Many homes rely on firewood as their primary source of heat, but converting wood logs into usable stacks on your firewood rack can be incredibly labor intensive. Even if you have the best axe or splitting maul on the market, splitting firewood can still be more challenging than it needs to be. A splitting wedge is designed to make the process easier. It’s used with, and complements, an axe or a maul by increasing the splitting power with every strike, reducing the necessary time and effort.
Read on to discover the types of splitting wedges, the factors to consider when selecting the best splitting wedge for your needs, and some of the top-rated options on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Estwing Sure Split Wedge 5-Pound Wood Splitting Tool
- RUNNER-UP: GEDORE – 1591878 OX 42-0550 Aluminium Massive Wedge
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Felled Manual Log Splitter Wedge Diamond Wedge
- BEST HEAVY-DUTY: Hooyman Splitting Wedge with Heavy Duty Construction
- BEST TORPEDO: Truper Graden Tool Collins Wood Splitting Wedge
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Splitting Wedge
There are a number of factors that can impact the overall performance of a splitting wedge. Not taking these into account could result in purchasing the wrong type of wedge or a wedge designed with materials or dimensions that simply “won’t cut it.” To avoid this fate, consider the following factors when selecting the best splitting wedge for your specific needs.
To withstand the substantial impact forces to which it’s subjected, a splitting wedge needs to be made from robust material that won’t chip or deform. To this end, most wedges are constructed with hardened steel that can stand up to repeated sledgehammer blows into the hardest woods. Although it’s durable and robust, hardened steel comes with some disadvantages. Most significantly, hardened steel has reduced impact resistance in freezing temperatures, so it can become brittle and break if used to split frozen wood.
Less commonly, a splitting wedge is made from aluminum. An aluminum wedge is also called a “universal wedge” since it can be used for both splitting and felling. Aluminum is considerably softer than hardened steel and is suitable for splitting frozen wood since it remains impact resistant in freezing temperatures. The disadvantage is that an aluminum wedge is much lighter and less powerful than a hardened steel wedge and is usually more expensive as well.
It’s also important to realize the material with which a splitting wedge is not made: plastic. As opposed to a splitting wedge, a felling wedge used for felling trees is often made from plastic to prevent damage to a chainsaw if it accidentally comes into contact with the wedge. A felling wedge also maintains its impact resistance in freezing temperatures. It’s a common mistake to use a felling wedge for wood splitting since the soft plastic material can quickly become damaged or deformed.
Standard vs. Torpedo
The best splitting wedge is available in two main types: standard and torpedo. A standard wedge appears like a traditional axe head. It consists of two flat edges with a wide, flat top for striking that tapers down to a sharp, thin blade. A standard wedge is operated by driving the blade into the center of the log being split and striking the top head until the log is split in half. It is typically made with harder steel than a torpedo wedge, which makes it last longer and more capable of splitting harder woods. A primary disadvantage is that a standard wedge can be difficult to drive into the perfect center of the wood, making it less accurate than a torpedo wedge.
As opposed to the traditional axehead design of a standard wedge, a torpedo wedge (also called a “diamond wedge” or “grenade wedge”) features a conical diamond shape with four cutting blades on the sides that taper to a sharp point on the end. The four cutting blades allow the torpedo wedge to split a log into quarters instead of halves like a standard wedge. The sharp pointed end allows it to be easily driven into the center of the log.
The main disadvantage of a torpedo wedge is that it’s usually made with softer steel than a standard wedge, which can result in a shorter lifespan. The softer point is also more prone to chipping and deformation than a standard wedge’s blade. Finally, a torpedo wedge is usually more expensive than a standard wedge.
Size and Weight
The type and size of wood you can split will be heavily influenced by the weight of a splitting wedge. Splitting wedges usually weigh between 3 and 5 pounds, with 4 pounds being the most common weight. Heavier wedges require less driving force to effectively split wood, but their larger size may make it more difficult for them to accurately split smaller logs. Consequently, heavier wedges are generally recommended for splitting large logs and most hardwoods, like oak and walnut. Lighter wedges are recommended for splitting small logs and most softwoods, like Douglas fir and cedar.
A splitting wedge’s mechanical advantage is largely determined by its length. Mechanical advantage is the amount of force amplification achieved using the wedge. It translates into the amount of output force (splitting) the wedge delivers based on the amount of input force from driving it with an axe, a sledgehammer, or a maul. In other words, a wedge with a greater mechanical advantage will offer greater performance and require less effort to use. As a general rule, thinner and longer wedges have a greater mechanical advantage than wider and shorter wedges.
Our Top Picks
Now that you’re aware of the factors to consider when selecting the best splitting wedge to split logs easily, check out these top-rated picks in a variety of categories.
Estwing’s splitting wedge is designed with power and ease of use in mind. With 5 pounds of weight and hardened steel construction, it offers considerable splitting power and durability, while the 9-inch length grants this wedge a high mechanical advantage. The wedge also features a hand-sharpened blade with a “fast taper” edge that makes both starting and driving it as easy as possible.
Most unique to Estwing’s wedge are the “Sure Split” fins on both sides that act as additional wedges to assist with driving it below the top of the log. Overall, the durable construction, sharp blade, and side fins make this wedge capable of splitting practically any type of wood—big or small, hard or soft.
For a universal wedge that can fell and split both dry and frozen wood, Gedore’s aluminum splitting wedge is hard to beat. It’s made from high-quality forged aluminum for maximum strength and durability, and the 8½-inch length offers an excellent mechanical advantage. The most unique feature is its angled and longitudinal grooves that hook into the wood to prevent the wedge from slipping or becoming dislodged. This makes the wedge valuable for any woodcutting operation.
The primary disadvantage of this splitting wedge is that it only weighs 1.2 pounds (550 grams), so it may be too light to effectively split hardwood or larger logs. However, Gedore also offers a more robust 2.3 pound (1,050 gram) model. While this wedge is more expensive than most standard or torpedo wedges, it does boast the added capability of splitting frozen wood and being used as a felling wedge.
Felled’s splitting wedge offers all the advantages of a quality torpedo wedge for the price of most standard wedges. The 7 inches of length and 4.1 pounds of weight give it plenty of splitting power, and the four cutting blades are notched to prevent the wedge from slipping out of the log. The wedge is made from heat-treated and hardened railway steel to prevent rust and corrosion and maximize its strength and longevity. With all these advantages at such an affordable price, this torpedo wedge offers an impressive value.
This wedge should be used with an 8-pound hammer to split tough oak, hickory, walnut, and sycamore. It is not recommended for knotty woods or large diameter hardwoods.
Hooyman’s standard wedge is a must for heavy-duty wood splitting operations. It weighs 5 pounds to offer maximum driving force, which is complemented by the mechanical advantage of its 9-inch length and its 2-inch width. Best of all, this splitting wedge is made from a strong and durable drop-forged, hardened steel that can withstand repeated strikes into the hardest woods.
The added mechanical advantage of a thinner wedge also gives it a smaller striking surface, which can make accurate striking more difficult. However, if you’re confident in your striking ability and need a wedge that’s as robust as possible, Hooyman’s wedge is the way to go.
To combine the advantages of a torpedo wedge with the durability of a standard wedge, this diamond-shaped splitting wedge from Truper Graden Tool is worth considering. The 7-inch length and its 4-pound weight bring incredible power to its four splitting blades. Instead of being made with softer steel like many other torpedo wedges, this wedge is made from high-carbon steel for enhanced durability and longevity. That means the four blades will stay sharper longer, and the pointed tip won’t dull or deform as quickly—even when splitting large logs or hardwood. The main disadvantage is that it’s more expensive than most other torpedo wedges and considerably more so than standard wedges.
FAQs About Splitting Wedges
Still have lingering questions about splitting wedges? Read on to discover answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about splitting wedges.
Q. Can a splitting wedge become blunt?
A splitting wedge can become blunt after repeated use. Sharpen the wedge with a hand file or a grinding wheel if it becomes dull.
Q. How do I maintain my splitting wedge?
A splitting wedge doesn’t have any moving parts, so it requires very little maintenance. Be sure to properly store a wedge to protect it from moisture, which can cause rust or corrosion.
Q. How long does a splitting wedge last?
A splitting wedge’s functional lifespan mostly depends on the material with which it’s constructed and the type and size of wood it’s being used for. A wedge made from hardened high-carbon steel may last a lifetime, while a wedge constructed with softer steel might only last a single season if it’s used to split large rounds or hardwoods.