When it comes to splitting wood, not just any old axe will do. The size and shape of both the handle and head, along with the balance of the weight and the materials used, can all make a huge difference in how efficient the tool is at splitting wood. After comparing nearly two dozen mauls and axes based on their size, shape, weight, materials, and more, there's no doubt in our minds that the Fiskars X27 is the best splitting maul. Its patented shock-absorbing handle allows you to work twice as long before your hands get tired, and its unique weight balance increases power through your swing to help you get one-strike splits every time. Article Summary
Cutting your own wood, while economically sound, can be hard work. If you’re cutting en masse, you’ll be in for a lot of toil in the yard. There are several steps to turning a tree into firewood, and there are equally as many tools and skills you’re required to master to get the job done safely and quickly. One of these processes comes after the tree is fell and split into rounds via a chainsaw: the actual splitting of the rounds into usable firewood. This can be a tricky and exhausting matter if you don’t have the right equipment. Besides some accessories to keep the round in place and carry the split wood away after the job is done, the main tool you’ll need is a splitting maul.
A splitting maul is basically an axe made especially for splitting wood. What they all have in common is a handle and a head as the actual structural components (as usual for an axe-type tool), but outside of that, the materials and builds are pretty widespread. Handles can be made of wood, steel, or composites, blades can be made of several types of metal, and accessory pieces like collars and grips can be built into the maul, providing for an endless amount of possibilities of components. On top of that, they vary in shape, size, and weight, making some much more efficient than others for splitting wood.
We’ve done an extensive amount of research into different mauls and axes for the purpose of finding the best splitting maul. We started by gathering a list of popular and top-rated products, and then narrowed the list down as we compared models on their materials, efficiency, durability, and several other aspects. We also consulted several outdoors experts to get the expert recommendations on blades, and which would be best for different types of wood. All-in-all, we spent about 34 hours in total creating this guide, and we think our efforts were well-worth the time considering we found three mauls capable of splitting any kind of wood for years to come.
The best splitting maul overall
In our opinion, the Fiskars X27 Super Splitting Axe is as close you’re going to get to perfection. We’re not the only ones who think that either; this maul has a massive fan base that’s given it a nearly-100% recommendation rate, and outdoors experts swear by it for splitting any kind of wood with ease.
Fiskars is a industry-dominating brand that specializes in anything that has to do with cutting stuff – from children’s scissors and box cutters to wire clippers and bolt cutters. They’ve been in the business since 1649, making them one of the oldest out there and also one of the most knowledgeable when it comes to bladed tools. Nearly all of their products receive extremely impressive reviews from customers for their quality, but the X27 splitting maul in particular is one of their most coveted tools.
Starting with materials, the X27 is made of a patented fiber composite that Fiskars calls “FiberComp.” This material is stronger than steel yet very lightweight, but most importantly it is designed for shock absorption which helps reduce the stress on your hands when splitting. Less impact means less fatigue, and less fatigue means you can split for far longer before having to take a break. The FiberComp material has been molded over the head so that it can’t be separated from the handle (a common concern with mauls and other types of axes), and the head itself is a wedged steel blade that helps this maul provide one-strike splits on nearly every swing.
The X27 weighs in at around 5 lbs, which is relatively lightweight as far as splitting maul weights go, but what’s important here is that the weight is designed for perfect balance. When we say Fiskars is an industry-dominating brand that takes their product design seriously, we aren’t kidding. The X27 is designed so that the power-to-weight ratio increases as you swing, boosting your power as you approach the wood and helping to provide one-strike splits on nearly every swing. This is arguably the only splitting maul designed with this much attention to detail, and at a 36″ length, it’s easy to use for roughly any size log since you can change your grip accordingly.
The final aspect that solidifies the Fiskars X27 as the best wood splitting maul is its price. Mauls can range heavily in price, with cheaper products running in the $30-40 range and premium products easily setting you back over $100. The Fiskars is surprisingly on the lower end of the price spectrum, offering a killer value for your dollar. As if that wasn’t enough to win us over, their generous lifetime warranty proves their confidence in their product.
A beautifully crafted (but more expensive) maul
If there’s a nationality that knows the most about splitting wood, it would be hard to argue with handing that honor to the Swedish. The Swedish have been utilizing timber for thousands of years, and if you think they’ve been goofing around in the mountains with dull axes for all that time, you’re sorely mistaken. Sweden still produces some of the highest-quality traditional axes and wood tools in the world, and the Gransfors Bruks 450 Splitting Maul is no exception to that quality and tradition. This is the finest traditional-style maul out there, bar none.
From a craftsmanship standpoint, this maul is beautiful, one of the most beautiful you’re likely to see. Many people have literally reported feeling a bit guilty using it due to its artistic value (no joke!). The long wooden handle features a matte-finished steel collar at the joint of the head and handle to deal with overstrikes, and it contrasts beautifully with the polished steel of the head. A leather sheath is included with this maul to help maintain the edge during storage and transportation. The Gransfors Bruks is also built to last, with a 20-year guarantee from the manufacturer (compared to our top pick’s lifetime warranty).
However, despite its beautiful craftsmanship, there are some drawbacks in the Bruks maul’s design when compared to the Fiskars X27. For starters, the Gransfors Bruks measures in at 31″, which puts Fiskars 5″ longer, giving it more leverage for swinging. It also weighs about one pound more, which takes a little away from the downforce when splitting rounds. With that said, neither of these are critical issues, and both can easily be worked around if you put a little more strength into your swing.
The most notable difference in material comparison between this model and the X27 is the handle. This handle is made from wood, and although attractive, it’s going to be less durable over time than Fiskars’ composite. If you don’t have much experience splitting, it’s not uncommon for wooden handles to break under too much stress, and splitting is definitely a stressful task as far as impacts go. A wooden handle also won’t do as much for shock absorption as a handle with a synthetic grip built specifically to handle this shock, further increasing the potential for damage.
While the Gransfors Bruks 450 isn’t quite up to par with our top pick, it is still one of the best mauls for splitting wood nonetheless. Knowing that you’re covered by a long 20-year warranty also certainly helps to ease the mind even with the knowledge of its drawbacks. If you’re like the idea of a more traditional wood maul, this is definitely the one to have. However, be aware – the premium craftsmanship comes with an equally-premium price tag.
A heavier-duty 12 lb maul
Our top two picks are carefully constructed with special materials in mind to achieve an attractive, durable and efficient finish. Comparing those two to our third pick, the Ironton Heavy-Duty Splitting Maul, is a bit like comparing two luxury SUVs to a tank. This maul isn’t for the weak or the faint of heart; but, for those who can wield it, it will easily last them their entire lives. The Ironton puts other things with “heavy-duty” in the title to shame, and it can split wood with ease.
It is rare that you’ll need to perform a full, fast swing with this maul. At 34″ long with a 12 lb steel head, the sheer weight combined with the edge on the blade will go through rounds like a hot knife through butter. Also due to the weight, you can handle heavier, harder woods than you would be able to handle with lighter mauls, so if you’re often dealing with wood of this type, this would be the best splitting maul for you. The durable steel construction of the head and the handle guarantee it will last you a lifetime if it’s stored and sharpened properly.
Although its weight provides some unique benefits, there are also drawbacks associated with this aspect as well when compared to other models. Not only is this the heaviest maul of our three picks, it’s one of the heaviest models in production. There are a few 12-pounders on the market, but no quality models seem to go over that 12 lb threshold. This is probably due to the fact that 12 lbs is hard enough to swing around, let alone heavier. Other than the weight, a component that throws many new consumers for a loop is the fact that this maul has a round handle, as opposed to traditional axe handles which are more of an oblong oval shape that fits the hand a little nicer.
The different shape can have a bit of a learning curve, and the weight isn’t for everyone, but the sheer mass of the Ironton Heavy-Duty Maul does present some particular advantages. This isn’t for those looking for versatility or comfort, this is for people who want a truly heavy-duty tool to handle some heavy-duty work. If that’s the type of work you have, this would be right up your alley.
Things to consider before buying
A splitting maul has more aspects than your average garden-variety axe. Each one of the existing components in a maul will affect how it performs, its longevity and how much stress it places on your body. Since there is a lot of variation, there will be different axes more suited to different people and their needs. However, within all of these different components, there are some that will weigh more heavily on your purchase than others. Below are the main factors that should be kept at the forefront of your mind when choosing the best splitting maul.
This aspect of your maul is going to be the quality that most affects how you actually use it and how long you can use it without your muscles giving out. Splitting mauls typically have a weight range anywhere from 4lbs – 12lbs, which may not seem like a lot at first glance, but the difference of 8lbs will surely be felt after several swings. A lighter maul will be easier to swing around, but a heavier maul will have more driving force to transfer to the wood via the blade. With that said, velocity is more important than sheer weight when splitting wood, so a lighter maul is usually the better choice. Consider how much you’ll be using this tool and on what type of wood; finding the happy medium between usability and splitting force is essential to finding the perfect maul for you.
There are several available materials from which a maul handle can be made. The most popular materials are steel, wood and synthetic materials. These materials vary in weight and durability from each other, and also within their respective categories. Wood is a more traditional material, and is chosen by many for this reason alone. Steel usually yields a heavier maul, and synthetic materials generally yield the lightest mauls. Steel tends to be the most durable material, wood the least durable, with synthetic being a bit of a wildcard, with wide variability between manufacturers.
We chose our top picks based on their durability, which is common, but also based on another factor that most don’t consider: shock absorption. Steel and wood offer next to no shock absorption, but some synthetic handles, like the first pick in our guide, are specially made to reduce vibrations which will allow you to swing for longer without feeling the burn in your arms, so to speak. If you don’t have a lot of wood to split, this might not be a big deal to you, but if you find yourself splitting wood often, these handles are a godsend. Consider your personal usage and decide whether this is something of a priority to you. If so, the best wood splitting maul for you would definitely be one with a synthetic composite handle that helps reduce shock.
As much variability as there is with handle material and durability, there is with the shape of the blade. Many axes have a traditional blade that is thin and tapers from the shift to the head, but there are many mauls with wedge-type blades that are quite thick and blocky. Another type of blade, which has developed more recently, is a traditional, thin style with wedges or wings coming out from the sides. This adds a bit of extra weight on the blade and increases the splitting force without adding weight throughout the entire maul. The thinner blades tend to be better for light-duty work whereas the wedge styles are better for heavy duty, so this is another place to consider what type of wood you’ll often be working with.
Other tools you may need for splitting wood
If you’re going to be splitting wood, a maul isn’t the only thing you’re going to need. The process of getting the wood from the tree is a little more involved than the swing of an axe, and there are a few special tools you’re going to need for this process. Here is a brief look into some of the accessories you’re going to need to complete the process, and why you’re going to need them.
The first thing you’re going to need is a solid chainsaw. There are several options here, not only limited to size and output power. The basic denominations of chainsaw are electric chainsaws, gas-powered chainsaws and pole saws. If you’re going to be felling large trees, a gas powered chainsaw is the only one with enough power to get the job done. If your property is more conducive to small trees, an electric chainsaw will do the trick. However, if you’re not planning to cut down any trees, and you’re only planning to use branches for your firewood, a pole saw will suit you just fine. Each of these has distinct advantages and disadvantages, but narrowing down the saw type is the biggest part of the battle.
The next item isn’t necessarily essential to the process, but having it certainly makes things go a lot more smoothly. To make splitting firewood a cleaner and easier process, you’ll need something circular to place the rounds in while you chop. You can find these products at outdoor specialty shops, or you could also simply use an old tire to keep the rounds in place for splitting so they’re not flying out in every which direction. This will save you a lot of back pain from leaning and bending.
Finally, if you don’t chop the wood near where you store it, you’ll need a cart to transport it. Depending on the distance, you can get one with two wheels or four wheels. If your chopping block is only a few yards from your store, a handcart should be fine. If you’re pretty far away from where you stack your wood, a cart you can pull behind you or push ahead of you easily will save you a lot of effort. You could go with something as simple as wheelbarrow if you’re not moving a lot at a time.
Wrapping it up
Getting your hands on the best splitting maul will make life a lot easier next time you head out to chop some wood. The Fiskars model we chose as our top pick is far from what one would consider a “typical” axe. Its shock-absorbing handle alone will help you work for twice as long before your arms and body starts to fatigue, and that’s not even considering how much more efficiently you’ll be working thanks to its weight balance and head design. Can someone say one-strike hits all day long? While we think that’s the most efficient tool for splitting wood, your personal needs might prove more unique than the average Joe. If that’s the case, make sure you pay attention to blade design and weight when shopping, as these are two of the most important variations between models that can affect their performance.