Review by Robert Miller
After the adventure of cutting down trees in my backyard and dealing with the mess, I began to address splitting the wood. Of course a mechanical splitter is easy, but what do you do when it’s all manual labor? What tools are needed and work well?
Old hickory is a great chopper and splitter of small limbs. The short ax is great for chopping in close quarters. Neither are good for splitting trunk diameter wood.
Fiskar uses a plastic handle that is guaranteed against breakage.
Everyone has heard of a splitting maul but buyer beware. I bought an eight pound one at a big box and returned it in a matter of minutes. The cutting head was so wide and unsharp it dented the wood and bounced off. To make it effective I would have had to grind off about ¼” and taper it up on each side. Going to a different store, I ended up debating between one made in India or the high dollar Fiskars splitting ax.
The India model warned not to strike the back as it may chip, sometimes persuasion is often needed to drive it in, that left the Fiskar at $30 more ($69). It looks more like an ax head, then it broadens a bit up so it can be buried further when swung. It is also coated with an anti stick coating. Overall it works well. My small axe is about six years old and its holding up well.
Any illusion of simply burying the ax and splitting the wood is just that. Many times the side pieces can be split off easily. Any knots or Y’s require serious work to split apart.
My technique is to try and work a crack across the wood and then pound it in to split it open. Sometimes flipping the log over works just as well. The smaller ax works well to chop strands of wood holding the two pieces together and as a hammer. After four hours of chopping and beating, the hickory head was coming loose. The other two are tight as the day I bought them. It is a serious and dangerous workout.
There may be cheaper splitters/mauls that are effective, but not that I have used or purchased.
Wedges are not a favorite of mine by a long shot. They are soft so they are less likely to send chunks of metal flying, the result is mushrooming heads over time.
Double bit axes are great because you don’t have to stop and sharpen, simply flip it over. The downside is not great for splitting wood of large size.