Tools & Equipment

UK’s Best Manual Log Splitting Axes & Mauls for Easy Firewood Preparation

pile of split wood
Written by Dean Wilson

If you have your own log burning stove, fireplace or chimenea then you probably need a lot of wood to burn as fuel, especially in the colder winter months.

For those who live in rural areas, it’s common to source your own logs. But these often need splitting before they can be used as firewood – an incredibly tedious job if you don’t have the right equipment.

A log splitting axe is the perfect partner-in-crime. Specially designed to split the fibres of wood apart, they make the job easy, even if you’re not a seasoned lumberjack! Generally they are available with wooden handles, or lighter fibreglass handles that are easier to swing.

Last update on 2019-08-18 / Affiliate links / Images / Pricing from Amazon Product Advertising API

In this article we compare some of the UK’s best log splitting axes, rating them on cost, speed of use, agility and longevity. You can see reviews of our best pick and value options below.

Best Pick: Fiskars Splitting Axe

Quality axe with a fibreglass handle – available in 4 different lengths

Fiskars splitting axe is made in Finland, with unrivalled quality that is probably the best on the market.

The first and best feature of this tool is its effectiveness. If you’ve been using a dated maul, the first thing you’ll notice when you use this axe is how easily and effortlessly it chops through wood. We’d recommend that you opt for the shorter handle if precision is your main requirement – while the longer handled, heavier units will deliver a more decisive blow for heavier work.

The fibreglass handle is both stronger and lighter than traditional wooden options. Fiskars have clearly worked on the balance between the axe head and handle as it is perfectly in-sync, enabling a powerful yet accurate swing. The handle itself has been moulded directly onto the head of the axe, so there’s no chance of separation even with heavy use.

The extra-sharp head is wonderfully crafted to split wood along its grain and is made from double-hardened quality steel. If you are a heavy user, you’ll also be pleased to learn that the blade can be easily sharpened, though you’ll need to buy a sharpening stone separately.

Given that this is a sharp blade, you’ll be pleased to learn that the axe comes with a storage unit and carry case to prevent freak accidents.

And remember – this is a powerful tool so use it correctly, and don’t go light on safety gear. Goggles, steel toe capped boots, shin and ear defenders are all strongly recommended during use.

Pros

  • Lightweight handle means you can chop wood for longer without tiring.
  • As efficient as they come – stubborn logs don’t stand a chance with this splitter.
  • Available in varying lengths which is great if you’re only after a lightweight (or heavyweight) splitter. See Fiskars guide to buying the right size for you here.
  • Comes with a storage unit and carry-case for safe storage.

Cons

  • Premium product means premium pricing.
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Value Pick: Spear & Jackson Log Splitter

A good quality splitting maul at a very reasonable price!

The Spear & Jackson model is more of a traditional maul for splitting wood. It has a hickory wood handle that is available in 4 sizes based on weight – all the way from 1.5lbs to 6.5lbs.

They also offer an ‘Axe & Splitter’ combo set which includes a red plastic wedge – ideal for offering a helping hand when splitting wood. This is pretty sharp and effective if you’re working with tougher logs than usual.

This product has been described as a ‘sledgehammer with a sharp end’ and we can see why. That maybe helps you to understand the force that can be generated swinging this maul, which has a heavy carbon steel head to drive into the wood.

Note that some users have reported issues with the head detaching from the handle or the hickory handle splitting during heavy use. The brand recommends soaking the head in water before use if the head is slightly loose, as the swelling of the wood should better bind the two together.

However, this is always a danger with wooden handled axes – they are not moulded together as they are with fibreglass. If you’re going to be putting your log splitter under some heavy wear-and-tear, we’d probably recommend paying a little bit extra for a fibreglass model.

Pros

  • Available in 4 different weights to suit different sized users.
  • Also comes with a wedge to help assist with tricky, stubborn logs.
  • Great value for money if you’re only looking for occasional use.

Cons

  • Some users have reported problems with the hickory handle splitting after heavy use.
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Roughneck Splitting Maul – Fibreglass Handle

The Roughneck Splitting Maul is a long-handled tool which comes in 4 weights between 1.1 – 8lbs. The greater the weight, the longer the handle, so make sure you’re adequately sized for whichever one you plan on buying.

The axe is heat-treated with deep forged steel and solid grips on both the head and the lower handle for secure handling. The handle itself is made from solid fibreglass, with a plastic cover.

This product is probably best suited if you’re working with smaller logs that have been dried and are easier to split. For bigger, ‘greener’ logs, this maul can struggle and the blade is easily blunted. That being said, if you use a wedge ‘grenade’ with the Roughneck, you shouldn’t have too much trouble splitting most woods.

Note that this product is also available in an economical ‘wood chopping kit; which features a long-length 6lb maul, a short-handled 1.1lb hand-axe for precision work and a wooden ‘grenade’ splitting wedge that can be hammered into logs for more intricate splitting. This is the ideal pick for those splitting varying types of wood that each need a different approach. Remember there’s more than one way to crack a nut!

Pros

  • Comes with a plastic blade guard to prevent injuries when not in use.
  • Available in a variety of sizes and at fairly low cost – especially for a tool with a fibreglass handle.
  • Polypropylene grips offer solid handling capabilities.

Cons

  • May struggle with bigger jobs.
  • The blade blunts easily.
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How to Split Wood Logs with An Axe

A splitting maul axe has been specially designed so that it can split along the grain of the wood, rather than across it as a felling axe does.

They are usually surprisingly light, with fibreglass models often weighing no more than 3kg. This makes them incredibly easy to handle and put significant power into the swing. As a general rule the heavier the axe, the more power in the swing and the easier it is to split logs.

The head of a splitting maul is designed so as not to get stuck in the wood. One problem you’ll experience if you try to use a felling axe to split wood is the axe repeatedly becoming stuck in the wood, making it difficult to use efficiently.

For this reason, you should always ensure that you’re using a specialised splitting axe for this task. Using the wrong tool can be dangerous, not to mention frustrating.

Ideally you’ll also need a chopping block. Your wood should already be cut to lengths of roughly 18-20 inches. Remember that the shorter the log, the easier it will split. So if you’re just starting out as a beginner, it’s probably better to cut these into shorter lengths as you get used to the motion.

Once you have your lengths of wood ready, you should follow these steps to split them into firewood:

  1. Set up your chopping block (ideally on a large, flat section of a tree’s trunk). This should be positioned roughly 8 inches off the ground, as this is the best height to chop the wood and protect you from splintering wood and any glancing rebounds. Make sure the chopping block is stable and on a secure footing.
  2. Put the piece of wood on its end so it’s standing tall on the chopping block. Make sure there’s no nails in the wood, as these can both blunt your axe and cause damage if they fly out during splitting.
  3. Line up your swing so that when you swing down with fully straight arms, you hit a target right in the middle-centre of the log.
  4. Remember that splitting a log is not about strength, it’s about technique. You don’t need to swing behind your head as you’ll lose your aim. Hold the axe with your non-favoured hand at the end of the handle, and with your favoured hand near the head of the axe. Flex your knees and lift straight above your head, keeping your arms straight. Slide your favoured hand down until both are resting near the end of the handle, then bring your hands down, letting gravity do its thing. It’s a difficult technique to learn at first, but highly effective once you’ve got it nailed down. See this video for some great practical advice when splitting wood.
  5. NEVER just swing wildly at the log. You’ll likely cause an accident and it isn’t very effective.

Split wood burns easier, and you should now have ample supplies for a roaring fire. Once lit, sit back and enjoy the incredibly satisfying fruits of your labour!

About the author

Dean Wilson

I'm an avid gardener and home DIY enthusiast from Yorkshire in the North of England. I'm passionate about helping our readers get out into their gardens - by making the most of the outdoors and ensuring they get the best possible deals on their gardening equipment. I also believe strongly in the preservation of our beautiful garden wildlife.

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