Buyers Guide to Best Splitting Mauls: Matching the Splitter to the Job
Splitting mauls are one of those basic farm and garden tools that no wood-lot owner wants to be without. You might think that such a basic tool would be easy to locate and to buy – but such might not be the case. There are a variety of splitting mauls available. The key is to buying the best splitting maul is to fit the splitting maul to you and to the job.
There is a wide range of products available on the market today, and below I have reviewed 5 of the very best options.
**Below, you will find more detailed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices and read customer reviews on Amazon.
Using and Selecting a Splitting Maul
Splitting mauls usually have two tasks: splitting wood or pounding in stakes or fence posts, or driving wedges. Some splitting mauls are designed to be multi-use implements, while others are designed primarily to split wood. The latter are sometimes more properly called splitting axes.
Knowing the job for which you are selecting a splitting maul is half the battle of choosing one that will work for you. The other half of the battle is finding one that you can lift and swing, and that will still do the job.
The primary job of most splitting mauls is to split wood. In most cases, this means reducing round logs of stove wood to a girth that will fit into a wood burning stove. For a small furnace or heater, a size that is about four or five inches across is a nice sized log that will burn evenly. For wood cooking ranges, the wood needs to be split down to three or four inches across the end (and usually cut to a shorter length than a heater or furnace) in order for it to fit into the cooking range’s smaller fire box. In many cases, a splitting axe is a better implement than a splitting maul for splitting such wood.
However, if the wood has a large circumference or if you are splitting longer sticks of hardwood, a maul and even a set of wedges might be advisable.
Firewood is not the only reason to split wood. Rail fences, hand-made shingles and even slats for handmade chair seats can be made by splitting wood. This type of wood splitting requires a finer touch than just swinging a heavy maul at the end of a sawn log. This is where a nice set of wedges, and perhaps even an adze come into play.
If your splitting maul is going to be used to pound things, such as tent stakes, fence posts or wedges, then you need an actual splitting maul. A real splitting maul is a rugged implement that has a moderately blunt splitting wedge on one side, and a heavy-duty hammer face on the other. It will have the brute strength to smash its way through a log, and it will also have the weight needed to thump on the top end of a wooden fence post to drive it into the ground.
A splitting maul can be used to drive metal wedges – something you do not want to do with your splitting axe. You can even tap gently on its hammer end with a sledge hammer to break it lose if it sticks in a big log. It is made for that sort of abuse.
A splitting axe is best used on straight grained wood. The wood can be seasoned or unseasoned. Even though the splitting axe is sharper than your ordinary maul, it still uses its wedge shape to force the wood apart along the grain. The difference is that the sharp blade can make a finer cut. This makes it ideal for cutting fine splints to use for kindling or for chair seats.
Other tools that are used in squaring lumber or in making fine splints or even shingles are the adze (a sort of hoe-shaped implement) or a froe – a long blade that makes an L shape from its handle.
A splitting axe should not be wiggled from side to side in a cut, nor should it be hit with another metal implement. Because of its fine, wedge shape with a hole for the handle worked through it, that kind of abuse can cause the axe head to break.
Taking Care of Your Splitting Maul or Splitting Axe
Treat your splitting maul or your splitting axe with the same care you would a fine pocket knife, a good set of chisels or any other tool. Never leave your axe out-of-doors in wet weather. Water is a powerful element – especially when it turns to ice. A wet, wooden handle than has frozen can expand and break the axe head. Furthermore, a weathered handle can develop splinters – something that is absolutely no fun to discover while you are trying to split wood!
A splitting maul does not need to be as sharp as an axe, but it might occasionally need sharpening. Since it only needs sharpened lightly, you are likely to only need a whet stone to bring its edge to the proper bevel. A splitting axe might need a little more edge, but again, it is intended to force the wood apart along the grain, not to cut across it. Therefore, it does not need to be as sharp as a cutting axe.
After use, clean off any tree sap and make sure the metal head of the maul is dry. If you notice rust on it, run a bit of sand paper over it lightly and wipe it down with a little 3-in-1 oil. You won’t need a lot – just enough to protect the metal.
Fiberglass handles won’t need the same kind of care as wooden handles, but it is a good idea to check them over and to wipe them down. Accumulated gunk doesn’t help your grip. If your wooden handle seems to be a little rough, give it a light rub with some sandpaper, and lightly wipe a little linseed oil over it. Let it dry before using it.
Selecting a Maul for Your Own Use
If you have never used a splitting maul before, talk to a friend or neighbor and get some coaching in how to use one before you tackle that load of firewood. If you don’t know anyone, see if your local extension office or hardware gives lessons in how to use these basic tools.
At the very least, make a field trip to your local hardware or farm supply store. Talk to someone in the hardware department, pick up a maul and feel the weight of it. If there is room, try an experimental swing or two (but only if there is enough room).
Unless you are a large, athletic person, you will want to select a splitting maul that is a compromise between one that is heavy enough to make an impression on a stick of wood, and one that is light enough that you can easily use it to make twenty or thirty swings with it before getting too tired to carry on.
Your beginning maul doesn’t have to be an expensive one. You can expect to make some mistakes with it before you become skilled at splitting wood. You can minimize those mistakes, however, by paying attention to wood splitting safety. Wear safety googles, work gloves and a good pair of work boots. Always keep children and pets away from your work area.
Take your time, use the weight of the maul to do most of the work, and be patient. Learning to split wood takes some practice. As the old-timers used to say, however, wood is the fuel that warms you twice: first through exercise, and then through enjoyment of a warm, wood fire.
Product Reviews – The Best Splitting Maul
The Fiskars Iso Core maul is a well-designed, modern tool. The blade is designed to sink smoothly into logs and pop them apart. The head side is ideal for driving stakes or wedges. What makes this maul unique is the insulation sleeve that captures the shock before it hits your hand and travels up your arm. Handle texturing improves grip and reduces chance of blistering, while overall handle design is designed for a comfortable swing. Riveted head will not slip down or slide off.
- Blade designed to sink smoothly into wood
- Flat pounding surface for stakes or wedges
- Ergonomic handle design
- Riveted head
- Plastic collar is easy to damage
- Missed strikes can cause handle to break
The Husqvarna splitting maul is a 7.2 pound maul that is remarkably like the one your grandfather (or grandmother) used back when wood was the main heating source in most households. The head is designed with a no-nonsense cutting wedge on one side, and solid hammer face on the other. It has a short (30 – 31 inch) handle made of hardwood. The wood handle comes unfinished, and might benefit from linseed oil or varnish for weather protection.
- Solid, traditional head shape
- Hardwood handle
- Short handle increases accuracy
- Short handle might be disadvantage for tall users
- Handle requires finishing
The Gransfors Bruks splitting maul is a beautiful addition to your wood cutting arsenal. Better yet, it is a sturdy, well-designed implement. The cutting edge is slender for better wood penetration, and the hammer face is a narrow 2 ½ inches. At 5.5 pounds, it doesn’t have the brute force that some of the larger mauls can deliver, but the neat edge means that you don’t really need it. The metal cuff near the head protects the handle from miss-swings. Some users report that this is more like a splitting axe than a maul.
- Neat, well-made head
- Sharp edge for easier cutting
- Metal cuff on handle near head
- 31” hickory
- Very expensive compared to other mauls
- Wooden handle can break
- Not as rugged as heavier mauls
This maul resembles a single-bitted axe, with its slender blade and narrow, flat hammer face. The head is high-grade German steel, and the handle, made in Switzerland, is American Hickory. The ergonomic handle design provides excellent balance for an easy swing. The head weighs 6.5 pounds, and the handle is 36” long – an advantage for taller users.
- Well-designed head cuts through wood easily
- Balanced handy relieves fatigue
- Quality materials
- Handle long enough for tall users
- Price – quality costs
- Cannot be handled roughly
- Carbon steel can break
The B.A.S.H splitting maul is well named. At 8 pounds, it will give the user quite a workout. However, it is also an excellent tool for use on heavy logs. Once you get it up in the air, gravity will do the rest. All you have to do is direct it to the right spot. The head is drop-forged. Some users comment that it is a little bit more narrow that is truly desirable in a splitter. However, the handle more than makes up for the lack. It has a steel core inside the fiberglass exterior to prevent it from breaking. If you have trouble with broken handles on your splitting maul, this might be the answer to your problems.
- Drop-forged head
- Steel core handle
- Anti-vibration neck
- Extremely heavy
- Narrow splitting head
Choosing the Best Splitting Maul for Money
My personal choice of these splitting mauls and axes, is the Husqvarna Splitting Maul. It isn’t the most expensive, the flashiest or even the lightest of the tools listed here. But you can use it as a regular splitting maul – even though at 7.5 pounds you might wear out a little more quickly than with a six pounder – and you can safely use it as a maul. The wooden handle can be easily replaced by making a trip to your local farm supply, or – if faced with a zombie apocalypse or other supply threatening disaster – you can season and whittle out your own handle. It isn’t as finely crafted as the Helko Vario, or as heavy as the Fiskars. It is a basic, all-round tool, which is what I want in a splitting maul.