Have a tree to take down or firewood to chop? A good axe is key to getting the job done quickly, efficiently, and with minimal pain. This ancient tool is as useful today as when it first appeared over 32 centuries ago! Of course, today’s axe is more efficient and will make all your wood chopping easier.
The Axes We’ll Cover Here
We’re going to take a look at axes designed for chopping down trees and splitting logs. But we have to acknowledge that “axe” can refer to many tools and weapons, from hatchets to battle axes.
Chopping and felling axes have long handles. Their heads may have blades on one or both sides – and we’ll discuss that more below. They’re designed for two-handed use and rely on a broad swing with a substantial amount of bodyweight behind them.
Is it Ax or Axe?
We know some readers will be ready to complain about our spelling!
We checked; according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, both spellings are correct. “Axe,” though, is more common in the United States and the rest of the world. So we’ve decided to stick with that spelling.
What To Look For In An Axe
For a piece of wood with a piece of metal attached to it, you wouldn’t think there’s much to consider when choosing the right axe for you. There’s not THAT much to consider but you want to be sure to choose a quality tool. Here are some factors that should affect your decision.
Single vs. Double Bit
This one may ultimately come down to personal preference. Both have advantages and it’s not clear that one outdoes the other all-around.
The “bit” refers to whether the head has blades on one side or two.
A single-bit axe has a heavier head. The blunt side is thicker and lets you generate more force through your swing.
On the other hand, a double-bit axe has blades on each side. The head is much lighter, which means less force. However, you can have more control of the swing. It can also give you flexibility with the type of blade since they are usually not identical on both sides. If you find that you need different types of blades for different tasks, this may be your best option.
We’re not going to get into axe-throwing here – but you’d need a double-bit axe for that, too!
Like many modern tools, axe handles are available in wood, fiberglass, or steel. All three offer reliable alternatives when well-manufactured.
Steel is the least-common alternative and probably the worst. Both heat and cold make it uncomfortable to use. And it does little to absorb the shock of the blade hitting wood, so your hands and arms suffer more. It does win, though, in terms of durability.
Fiberglass handles do a much better job at absorbing vibrations. However, in hot temperatures, fiberglass tends to feel slightly elastic.
Wooden handles are our personal favorite. They absorb a lot of shock and provide a nice weight and feel in your hands. With proper attention, it will hold up for a long time.
The handle length also matters. It affects both your control and balance. Around 31 inches is the best size for most people, but they come as long as 36.
The weight and balance of the axe head are also key factors in an effective tool. As we mentioned above, a heavier head can help provide more force in your swings. But if it’s not balanced correctly, it will make your work hard – and your body sorer.
A well-balanced axe keeps the weight focused as you follow through on your swing. It becomes a natural extension of your motion.
Finally, you need to be able to use an axe that feels comfortable in your hands. In this case, the factors we’ve mentioned above dictate whether the tool has the right feel for you. Some matters of preference, all of them together
Top-rated Axes for Log Splitting and Other Yard Work
Let’s take a swing now at some of the top axes you can choose from. These are a cut above the rest!
This tool comes from one of our favorite manufacturers, Fiskars. It’s a “full size” axe with a 36” handle. It’s also single-bite and weighs just under 6 pounds. The handle is made of sturdy fiberglass and helps reduce the amount of shock that gets passed along to your hands.
The weight and balance are great for most people. Despite the length, it’s not so heavy that it’s difficult to control. It’s fantastic for taller people, but even still works well if you’re on the shorter side.
There is still a good amount of vibration that makes it through the handle, but it’s no worse than most other tools.
Fiskers offers a lifetime warranty on this and nearly all of their tools.
This wood-handled axe is on the short side, but it’s got a great weight, is durable, and will get the job done effectively!
With a single-bite head made of carbon steel and a handle made of American hickory, this German-made tool lets you take a comfortable, controlled swing.
This axe is only 24” long, and we debated about including it here because of that. However, it’s too long to be a hatchet and it does a good job felling trees, so it’s worth including.
The total weight is 3.5 pounds; the head accounts for 2.25 pounds of this.
It comes with a leather sheath and a 1-ounce bottle of protective oil.
This tool is going to set you back a bit. Wood-handled axes tend to be more costly than other types, and this one is one of the more expensive ones we’ve come across. But it can be a good investment that will last a long time!
Swedish steel and American hickory come together to make another quality chopping tool. This 29-inch axe (26-inch handle) weighs 2.86 pounds. A full two pounds of that is just in the head. So you have a sturdy, lightweight handle that helps you swing a quality blade!
It’s another single-bite axe designed for felling, and it does the job quite well.
This is designed primarily to be a felling axe. Its light weight makes it a weak choice for splitting logs. It can work in a pinch, but we don’t recommend it for regular chopping work (neither does the manufacturer).
If you’re looking for a splitting axe, you’ve found a great one here! Our second entry from Fiskars is maybe a class down in size from the first one we’ve reviewed, but it’s of the same high quality.
This 28-inch splitting axe weighs 5.3 pounds The overall length is 31.5 inches.
It’s heavy enough to do the tough task of splitting logs, but it doesn’t disappoint in other areas. It’s well-designed and balanced so that each swing will produce a positive result.
The fiberglass handle helps absorb some of the impact and proves sturdy. We have seen a couple of reports of it cracking, but these are few and far between.
At this length, we do recommend that you use a block when chopping; it’s too short for chopping on the ground.
This 28-inch axe from Hooyman is best for chopping, although it’s listed with both “chopping” and “splitting.” We suspect that’s because, at the same listing, you can find buttons for splitting axes in different lengths.
At 4.4 pounds, this effectively chops into trees. The head is 3 pounds. It’s easy to control and works great for felling. (The chopping model is slightly heavier).
The unique design of the head helps reinforces the tool. All but the “business end” of the head is encased in polyurethane. That seems to absorb some of the shock, too. The handle is fiberglass.
The sheath locks in place with a simple pushbutton, so it won’t fall off while you’re carrying the tool!
An axe is an ancient tool but it’s still an important one! You don’t have to be a lumberjack to make good use of one, either; They’re great if you have trees to take down or chop into firewood. One with a good weight and balance will help make easy work of the task!