The easiest, most efficient way to split logs would be to purchase or rent a large log-splitting machine. Apart from lifting and positioning the log, the machine will handle all of the backbreaking, shoulder-splitting, fatigue-inducing work. But perhaps you prefer getting down and dirty, and the rhythm of plopping and chopping wood soothes your soul.
To truly satisfy your inner lumberjack, you’re going to need a reliable axe for splitting logs and chopping wood. The problem is that finding the right axe isn’t as simple as it may seem. For instance, you can’t just take a fire axe and use it to chop logs since the profile of the axe head isn’t right. When looking at potential axes, the first and foremost thing to consider is what you plan on doing with it.
Cutting and Splitting Axes – What’s the Difference?
Axes have two main functions – cutting and splitting.
Cutting requires having a sharp axe to cut across the grain. The result is a log with a smooth surface on the newly cut portion which can be used for woodworking or other projects. The profile of a splitting axe is thinner and sharper at the point of contact to force the steel blade into where it’s aimed.
Splitting, on the other hand, requires a blunt, wedge-like blade. When splitting logs, the wedge is forced into the wood with the grain and pulling the log apart at the “seams.” The profile of this type of axe is wider, not razor sharp, and heavier at the head than the hilt.
For the remainder of this article, we’re going to focus on splitting axes. This is for those of you who are looking to prepare bundles of logs for the fireplace or replace the log-splitting machine.
Axe for Splitting Wood Buying Guide
Apart from ensuring that the axe has a blunt, wedge-like blade, there are several factors to consider when looking for a reliable log-splitting axe. This section will describe each of the most essential features to keep an eye out for, especially if you want your axe to last you for more than one season.
Axes come in a wide range of different sizes, from single-handed tomahawks to large, two-handed broadaxes. Apart from the profile of the blade, the handle also has a lot to do with what the axe is designed for.
Smaller handles give you more control but less power when striking the log, whereas large handles offer a ton more leverage for splitting logs in a single strike but with lower precision. It’s up to you to find the sweet spot between control and power when looking at the axe’s handle.
Many of the models you find at hardware stores will come with plastic handles. This is something you want to avoid. First of all, plastic doesn’t do well at shock absorption, and secondly, it’s not very durable and will probably shatter in your hands within the first hundred strikes.
We recommend finding a wooden handle, specifically hickory or ash. Also, take time to consider the grain of the wood and check whether it runs parallel to the length of the axe. If it runs across or parallel to the direction of the axe head, it has a higher chance of snapping.
Single-Bit vs. Double-Bit Axe
A single-bit axe is an axe with a single head. All of the power goes into the one head for chopping and splitting logs. The other side of the axe head can be used as a hammer in a pinch.
A double-bit head is an axe with two axe heads. This is the more unpopular choice among axe-aficionados, but it does have some pluses. The axe head is symmetrical and offers incredible balance when using either of the heads for splitting logs. You can also switch from one head to another as one becomes dull and unable to split cleanly through logs.
Choosing between single-bit and double-bit axes is just a matter of personal preference.
Curved vs. Straight Handle
Single-bit axes can have either curved or straight handles. A curved handle helps with grip and provides better leverage for splitting logs with greater force. It also feels a lot more natural to use a curved handle because the shape of the handle fits well with the contour of your hand.
Double-bit axes only have straight handles. This is the only way the axe can be flipped to use the second blade without affecting the balance of the tool.
Much of the time, hardware stores are going to have axes with sleek, beautiful artisanal handles. Varnish may have even been applied to the handle to boost its appearance. The problem with treating the handle with varnish, oils, and paints is that they take away a lot of the natural grip that untreated wood provides. If you end up getting one of these fancy axes, be sure to give the handle a quick sanding to get rid of whatever slippery substance has contaminated the handle.
Even though wooden handles are preferable to composite ones, it doesn’t mean that it can’t come with a grip. If you grip the wooden handle directly, it’ll undoubtedly send tremors up your arm and shoulder as you strike the log. Keep an eye out for log-splitting axes with rubber grips that can absorb the shock as the axe head makes contact.
Axes come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, blade profiles, and materials. Because of this, it’s crucial that you know what you intend to do with an axe in order to get the best possible model. For splitting logs, be sure to check the profile of the blade – blunt, wedge-like blades are designed to split logs with the grain.
Other than that, you need to make sure that the tool is both comfortable to use and will stand not just multiple strikes against hard object but also the test of time. The most important things to consider other than the blade are the length, materials, and shock-absorbing abilities of the handle.