Get the Fiskars IsoCore axe at Amazon, Lowe’s, Tractor Supply Co., The Home Depot, Walmart, or Fiskars.

Best Throwing Axe

Cold Steel Professional Throwing Axe

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The sound of an axe embedding in a wood target is hard to beat, which is just one reason that axe throwing has grown in popularity. The Cold Steel professional throwing axe is designed and balanced to maximize accuracy and comfort for serious (or casual) axe competitions. It features a solid hickory handle that comfortably fits the average hand. At 16 inches, it’s the perfect length for throwing.

One of our favorite features of this throwing axe is the removable axe-head. It has two screws that loosen or tighten with an Allen wrench so you can replace a worn-out handle without replacing the entire axe. The head on our axe was a bit loose when it arrived, but we easily adjusted it and started throwing.

The axe’s 21-ounce head weight enhances its throwing ease by creating the right momentum for establishing a comfortable rhythm. The head isn’t sharp since throwing doesn’t require it, yet the axe stuck hard in a cedar round. A 4-inch carbon-steel blade meets the requirements for axe-throwing tournaments, so this is an excellent option for both practice and competitions. The only issue we could see is that some hard-core users have had trouble finding replacement handles.

Product Specs 

  • Length: 16 inches
  • Head weight: 1.31 pounds
  • Handle material: Hickory wood

Pros

  • Head only requires an Allen wrench for removing, loosening, or tightening
  • Excellent weight-to-length balance for precise throwing
  • 4-inch blade meets axe-throwing tournament requirements

Cons

  • Could have issues finding a replacement handle

Get the Cold Steel axe at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Cold Steel.

Best Brush Axe

Woodman’s Pal Multiuse Axe

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The Woodman’s Pal multiuse axe comes with a high price tag, but it also comes with impressive craftsmanship and a versatile design. The head, made of spring steel, features a sharp axelike side and a sickle-hook side, making it incredibly useful for clearing brush. During testing, the sickle easily sliced through small branches and overgrown shrubs. That side also features a safety notch that prevents your hand from sliding into it, but remember never to hold any axe by its blade.

You can purchase the Woodsman’s Pal with one of two handle designs: wood or leather with a knuckle guard. In our tests, we used the wood-handle version since one of our testers already owns a leather-handle one. After using both, our tester preferred the leather handle because of the additional safety provided by the knuckle guard. However, they liked that the wood handle offers extra grip from ergonomic finger grooves. Our tester with small hands found that the lower three finger grooves fit well, but there’s also a fourth and larger finger groove for those with larger hands.

No matter which handle you choose, you’ll find that the Woodsman’s Pal cuts through brush and branches with little effort. You can also use it to split firewood and cut down small trees. It handles these tasks with ease and comes with a sharpening stone and protective leather sheath.

Product Specs 

  • Length: 17 inches
  • Head weight: 1.31 pounds
  • Handle material: Ash wood or leather

Pros

  • Versatile head design makes it usable for splitting, chopping, and cutting brush
  • Blade holds a sharp edge even after heavy use
  • High-quality leather sheath protects the blade and lets you attach the axe to your belt

Cons

  • Its price tag is higher than many options on our list, which makes it more of a long-term investment

Get the Woodman’s Pal axe at Amazon or Woodsman’s Pal.

Best Survival Axe

Camillus Camtrax 3-in-1 Hatchet

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In survival situations, lightweight, multipurpose tools offer the best versatility, and the Camillus Camtrax axe and folding saw’s three-in-one design is valuable in a pinch. At just over 12 inches long, it’s easy to throw in an overnight pack or pickup truck before heading into the mountains for a few days. Plus, it comes with a plastic head cover that snaps into place and attaches to a backpack or belt.

The compact head of this survival axe works for chopping small trees or limbs and making kindling. The saw, which folds into the handle, can cut small limbs or trees too, which it did during testing (with a little muscle power behind it). A hammerhead on the axe-head’s back side provides the final piece of the survival tool’s trifecta of uses.

During testing, this model performed adequately in all three functions—as an axe, saw, and hammer. Like similar multipurpose tools, a tool dedicated to a single purpose can perform better. But it works beautifully when you don’t have all your tools at your disposal. Our only complaint is the placement of the saw release, which is on the back side of the handle. When using the Camillus as an axe, that portion of the saw cuts into the hand. Wearing gloves helps, but if you’re doing a lot of chopping or splitting, that design could be an issue.

Product Specs 

  • Length: 12 inches
  • Head weight: 2.03 pounds (entire hatchet weight)
  • Handle material: Glass-filled nylon

Pros

  • Lightweight handle and head are easy to pack and transport
  • Plastic sheath securely clips to a belt or backpack
  • 3-in-1 design offers versatile uses in unexpected situations

Cons

  • Saw-blade release can dig into the hand when using the tool as an axe

Get the Camillus axe at Amazon, The Home Depot, Camillus, Sportsman’s Warehouse, or Bass Pro Shops.

Best Felling Axe

Fiskars 28-Inch Chopping Axe

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A felling axe needs to dig deep into wood but doesn’t necessarily need the long handle of a splitting axe or maul. For those times a chainsaw isn’t at hand, the Fiskars 28-inch chopping axe fits the felling bill. The Fiskars’ durable fiberglass composite handle feels solid and strong while absorbing the shock of each strike and reducing vibration. Texture near the handle’s end adds grip, and the end also flares to help keep your hands in place while you work.

This axe was a superstar during overall testing, but it really excelled when felling trees. Its head-handle balance helped it stay in control and accurate while building momentum. The head dug into the wood, providing more progress with every strike. It’s also covered in a low-friction coating that makes it easier to pull the axe from the wood.

The protective sheath that comes with this axe locks in place, and we found that feature made it easier to store that axe without worrying the cover would slip off. The sheath protected the head from nicking other items and kept the head from getting nicked or scratched by anything nearby. Our only issue with this model is that it’s very project and job specific. The handle is a bit short for splitting, yet it’s too big for making kindling and limbing trees. But if you need an axe that can take down a tree, this is the right tool for the job.

Product Specs 

  • Length: 28 inches
  • Head weight: 3.8 pounds
  • Handle material: Fiberglass composite

Pros

  • Comfortable handle with shock-absorbing textured grip and flared end
  • Ideal length and balance that supports the power necessary for felling trees
  • Low-friction coating helps prevent blade from getting stuck in trees

Cons

  • More of a specialized tool; not as versatile as other splitting mauls, axes, or hatchets

Get the Fiskars chopping axe at Amazon, Walmart, or Fiskars.

Jump to Our Top Picks

What to Consider When Choosing an Axe

Axes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, designed to do everything from felling trees and trimming branches to shaping wood for sculptures. However, not all axes are suitable for splitting firewood. Splitting is the process of striking the flat sawed end of a short log to separate the wood fibers, which causes the log to split apart along its grain. The two main types of axes used to harvest wood are splitting and felling, and when you’re trying to split wood, you likely don’t want to use a felling axe. In a pinch, you can also split wood with a hatchet.

A person using the best axe option to split a log
Photo: Stacey L. Nash for Bob Vila

Type

  • A splitting axe is sometimes called a splitting maul. However, a splitting maul is actually slightly different. A maul typically has a wedge-shaped head with a back side that looks like a sledgehammer. Most often, the blade side is adequate for wood splitting, but for a large log that’s a foot or more in diameter, the splitting power can be increased by positioning a splitting wedge—a long, narrow steel wedge—into the face of the log and using the maul end as a sledgehammer to hit it. (Check out step-by-step instructions on splitting logs.)
  • A splitting axe features a large, heavy steel head (traditionally, these heads were made with iron) with a sharp wedge-shaped blade that can split a log along the wood grain when struck decisively in the center. Splitting axes don’t have the “maul” side of the head, though they may have a flat side that can function as a hammer.
  • A felling axe, also called a chopping or forest axe, has a lighter head than a splitting axe. These models are designed to chip away at a standing tree using horizontal strokes. When shopping for a splitting axe, steer clear of these axes because they’re not designed to split wood along its grain.
  • A hatchet looks like an axe, except it has a shorter handle, usually 12 to 18 inches long. Hatchets are used for fine detail work, limbing, small splitting jobs, and sometimes felling small trees. They’re not necessarily great for splitting, but they can be used to make kindling or break apart smaller pieces of wood if needed.

Axe Handle

Splitting axe handles are made of one of three materials: hardwood, fiberglass composite, or forged steel that’s covered with rubber or a similar material.

  • Wood axe handles are popular because they’re relatively lightweight and feel good to the touch. Wood also absorbs shock, but wood handles can weaken and break over time, requiring replacement. Wooden handles with a tight grain that runs parallel to the direction of the blade offer the best strength and durability.
  • Fiberglass composite handles are smooth to the touch and will absorb some shock, but fiberglass has a tendency to shatter if used in subzero temps. It can also break if a misstrike happens and the shaft is hit instead of the head on the wood.
  • Steel axe handles are often forged in a single piece that combines both the axe-head and the handle. These are the most durable choice, but they don’t absorb shock, so your hands may fatigue faster. Handles covered in rubber or a similarly absorbent material will reduce the shock that goes through your hands.

Length

When choosing an axe, the length of the handle is just as important as what it’s made from. Handle lengths run from 14 inches up to 36 inches. The longer the axe, the more velocity and power it can generate.

Just remember that hitting a precise spot on a log becomes slightly more difficult with a longer handle. Those just starting will want to consider an axe with a 31-inch handle. You may want to transition to a longer handle as your technique improves. Axes with shorter handles are often designed for use with one hand and are best for splitting kindling.

Weight

The heavier the axe-head, the more power it can generate when swung in an arc and brought down onto the log. However, if the head is too heavy to control, it may throw off the aim and tire out the user after a few swings.

Standard splitting axes come with heads that weigh between 3 and 6 pounds. Mauls, with sledgehammer-type heads, can weigh as much as 8 pounds. Unless the plan is to compete in wood-splitting competitions, it’s usually best to go with an axe-head that weighs 4 to 6 pounds. Hatchet heads are lighter, typically 1.5 to 3 pounds.

FAQs

A shiny new axe doesn’t come without a learning curve. If you’re new to splitting, you may have more questions. To make it easier, we’ve answered a few popular questions to ensure you’ve got the right axe for your needs and know how to take care of it.

Q. What kind of maintenance does an axe require?

If you use the axe frequently, you may need to sharpen it regularly. Watch for signs of rust because nicks are fairly common. To prevent rust, oil the head before putting it in the sheath. Wood-handled axes may also need periodic oiling to maintain the strength and appearance of the wood.

Q. Do I need a splitting maul, splitting axe, or hatchet?

Splitting mauls are generally larger and have a head that can act as a hammer or be hammered once it’s wedged in a large round. Splitting axes typically have sharper heads and don’t have the maul head. They might have a flat back side for hammering and a shorter handle. A splitting axe offers more versatility if you need an axe for more than splitting. Hatchets are shorter than either splitting mauls or splitting axes. They’re a good choice if you only need to split occasionally because they’re easier to store and swing.

Q. What is the best axe for splitting wood?

If the only thing you’re doing is splitting, a splitting maul or splitting axe works best. Splitting mauls are more efficient for large rounds, but their weight and length require strength and practice. If you need an axe that’s close to a maul without the heavy maul head, take a look at the Fiskars X27 Super Splitting Axe. Splitting axes aren’t as efficient on large rounds but work well for splitting standard rounds, making kindling, and using for general purposes.

Meet the Tester

Stacey L. Nash has written about home and garden products, home design and decor, and general indoor and outdoor home improvement for 5+ years. She’s passionate about research and hands-on testing to find the products that add true value to homeownership and daily life. She lives on 12 heavily wooded acres, where she and her family put home and outdoor products to the test while avoiding bears and cougars.

Additional research provided by Glenda Taylor.

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Glenda Taylor

Staff Writer

Glenda Taylor is a BobVila.com staff writer with a background in the residential remodeling, home building, and home improvement industries. She started writing for BobVila.com in 2016 and covers a range of topics, including construction methods, code compliance, tool use, and the latest news in the housing and real estate industries. 

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