If you are new to woodworking, you might be wondering whether you should use an axe or a splitting maul. From an outsider’s perspective, both do the same job; breaking up wood. However, things aren’t quite that simple. They cut wood in slightly different ways.
It is vital that you choose the right cutting tool for your wood. If you don’t, then you are going to be making your life a lot more difficult. Luckily, you have us. We are going to help you to determine whether you need an axe or a maul.
What are the main differences between an axe and splitting maul in brief?
Generally speaking, if you want to split wood across the grain, you are going to need to pick up a splitting maul. If you want to cut wood, then you will need to pick yourself up an axe. Ideally, you would have both to be prepared for either scenario.
Axe Vs. Maul Overview
Let’s start by talking about the difference between axes and splitting mauls. This way, when we discuss the differences, you will already have a rough idea of which may be the right choice for your wood chopping needs.
- A splitting maul splits wood
- An axe cuts the wood.
This means that if you are splitting firewood, you need a splitting maul. if you are chopping down a tree to get firewood, then you need an axe. As we said right at the start, in an ideal world, you would have both. However, if you buy your firewood from a store, then you just need a maul.
What Is An Axe Used For?
There are some people that call axes ‘splitting axes’. This is an incorrect description. Axes cannot split wood. Well, not easily.
Axes come in a couple of different lengths, usually around 10-37″. You have your small hand axes, which may be a little over 12″ long. These are good for light work. They aren’t appropriate for cutting up firewood.
The standard size axe is around 5-feet long. The head of the axe (the important part!) will weigh around 6 lbs., but you can get some that are slightly heavier or lighter.
An axe will have a sharp blade. This blade is designed to slice through the fibers of the wood. You will have to regularly sharpen the axe to get good results.
What Is A Splitting Maul Used For?
A splitting maul, as the name suggests, is designed for splitting. It cannot cut. When you use a splitting maul, you will be cutting parallel to the grain on the wood. This will essentially split the wood along the grain.
The head of a splitting maul looks considerably different to that of an axe. It appears more thick and bulky. The front part of the head looks similar to an axe, although it isn’t as sharp. The back part is very similar to a hammer. You can actually hit the back part of a splitting maul when you are splitting wood, just in case you need a little bit of extra power.
The average splitting maul weighs around the 12lb mark. However, once again, you can get splitting mauls that are heavier and lighter than this. The length of a splitting maul will be the same length as a normal-sized axe.
3 Main Differences Between The Axe and Splitting Maul
We have already spoken a little bit about what splitting mauls and axes actually are. This means that you should already have a rough idea of the differences. However, to ensure that you know everything there is to know, let’s take a look at the key differences in a bit more depth.
Splitting mauls are considerably heavier than axes.
As we said, splitting mauls do not cut. Therefore, they need the extra weight. The splitting maul will force itself parallel to the grain, splitting the long in half. Splitting a log becomes effortless due to the weight of the maul.
However, do bear in mind that because splitting mauls are considerably heavier, they become a whole lot more difficult to swing. You need to be strong and have plenty of stamina if you are planning on getting through all your firewood in one go.
Again, the size of a splitting maul head will be much larger than that of an axe. However, the design is completely different too.
If you look at the head of a splitting maul, you will notice a dulled blade. You will also notice that it is a lot thicker than that of an axe. This is because they are designed for different jobs.
The thickness of the splitting maul head will force the log/wood to split at the grain. It is just pushing them apart.
The head of an axe is nice and thin, but it cannot split. It will, however, cut the fibers of the wood. So, you would use an axe if you want to cut against the grain e.g. if you are chopping down a tree. It also needs to be kept consistently sharp. A splitting maul does not ever need to be sharpened.
The third and last difference is the handle design of both instruments. You may notice that the axe comes with a shorter handle because it is used to to chop and split firewood. The short handle allows the user to easily swing around without getting exhausted. It also makes the user less likely to miss their target while swinging.
Mauls have a larger handle that is harder to swing but is designed to guide it into the ground and away from your feet. This prevents serious injuries from occurring. You may find yourself needing a break after a few swings because of the added weight.
Which Option Is Best for Splitting Wood?
99% of the time, a splitting maul. It is easy to use, and it has been designed specifically for splitting wood.
If you are heading out on a camping trip, then you may be able to split wood with a small camping axe. However, do bear in mind that it is going to be quite tough to do. You will need to bring an axe sharpener along too. If you don’t, that axe won’t be cutting through anything.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a splitting maul better than an axe?
Only for splitting. An axe will be better if you need to actually chop wood. They are completely different tools with the only linking feature being that they can be used to break wood apart.
Should a maul be sharp?
It doesn’t have to be. You may want to put a little bit of an edge on it. However, if you sharpen it too much, the maul head will be ‘thinner’. This means it won’t be able to split anything. Most people never have to sharpen their mauls.
Hopefully, by now you will know whether you need a splitting maul or an axe. Remember, no matter what route you go down, you should always purchase the best quality tool that you can afford. As long as you take care of it, a decent axe head or maul head can easily last for decades.