Splitting Axe Review: 3 Axes + 3 Mauls

Gransfors Maul, Wetterlings Maul, SHW Maul

Updated: September 2018


 

Most days, I love splitting firewood.   I get to spend time outdoors, build muscle, break a sweat (sometimes) and at the end of it have a nice stack of wood for the stove.

When I’m feeling overwhelmed or uninspired, splitting wood gets me out of my head and gives me the satisfaction of getting something done.   With a seemingly endless to-do list, I’m grateful for those tasks that offer me the satisfaction of completion, or at least progress.

Originally published on April 13, 2013, this review is the result of nearly 3 years of using these axes regularly.  It began with only one axe, the Fiskars X27, and has grown to a total of 6.  I’ll continue to update this article with new wood splitting axes and results as they happen.

I welcome your feedback, so please  leave a comment down below.

 

Short Notes

Wetterlings Splitting Axe:    Not worth your hard earned money.  It’s pretty and well made, but the profile is  very thin, leading to more sticking than splitting.

Gransfors Bruks Large Splitting Axe:    Lighter and shorter than the Fiskars, so doesn’t split quite as well.  Top notch steel, excellent fit and finish.  Expensive but easily an heirloom in 20 years.

Fiskars X27:    Splits like a beast, even with soft steel.  Don’t love the plastic, but  it’s hard to break!

Wetterlings Maul:    My favorite splitting tool out of this group.  Great balance, durable steel, wedge-like profile busts apart rounds.  Add an inch or two to the handle and it would be 5 stars.

Gransfors Bruks Maul:    I found that the slightly concave head profile caused more sticking than splitting.  Excellent materials and craftsmanship, just didn’t split as well as I’d hoped  for the high price.

SHW Splitting Maul:    My budget pick of the group.  Decent balance, pretty good steel, splits well, very reasonable price

Splitting Axe Breakdown

 Splitting axes are typically lighter and less wedge-like than mauls.  I use one for  splitting small rounds and for further breaking down firewood that has already been quartered, when a heavier maul is overkill.

3 Splitting Axes Angle

Wetterlings, Gransfors and Fiskars Splitting Axes

 

Specs and Impressions:

 

Wetterlings Large Splitting Axe  

  • 29″ long, 3.3 lb. head, 5 lbs. overall.
  • Forged Swedish steel,  hardened to rockwell 56-59.
  • The handle is straight American Hickory (I have read about some quality control issues with Wetterlings leading to handles with less than optimal grain direction, however both axes tested have nice, straight grain).
  • A magnetic leather blade guard is included.
  • Made in Sweden, comes sharp and ready to use.

I’m not a big fan of this axe.  It has a long, thin profile that in my experience got stuck much more than it actually split.  It’s beautiful and well made, but using it was  tiresome and frustrating.   For that reason, I hardly use it anymore and don’t recommend it.   My guess is that it was designed to work with local woods in Sweden.  What woods are commonly used for firewood in Sweden?  Let me know in the comments.


 

Gransfors Bruks Large Splitting Axe  

  • 27.5″ long, 3.5 lb. head, 5 lbs. overall.
  • Forged Swedish steel, hardened to 56-58 rockwell.
  • American Hickory handle with steel protective collar and roughed up hand grip.
  • Strap and snap leather sheath included.
  • Made in Sweden,  comes sharp and ready to use.

If budget were not an issue, this would be my top pick of this group.  As with all Gransfors axes that I’ve used, the steel quality, fit and finish are top notch.

It splits very well, and has two nice extra features:  a steel collar to protect the handle from overstrikes and a roughed-up handle end to give you a better grip.  It’s an expensive tool, but a real piece of functional art.

Find the Gransfors Splitter on Amazon.


 

Fiskars X27  

  • 36″ long, 4 lb. head, 6.3 lbs. overall.
  • Fiskars claims the head is both hardened and forged (I’m not so sure, but I’ll get to that later).
  • Handle is plastic composite material claimed to be virtually unbreakable.    The handle is molded around the head (not typical wedge attachment).
  • Sturdy plastic sheath included.
  • Made in Finland,  comes sharp and ready to use.

I didn’t expect to be so impressed by this axe, but I am.  The extra-long handle, coupled with its aggressive, wedge-like profile, make it the most powerful splitter of this group.  Out of the splitting axes, the Fiskars is the most maul-like and capable of splitting larger rounds than the others.  For those of you (like me) on the shorter end of the height spectrum, I don’t find the extra length to be challenging.  In fact, I think the extra length makes the tool more effective.

I’m not crazy about the plastic handle, but there is something very nice about not worrying about breakage.  The steel quality is nowhere near that of the Swedish axes, but in spite of a few chips and rolls at the edge, this axe just keeps hammering through wood.  It’s very easy to resharpen, and at an approachable price, this axe has earned a lot of praise from users all over the internet.

Find the Fiskars X27 on Amazon.


Splitting axes from left to right: Wetterlings, Gransfors and Fiskars

 Notice the differences in profile shape.  From the long, thin Wetterlings, to the more aggressive but concave Gransfors, to the straight wedge of the Fiskars

 Splitting Maul Breakdown

 Splitting mauls are heavier than splitting axes and are designed to split large rounds.  I use them for larger rounds and anything knotty.  As an added benefit, they often have a hardened poll (the backside of the head), allowing you to pound wedges or use the maul as a sledge hammer.

Gransfors Maul, Wetterlings Maul, SHW Maul

 Swedish made Gransfors Bruks, Wetterlings and the German made SHW Maul

 

Specs and Impressions:

 

SHW Maul:  

  • 34″ long.  6.6 lb. head, 8.7 lbs. overall
  • High steel, Rockwell hardness unknown.
  • American Hickory handle
  • No sheath.
  • Made in Germany, requires sharpening before use.

Though it lacks the fit and finish of the two Swedish mauls, this German-made maul from SHW is the sleeper hit of the group.

This is the heaviest and longest maul in the group, so if you are capable of it, this tool can carry serious force.  The balance is pretty good, but due to the longer poll, it’s harder for me to guide it accurately than the Swedish mauls.  The steel quality is above average: better than the Fiskars but not as good as the Swedish axes.

I found that it split better than the Gransfors Bruks maul, which is saying a lot considering that it’s a third of the price, but not as well as the Wetterlings.  If you want a tool that does serious work, but that’s  easy on your  wallet, this is a good choice.


 

Wetterlings Maul:  

  • 32″ long.  5.5 lb. head, 7.4 lbs. overall.
  • Forged Swedish steel,  hardened to rockwell 56-59.
  • American Hickory handle.
  • Strap and snap leather sheath included.
  • Made in Sweden,  comes sharp and ready to use.

This maul  cracks wood well without being prone to sticking, which quickly becomes tiring, and has become my favorite maul of the group.  At 5.5 pounds (head weight), this maul is in a lower weight class than most you find at the hardware store.  I think this a benefit, as it takes less effort to raise the tool upward.

Good balance is also important, as it makes it easier to guide the tool with accuracy and find those cracks that have already formed.  This maul excels here, falling more often than not where I want it to.

Wetterlings  steel holds a keen edge and has so far been durable.  Over 2 years later, I’m still impressed with how well this tool holds its  edge.  It’s not rock proof, but darn close. 🙂

At around  $150, it ain’t cheap, but considering how long it will last, the fact that it can be re-handled and that it is also a sledge hammer, means it has great value.  I think it could only be made better with a slightly longer handle.

Overall, this is a wonderful, heirloom-quality tool.  I recommend it for anyone who splits the bulk of their own firewood.

Find the Wetterlings Maul on Amazon.

Note:  As of Summer 2016, the Wetterlings Maul appears to have been discontinued :(.  The next best thing is this maul from Husqvarna (manufactured for them by another Swedish axe maker, Hultafors).  It is very similar to the original Wetterlings, but it is less expensive, requires sharpening before use (not a big deal) and has a sheath that uses a draw cord instead of a snap closure.


 

Gransfors Bruks Maul:  

  • 31″ long.  5.5 lb. head, 7.4 lbs. overall.
  • Forged Swedish steel,  hardened to rockwell 56-59.
  • American Hickory handle with steel protective collar and roughed up hand grip.
  • Strap and snap leather sheath included.
  • Made in Sweden,  comes sharp and ready to use.

There is little doubt that this is a finely crafted tool.  However, like the Wetterlings Splitting axe reviewed above, it just didn’t perform as well as I’d hoped or expected given the price and reputation that GB commands.

It has durable steel and great balance, but compared to the other mauls, which split or cracked rounds consistently, the GB stuck in wood more often than it split, causing me much extra effort and frustration prying it out repeatedly.

My guess is that this is due to the relatively thin and gently concave shape of the head (see photo below).  If it cost half as much I might recommend it, but it doesn’t, so I don’t.

Find the Gransfors Maul on Amazon.


 

SHW Maul, Wetterlings Maul and Gransfors Maul

Profiles of the SHW, Wetterlings and Gransfors.  The SHW has the largest heaviest head of the bunch.  The Wetterlings and the GB are quite similar in size, but notice the slightly concave profile of the GB

 

Final Thoughts:  Splitting Axe or Maul?

Making the  choice between a splitting axe or maul depends largely on the size and type of wood  you’re going to be splitting.

If you’re going to be splitting a variety of sizes and species of wood, having both a lighter splitting axe and a maul will offer you the most versatility and efficiency:  use your  maul on the big, tough stuff; and save your body on the smaller stuff by using the splitting axe.

If you can only have one tool, then the maul will cover all your bases.

If, however, you only have small diameter rounds to split, or firewood delivered that needs to be broken down further, a splitting axe will serve you most appropriately.

Happy splitting!

Wetterlings Splitting Axe:    Not worth your hard earned money.  It’s pretty and well made, but the profile is  very thin, leading to more sticking than splitting.

Gransfors Bruks Large Splitting Axe:    Lighter and shorter than the Fiskars, so doesn’t split quite as well.  Top notch steel, excellent fit and finish.  Expensive but easily an heirloom in 20 years.

Fiskars X27:    Splits like a beast, even with soft steel.  Don’t love the plastic, but  it’s hard to break!

Wetterlings Maul:    My favorite splitting tool out of this group.  Great balance, durable steel, wedge-like profile busts apart rounds.  Add an inch or two to the handle and it would be 5 stars.

Gransfors Bruks Maul:    I found that the slightly concave head profile caused more sticking than splitting.  Excellent materials and craftsmanship, just didn’t split as well as it should for the high price.

SHW Splitting Maul:    My budget pick of the group.  Decent balance, pretty good steel, splits well, very reasonable price

 

31 thoughts on “Splitting Axe Review: 3 Axes + 3 Mauls”

  1. I appreciated your review of the various wood chopping axes and maul. I generally don’t have to split my own wood, but your comparisons were useful to those who do, and it’s really useful to think about if a time comes when I do. I will recommend your site to my friends. Thank you.

    1. Hey Lani,

      Thanks for commenting, I’m glad you found value in the review. I’m still on the hunt for a maul that works as well but isn’t quite as spendy :). Appreciate you spreading the word, I’m not set up for ordering online yet, but out of state folks can still call in to place an order. Take care

  2. Perfect discussion. Exactly what I have been looking to read…..Fiskars v. Wetterlings splitting axe comparison by someone who uses both. I have been happy with my Stihl Maul (like ox head) but have been looking for less weight in a splitting axe. Stihl, Husquvarna (look alike to Wetterlings, though lower price), and Fiskars all have different approach to splitting axe. Your comparison and first hand knowledge were most helpful. I am leaning towards Fiskars. thank you

    1. Hey Fred,

      Great to hear the article was helpful to you. I continue to be really happy with the heavier Wetterlings/Lighter Fiskars combo, I don’t think the Fiskars will disappoint you. For comparisons sake, I’d like to try the Stihl and Husky axes as well. I’ve read that the Husky axes were/are made by Wetterlings. Happy splitting,

      Matt

  3. Hey are using WordPress for your blog platform? I’m new to the
    blog world but I’m trying to get started and set up my own. Do you require any html coding expertise to make your own blog?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Yes, the site is made with WordPress. I don’t know any html code, though I do look it up from time to time for specific things. I like the fact that WP can be customized pretty well without code, using plugins and shortcodes. This is a premium theme called Avada that can be found at Theme Forest. There is a fair bit of documentation and conversation out there if you get stuck, so if you don’t mind doing research and asking questions, I think WP is a good way to go. Hope this helps, feel free to ask any specific questions.

  4. That’s one of the best breakdowns of Fiskars vs Wetterling I’ve seen, I appreciate the explanation. I prefer the Fiskars X27 for its simplicity and price. Can’t beat that. It’s easy and does the job for me every time and it sounds like it does the same for you.

  5. Matt, thanks for the great article and video regarding splitting axes and mauls. We burn a lot of firewood every year here in NH and like most things I own I like to get things that last are are hand-crafted. I have been blessed with a gas log splitter my father in-law built about 30 years ago, but would like to start splitting wood manually. I think the Waterlines seems to be a good fit due to my size, 6’9″ and 270lbs so handling a maul of that size should be just fine. There is something to be said for a hand-crafted tool but also splitting the wood by hand and not having to listen to the engine roar all the time. I appreciate you taking the time to break down the differences it has made my research much easier.
    My biggest dilemma was which would be the best for me splitting axe vs maul and if you are only going to invest in one seems like the maul is the way to go and also allows you to use wedges if need be.
    Thanks

    1. Many thanks for the comment, Peter. At your stature you won’t have any trouble handling the maul! You probably already know this, but be sure to find a chopping block that’s plenty tall. It can be dangerous using a block that is too short.
      All the best.

  6. I appreciated your review of the various wood chopping axes and maul, more, can you review more Small axe or Hatchets, i see these axes also good for chopping. I generally don’t have to split my own wood, but your comparisons were useful to those who do, and it’s really useful to think about if a time comes when I do. I will recommend your site to my friends. Thank you.

  7. Hey, Matt! You know I love splitting wood! My favorite is still my Dad’s 4 lb Collins Cruiser’s axe, nimble, with a short handle for straddle-splitting. Too bad Collins has turned into a cheaply-made company, nothing of the quality it once had! I agree completely about the Fiskars maul, and others of Fiskars make, though I haven’t had the pleasure of trying any of the others. I still stand by a wooden handle. With the right tool, the work is easy! With that Collins axe I can usually beat my dad’s $1300 wood splitter, and get that exercise you’re talking about!

    By the way, you may be having trouble with that swedish “splitting axe” because you aren’t using the “swedish split”. The swedish split actually requires that the head stick in the wood, then the axe with the wood stuck to the head is up-ended and the heel of the axe is struck on the chopping block forcing the wood onto the head where it hits the shoulders of the blade and blasts the wood apart. It takes some muscle, as you are flipping not just the axe, but the chunk of wood being worked as well, but is extremely effective with the right wood, and is more than likely what that particular axe is designed for. Let me know if you figure it out! (Try it with a smaller piece to get the hand of it first… It’s like a slick party trick in the wood-splitting world. 😉 )

    Namaste, Brother!

    1. Oscar! What a nice surprise to hear from you. Thanks for sharing your experience and the idea about the Swedish split. I’m familiar with that technique, but never considered that the axe would actually be meant to be used that way. That does change my perspective on the axe, and I’ll give it a try with that technique.

      Cruiser Axe? Does that mean double bit?

      And speaking of alternative splitting methods, check out this post on splitting with a twist, I think you’ll dig it:

      http://axeconnected.blogspot.com/2012/04/wood-splitting-with-twist.html

      Cheers, friend.

  8. Usually a cruiser’s axe is double bitted, yes, but some, often the ones found strapped to the cab guard of a log truck along side a shovel are single-bitted, intended for limbing and lord knows what else. The flat back is probably more convenient in that it provides a 4 lb sledgehammer, too. Whatever the reasons, it, too, has been dubbed by loggers and the like in my presence as a cruiser’s axe, so I call it such. If I had only one axe, that would likely be it. I went so far as to buy the modern 5 lb version, and don’t waste your time or money. It’s not a splitting axe, it’s got more of the razorblade shape intended for felling, not splitting with a night-and-day difference between my dad’s old axe and my new, despite the heavier head. I’m gonna check out that twisted splitting now…

    Ciao!

  9. That was a genius video! I look forward to giving it a try. I know a lot about the rest of the techniques mentioned, but that twist… I might have to go out and try it if not right now, then by sunset!

  10. I love the top down angle photo showing the width of each of the three axe heads. Look at that massive wedge that is the SHW, wow. I am however very surprised you didn’t have a better experience with the Granfors.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Kevin. Yes, I was surprised, too, considering how well the Gransfors is reviewed elsewhere and their reputation in general.

  11. Find irresistible the crown downward perspective photograph performance the width of each of the three axe heads. Give the intuition of being at that huge wedge that is the shw, wow. I am conversely extremely flabbergasted you didn’t have a improved knowledge with the Granters.

  12. I have never used a platform for splitting. Yes, the log sometimes sinks into the ground a bit. On the other hand, when you raise the log up, you reduce the available arc distance for developing momentum, and reduce the use of your abs, where much of the power comes from. This is important when your go-to maul is the original Sotz 15 lb Monster Maul.

    1. Greg, I’ve seen folks split right on the ground in videos and such but never tried it myself. You don’t have issues putting your maul in the dirt??

  13. Fiskars X27 my favourite axe.I have read many websites about this.Your review is very nice to me.I got some new information from the review

  14. Fishkar X27 is an awesome tool for splitting wood.Your writing is very informative and important for any splitting maul user.Have you any guide for axe sharpening?

  15. Gränsfors Bruks makes the best axes and the splitter is no exception. I’ve used this to hack apart the gnarliest, toughest rounds you can imagine, and it made short work of them. I wouldn’t have minded if the handle was a tad longer but that minor quibble aside, I say don’t hesitate to spend a little extra and get the best.

  16. I really appreciated your review of splitting axes. It is really helpful to those who do this job of splitting woods. Thank you for sharing.

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