Okay, it’s true – splitting wood might not be the most “girly” of activities.
But I love it. It’s a great excuse to step outside into the crisp, fall air, and you get a pretty decent upper body workout besides.
Even more than splitting, stacking firewood is what really appeals to me. I love to see cords of wood neatly piled, ready for the winter gales to come.
Like a well-designed piece of garden décor, stacks of firewood impart a sense of balance and harmony, a feeling reminiscent of welcome and warmth by a crackling hearth.
Well – at least mine do. My spouse Ron, on the other hand, just chucks the wood up haphazardly onto the pile. If it doesn’t fall over, all is good in his world!
Well, to each his (or her) own.
Regardless of how you like to stack your wood, it needs to be split first – which segues nicely into our topic. The best tool for the job is the splitting maul.
Join us as we take a look at this unique tool, a favorite of outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen alike.
Our Six Top-Rated Splitting Malls Include the:
1. Fiskars IsoCore 8-Pound: Our Top Pick
Not surprisingly, the Finnish cutting tool superstar, Fiskars, brings us two of the top performers in our review.
Our top pick for best overall performance in the full-sized category goes to the Fiskars IsoCore 8-pounder for their full-length, vibration-free, and virtually unbreakable handle, and a brawny head design that plows through even the knottiest and most unseasoned wood.
Plus, the riveted head stays in place, no matter how much abuse it endures.
Fiskars is the globally-recognized Finnish company that began as a foundry back in 1649. Today, they produce not only their iconic orange-handled scissors and cutting tools for the home, they also manufacture some wonderful tools for the garden and yard as well.
Launched in late 2015, Fiskars’ striking tools with IsoCore handles have quickly become a favorite with online shoppers.
The 8-pounder features a dual head with a splitting face for cleaving wood along the grain, and an extra-large driving poll for striking wedges and stakes. Forged and heat treated, the steel is strong, tough, and durable, with a rust resistant coating that helps to prevent sticking when driven deep into wood.
The blade geometry has been optimized with a wide wedge to strike deep into a log, rending it apart with ease – even ones with stringy fibers and knots. This shape also helps to ensure wood is deflected to the side, not straight back at you, the user.
Fiskars Iso Core 8 lb Maul, available on Amazon
Fiskars’ handle dampens the initial shockwave with their unique, patented IsoCore™ Shock Control System. A sleeve of steel and polymers is overlaid on a steel-reinforced fiberglass core that disrupts travelling energy by deflecting it through insulating materials, long before it reaches your hands.
This results in a rapid dissipation of force for two times less vibration than wooden handles – helping to reduce joint stress and muscle pain.
Plus, the riveted head is inseparable from the handles and won’t slide down or break off, even when swung with full force.
The lower handle features Softgrip, a sculpted profile made of a thermoplastic rubber. It comfortably fits the natural shape of your hand, and has strategic texturing to reduce hand fatigue and blistering (for those who work without gloves). A slight flare at the base of the handle also reduces slipping, to keep your swing controlled and powerful.
The design has been tested to exceed both US and ISO standards for striking tool endurance, so you know this workhorse is going to hold up in tough work environments!
The Fiskars 8-pound maul measures approximately 3.25 x 8 x 36 inches and has an overall weight of 10.2 pounds.
Made in Finland, it comes with a full lifetime warranty to be free of defects in material and workmanship as long as you own the product.
Known for its very comfortable handle, robust construction, and effortless cleaving action, this maul is a winner among verified purchasers on Amazon.com. With superb shock-absorption in the handle, this model is comfortable throughout long sessions of fatigue-free use.
The design of the head also gets kudos, from its mechanically riveted, slip-free attachment, to the broad angle and tough steel that make one-hit splits a common occurrence.
Cleaving 12 to 24-inch inch rounds with effortless ease, the long handle and heavy head provide all the momentum required to do the work for you – you just have to lift, swing, and guide its descent, and the tool does the rest!
Plus, the Fiskars maul comes with the solid build and top-notch quality you’d expect from this brand – no surprises or disappointments to be found.
Very popular with online shoppers, the Fiskars 8-pound maul with the shock-absorbing IsoCore system proves to be an outstanding striking tool for busting up firewood of all shapes, sizes, and textures.
Customer service is also easily accessible, via live web chat or phone.
It combines comfort and strength with Finnish ingenuity to easily power through small to extra-large rounds, and has the profile to tear through knots and stringy fibers with ease.
With a reasonable price and sweetening the pot with their lifetime warranty, this Fiskars tool is a great investment designed to last a lifetime – and from what satisfied customers are reporting, it may well be around for a couple of lifetimes!
2. Helko Vario 2000 Heavy Log Splitter: the Next Best Thing
German toolmaker Helko began operation in the mid-1800s, and in no time developed a reputation for their high-quality woodworking gear.
Still popular in Europe, they now also have their own warehouse in California that stocks their entire line of axes and mauls for distribution in North America.
This specific model is their Vario 2000 log splitter, designed for heavy duty cleaving tasks. The broad, heavy head delivers a powerful blow for the most challenging of jobs, whether dividing tree trunks, logs, or heavy rounds of firewood.
Helko Vario 2000 Heavy Log Splitter, available on Amazon
The 5-pound head is made of drop forged, high-grade carbon steel, heat treated, tempered, and oil-hardened to 53-56 HRC for long-lasting, durable performance.
It’s also attached with Helko’s patented screw system, which employs a cap screw retainer and included hex key, giving it something more akin to the profile of a traditional axe head – without the large rear poll used for striking wedges.
This means the blades and handles can be changed out and replaced conveniently, in minutes!
Each handle is crafted in Switzerland from FSC certified, sustainably grown American Grade A hickory. They’re individually chosen for density and correct grain orientation, then finished with a light lacquer and black dipped grip.
A steel sleeve protects the shoulder of the handle from harmful missed strikes, and the slightly curved, ergonomic design acts as an effective shock absorber while providing the ideal balance for a powerful swing, thus minimizing fatigue.
The Helko also comes with its own leather sheath, made in the USA with vegetable oil-tanned leather. A 1-ounce bottle of Axe-Guard is included to keep it maintained in top operating condition.
This splitter measures approximately 35.5 x 2.25 x 7 inches, and has an overall weight of 8.5 pounds.
Made in Germany, it comes with Helko’s warranty for the original owner to be free of defects in material and workmanship – but does not cover broken handles.
Verified purchasers on Amazon.com give the Helko log splitter top marks for its smart design, powerful cleaving action, and low-vibration handle.
The quality of all components is top notch, with the head being an ideal shape and size to deliver forceful strikes that split seasoned or green wood with ease. It has the look and feel of an axe, with the action of a maul.
Solid construction also gets several nods, with the overstrike protection saving the handle from accidental wear and tear. The unique, universal connecting system is a nice touch for those who like to replace or exchange shafts and axe heads, so they can quickly be switched over when the time comes.
The handle is top notch, with the grain correctly oriented lengthwise along the length of the handle for years of service and durability (and no cracking), while giving a good hand feel with secure, comfortable grip and little to no vibration.
The Helko is also well balanced, delivering force with maximum velocity, without causing excessive strain or fatigue.
Customer service seems to be outstanding as well, with rapid response to any issues.
Helko’s Vario 2000 is a distinctive log splitter that offers users the unique ability of switching over blades and handles conveniently with just two screws and a hex key – important for those who split in large volumes and need to change parts quickly.
Made in Germany, with high-quality German steel and an American hickory handle crafted in Switzerland, the Vario 2000 is an international hybrid with outstanding features.
The wide angle of the head and the long, strong handle deliver formidable force for plenty of one-strike hits. Its efficient and effective design provides a fatigue-free splitting experience.
Typically sold at a higher price point than some of the other models we’ve reviewed, this tool has some outstanding credentials that truly merit the price for many curious buyers out there.
It’s the ideal choice for those who work in forestry, or split wood in large volume quantities to keep their wood burning stoves going all season long.
3. Wilton B.A.S.H. – Best XL Maul for Big Jobs
Our recommendation for the Best XL Maul For Big Jobs goes to the Wilton B.A.S.H.
This strapping tool is big and heavy. Combined with Wilton’s Unbreakable handle technology, this makes the tool virtually indestructible – and it’s comfortable to use too! This is the perfect extra-large maul for long-lasting, heavy-duty performance.
Wilton Tools 8-lb Head 36″ B.A.S.H Splitting Maul, available on Amazon
Wilton Tools was founded in 1941, when the first Wilton bullet vise was manufactured in Chicago. Still the largest-selling industrial vise in today’s marketplace, Wilton has expanded their substantial tool knowhow into production of tough and rugged striking tools with a line called B.A.S.H. – which stands for Bad-Ass Sledge Hammer.
This strapping 8-pound maul is part of the B.A.S.H. line and features their neon green, high visibility head. Made of drop-forged steel and hardened to 46 HRC, it brings durable operation to the even the most demanding applications.
A safety plate locks the head into the handle to eliminate separation, providing safer operation.
The Wilton maul also features B.A.S.H. Unbreakable handle technology – six rods of molten steel form the core, which is then wrapped in a vulcanized rubber over-mold to create the toughest handle on the market.
It’s so tough, in fact, that Wilton offers a thousand-dollar break-free warranty for two full years of normal use!
The thick, tapered shoulder of the handle reduces fatigue by absorbing vibration and prevents overstrike damage, while the no-slip textured grip improves striking accuracy.
A lanyard hole at the end of the handle can be used to secure the maul to your wrist while striking, or to hang it for storage.
The B.A.S.H. maul measures approximately 3.75 x 9 x 36 inches and has an 8-pound head with an overall weight of 12 pounds. Made in Mexico, it comes with Wilton’s $1,000 no-break warranty for two full years after purchase.
This Wilton maul gets top marks for solid and well-built construction, the comfortable handle, and its brawny profile.
The handle has a good, solid feel to it, but it doesn’t feel rigid when swinging, as do most metal-handled tools. And it’s also very forgiving of mis-strikes, with no vibration travelling to the hands.
Plus, the rubber over-mold gives a very comfortable, vibration-free grip, with the bolstered shoulder providing protection for both user and axe. The rubber also holds up nicely, even with constant use.
Verified purchasers on Amazon.com appreciate the quality of materials and manufacturing used in their workmanship, as well as the tool’s solid, secure performance.
The design of the head is effective as well, easily releasing the bit even from large or knotty rounds.
Though some users have expressed disappointment that the blade arriver duller than they would have liked upon shipment, you may of course sharpen the edge of the profile to your preference.
Wilton’s B.A.S.H. splitting maul lives up to the family name, with a badass build for tough cleaving duties.
The Unbreakable steel-core handle is stunningly strong, but also provides a comfortable, vibration-free grasp for fatigue-free use (which you’ll appreciate, because this maul is big, brawny, and beefy).
Make no mistake: with a 36-inch steel core handle, an 8-pound head, and weighing 12 pounds overall, this is an XL tool – and you’ll need XL strength to swing it effectively!
At the middle of the range in terms of price, and with their $1000 no-break warranty, the B.A.S.H. maul gives great value for bigger folks with big jobs to do.
4. Estwing Fireside Friend: Best Mini-Maul
At the other end of the spectrum in terms of size, the Estwing Fireside Friend is our pick for Best Mini-Maul for Lightweight Splitting Duties.
With a true maul head, this pint-sized version with a one-piece forged construction gives plenty of punch and power in a small package.
Estwing began manufacturing striking tools in Rockford, Illinois in 1923. They continue their craft today, producing durable specialty tools, hammers, pry bars, and axes, all manufactured to the highest standards.
Estwing 4-Pound “Fireside Friend” Wood Splitting Axe/Maul with Shock Reduction Grip, available on Amazon
The Fireside Friend splitting tool is a bit of a hybrid; it has the heavy-headed heft of a maul, but with the feel of a smaller tool like an axe. It features a relatively small and lightweight head for a maul, with a broad-angled face and wide striking poll, but has a shorter handle with an overall length of only 14 inches.
This makes it the ideal size for one-handed swinging, or use as a camping axe. It is especially suited to cutting up smaller pieces and kindling, such as for a fireplace or backyard fire pit.
Forged in one piece, the Estwing mini-maul offers the strongest construction known for hand tools, and each axe is hand-sharpened and finished to exacting standards.
The patented nylon vinyl Shock Reduction Grip offers the utmost in ergonomic comfort by absorbing and reducing impact vibration. It’s durable as well, permanently bonded and molded to the handle.
With its smaller size, the balanced, hammer-like design of this tool makes it easy to swing and maneuver with one hand – while the handle length and weight give it plenty of leverage to power through wood.
The Fireside Friend measures approximately 14 x 6 x 1.5 inches and weighs 4 pounds. Made in the USA, Estwing fully warranties its all-steel Fireside Friend against failure in normal use.
It also comes with its own sturdy, nylon sheath, and has a lanyard hole to secure to your wrist when swinging, or to hang up in storage. Lastly, the traditional Fireside Friend comes with a handsome royal blue UV protective coating on the head and handle, with a matching Shock Reduction Grip.
The Special Edition model features a non-reflective, black oxide finish on the head and handle with an authentic, stacked leather grip – classy, comfortable, and effective.
Estwing 4-Pound Special Edition “Fireside Friend” with Shock Reduction Grip, available on Amazon
Very popular with online shoppers, the Fireside Friend receives top grades for its outstanding performance, the top-notch construction and components, and its wonderful versatility.
Estwing has created a real crowd pleaser in this market. The top-heavy design is perfectly balanced with a handle length made for a powerful head speed, slicing through small to medium rounds, and making little sticks out of big sticks in just a blink.
Its hybrid design effectively gives you two tools in one. It’s light and agile enough to maneuver one-handed, like a hand axe. But the shape and weight of the maul head give it the needed momentum for splitting duties, while the poll end can be used for striking a wedge or pounding in tent spikes.
Not just for chopping kindling, the balance and leverage of the Fireside Friend also make quick work of smaller rounds up to 10 inches, and it blasts through half-rounds with little effort. And for all you lightweight wood choppers out there, the tool itself does all of the hard work!
It’s also sharper than a typical maul, so hewing very small pieces of kindling is quick and easy.
The Estwing Fireside Friend is a great little splitting tool that combines the best features of a maul and small axe.
Lightweight, sharp, and powerful, the forged, one-piece hammer design makes it easy to swing accurate, one-strike splits with just one hand. Ideal for kindling and smaller jobs, it’s equally at home beside the fireplace or the fire pit, and this handy little gadget is also a well-loved addition to the camper’s gear bag.
Estwing tools excel in construction, balance, and finishing details, and the Fireside Friend carries on this tradition. A versatile and sturdy tool, it has a budget-friendly price point, and gives superb, Made in the USA value for the cost.
5. Council Tool Splitting Maul
Council Tool is another established American manufacturer of hand tools, operating out of Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina since its incorporation in 1886.
Known globally in the firefighting market for their axes and first-responder specialty tools, Council also manufactures striking and digging tools, pry bars, axes, and splitting tools. They use only American steel in forging, American hickory (or fiberglass) for their handles, and other tool materials that are all domestically sourced.
This 8-pound sledge-eye maul has a heat-treated bit end of forged steel with a hardness of 45-50 HRC, providing excellent toughness and safety. The bit has also been treated with a clear lacquer finish to help deter rust.
Council Tool 8-lb Splitting Maul with 36″ Hickory Handle, available on Amazon
As an added feature, the bit’s ample poll end provides a striking face for driving steel wedges, very useful for extra-large or stubborn logs with a knotty or fibrous nature.
The long, 36-inch Grade A hickory handle is selected for grain orientation and density, providing plenty of leverage to deliver powerful strikes.
Kiln-dried before being turned on a lathe for shaping, the eye section is further dried to less than 10 percent moisture before assembly with the head. Once the handle is ready, it’s hydraulically inserted into the eye and then mechanically bonded with a serrated aluminum wedge, all for the sake of increasing strength and stability.
This size is also available with a fiberglass handle, which is epoxied to the bare metal eye for a durable, safe bond.
Council Tool 8-lb Sledge Eye Splitting Maul with Fiberglass Handle, available on Amazon
The Council splitting maul measures approximately 2.5 x 8.75 x 34 inches and weighs a bit over 9 pounds. It also comes in a 6-pound version for a more lightweight option.
Made in the USA, the head has a lifetime warranty to be free of material or workmanship defects. Keep in mind that the handles are not similarly covered.
Satisfied customers give the Council Tools maul top grades for its high-quality build, no-frills design, and its efficacy as a splitter.
The design is definitely quite bare bones, but it gets the job done. The steel is tough, the handle is straight (with a lengthwise grain to boot), and the finish is simple.
Well-made and solidly built, there is an obvious brand loyalty to Council Tools, and an appreciation of their Made in the USA values and sensibilities.
Overall, the Council Tools splitting maul is a no-frills tool designed with one task in mind: cleaving wood apart.
With the long and traditionally straight, sledge-style handle, it generates plenty of head speed to power through medium to large rounds of wood. Additionally, the head and poll work on all sizes and shapes of wood.
Green or seasoned, fine-grained or twisted, the type of wood doesn’t matter – this tool has the power to get the job done.
Reasonably priced at the lower end of the range, the Council maul brings plain and simple value to the task at hand – very good for those who know how to use and maintain basic tools.
6. Fiskars X27: Best Axe-Style Splitter
This is our second recommendation from the Fiskars company, and for good reason. Lighter and more nimble than a maul, the X27 Super Splitting Axe has a long, comfortable FiberComp handle that generates plenty of head speed to tackle most backyard chores.
Do keep in mind: this is a splitting axe, not a splitting maul! As such, it can’t be struck with a sledge or used to strike a wedge. But for light to medium duties, it’s more than capable.
Plus, with a lifetime warranty that includes the handle, it’s hard to go wrong with the X-Series from Fiskars.
Fiskars 36-Inch X27 Super Splitting Axe, available on Amazon
With 36 inches of handle length, it’s the perfect tool for those who prefer a longer – and lighter – splitting axe.
Of important note, the X-Series of axes won the prestigious, international Red Dot Award in 2010 for outstanding design quality in the competition’s gardening category. The X27 also carries on the heritage of the X-Series, providing all the power you’ll need for making splits through small, medium, and even large logs simple and easy.
With perfect weight distribution and the wedge-shaped geometry of a maul bit, the X27 also has a sharp axe edge to maximize your performance, rending wood along the grain with very little effort.
This combination slices through wood effectively, while providing more one-strike hits with every swing, due to its versatility. For extra security, the head is over-molded so the blade can’t be separated from the handle.
X-Series blades from Fiskars are manufactured with a proprietary grinding technique. This creates a sharper edge, making for better contact and cleaner cuts, while the convex bevel-to-blade geometry powerfully dispatches wood with a single, clean strike.
The heat-treated, forged steel blades also retain a sharp edge for a long time – and the low-friction blade coating assists clean travel through wood without getting stuck.
In other features, the super-strong FiberComp handle improves comfort and ergonomics. It’s made of a nylon/fiberglass composite that’s lightweight, yet won’t bend or crack even under duress, and it’s rust and corrosion-free as well.
With a vibration-absorbing chamber and non-slip grip, it provides comfort and a smooth swing for fatigue-free use.
At 36 inches, this is Fiskars’ longest-handled maul, which increases leverage and maximizes power. This means you can split wood more easily and in a shorter amount of time, with much less hand strain.
The X27 measures approximately 37.5 x 9.5 x 2 inches, and weighs just under 6 pounds. Made in Finland, it comes with the Fiskars full lifetime warranty for both head and handle. Please note that this is a splitting axe, not a maul, and as such should not be used with a sledge.
It’s easy to maneuver this light and beautifully crafted tool, not nearly as tiring as working with a heavy maul would be, making swift work of chopping wood.
Plus, the long handle generates a lot of head speed, splitting most pieces with a single strike. The only difficulty arises with knots, which may require an extra strike or two.
Perfectly weighted to make impact with power, it also feels good in the hand with a strong, sturdy feel and motion.
The quality build is apparent in all of its components, from a sharp edge of strong steel to the comfortable, vibration-free handle and grip.
The fiberglass handle also gives ergonomic comfort to keep hands from tiring, with just enough “grip and slip” to feel secure without sticking to the palms too much.
The protective edge guard is also a highly appreciated extra touch!
Another hot seller with online shoppers, the Fiskars X27 Super Splitting Axe has the robust build and design features to handle light to medium splitting duties without difficulty.
The long handle creates lots of head speed to drive the sharp, wide cutting face deep into the wood for swift action. Lightweight and easy to control, it’s an excellent choice for the backyard wood splitter, or for those who need to bust up partially split firewood.
Armed with the Fiskars lifetime warranty, you can also feel confident that you’re getting a great value for the lower-range price tag.
Aren’t All Axes Created Equal?
In a word, no.
As with other tools, axes are designed for specific tasks such as felling, splitting, hewing, and trimming wood. But splitting mauls are a whole other beast.
Let’s have a look at some of the basic differences to get a better idea of how each one functions:
If you’re looking to chop down trees, the felling axe is what you want.
Designed to cut against the grain rather than with it (a quality found instead in splitting mauls for cutting hewn pieces into smaller bits for firewood), these axes have a sharply honed edge on a relatively thin blade, which then tapers back to a tight, acute angle.
The cutting face measures from 3.5 to 5 inches, and comes with a single bit (another term for the blade) or a double-sided bit if you’re looking for a more old-style axe. This bit is forged on a medium weight head in the range of 2.5 to 3.5 pounds, and attached to handles of varying lengths, usually measuring from 28 to 36 inches.
Carefully tempered and sharpened, the felling axe’s function is to make as deep a cut as possible with each stroke across the grain, felling the tree with slices in the trunk perpendicular to the ground.
The design of the sharp, thin blade is what really makes them the go-to tool for chopping down trees, and lopping large limbs as well.
Felling axes will often be tagged with the name of the region where they were developed, like the American, Swedish, or Minnesotan axe – but the style and function of each of these is pretty much the same.
Hudson Bay Axe
Also known as a 3/4 axe, the Hudson Bay axe is shorter and lighter than a feller, and can be wielded with one hand.
This axe first appeared in the 17th century, a time when fur traders along the Hudson Bay waterways needed smaller axes that were easier to maneuver in heavy underbrush. It has a head that weighs around 2 pounds (lighter than a felling axe) and a cutting face around 4 inches long.
The handle is about three quarters the length of traditional ones – in other words, anywhere from 18 to 28 inches long, and thus the reason for its alias, the 3/4 axe.
This smaller profile makes it ideal for working in tight quarters, and for smaller and lighter chopping or lopping duties. A favorite of campers and hunters, it will sometimes be called by these names as well: the camper’s axe or the hunter’s axe.
This is not the same as a hatchet, a similar but even smaller tool, meant for use with one hand.
The broad axe, so named for its large face and long beard (the beard being the lower part of the blade that hangs below the head), has long been a traditional woodworking tool used to hew logs into usable beams for building.
The cutting edge of these axes’ broad bits will come with one of two types of edge: one that is beveled (or steeply sharpened) on only one side, much like a chisel, with a crowned striking face that delivers accurate, powerful blows; or, a double-beveled bit, which delivers more of a scalloped cut.
For those with a single bevel, the blade can only be worked in one direction, and is dedicated to right or left-handed use – using the blade in the wrong hand could dull or damage the blade.
On the other hand (pun intended), the double bevel can be swung in either direction with either right or left hand, and its cutting edges generally measure between 3.5 to 8 inches.
A bit outdated now with the rise of modern industrial woodworking technology, the broad axe is usually only seen or used these days for projects that feature traditional woodworking methods and tools.
While the broad axe is used for hewing large timber, a carpenter’s axe is what you’ll want for aspects of woodworking that require a bit more finesse.
With a shape reminiscent of the Hudson Bay axe but even smaller, the carpenter axe is similarly used, with a single hand. A bit bigger than a hatchet, these have a 1.5 to 2-pound head with a straight cutting edge measuring 3 to 4 inches, and handles ranging from 10 to 16 inches.
This tool will also feature a long beard, so the woodworker can choke up on the handle and maneuver it with greater dexterity for detail work.
As the name implies, a splitting maul has an entirely different design and purpose than the chopping style feller, or even the hewing broad axe.
With a duller edge and a broad, wedge-shaped head, a maul splits wood along the grain instead of across, using the momentum generated by its heavy head weight to wield its power – and is typically in the range of 6 to 12 pounds.
The head will often have a slight convex curve, so it can be forcefully driven into wood without becoming stuck.
It will also have a large, flat butt-end or poll, much like a sledgehammer. This is so it can also be used to pound a wedge into the length of a log, such as for cracking wood rails or smaller wood rounds for the fireplace.
A splitting maul will have most of the same basic design elements as most axes, with a wide-angle head and long, straight handle. But the butt-end will be narrow and rectangular, like that of an axe, without the large, flat poll needed to strike a wedge.
The handle will be lighter too, to get that heavy momentum of the head up and going – in the range of 2.5 to 6 pounds.
Massive Maul Heads
The maul’s broad, heavy, wedge-shaped design is responsible for its cleaving ability, and should be forged of a high-grade, carbide tool steel.
The flat butt-end, or poll, is often used like a sledgehammer. This side is used with a metal wedge and struck against it for those really tough pieces; however, keep in mind that the metal-on-metal contact of head-to-wedge can produce dangerous flaking and chipping of either, or both.
As such, the steel for both the head and wedge should fall into a hardness range of 45-60 HRC (Rockwell scale) to prevent this from happening. For the best strength and durability, the steel should also be heat-treated or tempered.
Wooden handles are secured to the head with wedges or expanders, and fiberglass handles are bonded with an epoxy filler – or otherwise, they’re mechanically attached with rivets.
The eye of maul heads (the hole that the handle fits into) will be either a sledge-head eye or an axe-head eye.
A sledge-head eye is round or just slightly ovate to match the handle shape of sledgehammers, while the axe-head eye will be either rectangular, oval, or teardrop shaped – similar to the shape of most axe handles at the shoulder.
Handles that Are Straight as an Arrow
As with axes, handles for mauls come in two basic varieties: wooden and fiberglass. Both are popular, and selection is really a matter of personal preference.
The handle itself will be long and straight as a stick, with a round or slightly ovate shape. This allows a sound handhold with both hands, and gives the right amount of grip and slip needed to swing and direct the head.
Premium wooden handles for striking tools such as axes, picks, and hammers need to be made of a hard wood with a tough, fibrous grain that will resist cracking – and they also need to be flexible enough to absorb some of the shock.
Fire-hardened hickory is a popular choice for its fiber strength and resiliency, which makes it ideal for maul handles. Other popular woods are ash, yellow birch, sugar maple, and other famously hard woods.
Another important detail: a well-selected wooden handle should have the grain running the length of the handle, not across it, to further resist cracking.
Synthetics have also become a popular choice for handles, as they’re more difficult to break and provide a longer life than wood.
They’re also lighter in weight, absorbing shock and vibrations more successfully as well. Plus, the ones with a fiberglass core and a polypropylene or vulcanized rubber exterior will not only lend more strength, but added comfort and better protection from the cold as well.
Some handles, whether wood or synthetic, will come with an additional sleeve just below the head to prevent damage from overstrikes.
Handle lengths range from 28 to 36 inches, and what you choose should depend on your own height as well as the weight of the head.
According to physics, the longer the handle and the heavier the head, the more energy will be delivered to the wood being split. But not everyone’s height and strength are matched for optimal length and weight.
Mauls traditionally have a longer handle for a wider swing arc, providing more momentum so the head can make impact with greater force and cleaving action. A long handle also ensures that at the end of your swing, impact will be with the ground in front of you, and not at your ankles!
Blunt or not, these heavy brutes would quickly make a mess of lower extremities with a missed strike… so be careful.
In general, the handle will be longer than that of any axe. Make sure it’s short and light enough for you to make an effortless controlled swing that is handled with accuracy, confidence, and safety.
Here’s a good general rule of thumb to know the ideal handle length for you: the length of your inseam (the length measurement of your jeans) will correspond to a suitable handle length.
It’s safe to go an inch or two longer, as you can always choke up a bit without losing accuracy. On the other hand, if your handle is too short, you will have to compromise your stance – which is hard on your back, can throw off your balance, and may even expose your feet and shins to greater danger.
Start with a Good Foundation
Besides your maul, the other main piece of equipment you’ll need is a suitable chopping block.
Wood can be split right on the ground, but this is awkward and will weaken the effect of your swing, unless the ground is frozen. It also places unnecessary strain on the lower back from bending over, so you won’t want a base that is too short either.
A base measuring around 12 to 20 inches high gives a good, solid foundation for dividing wood, and allows you to swing at your full height for the most forceful impact. The best bases will be flush-cut log segments, preferably of a hard wood, and should have a diameter about twice the size of the largest pieces you’ll put on it.
Mulling Over the Maul
That brings us to the conclusion of our look at the splitting maul.
Big and hefty, or small and light – there really is a tool available for every splitting task and user size.
As for me, after having a closer look at my own trusty 6-pound maul, I see a crack has formed in the shoulder of the hickory handle…
It’s seen regular use for 20 years now, so that seems to be a reasonable lifespan. Maybe it’s time for an upgrade!
One thing’s for sure – beyond our own household needs, that cute little Fireside Friend is going to be weighing down a few stockings come Christmas.
How about you, readers? If you have a tried and true favorite for splitting wood, let us know in the comments below and share your knowledge – we always appreciate your thoughts!
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Product photos via Fiskars, Helko, Wilton, Estwing, Council Tool. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.
About Lorna Kring
A writer, artist, and entrepreneur, Lorna is also a long-time gardener who got hooked on organic and natural gardening methods at an early age. These days, her vegetable garden is smaller to make room for decorative landscapes filled with color, fragrance, art, and hidden treasures. Cultivating and designing the ideal garden spot is one of her favorite activities – especially for gathering with family and friends for good times and good food (straight from the garden, of course)!