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Maul vs Axe (for splitting & chopping wood)

Editor’s Note: Picking between a Maul & Axe can be confusing. There’s pros and cons to using each tool for cutting and splitting wood.  A maul is best for people that have heavier, thicker wood to cut. Axes are more versatile, and generally ideal for lighter wood that need to be split, not chopped. Our favorite maul? Fiskars Iso Core 8lb 36″ Maul. It’s truly an incredible tool for splitting large pieces of wood, and it’s easily best-in-class. Our favorite splitting axe is from the same company – their Fiskars X27. Read some of the comments and you’ll quickly realize why this axe is so good. It’s incredibly versatile, sharp, lightweight, and reliably built. 

Deciding between a Maul and Axe for splitting and chopping wood can be confusing. There’s a ton of factors that go into whether a Maul or Axe is better for splitting or chopping wood. Size, quantity of wood, and your own personal preferences (and abilities) all factor into whether a Maul vs Axe is better for splitting or chopping. 

1. Axe

Axes are incredibly versatile. An axe in the hands of a skilled person can do some incredible things. As such, Axes  are designed for cutting, splitting, felling, and shaping wood.

2. Maul

Mauls are heavier, a little more cumbersome, and have much more specific uses than axes (not as versatile). A good example is in the Fisker Iso Core Maul & X27 Super Splitting Axe linked above. The maul is about 11 lbs, while the splitting axe is 5.85 lbs (almost 50% lighter). That lighter weight of the axe allows you to use it in many more situations than the maul.  

Splitting Axe

Maul vs Axe - Fiskar X27
Fiskar X27 on Amazon

Splitting axes are a very specific type of axe (although they still have some versatility in what you can do with them).

They’re designed to do one main thing – split wood. More specifically, it’s designed to split wood along the grain itself to break fibers apart (not just cut them). The head is tapered, and they usually weigh anywhere from 4-7 lbs

When you swing the axe downward, the forward momentum causes the axe wedge to evenly split the wood.

Splitting Maul

Maul vs Axe - Fiskar Iso Core 8lb Maul
Fiskar Iso Core 8lb Maul on Amazon

A splitting maul is basically a big sledge hammer with an axe head. Mauls usually weigh 6 to 8 lbs. They generally have a longer head and a much duller blade than an axe. Mauls rely much more on force than finesse. A maul uses it’s blunt head and longer handle to split wood apart.

Splitting Axe vs Splitting Maul

Splitting Maul

  • More powerful
  • Best for thicker wood
  • Not as sharp as an axe
  • Heavier
  • Less versatile
  • Need strength to use correctly

Splitting Axe

  • Lighter
  • More versatile
  • Best for thinner wood
  • Sharper than a maul
  • Less powerful

Deciding between a splitting axe vs splitting maul comes down to several things. These include:

  • Personal preference
  • Wood size
  • Wood quantity
  • Personal strength
  • Conditioning

Splitting Axes Are Best For:

A splitting axe is better for smaller pieces of wood, splitting around wood edges, etc. It’s lighter, much easier to swing (compared to a maul), and performs as well as a maul. 

  • Lighter & thinner wood – Splitting axes are a lot sharper than mauls, so you’ll be able to get a more accurate split cut vs a heavier, duller maul. 
  • Want more versatility – Splitting axes have a ton of uses. They aren’t just ideal for splitting smaller wood – you can use them for many other situations. 
  • People that only have average strength – Splitting axes are much lighter than mauls (in general) ranging from 4-7 lbs. As such, you’ll be able to split wood much longer with a good, light splitting axe vs a heavier, more dull maul. 

Splitting Mauls Are Best For:

Mauls are best for splitting large, thick chunks of wood (and not much else). It’s not only heavier, but gives you a ton more momentum and power to split wood as you swing downward. The edge isn’t as sharp as an axe, but it doesn’t need to be. What a maul loses in sharpness it gains in raw power. The result? Less time splitting wood.

The problem? Smaller people will have a more difficult time swinging a maul. Mauls range from 7 to 11 lbs (in general), so swinging one will be much more difficult than a splitting axe. 

  • Heavier & thicker wood – Splitting mauls are ideal for thicker, heavier pieces of wood. The blunt edge, longer handle, and heavier head allow you to use momentum and power to split the wood (technique is still important). 
  • People that want a tool specialized for splitting wood (and not much else) – Splitting mauls are not nearly as versatile as splitting axes. Their larger size and weight don’t translate well into other tasks. The result? If you need a reliable splitting tool and not much else, the maul is an amazing choice. 
  • People that have above average strength – Using a maul to cut wood is not light work, especially if you do it for several hours at a time. If you have good conditioning and technique, a splitting maul is a fantastic option. If you don’t, we strongly recommend considering a good splitting axe. 

Splitting vs Chopping Wood

Splitting vs chopping wood sounds like they’re one in the same thing, but they’re not. Splitting & chopping wood are two very different tasks. 

splitting vs chopping wood (2)
Splitting wood (vertically)

Splitting Wood – Splitting wood simply means cutting a vertically positioned log with a single downward axe stroke (up and down). This is how you cut wood for fireplaces, etc. Each strike should evenly ‘split’ the wood.

chopping vs splitting wood
Chopping wood (horizontally)

Chopping Wood – Chopping wood is a little different than splitting, and the distinction is important to understand. Chopping is a horizontal motion (left to right). Unlike splitting, chopping involves multiple ‘chops’ of a single horizontally placed log (or tree) into segments. These chops are sharp, downward strokes with an axe.

Fiberglass vs Wood Handle

Fiberglass vs wood handle
fiberglass vs wood handle 2

Handles are extremely important when it comes to splitting axes and mauls. The handle makes a tremendous difference in how shock is absorbed with each swing. A bad handle leads to elbow, back, shoulder, neck, and pain all over your body (technique is important too).

There’s 2 main types of handles used in 2018 for axe & maul handles:

  • fiberglass
  • wood

In our experience? Fiberglass handles are significantly better at reducing shock and absorbing punishment throughout your body. The impact to your wrists, elbows, and shoulders are all significantly reduced when using a fiberglass handle.

Wood has it’s merits too, but they tend to be stiff (and not as flexible) as their fiberglass counterparts. 

Keep in mind wood handles can be easier to replace, and some people say they ‘handle’ better than fiberglass. Ultimately, handling is more of a personal preference, but we prefer fiberglass

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