Splitting Axe vs Maul: What’s the Difference?

Both splitting axes and mauls are great tools that can be used to split wood. Axes have a sharp blade on end, making for chopping or hacking at tree limbs. Mauls are larger than axes, have a heavy wedge-shaped head (similar to an ax), and have a long handle.

But the question is, are you better off using a maul or an ax to split logs? Which one is better? Can splitting ax be used in place of a maul and vice versa? Should you consider buying a splitting ax or buying a maul instead?

These are the questions we will answer in this article. First, we will understand each in terms of their usage. Second, we should know the differences between a splitting ax and a maul.

Then, we will tell you the advantages of using each one. Finally, we will compare splitting axes vs. mauls and tell you which one will be better to use or whether it would be better to use both tools.

What is a Splitting Axe?

Before you start splitting wood with an axe, it is essential to know what a splitting axe is. An ax can split logs if its head has a sharp blade, wedge-shaped. It also has a long handle enough for you to strike the piece of wood from far away while keeping your hands away.

The cutting edge of the splitting axe is usually wider and thinner, which allows it to penetrate deeper into the wood before encountering serious resistance. A splitting axe often has a wooden handle, although some may have fiberglass or a metal handle.

Unique Features of a Splitting Axe

Before investing in a splitting axe, knowing what makes it unique is essential. So, here are the essential features that make a splitting axe unique:

 Sharp BladeThe blade of a splitting axe is thin and wedge-shaped. This allows the head to penetrate deep into the wood with less resistance, thus making it easier to split the wood apart. Its blade is made from carbon steel, alloyed with various metals. 
Works Best on Dry WoodThe splitting axe works best when dry. Although it can work on other types of wood, its performance will be much better if you use it on dry wood.
ComfortThe handle of a splitting axe usually has a smaller circumference, making it easy to hold the tool.
LightweightAxes are lightweight and easy to handle. The lighter weight contributes to the ease of using it for splitting wood.
Balanced Power to Weight RatioIt has a power-to-weight ratio that is better than other tools. It can split wood apart more quickly and efficiently than other heavy mauls.
Multi-Purpose UsageThe best thing about axes is that they can be used for various things. You can chop, split, and chop wood with one tool.
Weighted HeadIts head is made of steel or iron, making it heavier than other axes. Some splitting axes may even have non-ferrous heads.
Cutting EdgeSince its blade is sharp, you can expect it to easily cut through wood.
Shock-ResistanceA splitting axe is designed to be shock-resistant. It is made of heavy materials, sturdy enough to absorb shocks.

How Does a Splitting Axe Work?

The splitting axe works by pushing the blade into the wood. Then, the user pulls the handle to remove it from the wood. The pulling motion separates the wood fibers and makes them easier to split.

In addition, you don’t have to apply a lot of force to make it work. The blade has a larger surface area, and it doesn’t penetrate very deep into the wood.

Pros of Using a Splitting Axe:

  1. Fast: One of the best things about splitting axes is that they can quickly split wood apart.
  2. Accurate: A splitting axe is also accurate because it penetrates deep into the wood before being pulled out.
  3. Small Targets: You can split small pieces of wood with a splitting axe. This makes it a versatile tool.
  4. Portable: Splitting axe is lightweight and easy to transport from one place to another. It can easily be carried around and stored in a tool shed.
  5. Durable: It is made of strong materials, making it durable. For instance, its wooden handle can be made of hickory or ash, among the best materials for handles.

Cons of Using a Splitting Axe:

  1. Difficult to Master the Skill: Although splitting axe is easy to use, it can be difficult to master. In addition, it is very dangerous for beginners, so they should avoid using it until they get the hang of it.
  2. Requires Strength: Applying the proper force is important when using a splitting axe. This means you need to have plenty of strength and endurance before using it daily.

Now you know some of the best things about a splitting ax; let’s talk about a maul.

What is a Maul?

A maul, also known as a sledgehammer, is a large tool used in carpentry and demolition. It has a heavy metal head made of steel or iron, making it durable and strong. 

A maul has a large head with a flat end, making it easier to apply force. It has a long handle which is about 50 inches in most cases. This means you can apply more force to it, making it very efficient. Its head is usually inserted into the handle, which is why it’s called a hafted sledgehammer.

Unique Features of Maul

Head Inserted into the HandleA maul is inserted into the handle, making it stronger than other sledgehammers.
Havier Than Other Types of HammersMaul is often heavier than other types of hammers, which means you can increase your swings’ force faster.
Its Quality Lies in its HeavinessIt’s blunt and fat: The maul is the opposite of a splitting ax. It is blunt and fat, which makes it easier to use.
SafetySince the maul has a larger handle and a flat head, it’s safer than other types of hammers.
Unique DesignA splitting maul has a unique design that makes it different from other axes. The best way to tell if a maul is good is to check its weight. If it is heavier, it’s a better maul for splitting wood.
Easier to AimIt’s easier to aim since its head is flat. This means you can swing it in a straight line, making it more efficient when splitting wood into smaller pieces.
Great for Oversized PiecesIt’s great for splitting wood because it has a flat head which is better for splitting large pieces of wood.
Long HandleA maul is long and can be used to increase the force of your swings. You can use the momentum of your body to swing it, making it easier for you to apply force.
Heavy HeadIt has a heavy head made of steel or iron. Therefore, it can hit objects with more force than other hammers.

How Does a Maul Work?

When splitting wood with a maul, you hold the handle and hit it against the wood you want to split. You can also use it on logs, branches, and roots. Experts advise using a maul after you chop wood with an ax so you can split larger pieces of wood.

Pros of Using a Maul:

  1. Efficient: Maul is efficient because it can quickly split wood. Therefore, you do not have to spend much time splitting your firewood into smaller pieces.
  2. Ease of Use: A maul is the best because it can hit logs and branches without chopping them.
  3. Wider Cutting Area: Its wide head means it will have a wider cutting area because of the flat surface.
  4. Long Lasting: A maul can last for a very long time. You can use it for years without replacing it, making it more reliable than other axes and splitting tools.
  5. Better for Larger Pieces of Wood: Maul is better for splitting larger pieces of wood because of its long handle and heavier blades.

Cons of Using a Maul:

  1. Not Safe to Use: A maul is unsafe for use because you can seriously injure yourself if it slips out of your hands while using it. Therefore, you have to be careful when using it while splitting wood.
  2. Being Fat Makes It Difficult to Use: Since a maul is fat, it is difficult to hit the wood at the perfect spot. You may find that your maul hits the wood at a different place from where you want it to hit.

What is the Difference Between a Splitting Maul and an Axe?

A splitting maul and an ax are both tools that can split wood into smaller pieces. However, they have different things you need to know.

  • An axe is lightweight, while a maul is heavy. Therefore, you must consider your strength and desire to split between the two.
  • An axe is excellent for splitting medium-sized pieces of wood, while a maul can split big logs.
  • Axe has a sharp blade, while a maul does not. When you use it, the ax will cut through wood smoothly. A maul, on the other hand, is blunt. It just knocks through logs and branches without cutting them into smaller pieces.
  • As for safety, an ax is safer to use than a splitting maul because of its sharp blade. An ax is a better choice if you want to lessen the risk of injury.
  • A maul can last many years without being replaced, making it a more reliable option.

So there you have the differences between a splitting maul and an ax, which means that when choosing between the two, you have to consider your own needs and choose the best one for your purposes.

If it still doubts you and you don’t understand the basic difference, check out this explanatory video:

Is a Maul or Axe Better for Splitting Wood?

It depends on your preferences. Some people prefer to use a maul, while others prefer an axe. As mentioned above, they have their pros and cons.

But we would suggest an axe. Chopping with an ax is more efficient than splitting with a maul because you can cut small pieces quickly.

And we would certainly recommend using an ax if you’re only chopping wood for fire purposes, such as making a fire or using it for cooking.

But if you want to chop wood for building purposes or to chop hardwood, then splitting it with a maul is the best choice. Usually, we recommend an ax for more frequent use and a maul for those who occasionally cut heavier wood.

Things You Should Consider When Buying an Axe

There are a few things you should consider when buying an ax. To choose the best axe, follow these tips below:

  • The Purpose

One of the most important things you should consider when choosing an axe is what you want to use it for. There are many types of axes, and you need to choose the best one for your situation.  

  • Your Skills

A splitting axe is great for beginners with a less skilled background. However, if you are an experienced woodsman and purchasing for your use, you can choose a double-bit axe.

  • Double or Single Bit

There are single-bit axes and double-bits. You need to choose the one that is best for your purpose. Single-bit axes are good for chopping firewood and throwing. It’s also a good axe if you prefer a lighter weight.

Double-bit axes are preferable if you want a faster cut with less hand strain because it has a greater cutting velocity. You can cut more quickly than with a single-bit ax. But double-bit axes usually weigh more and are not as suitable for throwing.

  • The Shape of the Axe

The shape of the axe is essential. There are two types to choose from long-handled axes and short-handled axes. Which one is better for you will depend on your needs.

  • The Handle Length

Axe handles are usually smaller than a maul, so it might not be easy to use if you have a larger stature. Therefore, choose the handle length that is suitable for your height.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Purpose of a Splitting Maul?

A splitting maul has a wedge shape with a long handle designed to split wood. It can be used for chopping and splitting hardwood logs into smaller pieces.

What Kind Of Maintenance Does An Axe Require?

An axe is an investment. If you want it to last many years, keep your ax sharpened and dry when not in use. To keep your ax sharpened, you need to use a file or whetstone to grind the blade’s edges.

How To Swing A Splitting Axe?

Make sure that you’re standing in an upright position with your feet shoulder-width apart. Swing the ax downward, right into the wood without stopping.

How To Take Care Of A Splitting Axe?

Keep it sharpened and dry when not in use to take care of a splitting ax. To sharpen your ax, you need to use a file or whetstone to grind the blade’s edges.

How To Use A Splitting Maul?

It’s best to learn how to use a splitting maul from someone who has experience using this ax. However, here is some general advice:

Make sure you’re standing upright with your feet shoulder-width apart. Swing the axe downward, right into the wood without stopping.

What Kind Of Axe Is Best For Splitting Wood?

Splitting axes are popular for splitting wood, but a splitting maul is also a good alternative. Also, consider a hybrid splitting axe that can be used for splitting and chopping.

How To Replace A Splitting Maul Handle?

First, place the splitting maul head on the ground. Then, use a wedge to pry out the old handle. Next, drive the new handle and use a wedge to keep it in place. Finally, sand the end of the new handle for comfort.

What Is The Best Splitting Maul Handle Length?

The best handle length for a maul is between 36 and 38 inches high. A longer handle provides more torque but can’t get into tight spaces. A shorter handle offers more control but can result in less power.

What Size Handle Should I Buy For A Splitting Axe?

The haft size should correspond with the person’s height. The best ratio is to have your elbow at a 90-degree angle and then select a handle size so that it reaches from your fist to the ground.


So which is better? The answer to this question largely depends on the type of wood you are splitting. Axes and mauls have pros and cons, so it’s up to you which will work best for your needs.

If you’re looking for a tool that can be used in different situations (for example, if you need something light enough to chop tree limbs or heavy enough to split logs), then an ax might be more useful than a maul.

However, when chopping at large pieces of timber, such as trees or branches with knots, axes may not always be able to cut through these tough areas while they would still cleave cleanly with a good swing from your maul blade.

Regardless of the size of lumber you’re working with, always use the appropriate tool for the job.