Big mauls and splitting axes easily power through logs and stubborn wood. But they cost more, and some find them cumbersome to use. That’s where the Fiskars X21 excels. It’s a mid-size splitting axe in the X-Series range. Capable of dealing with big logs, it’s also easy to swing and more affordable than bigger axes in the Fiskars range. 

The X21 has impressive features on paper, but does it perform in practice? This article reviews the Fiskars X21 axe to highlight its best features and unravel its strengths and weaknesses.

Overview of the Fiskars X21

The Fiskars X21 Splitting Axe is an innovative, sleek-looking axe that is designed for logs 8-12″ (20-30cm) in diameter. With a few extra swings, it also makes easy work of larger rounds.

This X21 is a tool that should appeal to people who don’t want a long, heavy tool. Although it’s too big for carrying on your pack, this axe is still light and easy to use. We found it much easier to direct accurate, fast swings than the X27 and IsoCore Maul. Of course, you sacrifice power with a shorter, lighter handle. But for those who mostly split medium-sized rounds, this will be more than capable.

As with every X-Series splitting axe, the X21 boasts a bounty of features. Its FiberComp handle is light, mega-strong, and plays a significant role in shock absorption. The X21’s head has an aggressive blade that’s unquestionably secure thanks to its patented PermaHead technology.

  • Built for splitting medium to large diameter logs.
  • An excellent balance of weight and power.
  • Easy to lift and swing for most people.
  • Mauls are better for seasoned or gnarly, tough logs.
Infographic showing Fiskars X21 splitting axe data
The X21 is lightweight and durable.

How does the Fiskars X21 perform?

Within an hour of testing, it was clear the X21 Splitting Axe could quickly chop its way through most logs. A pile of 8″ spruce and pine were easy work, even a few pieces of gnarly crotch. Some larger elm took a little more work, but it got the job done.

This axe wasn’t ideal when it came to some large, super-hard ironwood logs. The seasoned wood was rock hard, so the X21 didn’t have the power for this task. We ended up with sore hands and wrists. You’re better with a larger, more powerful axe for the most challenging wood. The Pro IsoCore Maul made by Fiskars is our recommendation for those grueling jobs. 

Woman holding a Fiskars X21 in the forest
The X21 splitting axe is easy to swing but powerful.

The X21 felt light in hand like the X17, but it also dealt heavier blows. Compared to full-size splitters, it’ll take a few extra swings on most mid-sized wood.

Having tested all the Fiskars X-Series range, we think the X21 deserves its place in their lineup. It’s ideal for anyone with lots of wood to split but doesn’t want to swing a cumbersome maul for too long.

Those looking for a small splitter would be better served with the X11 or Mini Pro IsoCore Maul. They are both easier to use and carry through the outdoors.

The X21 offers excellent value for money, providing similar performance to more expensive high-end brands.

Those who love the aesthetics of a classic wooden axe may be disappointed, but if you’re open to a modern-looking tool, then you’ll love this axe.

Features

  • Ergonomic handle with an antishock surface to reduce jarring.
  • Plastic FiberComp handle is non-slip, durable, and lightweight.
  • Coated blade that is rust-resistant and less likely to get stuck in wood.
  • Patented system that securely attaches the head and handle.
  • Flared end to prevent the axe from slipping out of hand.
  • Plastic sheath for blade protection and easy carrying.
  • 25-year warranty for peace of mind.
Top down shot of an X21 axe showing its features.
Features of the X21 splitting axe.

Parts of the Fiskars X21

The X21 is a modern-looking, mid-sized splitting axe packed with handy features. Let’s look at the tool’s components to highlight what makes it so popular.

Axe Head

The head of an X21 weighs 2.4lb, which is a significant portion of the axe’s 3.6lb total weight. In comparison, the extra-large X27 has a 4lb head; the X11 is the smallest splitting axe in the series, with a head weighing 1.75lbs.

The axe head’s anti-stick coating helps stop the blade binding in the wood. We found this feature wasn’t perfect, but it was an improvement on the axe heads that don’t have it. Sadly, the coating isn’t a long-term solution as it wears off over time.

Closeup of the X21 axe blade
The blade has an anti-stick coating.

Made from hardened forged steel, the X21 will keep working for many years. Its aggressive double-hardened cutting edge helps split through tough wood fibers easier. Sharpening is required if it gets a lot of use.

As with any Fiskars X-Series product, it has a permanent molded head. Also known as PermaMold, it is virtually indestructible. Even the extreme impact of overstrike won’t break it.

Although the head is tough, remember its pole should never be used for hammering. The impact can damage the steel and put the axe out of balance.

The poll of an X21 splitting axe up close
Avoid using the poll for hammering.

Axe handle

The Fiskars X21 axe is 27.9″ long, providing decent power without being unwieldy. It is a few inches less than the X25 splitting axe and much shorter than the X27 axe and Pro Maul. Shorter people will find it easy to use.

Its bright orange and black color scheme look sleek and modern. Just the look of it gives you confidence that the job will be easier. Though, no axe work is easy!

Close up photo of the Fiskars X21 axe handle
Light handle that has a lanyard hole for hanging.

The biggest benefit of its color scheme is finding it in the grass outdoors. It’s always easier when you’re looking for a vibrant orange handle. The Fiskars X21’s appearance won’t appeal to everyone, and we sometimes see it get slammed in our online axe groups. It comes down to personal preference, so we’ll leave that up to you.

The X21 handle is made from advanced FiberComp material and is hollow inside. You’ll find that it’s more durable and much lighter than wood. The hollow design also provides excellent shock absorption. That’s important when you’re trying to split through rock-hard ironwood. With less jarring, you can keep working for longer without wrist or hand pain.

Looking inside the hollow X21 axe haft
A hollow inside reduces jarring and vibration from hard wood.

Water or other liquids didn’t seem to make the handle slippery. Whether in the rain or cutting up poultry and meat, maintaining a hold on the handle isn’t a problem.

You may be disappointed using a composite material handle if you’re used to working with wooden ones. While we enjoyed working with this axe, we accept that some prefer the feel of hickory in their hands. Thinning, replacing, and maintaining a Fiskars handle is also not possible.

The X21 axe handle has a flared end, providing reasonable control and safety. It also has a hole at the end of the handle that allows hanging when not in use.

Head cover

The X21 has a protective plastic sheath that can be removed by twisting a lever. The blade is protected from chips, and there’s no risk of injury while it’s not in use.

The head cover also doubles as a carry handle, making it easy to walk with. For shorter treks, you could also tie it to your pack with this handle.

Water can easily escape from the cover thanks to the many gaps. This feature helps reduce the onset of rust and mold caused by moisture.

Strengths of a Fiskars X21

  • Excellent tool for most splitting jobs.
  • Light and easy to swing for most people.
  • Made from rugged materials.
  • 25-year warranty for peace of mind
  • Made in Finland by a trusted tool manufacturer.

Weaknesses of a Fiskars X17

  • Seasoned and stubborn logs may need a larger axe.
  • Can’t hammer with the poll of the head.
  • Maintenance options are minimal.
A Fiskars X21 axe out in the forest
The Fiskars X21 splitting axe.

Commonly asked questions

How do I sharpen the X21?

Sharpen the X21 blade like a regular axe using files, sandpaper, or an electric tool. Any sharpening will remove some of the anti-stick coating applied to the blade. A Fiskars sharpener can be purchased separately to help maintain an optimal blade profile.

What is the best alternative to the Fiskars X21?

The X25, X27, or IsoCore Maul are good alternatives in the Fiskars range for more power. The X11 is a short, easy-to-carry splitting axe ideal for trekking, camping, and hunting. For a different brand, consider the Husqvarna Splitting Axe. For a hatchet, check out our Fiskars X7 review.

Is Fiskars a trustworthy manufacturer?

Fiskars has been making tools since 1649 and has built a solid reputation for long-lasting products. Finland’s oldest private company forges its tools locally under strict quality guidelines.

Fiskars makes a wide range of products and is perhaps best known for its iconic orange scissors. They also own brands like Royal Doulton, Gerber, and Royal Albert.

Fiskars X21 vs. X17 – What’s the difference?

The Fiskars X21 and X17 are both splitting axes made from the same materials. The X17 is almost 4½ inches shorter, so it is lighter, easier to swing, and more suitable for carrying. If you do a lot of wood splitting, the X21 is the better option, having more power.

Holding an X17 and an X21 splitting axe
Comparing the Fiskars X21 and X17 axes.

Fiskars X17 Specifications

AttributeImperialMetric
Axe head weight2.4lb1.08kg
Total axe weight3.6lb1.63kg
Axe length27.9”70.87cm

Summing up

The Fiskars X21 Splitting Axe is a solid tool that should keep splitting wood for years to come. It is light and not too long, so you don’t need to be over overly tall or a forestry professional to use it.

The X21 axe can split logs of any size, but its sweet spot is small and medium-sized logs that aren’t too knotty or tough. For the big jobs, a larger splitting axe is essential. You may like to have an X21 for everyday use and a bigger axe on hand for the most demanding rounds.

This axe is built to last and is excellent value for money. Although it’s durable, there’s always a warranty to fall back on if anything goes wrong.

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