If you’ve got a huge pile of wood to split, you’ll need the right tool to get the job done. Choosing between an axe or maul can be a tough decision as they’re similar. But each tool has pros and cons to consider before deciding which is best for you. We’ve broken down their differences so that you can make the right choice.

What’s the difference between a splitting axe and a maul?

Although both tools are excellent for splitting logs along the wood grain, a splitting axe has a lighter head, weighing 3-6 pounds while a maul typically weighs 6-8 pounds. A splitting axe also has a shorter handle and a head that’s more tapered in shape.

  •     mauls have a heavier head than splitting axes, which makes them ideal for driving wedges or stakes with just one strike. Axes on the other hand are designed for lighter work and are easier to handle.
  •     mauls feature longer handles for added leverage, which makes them more powerful but harder to use for a smaller person.
  •     splitting axes are designed specifically for splitting logs while mauls are also excellent for driving stakes.
  •     mauls have a wedge-shaped head that is broad while a splitting axe head is more tapered.
  •     a splitting axe that’s a similar quality to a maul will usually cost less as it requires fewer materials to make.

What is a splitting axe?

A splitting axe has a range of names including block splitter, sledge axe, hamaxe, or block buster. Its tapered head weighs between 3-6 pounds so most people will find it’s easy to swing.

With a dull blade and flared cheeks, this tool is purpose-built for splitting logs without getting stuck in the wood. It is designed to break wood fibers apart rather than cut the grains.

Benefits of a splitting axe over a maul

  •     Extended use: If you’ve got a large pile of wood to split, a splitting axe will work best for most people. It’s lighter and won’t lead to hand strain as quickly.
  •     Easier to transport: Although they’re not a tool to include in a backpack, they’ll still fit into the back of a truck easier than a maul.
  •     Safety: Splitting axes are easier to lift, allowing for more accurate, controlled swings.

What is a splitting maul?

A splitting maul, like a splitting axe, is used in splitting logs along the grain into two pieces. Mauls are powerful enough to split wood in one strike, making them ideal for tougher jobs.

A splitting maul has a long handle and large wedge-shaped head that is designed to brute-force its way through wood fibers. Weighing 6-8 pounds, it is more difficult to wield than a splitting axe. But it’ll handle larger logs that a splitting axe will make hard work of.

Mauls have a sledgehammer on their butt, used to drive stakes into the ground or drive wedges into logs.

Benefits of a maul over a splitting axe

  •     Robust: A maul can take the knocks and if you get it stuck in a large log, use a sledgehammer on the maul’s poll to drive it through.
  •     Versatile: Mauls have a sledgehammer on the opposite side of the blade that is handy for banging in whatever you choose.
  •     Powerhouse: For tough jobs like splitting large rounds and stumps a maul excels. It also makes the best option for chopping up hardwood like oak, birch, maple, and ash.
A maul stuck in a wood round
A maul has a heavier head than a splitting axe.

How do I split wood?

Before you start splitting wood, it is important to have a stable surface or chopping block to place the log on. It’s safer to have something under the round in case the axe or maul drives straight through. There’s also less chance of hitting a rock or other objects that can damage the bit.

Scan the log and look for a crack to guide you in the direction that will split the best. Position your dominant hand closer to the head and the other hand next to the knob at the end of the handle.

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, facing the wood. Raise the maul over your head, extend the arms up high, and rise up on the toes. Bring the maul or axe down with great force, bending the knees for greater impact.

A man splitting a pile of wood with a splitting axe
A splitting axe makes easy work of chopping up wood.

What is the best brand of splitting axe?

Some reputable brands of splitting axe include Fiskars, Estwing, and Husqvarna. For a superior quality axe that’ll serve you for many years, consider the Gransfors Bruks Splitting Axe. This Swedish tool will cost more than most similar products, but most agree it is worth every penny. Stay tuned, we’ll drop a link to our complete review of the best options once it’s complete.

Related reading:
Hatchet vs. tomahawk – a complete comparison guide.
Hatchet vs. axe – how do they compare?

Comparison Table: Splitting Axe and Splitting Maul

FeatureSplitting AxeMaul
Weight3-6 pounds6-8 pounds
Head shapeTapered cutting edgeBlunt, wedge shape
Handle designShorter, made from wood or composite materialsLonger, made from wood, metal, plastic, fiberglass
Biggest strengthEasy to use wood splitterHeavy hitter, made for splitting the toughest wood; also great for hammering.

Summing up

The splitting axe and splitting maul are similar tools that are used in much the same way. Many people even use their names interchangeably, even though they aren’t the same.

The main difference is their axe heads. A maul is roughly double the weight of a splitting axe which means it has more power. It also means that lifting a maul is harder work. If you have a lot of wood to chop, a splitting axe may be best, especially if you have a small frame.

You’ll do well to visit a local hardware store and test out a few models before jumping in. Keep in mind that an 8-pound maul may feel fine when you lift it for the first time. But try to imagine lifting it for an hour or more at a time. If you think it’s going to be tough work, opt for the splitting axe.

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