Slash & Burn: 8 Best Axes for Chopping Wood

Mar 23, 2016

Category: Gear

Most of us don’t think about what kind of axe we put in our tool shed. We buy whatever chunk of iron or steel happens to be handy, and go on about our life. This is incorrect. Just like any other tool, axes have a wide range of variance, and picking a bad one (or the wrong one) will leave you with a chopper that’s frustrating, difficult to use, and causes more pain and distress than is necessary. A bad axe is also dangerous, as a flying head or splintering handle can literally be a fatal mistake. By choosing a decent axe, you might just save a life.

There’s a few different kinds of axes available, with splitting or chopping axes being our focus here. We avoided the lumberjack tools for felling trees, and we cut out any hand axes or hatchets, since they’re not intended for extended splitting. These axes are longer, giving you more leverage as you bring them down, and they’re heavier, adding weight behind your swing to facilitate a clean cut. Whether you like an old hickory handle or a space-age fiberglass, one of our 8 best axes for chopping wood is sure to put a grin on your mug.

Gerber Splitting Axe II

Gerber Splitting Axe II

Pro: Smaller size offers more versatility than longer axes
Con: Oddly weighted at 5+ lbs.

Tactical Boy Makes Good: Gerber is generally known for their inexpensive knives and other military gear that is meant for daily use out in the field. Though the splitting axe is a deviation from their usual routine, it’s a blessing that cannot be ignored. It has a nylon and Fibercomp handle that enhances grip while also reducing painful blowback from a jarring swing. You’ll also get a greater degree of control over most wooden handles because there’s less slip, offering greater ease in altering your strike at any point. It’s a little shorter than most standard 36-inch splitters, but the compacted design feels extended, offering up plenty of room for different grips and swinging tactics.

Purchase: $44

Council Tools 3.5 Jersey Axe

Council Tools 3.5# Jersey Axe

Pro: Tapered eye for better bonding
Con: Extremely thick handle

Coastal Cutter: Borrowing a bit from much of the eastern seaboard, the 3.5# is also known as the “Baltimore Jersey” because it uses lugs to increase surface contact with the handle for a safer and more stable execution. Made entirely in the United States of America, the 3.5# hand-sharpened and personally tested for a better cut on your first swing. 48-55 on the Rockwell hardness scale, the head is street-fighting tough, but the 36-inch hickory handle has a slight curve for a kinder, more ergonomic hack that reduces the strain of swinging for more action in less time.

Purchase: $45

Fiskars X27

Fiskars X27

Pro: Less work than wedges and most mauls
Con: Serious cold can cause issues with the handle

One and Only: Fiskars is generally the only name you need when you plan on minimizing the size of your logs. In case you haven’t heard, it uses compounded force based on a size to weight algorithm that makes it capable of offering up more one-strike splits than anything else out there. Using a bevel convex blade all Fiskars are easier to get out of a difficult piece of green aspen, and they more cleanly cleave wood in twain. We like the X27 because it’s a 36-inch juggernaut that employs the impact-absorption chamber on the handle to take the sting out of big chops.

Purchase: $55

Husqvarna Large Splitting Axe

Husqvarna Large Splitting Axe

Pro: Easy to sharpen
Con: Incorrect grain on some handles

Hickory & Steel: There’s a reason that classics keep showing up: they’re damn good at what they do. Husqvarna doesn’t complicate matters much, they prefer to go with what works. Meant for larger logs, the blade is hand-forged out of Swiss steel and hardened for simpler splits time and again without glancing off. The head has an enhanced density from the forging process, so you’ll get a little extra weight per square inch. That’s why the 3.3 lbs. head isn’t markedly larger. Using 30-inches of straight hickory for the shaft, there’s little doubt it would meet with the approval of Honest Abe, Paul Bunyan, and your father.

Purchase: $90

Wilton Splitting Maul

Wilton Splitting Maul

Pro: Handle is impossible to break through normal use
Con: Head tends to blunt quickly

Coming Through: A standard axe is fine for your average day hacking up some dried-up birch or cedar, but when you’re dealing with a chunk of redwood the size of your waist, it’s time for a nuclear solution. The Splitting Maul from Wilton is 8 lbs. of dense hacking and smashing action. Mounted on an anti-vibration neck piece, as well as a safety mount that prevents head and handle from ever parting company, the impact won’t rattle teeth and the head stays put without a wobble after years of use.

Purchase: $104

Helko Black Forest Woodworker Axe<

Helko Black Forest Woodworker Axe

Pro: Open die drop-forged
Blade flanges can catch and glance during striking

Art, In Motion: Serious tool devotees will understand: This is such a beautiful piece that you’ll want to hang it up, not slam it into some pine. Hand-crafted in Germany, the head is not stainless steel like so many of its brethren but a C45 high-carbon steel that allows you to get a finer edge for hewing, or lets you keep an edge with just a basic sharpening stone. The handle has been boiled and treated with linseed oil allowing it to wear the head like a second skin; reducing the risk of accidentally airborne steel and sealing the true FSC-certified American hickory against weather and wear.

Purchase: $130

Gransfors Bruk Large Splitting Axe

Gransfors Bruk Large Splitting Axe

Pro: Swedish made
Con: Expensive

Impressive Import: The handle comes in a pair of sizes depending on the needs of your chopping block. Whichever length suits you, they both come with a metal sheath beneath the head of the axe for less splintering and damage from missed strikes. Circular grooves at the end offer more grip traction whether you’re grabbing it bare-handed or with a set of fine gloves. Due to the reduced size of the head this works better at getting through wet wood or freshly fallen logs since it bites deep, slipping in like a thief in the night to wreak havoc on your winter cords.

Purchase: $165

Vipukirves Leveraxe

Vipukirves Leveraxe

Pro: Brake hook for arresting forward motion
Con: Head tends to loosen

Fine Physics: Invented by a tinkerer building a cabin for his wife, the Leveraxe has forever changed the way we mere mortals split wood. Rather than just being sharp (it is) or being heavy (4 lbs.), the Leveraxe is far smarter than the average swinging steel. Rather than just hitting the wood, forcing gravity and luck to drop your target into two pieces, this hits and then can be manipulated to make every blow count. With just a little movement, you’ll find you can chop through far more logs in far less time with less energy and effort. In a world of brute force, this provides smooth finesse.

Purchase: $244

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