Splitting Axe Review

3 Axes + 3 Mauls

Gransfors Maul, Wetterlings Maul, SHW Maul

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[dropcap]M[/dropcap]ost 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.

Short Notes

Wetterlings Splitting Axe:  2 out of 5 stars  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:  4 out of 5 stars  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:  4 out of 5 stars  Splits like a beast, even with soft steel.  Don’t love the plastic, but  it’s hard to break!

Wetterlings Maul:  4.5 out of 5 stars  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:  3.5 out of 5 stars  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:  4 out of 5 stars  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  2 out of 5 stars

  • 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  4 out of 5 stars

  • 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  4 out of 5 stars

  • 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:  4 out of 5 stars

  • 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.

Find the SHW splitting maul at Earth Tools BCS.


Wetterlings Maul:  4.5 out of 5 stars

  • 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:  3.5 out of 5 stars

  • 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:  2 out of 5 stars  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:  4 out of 5 stars  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:  4 out of 5 stars  Splits like a beast, even with soft steel.  Don’t love the plastic, but  it’s hard to break!

Wetterlings Maul:  4.5 out of 5 stars  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:  3.5 out of 5 stars  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:  4 out of 5 stars  My budget pick of the group.  Decent balance, pretty good steel, splits well, very reasonable price