Last Updated on January 18, 2023 by Grow with Bovees
Creating your own firewood can be a chore, but having the right tools can make it a lot easier, and a manual log splitting tool is the one thing you will come to rely on if you have a lot of wood to process by hand.
By splitting wood instead of chopping it, you create less waste, with no sawdust and very few wood chips, just a good-sized piece of wood for your fire or wood pile.
There are two main types of tools for breaking up wood rounds, so what’s the difference between splitting axe vs maul?
Which one is best for you will depend on a few different factors, so let’s compare the two so that you can make an informed decision for your wood splitting needs.
Quick Overview of Maul vs Axe
Let’s look at the main differences between splitting axes and mauls to see how they compare:
Handle – The splitting axe handle is shorter than on a splitting maul which makes them ideal for controlled swinging and chopping. The longer handle of the maul gives it a more powerful swing and makes it safer to use.
Axe Head Design – The splitting maul head has a wide, wedge-shaped head and is usually not that sharp, whereas the axe has a more tapered head with a sharp blade to easily split logs.
Axe Head Weight – The weight of the axe head is one of the big differences between the two tools. In general, a splitting maul will have a heavier head than an axe.
Now that we have a good idea about the differences between them, let’s take a closer look at how these affect their use and which one may be the best splitter for you to use.
What Is A Splitting Maul?
Sometimes referred to as a block splitter or sledge axe, splitting mauls are a heavy duty wood splitter type of tool for medium-sized and large wood pieces.
Mauls are designed to split wood along the grain much like a splitting axe but the biggest difference is that they have a much heavier head weight with a wider wedge shape.
This heavy head usually has a blunt blade and breaks apart the wood fibers by sheer force.
Mauls also have a longer handle than a splitting axe that allows for a more powerful swing with a striking point further away from the operator.
Splitting Maul Features
As we know, using a maul will split pieces of wood through sheer force by utilizing these key features:
Heavy Axe Head
Maul heads can weigh between 8 and 12 pounds, requiring a great deal of strength to be able to swing the axe with the right technique. The idea is to hit the round with enough force that the v-shape head tears the wood fibers apart, with little wastage and no sticking.
The maul head has a broad wedge shape that is often forged from high-grade carbon steel with a score of between 45-60 on the Rockwell scale.
Maul handles are always made from either fiberglass composite, steel, or hardwood.
Fiberglass handles are very popular these days as they offer strength, resilience, and durability whilst absorbing the shock of the strike very well.
They are also comfortable to hold and use over long periods but can be tricky to replace when they break, although they often are fitted with a protective steel collar to prevent damage.
Hardwood handles commonly are made with hickory. This is a very tough but flexible material that can absorb shocks without breaking and is very light.
Steel maul axe handles on the other hand are quite heavy and are welded to the head so it cannot come off. This however means the shock of each contact with wood is felt through the handle with little absorption.
Steel handles are much more durable than their composite or wooden counterparts.
Double Ended Head
The head also has a poll or butt end opposite the strike edge that can be used as a sledgehammer to drive in a splitting wedge.
Two Types of Head Eye
The eye on a maul axe head can be either an axe-head eye or a sledge-eye. Both will allow for secure fixing, but allow a different shape of handle to be used depending on your preference.
Reasons to Buy a Maul
Many people with an opinion on splitting log rounds prefer a maul for ease of use over an axe as they are more effective at breaking apart all types of logs, big and small and even knottier wood. The blunt edge of the head cleaves into the wood tearing the fibers apart by sheer force.
With a weight of up to 12 pounds, these are great as a workout. Once you perfect your splitting skills, you will be able to get through a rick of wood with just a good amount of elbow grease.
No worrying about fuel or running a power cord either, just you and the maul are all that’s needed for splitting firewood.
What Is A Splitting Axe?
As you might expect, this type of axe is intended to split wood rather than chopping wood. It has a tapered head that is wider than that on a chopping axe.
This v-shaped head is designed to break the fibers of the wood causing it to split, cleaving it along the grain rather than across it as with a chopping axe.
Splitting Axe Features
Here are the key features that make this type of axe so efficient:
Ideal Head Weight
With a heavier head than a normal axe, you can generate a lot of momentum and power during the swinging motion that helps split wood more easily.
Most splitting axes weigh between 3 and 6 pounds which is ideal for splitting small to medium-sized rounds, while not being too heavy. This makes it easier for the user to keep the axe under control.
Good Power-to-Weight Ratio
With a balanced power-to-weight ratio, these axes provide great speed and splitting power.
Weighing just 3-6 pounds, splitting axes are lightweight and easier to handle. This makes it more comfortable to swing over long periods without getting too tired working on your wood pile.
The lighter splitting axe is very sturdy with handles made of wood or fiberglass composite. Most axes have a durable high-carbon steel head that will last a long time.
Comfortable Superior Grip
The fiberglass or wooden handle is shaped to provide superior grip and comfort in use that prevents the axe from slipping when striking the wood.
Splitting axes are multi-purpose tools. As well as chopping up rounds, they can be used to chop wood as well.
When sharpened using suitable blade-grinding techniques they can be sharp enough to fell small trees and cut wood along with a bit of splitting logs etc.
Low Friction Coating
Axes made for splitting have a special coating on the blade to reduce friction. This can stop the axe blade from getting stuck when splitting wood.
Modern composite and wooden handles are made to absorb vibrations and shocks when striking wood. They often also have a protective steel collar to reduce overstrike damage to the handle.
Why Buy a Splitting Axe?
Convenient for splitting stumps, small to medium-sized logs, and kindling, a splitting axe is a very versatile and convenient tool allowing an accurate swing.
Lightweight, with a shorter handle and easy to carry, the tool can be used for extended periods of time without the fatigue caused by the heavier mauls. This makes it ideal for men and women with less strength to use.
Axe vs. Splitting Maul Buying Guide
There are a few things to consider when buying an axe so before clicking on that buy button on Amazon or wherever, here’s a list of things to think about:
Length of Handle
Long handles allow you to generate a lot of speed and power when splitting rounds but can be more difficult to control. If you are tall a longer handle may work much better for you.
A long handle can also reduce the chance of injury as the user is further away from the wood.
Shorter handles on the other hand are great for camping trips and breaking apart smaller logs and chunks of wood, They also allow you to be more accurate but with less power.
When starting out a 32″ handle is a good length as it’s neither too long nor too short, but is still a full-sized splitting axe. This length will still allow you to generate a good deal of power but still be in control while perfecting your skills.
Choosing the right material for the handle can make all the difference to how comfortable the axe will feel in your hands.
A strong wood handle is often made of hickory and is the most popular as they are lightweight, absorb shocks well, and feel great in the hand. They do wear out though over time and will need replacing eventually.
A fiberglass handle is another good choice as they are also a lighter weight while being strong, durable, and comfortable to hold. Modern composite materials feature good shock absorption but can be more difficult to replace than wood handles.
Forged steel handles are often welded to the head so that they form one complete piece. They are very strong but without a shock-absorbing grip can be much more tiring to use than a fiberglass or wood handle.
Weight of the Axe Head
Many people’s opinion on splitting logs is that a heavier weight of the head will make it easier to split the wood, which is certainly true in most cases, however, it does make the axe more difficult to control with any accuracy.
That’s why we recommend starting with a lighter axe head of 3-6 pounds until you are comfortable with the task and swinging technique when you can move up to a maul weighing up to 12 pounds.
A lighter head will also reduce fatigue when used over long periods of time allowing for a more accurate strike.
When choosing an axe, make sure to check the balance between the handle and head as a well-balanced axe is much more efficient in use.
Along with the shape of the handle, this is essential for ensuring it will feel comfortable and easy to swing.
A handle that provides a good grip is very important for both safety and ease of use. You will need to use the axe in all weather conditions and making sure it will not slip is a big concern.
Types of Wood
Thinking about what types of wood you will mostly be working with will help you decide which type of axe to buy. If you will usually breaking up large logs or hardwood, then a maul would be the better axe as the heavy blunt head will make it easier and faster to split the tough wood.
If you just want to split smaller rounds or make kindling then a splitting axe may be the better purchase.
Considering your woodworking needs to work out the best tool to purchase beforehand will make the choice easier.
Maul axes can both split tough wood and be used as a sledge hammer to drive in wedges, etc.
Splitting axes on the other hand can be used both for breaking up wood and as a felling axe for chopping down small trees or clearing brush.
Note that maul axes will usually cost more than a splitting axe.
Why is this? mainly because they are larger and contain more raw materials.
Unless there is a genuine reason, such as being in a sale, if you find a maul at the same or lower price than a splitting axe, it’s usually because it is a very poor quality wood splitter.
Which is Better for Splitting Wood – Axe vs Splitting Maul?
When choosing between a splitting maul or axe, it will come down to personal preference and what type of job you will be using it for.
Both axes are great for splitting rounds with high-quality metal heads, durable, strong handles, and an almost unbreakable design.
The biggest difference is the blunter heads on a maul are a much heavier metal and so require more strength and stamina to use, especially over a longer period.
So to answer the question of splitting axe vs maul, think about three things:
- Your overall stamina and strength.
- The size of logs and rounds you have.
- What type of wood you are usually working with.
Answer these and you will be able to determine the best type of tool to buy that is most suited to you and the job you need it to do.