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Splitting Axe vs Maul: Which Should You Choose?

person chopping woods

If you’re thinking about stockpiling split wood for the fires that will warm your home or create the magical bonfires on your local beach. The need is the same and the time is now for you to get yourself prepared for splitting some logs. So, what tool do you use?

Since splitting logs is not everybody’s idea of fun, your first inclination might be to use quick and efficient power tool like a chainsaw. Most homeowner chainsaws good for pruning tree branches and clearing brush, but can’t handle the rigors of cutting large logs, much less splitting them. No, this job requires the use of a hand tool and some sweat.

So, what tool is right for you? As your search begins for the tool that makes the painstaking job of splitting those logs a little bit easier; read on and see that you have a few choices. In this article we will look at two of them; the splitting axe or the maul.

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Splitting Axe Overview

How It Works

The splitting axe works by placing the piece of wood you desire to split, sometimes referred to as the ‘round’, on a flat, solid surface. The round should be standing on one of the ends. Make sure it is as close to perpendicular as possible for the best chance of splitting the wood evenly.

Using the axe has two steps:

1. Grip the handle of the axe with two hands.

2. Raise the axe overhead and strike down on the end of the round.

The wedge will penetrate into the round to begin the split. Sometimes, because of the narrow wedge, it may become stuck in the round. Be careful when removing it. Typically, several strikes are needed in the same vicinity of the previous strikes to complete the split.

splitting maul
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The splitting axe is used to split logs or cut logs by chipping away at them. When chipping the wood, you get many small pieces and are usually cutting across the grain of the wood, while splitting wood is cutting with the grain of the wood. Many people who camp, use an axe to chip and split wood for their fire. So, what makes the splitting axe an effective tool to use?

Design

The head of the splitting axe has a sharp wedge that makes it a good cutting tool. The head is fairly flat and only weighs between 3 to 6 pounds. Since the head is fairly lightweight, the axe can be used for longer periods and one is able to make more accurate strikes. It also makes it a good alternative for the woman to use, should they need or desire to.

Handling

Splitting axes come with a wooden handle, but for durability reasons, composite handles are an alternative. Keep in mind, the handle you choose for your axe will be what can add the weight to it. Since the handle of the axe is shorter, you do not have the same leverage as you would with a longer handled tool. Less leverage means you may take more swings to actually split a log.

Pros
  • Shorter handle
  • Lighter weight
  • Sharper, narrower wedge
  • More accurate strikes
Cons
  • Can get stuck in the round
  • Commonly used for chipping, rather than splitting
  • More force needed to execute the split
  • More strikes needed to complete the split

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Splitting Maul Overview

How It Works

The splitting maul is used in much the same way as the splitting axe. A round is placed on a flat, solid surface. The maul, because of its weight, must be firmly gripped with two hands as it is raised overhead and swung back down onto the end of the round. Because of the longer handle of the maul and the additional weight of its wedge, the round may split with one strike. If not, additional strikes are necessary. You will notice that the blunt edge of the maul’s wedge does not penetrate as deeply as the wedge of the axe, but needless to say, the maul’s force is driven through the round to cause it to split.

axe splitting woods
Image Credit: Pickpik

Design

The splitting maul is used for splitting wood. In most cases, the head of the maul is made of steel and is shaped like a cone with a wedge at one end. It is much larger than the splitting axe and is also much wider, which helps to split the wood better. The wedge of the maul is not as sharp as the axe, so with the weight of the end and the force of the swing, the wedge is driven into the wood to split it. Because of its blunt wedge, it has less of a tendency to get stuck.

Handling

The handle of the maul is longer than the axe, so leverage is greater and the head of the maul strikes the round more perpendicularly allowing the maul to go directly toward the ground. This decreases the chance of getting injured. Wood, fiberglass and other composite handles are available.

Keep in mind that because the maul is heavier, it requires greater strength and force to pick the maul up and then swing the maul to your target. Swinging the added weight can not only tire you out more rapidly, but can cause injury if not swung correctly.

Pros
  • Made for splitting rounds
  • Wider wedge to prevent getting stuck in the round
  • Greater leverage
  • Higher velocity
Cons
  • Less accurate
  • Heavier wedge
  • More difficult to swing
  • One tires more easily while using it

Using the Splitting Tools

When using either of the splitting tools be sure to wear protective eyewear and make sure you have plenty of room to swing your axe or maul. Be sure to keep others away from the area where you are working.

Stand the round on an end and look for a possible crack in the wood. When swinging the tools, try and strike the round as near the crack as possible to make splitting the round more easily. In the beginning, you may find your aim with the axe is a little better because it is lighter and easier to control. However, one well-placed swing of your maul will split a log immediately.

Similarities & Differences

The splitting axe and splitting maul share only a few differences between them. The axe is smaller and easier to handle for a longer period of time. The maul, on the other hand, is heavier and requires more strength to swing. Each will split your wood, but the time and effort to do so will vary depending on the tool you choose.

The determining factor for which tool to use may be decided by the task you are undertaking. A few simple rounds to split can easily be handled with a splitting maul, whereas, compiling that stockpile of split rounds may be better suited for the lighter, easier to handle splitting axe.

Which Should You Choose?

A few factors to consider when making your choice.

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  • Your overall physical ability. No one knows you better than yourself. How much stamina and strength do you have?
  • The size of the job. Smaller job, a maul could make quick work of it. A larger job, an axe may be easier to handle for the duration.
  • The type of job. Splitting rounds, a maul may be appropriate. Chopping wood, an axe could be the answer.
  • The weight and size of the tool you are willing to use. The splitting axe will be lighter and smaller, and the splitting maul will be larger and heavier.
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Conclusion

The splitting axe vs. the maul for the handyman or woman, comes down to personal preference and the tool you feel most comfortable with. It is never a good idea to use a tool you are not capable or confident in using. This can lead to injury. Making a wise decision of the tool you will use requires having an understanding of the work that is needed to be done. Assess the job, know your ability and compare tool options and attributes. The choice will be made for you.


Featured Image Credit: Pikrepo

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