An axe is one of the world’s oldest tools and can be used for many different tasks. With the increase in popularity of wood-burning stoves alone, even homes that previously would not have found the need for a splitting axe, now realise how important these simple tools are! Splitting axes can be used for cutting almost all types of wood, whether this is to make the wood easy to move or to prepare it for future use.
The main purpose of a splitting axe is to cut pieces of firewood to make them smaller. The main benefit of this is that they will dry quicker, making them ready to use sooner!
Only Got 5 Minutes?
The concept of a splitting axe dates back around one and a half million years ago when our ancestors would have used these tools to cut wood and kill animals. Fast forward a few years and there are still many reasons why every shed should contain a splitting axe! A splitting axe requires no electricity – pure manpower – so can be used anywhere it is needed. It is also a quiet and effective way to chop wood, with very little maintenance – so you can be sure that your axe will be ready whenever you are!
Although many people would think all axes are the same, and that there isn’t too much to consider before purchasing, there really are a lot of differences between axes! It is important that you make a purchase that is right for you, as axes can be dangerous tools if they are not right for each individual person!
Despite their simple appearance, there are many different parts to a splitting axe:
Single or double bit
The “bit” is the sharp point on the head of an axe – so the part that actually splits the wood. Axes can be purchased either as a single bit or a double bit (with sharp points on either side of the axe head). There are benefits for both so it is really down to personal preference and considering what is right for you.
Single bits are the most common axes and great for all-round woodcutting tasks, as they can cut faster due to the heavier heads. However, double bit axes tend to be more balanced due to both ends of the head being the same weight. This means that you will have more control when swinging your axe, which equals more accurate chopping.
Weight of Axe head
The heavier the axe head, the more force that will then split the wood that you are working with. However, if the axe is too heavy for the user then this can actually reduce the force, as they can struggle to get adequate swing behind the axe. We would recommend starting with a 1.5kg head on an axe, and then you are more than able to build up to a 2.5kg head once you are more used to splitting!
Length of handle
The length of the handle depends on the type of work that your splitting axe is going to be used for. The longer the handle, the more swing that you will have – which will, in turn, increase the force – therefore these are better suited for big chopping jobs. But a shorter handle is better suited for smaller, more precise jobs.
The traditional splitting axe would come with a wooden handle and therefore many people would be drawn to purchasing this material to maintain that feel. However, a wooden handle has more benefits than just this – they provide great shock absorbers, so can be used for longer. If you feel a wooden handle is for you, look for one with vertical grains in the wood – these will be better quality.
More modern looking splitting axes now tend to come with metal or fibreglass handles which are lighter – so easier to use – and tend to be more durable.
TOP TIP: Many wooden-handled splitting axes will be varnished. As much as this does have benefits in that it protects the wood (and your hands), it will make it much harder to get a grip when using your axe. If you have a lot of chopping to do then this will probably prove frustrating! Simply take some sandpaper to your axe and sand down the first couple of layers, this will make it much easier to grip your axe.
New or Old? That is the Question!
New isn’t always better in the axe purchasing world! Purchasing a new splitting axe will leave you with a shiny new axe, the peace of mind of a never-used tool, and the benefits of more modern equipment. However, there are many reasons why buying an antique splitting axe might be worth considering!
The head of the axe is the most important part, as handles are easy to replace. Older heads will, in general, have been made with more high carbon steel – which is essential for a sharp cut. These old splitting axes will likely be cheaper to purchase, but leave you with a much better axe to do the job – if you are willing to put the work in replacing the handle etc if this needs doing!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a splitting axe and a splitting maul?
When considering which axe is right for you, there is often information that can be found on splitting mauls. These are considerably different from splitting axes in that they have a blunt, mallet-style head. They are also heavier and have much longer handles.
Why do some splitting axes have straight handles and others have curved handles?
Splitting axes come with either straight or curved handles. There is a lot of disagreement between experts as to which is better for cutting wood, but really it is down to what feels best to individual users! Double bit axes will only be available with curved handles so that they can be used on both sides.