The 5 Best Felling Axes for Chopping Down Trees

Last Updated on February 21, 2022 by Grow with Bovees

Felling trees is hard work with an axe so you will need one that is designed specifically for the job to make it easier.

That means getting yourself a high-quality tool, so why not get the best felling axe available?

The thing about axes is that whatever wood-related job you need to do, whether that’s splitting firewood or limbing a tree, there is probably one made just for it!

An axe for bringing down trees is designed to cut across the wood grain, unlike those designed for splitting wood.

It needs a very sharp and relatively thin blade to cut deep into the wood with every swing together with a longer handle to get maximum momentum on each stroke.

A splitting axe, on the other hand, will have a thicker bit that is more of a wedge shape intended to push the wood fibers apart instead of cutting through them.

The length and shape of the handle, angle of the blade, sharpness and head weight all combine to make the perfect model that cuts well and feels great in the hand, maximizing your tree felling efforts.

Now that you know why you need a good felling axe, let’s take a look at our top 5 that we consider to be the best whether you’re looking for a general workhorse that will last you for years to come or one of the highest quality and price.

Our 5 Best Felling Axes

Best all-rounder

1844 Helko Werk Germany Bavarian Woodworker Axe

Head Weight: 3.5lbs

Handle Length: 31”

Best for large trees

Council Tool Velvicut Premium American Felling Axe

Head Weight: 4lbs

Handle Length: 36”

Best compact felling axe

Hults Bruk Kisa Medium Sized Felling Axe

Head Weight: 2lbs

Handle Length: 26”

Best budget model

Hultafors Hand-forged Swedish Felling Axe

Head Weight: 3.3lbs

Handle Length: 32”

Best for small trees and lighter work

Husqvarna 26″ Wooden Multi-Purpose Axe

Head Weight: 1.87lbs

Handle Length: 26”

1844 Helko Werk Germany Bavarian Woodworker Axe

Best all-rounder felling ax

Helko Werk is one of the oldest axe manufacturers still operating in Europe, based out of Wuppertal in Germany. Using the highest-grade raw materials, all their premium forestry tools are hand-crafted for world-class quality.

There are three distinct lines of axes in the Helko Werk range:

The Classic Line has polished blades that reduce cutting friction and resist rust.

The Traditional Line offers a premium collection of heritage hand forged German axes.

The Vario 2000 range offers a modern design with fully interchangeable heads.

The Bavarian Woodworker is a full-size general-purpose German cutting axe from their Traditional Line. It has a 3.5-pound head and a 31-inch handle providing plenty of strength and power for heavy-duty felling work and most other woodcutting or splitting uses.

With an overall weight of 5.5lbs this fine ax is one of their most popular designs and is suited to the average person making it the best all-around felling axe.

The head is a Rheinland pattern with a slim and very sharp blade that has a wide cutting edge. The pattern is named after the famous and heavily forested Rhein River Valley region in Germany where cutting axes have been used for centuries.

The hand-forged head is made from premium grade, C50 high-quality steel with a 53-56 HRC (Rockwell Hardness) which means you can grind a very fine edge that will hold its sharpness for a long time.

The handle is made from A-grade sustainably sourced American Hickory that has been individually selected for fine grain and density, which has then been hand-sanded smooth and finished with boiled linseed oil.

Overall a brilliant, mid-priced axe that will work very nicely for most people whatever wood cutting job you need to turn your hand to.

Here are some specs for the Bavarian Woodworker:

Head weight is 3.5 lbs

Overall weight is 5.5 lbs

Handle Length is 31-inches

American A-Grade Hickory Handle

Hand Forged with C50 High Carbon Steel Head with a broad edge

Comes with Vegetable Tanned Leather Sheath

Includes 1 oz bottle of Axe-Guard protective oil

Council Tool Velvicut Premium American Felling Axe with Sheath

Best for large trees

The Velvicut Premium from Council Tool is proudly and completely made in the USA and unlike some of their cheaper products that are often of inferior finish, this authentic felling ax is true ‘heirloom’ quality.

Council Tool has been around since 1886, started by John Pickett Council, an avid farmer and outdoorsman. Today the firm is still family-owned and family-run, with the fourth and fifth generations of the Council family in charge.

See also  Best Backpack Sprayer And Buyers Guide

The artisans that produce this felling axe are very experienced and put all their knowledge into creating a powerful tool that will stand the test of time.

The 4lb head has been forged from 5160-grade alloy steel with an RC rating of 52-56 to allow it to hold a razor-sharp edge without becoming brittle. It’s guaranteed to last a lifetime according to the company.

With a classic American Daytona pattern, the head is shaped to provide the optimum cutting experience preferred by skilled woodsmen using a full-sized felling axe suitable for felling large trees.

The bit is hand-honed to perfect sharpness so that it’s ready for action as soon as it arrives at your door.

Made from grade “A” American hickory wood, the full-sized 36-inch curved wooden handle provides for a powerful swing. Skilled craftsmen select only the best wood prized for both its grain orientation and density to provide both beauty and strength.

Once hand-shaped to perfection the handle is left unfinished and coated with linseed oil for protection.

The head is mounted on the handle using a traditional softwood wedge along with a round steel wedge for extra security. It’s then coated with oil to deter rusting during storage and shipping.

It also comes complete with a premium leather sheath with a buckle and embossed logo to protect the tool when not being used.

Overall a fantastic large felling axe for tackling those larger jobs, but will require a lot of strength to get the most out of it. It is at the more expensive end of the market but for that, you get a true heirloom that can be passed on from generation to generation.

Here are some specs for the Velvicut Premium:

Head weight is 4 lbs

Overall weight is 5.6 lbs

Handle Length is 36 inches

American A-Grade Hickory Unfinished Handle

Forged 5160 High-Grade Alloy Steel Head

Comes with Crafted Leather Sheath

Hults Bruk Kisa Medium-Sized Felling Axe

Best compact felling axe

Located just north of the Swedish city of Norrkoping, the Hults Bruk factory has been in operation since 1697. There have been several owners of the company, with the most notable being the Ekuland family, who ran it for over 100 years. Nowadays the company is owned by the Hultafors Group, who sell their own range of axes that are manufactured by Hults Bruk.

The Kisa model is a medium-sized felling axe specifically designed to be portable but with enough heft and weight for light to medium felling, bucking, and splitting of wood.

It’s an ideal companion for camping, hunting, and fishing in the wilderness or when you need to trek over long distances.

The 2lb head is hand-forged and made from high-quality Swedish axe steel that has been expertly tempered to hold a sharp edge even after continued use and re-sharpening.

The drop-forged blade comes with a traditional blackened finish and is hand-honed to razor sharpness with a polished cutting edge. Minor damage to the blade can be ground out on a whetstone.

A Turpentine pattern is used for the head which has been designed to make deep cuts with every strike and has been crafted with a finger notch near the neck to facilitate precision carving for constructing shelters and other camping or forest tasks, including hammering in tent pegs with the poll!

Like our other favorite axes, the curved American hickory handle is made from premium wood that has been specially selected, sanded and protected with linseed oil. It’s then finished with an engraved HB logo.

This is a decent felling axe for light use or if you need something that is easier to handle. Women, in particular, may find it ideal to use for chopping down small to medium trees rather than one of the heavier axes.

We love how its compact nature with a perfectly balanced head makes this medium-sized axe a great tool to take camping or hiking. Highly recommended and comes at a medium price range.

Here are some specs for the Hults Bruk Kisa as a summary:

Head weight is 2 lbs

Overall weight is 2.85 lbs

Handle Length is 26 inches

American Top Grade Curved Hickory Handle

Swedish Axe Steel Blackened Head

Comes with Quality Leather Sheath and Storage Box

Hultafors Hand-forged Swedish Felling Axe

Best budget model

The Hultafors Group has owned Hults Bruk since 1992 and their own range of axes are made in the same forge which has been in operation since 1697.

You can expect the same high-quality Swedish craftsmanship as with the HB Kisa axe we’ve just reviewed but at a cheaper price.

The Hultafors model we’ve chosen is simply called the Swedish Felling Axe but is actually based on the Hults Bruk Agdor range such as the Kalix felling axe and is suitable for bringing down or chopping up small to medium trees.

Inspired by traditional North American axe patterns from the 19th-century forestry boom, this range makes for a professional level felling axe that is very good value for money.

The head is made from the same high-quality solid Swedish steel as the Kisa but is hand-forged in a Yankee pattern that has been left in its blasted state with clear-lacquered ironwork for a clean finish.

It comes in at 3.5 pounds so it is fairly hefty and has a nice long cutting edge of approximately 4.25 inches.

That edge has been left as a clear tempered zone so that it can be repeatedly sharpened without losing any of its strength and durability.

The 32-inch curved handle is once again made from very good quality American hickory that has been hand-sanded to a smooth finish and treated with linseed oil and left unbranded.

See also  Best Battery Powered Weed Eater

Based on the more expensive Hults Bruk Agdor range, this budget version lacks the iconic painted blue color of the axe head and quality American leather sheath but is otherwise the same tool.

It’s an ideal size and weight for most people and can handle anything but larger trees so we definitely feel it deserves our vote as the best budget felling axe.

Just to recap, here are the details of the Hultafors Swedish Full Size Felling Axe:

Head weight is 3.5 lbs

Overall weight is 5 lbs

Handle Length is 32 inches

Curved American Hickory Handle

Swedish Axe Steel Yankee Head

Does Not Come with a Protective Sheath

Husqvarna 26″ Wooden Multi-Purpose Axe

Best for small trees and lighter work

No stranger to the hand-tool market, Husqvarna may not be one of the best known felling axe brands, but they do offer a range of down-to-earth versions that tick all the boxes at a reasonable price.

The one we’ve chosen is actually a multi-purpose chopping axe that has been designed to cope with tree felling, branch trimming, log bucking, and most other things you could use an axe for.

However, don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s an inferior model when using it to chop down trees as it’s actually very capable for working with small trees and lighter jobs around the home or farm.

Husqvarna have the heads made at a Swedish forge, either the one at Hults Bruk or Wetterlings and so they are hand-forged in Swedish carbon alloyed steel just like other more expensive models.

They then fit their own range of wooden handles to produce a high-quality axe at a low price compared to some others on our list.

The head is fairly light at 1.87lbs and has been made in the classic Turpentine pattern seen on some other European style axes.

It’s not the largest of heads with a sharp blade of approximately 2.8 inches, but that edge will stay sharp and paired with the 26” handle makes it a very capable tool and an exceptional all-rounder.

The handle is made from good quality American hickory that is shaped to give you plenty of power in the swing and feel good in your hands.

Overall we felt this was a great general purpose felling axe for the smaller jobs and comes in at a much lower price when compared to many of our full-sized models.

Note that there have been reports of the head breaking in half on older versions (pre 2018) caused by the manufacturer’s stamp being in the wrong place and too deep, allowing the steel to fracture. From recent reports, we believe Husqvarna have now rectified this fault so newer versions are likely to be unaffected.

Here is a summary of the Multi-Purpose axe features:

Head weight is 1.87 lbs

Overall weight is 3 lbs

Handle Length is 26 inches

Top Grade American Hickory Curved Handle

Swedish Steel Alloy Head

Comes with Quality Leather Edge Cover

How to Choose a Quality Felling Axe

Choosing the best felling axe that will both suit you and the job you need to use it for can be a tricky task, so we’ve come up with a few ideas to help you make a decision.

As we noted right at the beginning, cutting down a tree is not a small job particularly with a hand tool.

If you’re not going down the chainsaw route then making sure you have a good quality felling axe to hand is going to be the next best thing.

There are, of course, only two main parts to an axe, the head, and the handle. A standard felling axe is no different, but what makes this a tool specifically for chopping down trees is the size and shape of both the handle and the head.

The head of a splitting axe, as we know, is a very thick wedge shape that aids in splitting logs, whereas the head of a felling axe is much thinner.

The purpose of this is twofold. First, it allows the axe to have a very sharp cutting edge that cuts deeply across the grain instead of forcing apart the wood fibers along the grain, and secondly, to make it less likely the blade will become stuck in the tree.

An additional feature that we’ve not covered with any of our axes is the double-bit felling axe, with two cutting edges instead of one.

Obviously, the main benefit of a double-bit axe is that you can keep chopping for twice as long without having to stop and sharpen the blade. However, unless you’re constantly chopping down trees, this may just be a bit of a distraction as keeping your single bit blade sharp will be just as effective.

All the handles on our featured products are long (a 30-inch handle is a good standard) as this provides plenty of leverage and power in the swing without too much effort. Most handles are made of wood, or they can be made of a cheaper composite material like a fiberglass handle.

Why Choose a Wooden Handle?

The material the axe handle is made of can affect things like grip and how comfortable it is to use. The majority of handles are made from American hickory and with good reason.

Besides looking great, smooth hickory has great shock-absorbing qualities and is very strong. That ability to absorb hits makes it so much more comfortable to use for the operator.

See also  Oregon CS1400 vs CS1500 — Which Oregon Electric Chainsaw?

It also means that with a hickory handle you can safely make some big heavy strikes without fear of it breaking like a composite handle.

What is the Axe Head Made of?

A felling axe bit is always made of some form of steel which is easier to sharpen to a fine edge and to hold that edge throughout many hours of use of hacking into a tree trunk.

Top-end models will usually have a head made from high-carbon steel, whereas lower-priced axes usually have a bit made from steel with a lower carbon content.

High-carbon steel is preferable as it is very durable and holds the sharp cutting edge for far longer.

What Shape of Axe Blade is Best?

There are many patterns of felling axe head, and it will come down to personal preference which one you like the look of. Some may even prefer double-bit axes.

Many like the more European shape such as the head on the Helko Werk Germany Bavarian while others will only go for the more traditional American pattern like that on the Council Tool Velvicut Premium.

For us, our preference is the European style as we feel it offers a better cutting experience with its broad curved edge, perfect for cutting more resinous wood such as pine trees, spruce, or fir.

How Heavy is the Head?

You might assume that a heavier axe bit will make the job of cutting down a tree much easier and this may be true, but it isn’t the whole story.  

There are several weights of heads available. Even just looking at the small sample we have reviewed here, and thinking about which one is best suited to you as a person, can make all the difference.

If you’re experienced and physically fit then by all means go for the heavy hitter, but if you’re inexperienced and/or not a strong person, then a more lightweight design would make more sense.

Go for a head that’s too heavy and the accuracy of your swing may be affected which will be counterproductive and cause much frustration.

Typically, a 2.5lb-3lb head is a good starting point and an excellent balance of weight and accuracy for most people.

Check the Overall Weight of the Axe

While the head makes up most of the weight, it’s important to consider the weight of the American hickory handle as well when deciding on the best axe for you.

Consider things like how portable you need it to be as carrying something that’s too heavy when it doesn’t need to be can really sap your energy.

What Length of Axe Handle is Best?

Look for an axe with a handle length that provides you with easy handling and comfort for your size.

An axe with a long handle will of course give you a more powerful swing but that’s pretty pointless if you’re not tall enough or strong enough to handle it.

Consider opting instead for a handle that provides the perfect balance for you between power and accuracy. Think about your height, strength and tree-felling experience.

You may well find that a short or medium size handle is actually the perfect size for you as it allows you to be more productive with the axe over a sustained session.

Choosing a Popular Brand

When choosing any tool these days there are so many brands to consider from all over the world. A felling axe is no different with the more popular makes usually coming from America, Sweden, or Germany, although you will find some that are manufactured in Mexico and China as well.

The most popular brands you will come across are Helko Werk, Council Tool, Hults Bruk, Hultafors, Husqvarna, Granfors Bruks, Truper, Snow & Nealley and Fiskars.

Our recommended felling axes are all well-known makes and cover a fairly wide range of price points, but you will find much cheaper options (which of course offer a much lower quality) and more expensive brands that cater for professional lumberjack tools or those for collectors.

Conclusion – The 5 Best Felling Axes for Chopping Down Trees

Ultimately the choice will be yours when looking for the best felling axe to help you fell trees.

You will need to take into consideration your own physical build, strength, height, etc. plus the type and size of trees you’re likely to be working on. Striking a proper balance between all these things is the best way to decide.

Usually, it’s a good call to choose the best one you can afford but any of our top 5 will do the job as long as they fit the criteria we’ve listed above.

The Helko Werk Germany Bavarian Woodworker Axe offers everything you will probably need at a reasonable price and is our recommendation for the best all-rounder.

Use our ‘How to Choose’ section for the features you need to look for when considering which axe to go for, especially if you decide to go browsing at your local tool store.

There’s no question that a lower-cost axe will still get the job done, just be aware that it might not last as long as a more expensive model. Something like the Council Tool Velvicut Premium American Felling Axe has been made to last generations but is an expensive option compared to the very cheapest versions.

Whatever you decide, as long as you get an appropriate felling axe for the task at hand, then any of the models from our list will make a great choice.

References;

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/chemistry/carbon-steel

https://icme.hpc.msstate.edu/mediawiki/index.php/Forging.html

https://www.britannica.com/technology/tempering-metallurgy