Fiskars splitting axe, 36"
I've been extremely pleased. For what that's worth!
I have always used traditional wooden handled axes and mauls before this one, and still like the feel of wood better. Wood takes the shock of impact in a different way.
I have tried some fiberglass handled splitting mauls and they perform well, and they are practically unbreakable.
One thing to consider when you are purchasing an axe or maul if it has a wood handle is the grain. When you look down at the sharp edge of your axe head, your handle grain should be visible in long lines down the length of your handle. The lines should go down the thin part of the handle, and any curves should be on the flatter sides of the handle. If you see curves of grain on this narrow edge of the handle, it is very likely to break and peel off at one of these lines with a hard impact. Good axe makers will never put a crappy grained handle on an axe, but many manufacturers go the cheap route, don't have quality control in this department, and the result is that you will be re-handling your tool, at your expense, way too soon.
In order to facilitate a longer handle life, I take a rubber bicycle tube and wrap it around the handle on the bottom six or so inches, near the head. This is the area that a person is most apt to impact if they make an aiming mistake with their swing. Good technique has solely the axe head connecting with the wood, never the handle, but mistakes happen, and if you have many new people who want to split wood and don't have as much experience as they say they do (woofers!), mistakes happen a little more often than a tool owner might like. The rubber tube acts as a bumper, absorbing the shock of a bad hit and thus extending the life of the handle.
If you have time to peruse Wranglestar's youtube stuff (Search: Wranglestar Axe Review) you will find a number of excellent youtube shows about axes, hows, whys, and whats.
I split everything with a regular single bit axe except the sections that have knots or forks. That's where the super maul comes in. To bust up that knotty wood it's all about brute force. Heavy head and a wide angle blows the logs apart opposed to a sharper splitting maul that busts into the log and just gets stuck about halfway in.
I wrapped the whole handle in the same tape you wrap bike handle bars or baseball bat handles.
If I hit a round and my maul just bounces off. It's still to green or wet. I'll throw it off to the side and when I stack my wood pile that'll form the base. By the time I get to those big rounds near the end of the winter they'll generally will be dried out enough to split easy. Or at the very least I'll be fresh and go out and throw a few hits on it. Worst case scenario I take the chainsaw and cut a few grooves in the end of the log to set my wedges and put the biggest sledgehammer i have to it.
1.Frozen wood is easier to split.
2. Rather than a block of wood as a splitting block, try a piece of thick plywood on a solid concrete pad. This greatly reduces bounce or ground mushing. All of the energy goes into the splitting. Since the plywood is at ground level, the length of stroke is longer. This allows the maul to hit with more force.
I can also offer the perspective of a dedicated wood "splitter" that is female and not so young. This is the first maul that I have felt gave me good control and accuracy. Youth and energy can overcome a lot of deficiencies in tools, but I need to make the most of my efforts. The Grandsfors Bruk is light enough to use for an extended period with a 5 ½ pound head. There is a built in steel shield to protect the wooden handle from mis-strikes. The wooden handle is 31 inches and works well for me or my 6’ 2” husband. The wooded handle absorbs the shock compared to metal or fiberglass handles. The very sharp blade holds an edge very well and the concave shape has a remarkable ability to split green or seasoned rounds. Some younger (and stronger) friends have been rapid converts and realized they could leave a mechanical splitter in the dust. We are in central Alaska where birch and spruce predominate that are easier to split than many southern woods, but black spruce can be very tenacious. The company also makes a spitting wedge with a twisted shape, a very sharp blade and a unique profile. Our experience with the carving hatchet and bowl adz has also been excellent. Amortized over the many cords split, the maul has been a pretty good deal. I sound like a paid sales person for the company, which I am not but I would take some free samples if the company is listening .
As far as technique, I use an old tire to contain the rounds for splitting, and, as Dale notes, a little cold and the longer strike distance to the rounds near the ground makes short work of this chore. It is also safer than practice, where the rounds on the stump my lead to more dangerous arc for the maul if there is a misdirected blow.
Bang for the buck though, has to go to Fiskars.
Roberto pokachinni wrote:I don't have any Grandsfors axes in my collection, but I would like to. These are TOP quality, hand forged, hand made, and stamped with the makers initials. They are the real deal, and I have chopped with a few of them at my uncles place. Awesome.
Bang for the buck though, has to go to Fiskars.
This may be straying a tad away from the topic, but I love this video so much I can't help it. I do some blacksmithing. I've made a couple axes the slow way (with hand hammers). This video gives me a physical reaction when I watch it.
Most of my firewood is knotty, so gransfors gets the most use at my place.
Roberto pokachinni wrote:
Bang for the buck though, has to go to Fiskars.
I like the fiskars x27, long splitting axe. side by side with a heavy maul I can split more with the fiskars. I had my neighbor try it (20 yrs my senior) and it wouldn't do squat for him. I quickly realized it was velocity. I swing for the fences. He swung like a bunt. Force = mass x velocity; swing it fast and it will go thru anything straight grained. Not so much with the knots
Its just a cool one my friend shared a few days ago, and since you guys are discussing axes and unconventional splitting ideas, I though you guys might like to see it. Its the first one I've even seen personally, on a manual axe handle at least.
R Scott: I absolutely love your Mahatma Ghandi quote
I believe the head weighs around 6 lbs. Can't find any manufacturer's identity on it. I believe a number of companies have made heads pretty much like this.
The handle is wood (I had to replace it with one from the hardware store, after I'd used the maul for eight years or so).
The profile of the head is quite different from an axe. This isn't a tool for cross-grain chopping or anything of that sort. As you can see, the head is quite thick and has a forged-in flared feature on each the side of the head and these force the split flanks of the wood apart after the maul has started the split. I periodically resharpen the edge.
I'm 5'9" and weigh 165 lbs. This maul is easy for me to use. My wife is 5'4" and weighs about 130 lbs, and though she's physical and physically skilled, the maul is too heavy for her to use.
I split birch, larch, Douglas fir, pine, Grand fir, spruce. True, with a chunk of wood round where a branch of 3/4" or so has grown through the piece, this maul will sometimes get stuck. But it works great for ordinary rounds and pieces.
Here's the video version:
Some people have problems splitting big wood with a splitting axe (usually those who learned to split with a maul). But both can be equally effective when swinging, as increased velocity imparts far more momentum per %increase than does increased mass. However, when you get stuck, you can use a sledge and pound the maul through. With an axe, you need to work it out and take another swing. I've used both, quite a bit, and really don't have a preference although I think a maul does better it twisty, knotty wood and an axe is faster in straight grained, clear wood. But that's just my opinion, and if you ask around I'm sure you will likely find several others with differing views.
I like using the fiskars over traditional splitting axes, the light handle seems to create a balance that lends itself to a fast swing and more effective splitting. But if you destroy a fiskars handle, you won't be able to replace it. I've had to create a field expedient handle for a maul once, and I was able to make a passable handle with a rasp and hatchet that I had on hand. It wasn't pretty (and unfortunately wasn't completely dry), but it was functional, and I actually cleaned that handle up a bit after I returned home and used it until it dried out and shrank too much. That's not going to happen if my fiskars breaks.
Now, for really big rounds, we tow in a hydraulic splitter, it's just faster and far more convenient for giant wood. Not that you can't split really big stuff by hand. Back before the dutch elm blight killed off the big elms, we split a nice twisty 4 foot thick elm by hand, it was still a bit green, even. We used big, 12lb, steel-handled mauls. But back then we were young, ten feet tall, and bullet proof. Thirty years later, well, "I might could, but I dun wanna", and unfortunately ( or fortunately for my ego) there aren't any big elms around here anymore.
To sum it all up:
Some people are maul people, some are splitting axe people, some are sledge and wedge people. All work.
Polymer handled axes are great, but you really can't fix them, so a backup plan is a good idea.
I thinks the Fiskars x27 is a great tool for the price (if you prefer an axe to a maul), even if you can't repair it.
I don't know that there is a "best" splitter. A lot depends on what you are splitting, your finances, and your physical strength and health.
I also have one of these http://www.amazon.com/Timber-Tuff-TMW-11-Manual-Splitter/dp/B005C3J1L4/ref=pd_sim_86_3?ie=UTF8&dpID=21gw2ToulTL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR160%2C160_&refRID=1M80KRRES7MD1VS6C54M
Basically just a splitting wedge on a handle with a built in hammer. I used it quite a bit before I bought the Fiskars. It easily splits smaller rounds with one thump. It's also nice on stubborn rounds as you can just keep wailing on it until it works its was through. It uses a different motion than swinging so can be good to change up the muscle usage.
I prefer a moderate weight tool like this, since I'll be able to get up some good speed. A friend has a homemade one that's about 14 lb and I find it awkward to swing.
Sure are some sweet looking new toys. Like the video on the hammer mill, thanks for sharing.
Here (western PA ) with our hard woods we use a 8 lbs head with Fiberglass handle. Fiberglass for durability.
Love the feel of wood but helpers are all too hard on the wooden handles. Anything over 16 " or so in diameter
is just a little much for a 6 lbs maul head.
Have 4; 8 lbs maul heads and one is better then the rest. It is a cheap Japan made head,
looks the same as other all the other maul heads, almost same length and shape.
Have 3; 6 lbs heads for smaller sizes.
Take a 8 lbs sledge and few wedges with us. Maybe a sharp double headed axe and hatchet. Just in case.
If splitting wood by hand is an art, splitting locust posts is the craftsman end of it. You have to learn the wood is made different.
Grains and knocks are killers and can stop you cold in your tracks or destroy your post. A wind checked log needs a hydraulic
splitter, just not worth the trouble. Seen a 18" 20' cherry log take two of us 1.25 hours to split, for two rows across a truck bed. It was free and easy
to get to but we had to pass on that stand, just too hard to split. One other time, two of us took 2 hours for a Red Oak log 24" 14' to split, by far the hardest log
I've ever split, never again.
Which way does a tree grow? Trees are made to take weight down. So 80 percent of the time hit the root end. If you image an arrow pointing in the
direction of the sky, think about it that way. Your tool will want to bounce off the the pointy arrow. Hit the back of the arrow and it will split easier. That said it
not the case at stump bulge, these are best for making splitting base. Branches is a rough area to split, some just will not, and need to be cut or use hydraulics.
If you look at a log. Look for knots and straighter grains, start with the straight grain ends the pieces split easier. Looking mostly knots, burris (sp) or other items,
like cables, wire and bolts, even cement all are items to looks for. Here we get wood from town time to time but allot from field edges and fence rows, never
know what you'll find.
Splitting base which should only be around 8-10 " high not 16-24" most are too high and you losing the strongest part of your swing, end of you swing. Place
base on hard ground, use the driveway, road, I've even use a hard wood hay wagon many times. As you set a log up look for natural checking (splitting) follow the
natural way the wood is going, starting there. On larger pieces diameter 24-32" maybe start on an edge, knock off about 3-6 " and go around working to center,
then you end up with some nice pieces for making kindling. Or we fire up a chainsaw and cut in half, do not long for a 85 cc saw.
Post splitting is a art an I'm better at showing then typing it all out. Here's where wedges, craftsmen grade axes, hatchets and a good light chain saw come
into play. The largest I ever split was a 22-28 " diameter log sum 22' long to make a grape arbor. Finished the grape arbor was 20' by 18' and allot of work. Should
last some 25-30 years all split black locust grade 1 and 2 not any soft of green wood use all debarked, set in dry ground, and hand set, not cement in.
Wood I will not split, American Elm, or trees that are wind checked. Couple of others I know not the name of them, thought one was a nut like butter nut but I'm not sure.
We don't burn any pine or spruce here. Oak (red and white), Cherry, Maple (hard and soft), Hickory, Locust, Nuts trees, Sassafras, Birch, Beech and fruit trees. Few other
For the Good of the Crafts ! Big AL
Here are a few friends that i have had around here for the last 4 seasons in the woods.
First i have to say we moved here in january (upper mid-michigan) and heated our house the first two seasons with a swedish military baw saw, a Helko axe that i bought at harbor freight before we moved out of town, and a snow sled! Oh my god lots of work.
The house came with a splitting maul and a wood heater.
First the Helko axe. I had bought a hatchet of the same brand from harbor frieght. I have a long standing boycott of all slave labor... especially in my homestead tools, bad mojo all around. I was a buyer for an outdoor outfitter specifically guns, knives, backpacking equipment and military surplus.
When i saw the hatchet, i knew.. it told me everything. $9!!! German made decent quality import, but $9!!! I had to have it.
I was in the habit of buying two of everything because of failing availability of quality tools that are not slave made imports or global garbage.
With the axe, hatchet and saw, i did not do this, a grave mistake the whole bundle cost me $45 and all three items are unobtanium at that price or any inflation adjusted price anymore and harbor freight no longer carries Helko (i will only buy american or high quality imports from non gulag nations at harbor frieght, look hard they have/had some really good equipment at times.) Ill put up a photo of our trusty 7 year old, $20 helko axe, its nod a grandsfor, by a bit, but they make tools of that quality in another line (mine is not polished, is painted, and has polyurethane on the handle instead of linseed oil, same forging as thier classic line.
Check out the other catagories at helko! Nice stuff.
Our maul came with the house and my wifes uncle made it, it is all steel, the handle is 1/4" wall tube with a doubled tube at the shank and the head is not treated, just mild steel. It is crude but indestructable for mauling.
We are in hard wood country, hickory, maple, oak and ash are the materials to be cut and split, and they are hard on tools.