There is something quite satisfying about trekking into the woods chopping some wood and then cooking food over a fire that you worked hard to light. Sadly, this is something which is dying out but still a useful skill to pass on nonetheless. Technology and convenience have taken over; we now have chainsaws, firelighters, and other accelerants to make life easy.
For those that still like to do things the old fashion way, “what is the difference between an axe or a maul?” is a question which is asked a lot. The axe itself has been in use for nearly 4000 years when it was the multi-tool of choice for cavemen. They would use it for hunting as well as building shelters. Nowadays woodcutting is a skill that is practised by many that refuse to bow to quicker and easier ways of woodcutting.
If you’re new to wood cutting, you would be forgiven for thinking that a splitting axe and a splitting maul look the same. They both have long handles made of wood and a large metal head. The fact is that although they have their similarities and serve similar functions, they are both totally different.
In simple terms, an axe is designed to chop wood. When you pick up an axe and take a swing at a chunk of wood, the thin sharp blade slices deep into the wood across the fibres. Then the thicker part of the axe blade which meets the handle or the eye prizes away the wood chunk. The wood has been chopped which is very different from splitting wood with a maul.
As you continue to chop away at the wood, the axe will go deeper with each strike until you eventually reach the other side. An axe is an ideal tool for felling trees in which case you would chop a “v” shape into the tree trunk to accomplish the task.
As you continue to use the axe wood chips will be flying everywhere resulting in a lot of waste which is why an axe is not an ideal tool for chopping firewood.
A maul, on the other hand, is used for splitting wood. The blade or the head will be thick and less sharp than an axe and will, therefore, split the wood fibres with little to no waste. A splitting maul is ideal for splitting firewood.
Due to the way the head of the maul is shaped it will not get stuck in the wood with each swing.
One of the disadvantages of a maul or a splitting maul is that it will be heavier than an axe and it will require more force. Thus you will be using more energy when using a maul compared to an axe. A typical splitting maul will weigh around 6-8 pounds.
When deciding whether to go for a maul or an axe the price should be part of your choice, as a quality axe can be bought for a much lower price than a quality maul. A maul is generally considered to be a more quality tool, and it is also larger than axe which are the main reasons why you will pay more for a maul.
A Maul or an Axe?
For the most part, choosing a maul or an axe for the job will come down to personal preference. Thought should be given to the amount of wood there is and the size. If there are large pieces of wood that need splitting a maul will do a quicker job but remember that it will be heavier and therefore you will use more energy.
If there are smaller pieces of wood an axe is a good choice especially for those that may have difficulty using the heavier splitting maul.
Having an axe around the house is ideal for the odd jobs that crop up, however, if you plan on doing a serious amount of wood splitting for firewood, so you don’t freeze during winter then a premium splitting maul would be the best choice.
One final thing to keep in mind is that whether you choose an axe or maul, always keep your blades sharpened for safety reasons. With a blade that is blunt there is a chance that rather than it slicing into the wood, it could bounce back at you and cause an injury. This is also another good reason to buy a quality tool as it will be able to withstand more wear and tear.