The Best Axes Tested in 2024

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Enjoying the warmth of a wood-burning fireplace is priceless to many, but buying firewood can be expensive. A cord, which measures 8 feet long by 4 feet wide by 4 feet deep or 128 cubic feet, can run as much as $400, depending on where you live. You may be able to avoid this cost if you’re lucky enough to have oak, maple, or ash trees and the know-how to harvest and split your own firewood. Still, it’s important to select the right tool for the job.

Axes can be, and most often are, job specific. Some of the best axes are specialized for certain types of splitting or felling, while a few offer multiple uses. To help narrow the field to the best axes for specific tasks, we considered 20 axes, tested 13, and whittled those down to the top picks for our list. In our tests, we used each axe to split rounds of cedar and cottonwood trees. And since many axes function as multipurpose tools, we also tried them out splitting logs, making kindling, pruning, and doing general clearing.

An axe’s handle length and weight influence effectiveness and ease of use based on the user’s height and strength, so we had more than one person test these axes. Both a 5-foot-11-inch and a 5-foot-4-inch tester took swings with these axes, noting blade sharpness, head weight, overall balance, and material quality. These features were evaluated in accordance with the axe’s designed purpose.

If you aim to split your own firewood, keep reading to learn what to look for in an axe. You’ll also find out why we chose the following axes and hatchets as some of the best for most DIY lumberjacks.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Fiskars X27 36-Inch Super Splitting Axe
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Estwing 14-Inch Fireside Friend Splitting Tool
  3. UPGRADE PICK: Gransfors Bruks Outdoor Axe
  4. BEST WITH WOOD HANDLE: Husqvarna 26-Inch Swedish-Style Multipurpose Axe
  5. BEST HATCHET: Hults Bruk Almike All-Purpose Hatchet
  6. BEST SPLITTING MAUL: Fiskars Pro 36-Inch IsoCore Wood Splitting Maul
  7. BEST THROWING AXE: Cold Steel Professional Throwing Axe
  8. BEST BRUSH AXE: Woodman’s Pal Multiuse Axe
  9. BEST SURVIVAL AXE: Camillus Camtrax 3-in-1 Hatchet
  10. BEST FELLING AXE: Fiskars 28-Inch Chopping Axe

How We Tested the Best Axes

Swinging an axe is hard work, but a well-designed tool makes that work more manageable. We scored each axe on performance and efficiency and noted their handle length and head weight. These measurements play into an axe’s balance, which greatly influences how well and how long they can be used. We rated each axe for usefulness and whether or not we would want to swing it again. Wrist fatigue factored into ease of use as well.

We tested the axes using an established rubric—splitting at least five pieces of wood and making kindling with each one. If the axe had a specialty design, we also tested that axe within its specialty—felling trees, throwing at targets, or doing some woodworking.

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Our Top Picks

Our testing revealed the features that help make an axe qualify as one of the best on the market. Handle length, head weight, and overall design determine how easy and convenient an axe is to use. In testing, we found that many of our favorite axes are made by brands with a long industry history and the knowledge and experience to create well-honed products. Still, some designs are better for certain types of tasks, such as making kindling or splitting large wood rounds. We tested each of the following axes to determine if they held up to the manufacturers’ promises and see how well they worked in action.

Jump to Our Top Picks

What to Consider When Choosing an Axe

Axes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, designed to do everything from felling trees and trimming branches to shaping wood for sculptures. However, not all axes are suitable for splitting firewood. Splitting is the process of striking the flat sawed end of a short log to separate the wood fibers, which causes the log to split apart along its grain. The two main types of axes used to harvest wood are splitting and felling, and when you’re trying to split wood, you likely don’t want to use a felling axe. In a pinch, you can also split wood with a hatchet.

Type

  • A splitting axe is sometimes called a splitting maul. However, a splitting maul is actually slightly different. A maul typically has a wedge-shaped head with a back side that looks like a sledgehammer. Most often, the blade side is adequate for wood splitting, but for a large log that’s a foot or more in diameter, the splitting power can be increased by positioning a splitting wedge—a long, narrow steel wedge—into the face of the log and using the maul end as a sledgehammer to hit it. (Check out step-by-step instructions on splitting logs.)
  • A splitting axe features a large, heavy steel head (traditionally, these heads were made with iron) with a sharp wedge-shaped blade that can split a log along the wood grain when struck decisively in the center. Splitting axes don’t have the “maul” side of the head, though they may have a flat side that can function as a hammer.
  • A felling axe, also called a chopping or forest axe, has a lighter head than a splitting axe. These models are designed to chip away at a standing tree using horizontal strokes. When shopping for a splitting axe, steer clear of these axes because they’re not designed to split wood along its grain.
  • A hatchet looks like an axe, except it has a shorter handle, usually 12 to 18 inches long. Hatchets are used for fine detail work, limbing, small splitting jobs, and sometimes felling small trees. They’re not necessarily great for splitting, but they can be used to make kindling or break apart smaller pieces of wood if needed.
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Axe Handle

Splitting axe handles are made of one of three materials: hardwood, fiberglass composite, or forged steel that’s covered with rubber or a similar material.

  • Wood axe handles are popular because they’re relatively lightweight and feel good to the touch. Wood also absorbs shock, but wood handles can weaken and break over time, requiring replacement. Wooden handles with a tight grain that runs parallel to the direction of the blade offer the best strength and durability.
  • Fiberglass composite handles are smooth to the touch and will absorb some shock, but fiberglass has a tendency to shatter if used in subzero temps. It can also break if a misstrike happens and the shaft is hit instead of the head on the wood.
  • Steel axe handles are often forged in a single piece that combines both the axe-head and the handle. These are the most durable choice, but they don’t absorb shock, so your hands may fatigue faster. Handles covered in rubber or a similarly absorbent material will reduce the shock that goes through your hands.

Length

When choosing an axe, the length of the handle is just as important as what it’s made from. Handle lengths run from 14 inches up to 36 inches. The longer the axe, the more velocity and power it can generate.

Just remember that hitting a precise spot on a log becomes slightly more difficult with a longer handle. Those just starting will want to consider an axe with a 31-inch handle. You may want to transition to a longer handle as your technique improves. Axes with shorter handles are often designed for use with one hand and are best for splitting kindling.

Weight

The heavier the axe-head, the more power it can generate when swung in an arc and brought down onto the log. However, if the head is too heavy to control, it may throw off the aim and tire out the user after a few swings.

Standard splitting axes come with heads that weigh between 3 and 6 pounds. Mauls, with sledgehammer-type heads, can weigh as much as 8 pounds. Unless the plan is to compete in wood-splitting competitions, it’s usually best to go with an axe-head that weighs 4 to 6 pounds. Hatchet heads are lighter, typically 1.5 to 3 pounds.

FAQs

A shiny new axe doesn’t come without a learning curve. If you’re new to splitting, you may have more questions. To make it easier, we’ve answered a few popular questions to ensure you’ve got the right axe for your needs and know how to take care of it.

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Q. What kind of maintenance does an axe require?

If you use the axe frequently, you may need to sharpen it regularly. Watch for signs of rust because nicks are fairly common. To prevent rust, oil the head before putting it in the sheath. Wood-handled axes may also need periodic oiling to maintain the strength and appearance of the wood.

Q. Do I need a splitting maul, splitting axe, or hatchet?

Splitting mauls are generally larger and have a head that can act as a hammer or be hammered once it’s wedged in a large round. Splitting axes typically have sharper heads and don’t have the maul head. They might have a flat back side for hammering and a shorter handle. A splitting axe offers more versatility if you need an axe for more than splitting. Hatchets are shorter than either splitting mauls or splitting axes. They’re a good choice if you only need to split occasionally because they’re easier to store and swing.

Q. What is the best axe for splitting wood?

If the only thing you’re doing is splitting, a splitting maul or splitting axe works best. Splitting mauls are more efficient for large rounds, but their weight and length require strength and practice. If you need an axe that’s close to a maul without the heavy maul head, take a look at the Fiskars X27 Super Splitting Axe. Splitting axes aren’t as efficient on large rounds but work well for splitting standard rounds, making kindling, and using for general purposes.

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Meet the Tester

Stacey L. Nash has written about home and garden products, home design and decor, and general indoor and outdoor home improvement for 5+ years. She’s passionate about research and hands-on testing to find the products that add true value to homeownership and daily life. She lives on 12 heavily wooded acres, where she and her family put home and outdoor products to the test while avoiding bears and cougars.

Additional research provided by Glenda Taylor.