If you heat your home with a wood stove, or even just enjoy having campfires in your backyard, you are going to need firewood. It is possible to burn whole tree trunks, but that would be very difficult to start and would make a massive fire. That is why people split the tree trunks into several pieces, making it easier to handle around a fire.
You need an ax of some sort to split your wood. First of all, you want to make sure that you get an ax made for splitting wood, not felling it. There is a huge difference. Felling axes have long thin blades that are intended to cut across the grain. Splitting axes are intended to split, or divide the wood, along with the grain. You will get frustrated quickly if you have the wrong kind of ax.
There are two different kinds of ax that you can use for splitting logs, though. There are splitting axes and mauls. While they both do a good job of splitting wood, is one of them better than the other? Let’s take a look at both and compare them.
The ax has multi-purposes but is mainly made for chopping wood. It has a thin and sharp blade that will sink into the wood to cut it and then widens around the eye area to split the fibers apart. Though there are different types of axes, they almost all can be used for chopping across the grain, as well as splitting with the grain. Some are just more effective than others.
Axes, in general, are not too heavy. They usually weigh somewhere between three and six pounds, so you can use them for longer periods before your arms get worn out. For the most part, an ax uses the muscles in your arms to lift it over your head, and the force of the weight of it falling is what drives it into the wood.
Another deciphering feature between an ax and a maul is the handle. Ax handles are generally a little shorter so they can be used for multiple purposes. You can measure the length of the handle against your arm. If the handle is equal to your arm length or shorter, then it is an ax.
Ax handles are made of either wood or a composite material. One is not necessarily better than the other. You just want to make sure that whichever you get allows you to get a good and firm grip. If you aren’t comfortable using it, you won’t be as effective.
A maul only has one use and that is to split wood. The maul has a heavy fat head with a blunt end that offers more force for splitting than an ax does. The heavier head generates more power as it falls through the air. The force of the fall pushes the maul through the wood and down to the ground.
Since the maul has a blunt head, versus the pointed one of an ax, it does take more brute force on your part to initially get the head of the maul into the wood, but the fatter head is much more effective when you are trying to split a large log. The weight of the maul requires the use of your whole body to use. If you don’t split wood often, you will definitely find muscles that you never knew that you had. Just make sure that it isn’t too heavy or you will become too fatigued before you finish your job.
The maul has a longer handle than an ax. Again, if you measure the handle up against your arm, if it is longer, then that is a maul. The weight and design of the maul make it much more possible for you to split your wood in one swing. The longer handle is designed to help you guide the head of the tool to the ground after it has split the wood. This keeps the head away from your body and gives you less of a chance to get injured.
It is possible to find mauls with wood handles, but more often than not, they will be made of fiberglass, plastic, or hard hickory. The different composites offer better support for the heavier head.
So, which is better for you? It depends on how much wood you want to split. If you are only going to split enough wood for the occasional fire, then you will probably want to get an ax since it can be used for other things as well.
If you are going to be splitting large amounts of wood to keep your house warm in the cold winter months, then you will probably prefer the maul. Although it only has one use, it is more effective and will cost you less energy in the end game.
Header image credit: andy carter, Flickr
Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!