Buyer’s Guide: The Best Axes
Save money on your firewood supply by splitting and stocking your own with the help of an axe that's a cut above the rest.
If you’re lucky enough to have access to a stand of oak, maple, or ash trees, you can harvest your own firewood, and a quality tool can make the difference between struggling to split logs and making quick work of the task. Keep reading to learn what to look for, and find out why we’ve chosen these three as our top picks among the best axe options for do-it-yourselfers.
- BEST OVERALL: Husqvarna 30-Inch Wooden Splitting Axe
- BEST UPGRADE: Fiskars Super Splitting Axe
- BEST FOR LIGHT DUTY: Estwing Fireside Friend 14-Inch Axe
Key Considerations for Choosing the Right Axe
You’ll find axes in a variety of shapes and sizes, designed to do everything from felling trees and trimming branches to shaping wood for sculptures, but not all axes are suitable for splitting firewood.
Splitting is the process of striking the flat sawed end of a short log with the intention of separating the wood fibers, causing the log to split apart along its grain. For wood splitting, you need a splitting axe, which features a large heavy iron head with a wedge-shaped blade.
The backsides of many splitting axes feature a sledgehammer-type head, called a maul. Most often, the blade side of the axe is more than adequate for the job. However, for a large log that’s a foot or more in diameter, you can increase the splitting power 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.
Get a Handle on It
Splitting axe handles are made of one of three materials: hardwood, fiberglass composite material, and forged steel.
- Wood axe handles are popular because they’re relatively lightweight and feel good to the touch. Wood also absorbs some of the shocks from striking a log, but they can weaken and break over time, requiring replacement.
- Fiberglass composite handles are smooth to the touch and will absorb some of the shocks of splitting impact, though fiberglass has a tendency to underperform in sub-zero temps.
- 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 you’ll feel every reverberation with each strike of the axe.
The Long and Short of It
When choosing a splitting axe, the length of the handle is just as important as what it’s made from. Axe length runs from 14 inches all the way up to 36 inches. The longer the axe, the more velocity and power you’ll be able to generate, but hitting a precise spot on a log becomes slightly more difficult with a longer handle. For someone just starting out, the best axe for splitting wood will have a 31-inch handle; as you perfect your technique, you may want to go with a longer handle. Axes with shorter handles are often designed for use with one hand and are meant for splitting small shards of wood (kindling) from the side of the log.
The heavier the axe head, the more power you can generate when swinging it in an arc and bringing it down on the log, but if the head is too heavy to control, it may throw off your aim and tire you out after a few swings. Standard splitting axes come with heads that weigh between three and six pounds; mauls, with sledgehammer-type heads, can weigh as much as eight pounds. For most people, the best axe for splitting wood will weigh between four and six pounds.
Our Top Picks
1. BEST OVERALL: Husqvarna 30-Inch Wooden Splitting Axe
When only the feel of a real wood handle will do, check out the Husqvarna Wooden Splitting Axe. With outstanding durability and superior balance, this lightweight axe features a smooth-to-the-touch, 30-inch hickory handle, as well as an axe head hand-forged of high-quality Swedish steel. Not least, it comes with a protective leather cover for storage and safe keeping.
2. BEST UPGRADE: Fiskars Super Splitting Axe
For the power and velocity that only a long-handled axe can deliver, look no further. At 36 inches long and nearly six pounds, the Super Splitting Axe requires strength and fortitude to swing, but once the blade strikes the log, you’ll be rewarded with a decisively smooth, clean cut. The handle, manufactured from both composite and steel for durability and comfort, features Fiskars’ Iso-core shock-absorbing system—the latest and greatest in this outdoor tool’s company’s long history of quality and innovation.
3. BEST FOR LIGHT DUTY: Estwing Fireside Friend 14-Inch Axe
No need to struggle with a large axe when you have the Estwing Fireside Friend 14-Inch Axe to split chunks of wood into smaller pieces or create thin shards of kindling. The Estwing features forged steel construction and a maul head for driving splitting wedges. The handle is wrapped with genuine leather for a comfortable grip, and its small size makes it a great choice to keep on your hearth for quick splitting.