Most people end up buying an axe because they need to split kindling for the wood stove or to clear a few saplings.
It starts innocently, but buying your first axe can be deceptively dangerous.
You would think you already have the perfect tool for a certain task, but sooner or later, you’ll realize that the axe you bought cannot split logs, or carve spoons, or cut down a whole tree if you must, or whatever your wood-related project is.
In the end, you conclude that you need something else for the job.
Before you fully understand what’s happening, you end up owning another axe. And another. Then suddenly you’re faced with an axe collection, which girlfriends and wives dread alike.
I even know some people who buy axes just to hang them on the wall.
Regardless of what your interest is, it’s important to familiarize yourself with axes according to their purpose. I’ve written some pointers below that largely focuses on felling axe vs splitting axe.
The Felling Axe
A felling axe is different from a splitting axe in several ways. For one, its blade is sharper and narrower, and designed to cut cross-way through the wood’s fibers.
Similarly, a hatchet can be used in this manner, but the differences are quite obvious. A hatchet is unique because of its portable characteristic, about 2/3 shorter than a full size axe, so you can use it with one hand.
It’s best used for cutting small pieces of wood.
A felling axe, however, is the first thing you can think of when you hear the word “axe”. It’s basically what your dad used when you were little.
Keep in mind that a felling axe should not be used to split wood because its design and purpose isn’t for this function. You’ll only get it stuck in the wood.
The Splitting Axe
A splitting axe has a wider profile, making it more difficult to cut through wood. It’s so wide, there’s no way of imprinting a lot of force for it to cut deeply into a log.
However, the blade of a splitting axe can perfectly split wood, hence the name, because it splits the fibers of the wood and won’t cut across wood grain.
You’ll know you’re using a splitting axe because the head does not get stuck in the wood, which is what you’ll encounter when you use a felling axe with a narrower head.
If you don’t have a felling axe or a chopping axe around, you can use a splitting axe to cut wood, but you’ll have a more difficult time for use, as each cut will be pretty shallow. More likely, you’ll end up getting frustrated and buy a chopping axe.
Below are the main characteristics of a splitting axe, also known as a splitting maul:
- Broad butt
- Straight handle
- Wedge-shaped head
- Heavier head, approximately 7 lbs
- Not recommended for beginners
- More difficult to use
Felling Axe vs Splitting Axe
Both the felling axe and the splitting axe are the big boys of the axe world. These axes are made for felling large trees and splitting huge rounds of wood and big logs.
A felling axe is big and long enough, but a splitting axe can be even bigger and can weigh 7 lbs more and can reach up to 40 inches in length. You’ll be using a lot of kinetic energy in every swing.
A felling axe is designed so that it can drop trees – huge ones. This is an axe that’s not portable at all, and not dexterous either.
Although it’s not intended to split wood, some people are able to do so, although felling axes will get stuck more in rounds of wood than a splitting maul.
That said, using a felling axe requires fine skill. Just take a look at lumberjacks. It’s almost like these guys have reached an attainable status when it comes to swinging an axe.
A splitting axe, though heavier and longer, have wider heads, almost like a sledgehammer. That’s intended, because if you’re trying to split wood, you’d want the axe to push the wood apart, not cut into it.
It’s the reason why this type of axe is not as sharp as any other axe, because it’s just not necessary for them to be.
Splitting mauls aren’t exactly included in your camping needs as they are not meant to carry around. If you fell your own trees, however, or get rounds and logs of wood delivered, then you’ll definitely it.
How to choose an axe for camping / backpacking:
Choosing an Axe Depending on Your Needs
Choosing an axe requires great effort from you, as there are many things to take into account, including choosing between a felling axe vs splitting axe.
By now, you already now which one works for a particular purpose, the shape of their heads, and the differences in length. It’s now time to discuss the other characteristics you need to consider when it comes to purchasing an axe.
Choosing a small or pocket sized axe is a much simpler chore, but buying a bigger axe like a splitting maul or a felling axe can be quite challenging.
Firstly, you’ll have to consider if you can physically handle it – if it fits your body type. To know how, try grabbing an axe by its head and see if the haft’s end fits comfortably inside your armpit.
How to choose the right size Fiskars axe:
You should check if the axe balances well on your palm. To do so, place the axe head between your thumb and your forefinger. The haft should be straight in this position. That’s how you know if the axe can be handled easily.
Of course, the axehead should be perfectly aligned with the haft. Otherwise, don’t expect it to cut well. Try grabbing the axehead in your hand and place the haft near your eyes to check if the alignment of the axe is correct.
Ultimately, your personal needs, including the quantity and size of the wood you plan on working one, will determine which axe is suitable.
If you have to fell trees, naturally, you’ll have to use a felling axe, as it cuts through the wood better and is definitely sharper. Swinging it is also easier.
If you’re working on smaller pieces of wood, or splitting around the wood’s edges, you should use a splitting axe, which is just sharp enough, but not too much, in order to split wood in half.
All things considered, when it comes to buying an axe, you should choose a high-quality item that doesn’t damage or break too easily, especially if you’re going to use it for mauling or felling.
To be on the safe side, you’d benefit greatly if you have more than one type of axe.
Large axes are great and efficient for huge tasks, but you may need some pocket-sized ones too, or a machete if you have space for it. You’ll never know when you need it.