Unfortunately, there are no axes made in Canada today (outside of custom shops). But we do have a decent selection of splitting axes from international makers available to us.
There are a range of unique designs, sizes, and options to consider when getting a splitting axe. I own or have swing time with almost all the axes on this list, and have tried to break down the strengths and weaknesses I have experienced through hands-on experience.
Fiskars is Hard to Beat
Fiskars splitting axes perform really well and in my opinion, are the best “bang for your buck” on the market.
The flared head spreads the wood apart quickly and is tapered on the corners to help twist and pry stubborn wood apart. The blade begins as a thinner edge, which helps penetrate better and makes splitting smaller pieces easier without needing full-force swings.
This thin edge can be a little “sticky” if the log doesn’t split, but I find the trade-off worth it.
But besides performance, one of my favourite things about Fiskars axes is they need very little maintenance.
The composite handle is (mostly) indestructible. You don’t need to worry about overstrikes; you can use it to help pry apart stubborn wood. Rain and snow are non-issues, and it’s nice to throw the axe back in the garage and not care. You will likely get a little rust on the blade as the coating starts to wear off – but it doesn’t really matter.
I have many nice axes with wooden handles that need oiling, proper storage, and more care to avoid hitting the handle – but none of that matters with Fiskars. They cost less, and they just work.
The Fiskars design also feels incredibly light and easy to carry around compared to some other models. The largest heads are 4 lbs, and the composite handles weigh almost nothing.
Which Fiskars Splitting Axe?
Fiskars offers a whopping 8 models of splitting axe, you can learn more about the different models and how to choose here (I own them all). I always choose the orange-handled versions over the all-black. The orange grip is rubberized and makes a surprisingly big difference in perceived vibrations in your hands.
My favourite combo is the X25 with the 8lb Maul for backup, but I recommend the incredibly popular full-size X27 as a primary splitting axe. See the X27 on Amazon, or you can find them at most hardware stores.
Ochsenkopf is a Heavy Hitter
While there are other Ochsenkopf models out in the world, the Spalt-fix is the only one (seemingly) on the Canadian market. Lucky for us, it’s a heavy-duty, wood-handled splitting machine.
With a 6lbs head, the Spalt-Fix is heavier than many other splitting axes (and as heavy as some mauls). It doesn’t have any fancy ramps or bevels, it’s just a big, fat, heavy wedge that works.
On large logs, it delivers more one-hit splits than any other axe I’ve used. The fat wedge doesn’t get stuck, and the 31″ Ash handle is the perfect length. Long enough to gain power, but short enough to keep it more nimble and faster to use.
However, the handle is very fat, and covered in varnish (removing it is on my to-do list). This is less of an issue for a splitting axe but still is quite noticeable. And it only comes with a little pleather sheath, which is not great, but better than nothing.
The downside of this axe is similar to that of a maul. The extra head weight that makes it so good for large logs, makes it cumbersome and less efficient for small ones. There is no way to use this axe on smaller pieces without it feeling like overkill.
But if you have a lot of large logs to split, I would take a good look at this axe – even over the Fiskars. The Splat-Fix is excellent and can be found at Lee Valley (no affiliation).
Stihl Splitting Axes are made by Ochsenkopf
Steel axes are just re-branded Ochsenkopfs – so if you have Stihl axes available to you they will be just as good. There is also a version of the splitter that has a metal overstrike guard available.
Gransfors Bruk is Heirloom Quality
Gransfors Bruk are certainly the nicest (and most expensive) axes on this list. They are hand forged and assembled in Sweden, and the fit and finish are unparalleled by any other axe maker on this list.
I am a full believer in paying for heirloom quality tools like this – BUT, it’s important to understand what you are getting. These axes are great, but don’t expect just because they cost twice as much they will perform twice as well.
You are paying for craftsmanship, not performance.
The design of Gransfors Bruk splitting axes is similar to the Fiskars (performing in much the same way), with a flaring design that has a thin, sharp bit that ramps outward.
The steel is hard and holds a keen edge longer than the cheaper axes, and the Hickory handle is waxed, and comes with a metal collar to protect from over-strikes. They also come with a nice light leather sheath.
There is a little extra work to keep these heirloom quality tools well-oiled and clean – but that is part of the fun.
Which Model of Gransfors Splitting Axe?
The Gransfors Bruk splitting axes are a little lighter than the other axes on this list. The large models only have a 3.5 lb head and can come with either a 27″ curved handle or a 31″ straight handle. This means they may struggle a little more on really big logs but are still well suited to the woodpile.
The Gransfors maul is lighter than most mauls and even some splitting axes with a 5.5 lb head. To me, this brings it into consideration as a primary splitting axe and would be my choice. The maul also has a hardened poll, so it can be used to hammer wedges.
Adler High-Value German Design
Adler axes are made in Germany, I believe by the same factory that makes the much more expensive Helko Work axes. They are well-made with good steel, and nice hickory handles, and come with decent leather sheaths.
Overall fit and finish is nicer than the Ochsenkopf, but not as nice as the Gransfors – and the price reflects that as well (a little more money than the first, and a fair amount less than the second).
Alder are a little harder to find in Canada, but they have a good reputation and the quality level you get for the price is good-value in my books.
The Super splitter is heavy duty, with a 6.2lb head, with another big wedge design. However, it has a distinct point at the bottom of the blade that allows you to use it to help move and position logs (a neat feature it has over the oxhead).
The German Splitter uses an iconic German pattern that is quite popular today that (although it’s not my favourite), that works well in most scenarios. The head is 4 lbs which makes it easier to swing for extended periods.
They are available at the Arborist Store
(no affiliate and I have not purchased from them before)
Husky’s (Cheap) Super Splitter
Husky is the cheap “owned brand” of Home Depot.
If you want a cheap splitting axe – this is the one I would get. It has a similar flared design as the Fiskars, with a similar weight, and a 34″ Handle (which I like more than 36″). It will not be as durable, come as sharp, or be made with the same level of materials – but the design is sound.
The handle is a more traditional fiberglass design, so it won’t be as strong or reduce the vibrations as much as a Fiskars. But it will still have all the same low-maintenance benefits.
Here is the listing on their website (no affiliation).
These aren’t even bad axes (I am not bothering to write about bad axes). Just axes that need additional consideration, or have limitations.
Hultafors Swedish Splitting Axes
I hate putting this brand down here, as they are one of my favourite axe makers. However, the head design of the Swedish splitting axes takes some getting used to and is not always a great fit for big Canadian trees.
The head design is a long diamond pattern, which is well suited for small to mid-size softwood trees (similar to that of Sweden), but struggles on larger and harder types of wood. Beyond that, the geometry is just different than a typical North American axe and takes getting used to.
I have had some days where it works fine for me, but more often than not I don’t swing these as confidently as other designs.
Husqvarna Splitting Axes
Husqvarna uses the same designs as Hultafors, as they were made by Hultafors for a long time. I have seen some evidence they are now made by Prandi (Italy), but the design remains the same.
Garant Splitting Axes
The axes themselves are fine. I actually really like Garant handles (even though they are fat and varnished). My only issue is the price. The last time I looked they were like $90 from Canadian Tire, which is crazy.
The heads are made in China and handles in Mexico. So $50 sure, but $90 – forget it.
Please comment below If I missed something or if you have any questions. I do my best to respond to everyone.