Maul vs. Splitting Axe: What Should I Choose?

Remember back when you used to go out in the woods to chop lumber for the upcoming winter monthsNoNeither do we. This is a dying pastime, somewhat like baseball, that very few people cling onto for nostalgic purposes. Or perhaps technology is frowned upon in your neck of the woods and you have no choice but to roll your sleeves up, grow a beard and chest hair, and chop your own bundles.

If this is the case, then you already know what sort of axe you need. What are you doing scouring the internet forFor those of you looking to release your inner-lumberjack but are too preoccupied with avocado toast, you’ll need all the help you can get in finding the most appropriate axe.

Mauls and Splitting Axes – Huh?

Strolling down the axe aisle in your local hardware store, you may come across two different types – mauls and splitting axes. Oh, the confusion that these axe types cause is just hilarious. At first glance, you may think they’re identical in both appearance and function, but you couldn’t be more wrong.

In this section, we’ll go over the areas where mauls and splitting axes differ. Hopefully, you’ll be able to distinguish one from the other by their appearance and not just by looking at the products’ labels.

Blade Design

If you pay close attention, you’ll see that mauls and axes come with axe heads or blades of different shapes. The head fitted on the end of an axe is narrower, tapered, and has a sharper edge. This makes the axe a multi-purpose tool that can both split logs (cut with the grain of the log) and chop logs (cut against the grain).

The only similarity that a maul head has with an axe head is that they’re both tapered with the narrower side of the head making contact with the log. However, the tapered end of a maul head is also blunter and wider – similar to the shape of a wedge of cartoonish cheese. With each swing, the maul head “bashes” into the log, splitting it effortlessly. But unlike axes, mauls are not exactly multipurpose and are not able to shorten the length of logs.

Handle Material and Design

Axes and mauls also have very different handles. The handle on a basic splitting saw is shorter compared to that on a maul. The short handle gives the user better accuracy for splitting logs at the desired length.

Their handles are typically made of wood which, as you can correctly assume, isn’t all that shock-absorbent and is prone to snapping/cracking/popping. Thankfully, manufacturers have caught on and have switched to plastic or composite handles for increased durability.

Mauls have longer handles – almost twice as long as typical splitting axes – which gives the user extra leverage when swinging overhead. The long handle also makes it so the axe will hit the ground before it even gets close to your feet, shin, or knees. Maul handles are also typically made of composite, plastic, or metal which absorbs the shock of each chop.

Weight

From the differences between mauls and splitting axes mentioned above, you can probably already guess that they have considerable weight differences. The axe is lighter, usually weighing in at 4 pounds at most, so it can rightly be classified as a lightweight tool. Splitting axes need to be as light as possible since users swing them using a single arm, and any additional weight will not exactly add to the cutting ability of the axe.

Mauls are an entirely different story. Their size adds another 4 or 5 pounds to the tool, making it weigh anywhere from 6 to 10 pounds. In our opinion, a heavier maul is better since, with the long handle and added leverage, each bash against the log will have a greater chance at splitting it in a single strike.

Price

Another way to distinguish a maul from an axe is by looking at their price tags. In general, mauls are more expensive due to their sturdier builds, larger blades, and longer handles, but they can also be within the same price range as axes.

If you’d like to get the most out your maul, we’d recommend splurging a little. Axes are tinier and use less material to produce, so if the maul costs about the same as a splitting axe, you’re probably getting an inferior product. There’s no rule of thumb when it comes to determining the quality of a maul based on price alone, so be sure to give the tool a thorough look-over to check for sturdiness and cracks in the handle.

Use

So even though mauls and axes have almost identical shapes, they serve very different purposes. The name “splitting axe” is misleading. Axes are meant to chop, shape, and carve wood rather than split them. The sharp edge of the axe head allows it to cut against the grain of the log, producing shorter pieces. However, in a pinch, a splitting log can indeed be used to split logs. By standing the log upright, you can swing the axe head downward and parallel with the grain, causing a rift which will split the log almost entirely.

And unlike axes, mauls are more of a one-trick pony type of tool. They’re designed to split logs and nothing more. The blunt edge wedges the grains apart while the weight and force of the tool pushes the head deeper into the log, splitting it in two. If you’d like to chop or shorten logs, a maul will not be of any help at all. When the blade enters the log against the grain, it’ll do nothing but leave splinters in its wake. You’re better of using a serrated knife for chopping than a maul.

Mauls or Splitting Axe – What should I choose?

If you were to ask us, we’d say get both. Mauls and axes are pretty inexpensive so purchasing both at the same time shouldn’t make a dent in your personal finances. However, if you’d like to up your log-splitting and –chopping game, you can’t go wrong with a chain saw for chopping and felling trees and a maul for splitting logs.

That being said, it takes quite a bit of power to do split and chop logs using manual tools like mauls and axes. Oh, not to mention the time it takes to perfect the swinging technique. Improper swinging can lead to damaged logs, a damaged tool, a damaged chopping block, or much, much worse.

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Maul vs. Splitting Axe

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