When I started I didn’t know whether I needed a splitting axe or a maul – so I bought both.
Now that I’ve been using them I get the differences.
A splitting axe like the Fiskars X27 should be your main splitting tool. They can split large logs and be swung for hours. The IsoCore Maul supports the axe but is not for all-day use. But its weight and unique design can force apart the hardest wood and be used with splitting wedges.
I’ll elaborate on the differences further down, but here are the details at a glance:
Differences between the Fiskars X27 and Maul
|Cutting edge||Flat grind||Convex grind|
|Handle||Hollow composite||Steel core composite|
|Use with wedges||No||Yes|
Both of these are tools are a similar price, but the maul is usually about $5 cheaper. However, don’t go by price – go by what you really need.
Why use a splitting axe and not a Maul?
The flared splitting axes can handle large logs
Big logs are no problem for the large Fiskars splitting axes.
The flared splitting head forces the grain apart, and the composite handle is great for prying stubborn wood apart (if needed).
They are capable of splitting 2+ foot logs in half but remember you don’t need to start in the middle. You can split off chunks around edges, working your way in.
Splitting axes are more efficient than mauls
Splitting big rounds is great, but most of the work comes in the following swings.
The axes are much easier to handle when splitting all the smaller pieces of wood. You need increasing accuracy as pieces of wood get smaller, and that is a lot easier with an axe than the heavy Maul.
I’m sure someone out there will say they swing the 8lb maul all day long “no problem”. If that’s true, good on ‘em, but what a waste of energy.
I typically recommend the X27 splitting axe. It offers the most power, but is still quite light. Plus the 36″ handle is safest. See the X27 on amazon.
However I often grab the 28″ long X25 over the 36″ X27. While the X27 is more powerful (and popular) I find the shorter handle is more nimble around the woodpile. But the the shorter length also makes the X25 more dangerous if used improperly.
But I also have the Maul for backup if I need it.
I have a good article with more details about how to pick the right Fiskars splitting axe.
When do you need the maul?
While the axes are great, it can certainly be useful to have a maul around for support.
Use a maul to split tough wood, then switch back to the axe
You can get some very tough wood that can leave your axe just bouncing off – or sticking in with little progress. So that’s where the Maul can step in to support.
If you have a lot of really large or tough logs you might start with the maul and split them all into more manageable pieces before switching to the axe.
Especially if (like me) you decide to make a smaller splitting axe your primary tool. Since the majority of the swings are happening once the largest pieces are broken apart.
Use the maul with wedges
If you have some really big pieces that require splitting wedges. The maul can double as a big sledgehammer to drive wedges in.
A maul should still not be hammered on if it gets stuck – but they will handle it much better than an axe. While they are hardened, they can still shatter and pieces can break off because both tools are so hard. Wedges on the other hand are deliberately softer than the maul, so it’s safe to use.
The axes have a small unhardened pole that will deform with hammering. More details on the differences are below.
Key differences between the axe and maul
There are some key differences between the Fiskars splitting axes and mauls other than just weight. These features also make these axes and maul some of the best on the market (especially for the price).
The axes have a sharp cutting edge
The axes come sharp with a 30-degree flat grind edge. Having a sharp edge can be useful even on a splitting axe for cutting through knotty or stringy wood.
The edge of the maul isn’t sharp, but it comes to a point with a stronger convex grind to concentrate the force. The maul relies on the power from the heavy head more than sharpness. The blade also has more curve to it than the axes to concentrate the force even further.
The maul has massive flared cheeks
Flared cheeks are great for a splitting device as they ramp the two sides of the wood out while reducing friction compared to standard a wedge shape.
The axes have nice big flared cheeks that ramp out to be 1.6 inches across at the widest point. But they also don’t cover the entire cheek of the axe, they taper back in.
These tapered edges give you a leverage point for the head to be twisted and rocked – either to free a stuck axe or pry apart some stubborn wood.
The maul just has massive flared cheeks that span 3 inches at the peak. It’s split or bust with the maul, but if it gets wedged into some stubborn wood you have another option.
You can use the maul as a sledge
You can see there is quite a difference in the pole (back of the head).
On the Fiskars axes, the pole is small and not hardened. So it should not be used as or with a hammer. It would damage the axe.
The IsoCore mauls are a different story. It has a large 3-inch hardened pole that is designed to be walloped.
If the maul gets stuck, you can hammer on it with a sledgehammer to complete the splitting. Or you can hammer on metal splitting wedges to split large pieces of wood.
Differences in head attachment
The axe heads are molded into the composite handle with the handle wrapping all around it.
The maul head has the handle go through it like a traditional axe, but it’s got an extra securing pin that goes through the steel core of the handle. So it’s not going anywhere.
The handles are similar but different
The top handle is the maul, the bottom is the splitting axe.
The axe handles are hollow composite. They are strong and light and do a decent job of reducing vibration. The large flare at the bottom of the handle locks the axe in your hands making fast repetitive strikes easier.
The axe grips are coated with a thin orange rubber over-mold which is easier on the hands and is better in cold weather.
The all-black models just have a textured composite grip, but I recommend the X-series with the orange grip. It’s easier on the hands and only costs a couple of dollars more.
The maul handles have an outer composite layer that covers a steel core. The steel core is needed to handle the weight and impact of the large head. This hybrid solution reduces the perceived vibration over traditional maul handles but is worse than the Fiskars splitting axe.
The grip is much more heavily padded and rubberized to help with this.
If I missed something or you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment below. I do my best to respond to everyone.
About the author:
I’m just a guy who likes axes – as a tool, the craft of restoring them, and the history. I got tired of only finding crappy websites, so I set out to build a better one myself.
Jim Bell. – Owner, Creator