The Best Log Splitting Axe

Helko Vario 2000 Heavy Log Splitter

Our Top Pick for 2016: Helko Vario 2000 Heavy Log Splitter
Read our full review.

See it on Amazon for $158.00*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Too expensive? See our budget pick.

When it’s time to split wood for a wood-burning fireplace or stove, most people think reach first for a chainsaw, which they consider the quickest and most efficient tool to use for the job. When a large tree needs to be cut down and divided into sections, a chainsaw unquestionably can handle the job. However, splitting logs for firewood is a different matter. An axe designed to split logs cuts through wood fibers along the grain rather than opposite it. The sharp and relatively thin cutting edge of an axe used to split wood produces clean cuts rather than a lot of sawdust as a chainsaw often does. A log splitting axe is a much more efficient way to accomplish the job, even though it’s done by hand.

The physical benefits of splitting wood for a stove or fireplace can’t be ignored either. Calories are burned off, arms are strengthened and the heart and lungs get a workout when you spend time splitting wood, whether it’s just a dozen or so pieces or a cord or more of wood. As a homeowner you definitely feel a sense of accomplishment when you split the logs that will provide heat and even some ambience in your home, whether you’ve felled the logs yourself or not. There are a number of axes available today that are designed to split wood. It’s not hard to find the right axe to do the job of splitting logs. The log splitting axes describe in the list below are some of the best axes on the market.

Table of contents

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Ideal For Splitting Medium To Large-sized Logs
Made In Wuppertal, Germany
Integrally-molded Handle Guard
Designed For Maximum Efficiency
German C45 High Grade Carbon Steel
Permanent Overstrike Protection
Perfected Balance And Power-to-weight Ratio
FSC Certified Grade A American Hickory
Molded Polypropylene Cover
Increases Swing Speed To Multiply Power
Curved Ergonomic Design
4-pound Axe Head Provides Effective Swin
Advanced Bevel Convex Blade Geometry
Drop Forged, Heat Treated, And Oil-hardened
36-inch Fiberpro Handle

*Price at time of publishing and may not reflect current pricing.

#1 Gold pick (Winner): Helko Vario 2000 Heavy Log Splitter

Helko Vario 2000 Heavy Log Splitter Gold Pick

View it on Amazon for $158.00*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-gold-winnerThe Helko Vario 2000 Heavy Log Splitter is manufactured in Germany and retails for about $148.00. The entire axe weighs 8.5 pounds, with the head and its components making up just over 6.5 pounds of that weight. The Vario 2000 Heavy Log Splitter is 2.25 inches at its narrowest point and 7.0 inches at its widest point. The entire axe is 35.4 inches long from the top of the axe head to the end of the handle.

One of the reasons the Helko Vario 2000 is the top choice in axes is its high-quality construction. The axe uses German C45 carbon steel, a high grade steel that includes some chromium, nickel and molybdenum that work together to increase the amount of wear the axe can sustain. The blade has been hardened to approximately 55RC on the Rockwell scale using German manufacturing standards which include drop forging, heat treatment and oil hardening. This process ensures the blade will last as long as possible and be reliable throughout its life. The Helko Vario 2000 Heavy Log Splitter is manufactured in Switzerland.

The ergonomically designed axe handle is made of Grade A American Hickory that has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The head is bolted directly onto the handle and comes with a patented cap screw key and hex key system that permits you to easily interchange the axe head or the handle if necessary. Each handle is personally inspected and chosen by Helko to exacting standards set for grain orientation and density. The handle is hand-painted and varnished to help ensure a longer life. The handle’s ergonomic design also helps protect you from the inevitable shock that occurs as the axe comes in contact with a log. Its blade construction ensures that the axe easily moves through the wood grain rather than getting stuck when you strike the log.

The Vario 2000 handle is painted and varnished, and the axe comes with a one-ounce bottle of Axe Guard, a liquid protective coating for metal axes that helps prevent rust and tarnish. The axe also has a hand-made leather sheath that provides even more protection when it isn’t being used.

Reviews posted on Amazon by customers who have purchased and used the Helko Vario 2000 Heavy Log Splitter are almost uniformly excellent. Customers who have used the axe say that it feels very good in the hands. Although it looks like an axe and weighs less than a wood-splitting maul, it performs as well as a heavier maul would when used with larger logs. The handle transmits very little vibration when it’s in use and features very good balance that makes swinging and controlling the axe easy and safe.

The Helko Vario 2000 is powerful enough to split logs much more quickly than other axes can. Whether wood is dry and soft or knotty and very hard, the Vario 2000 is up to the job. Seasoned wood can be cut easily, but recently cut wood isn’t off limits to the Vario 2000. It can easily handle green wood as well. This axe doesn’t easily get stuck in logs as some axes designed to split wood do. Because the handle is solid, not hollow, it performs jobs that usually only heavier axes can handle.

One of the unique features of the Helko Vario 2000 is its universal connecting system. The ability to interchange heads on a handle offers you a number of benefits as you face different demands of log splitting. The Helko Vario 2000’s interchangeable features and excellent construction make this an excellent axe to consider.

One Amazon reviewer reported that his Vario 2000 axe handle cracked just two hours into a log splitting job. Helko doesn’t cover its handles under its warranty as a matter of course, but this user wrote a letter to Helko explaining why he was returning the handle. He was pleasantly surprised when a Helko official delivered a new handle to his door within two weeks. Helko not only offers a superior product but also makes the extra effort to offer above-average customer service.

#2 Silver pick (Runner-up): Fiskars X27 Super Splitting Axe

Fiskars X27 Super Splitting Axe

View it on Amazon for $53.56*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

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The Fiskars X27 Super Splitting Axe retails for $69.99 MSRP, but can be found for $42.99 or a bit higher on internet shopping sites. This axe is marketed as an ideal log splitting tool for users who are tall and are splitting logs of a medium or large size. It measures 1.8 inches at its narrowest point, 9.3 inches at the widest point of the head and 37.4 inches long. The entire axe weighs 8.5 pounds. The axe head itself is 3.25 inches wide and 7.25 inches long, with a weight of 6.0 pounds.

The Fiskars X27 is manufactured in Billnas, Finland. The company’s background features more than three centuries of designing and manufacturing some of the best forged tools in the world.

The axe head of the Fiskars X27 Super Splitting Axe is manufactured to be inseparable from the handles, preventing loosening or breakage. The low-friction coating on the blade itself helps it cut through wood more easily than many other types of axe blades. As an added benefit, the coating helps keep the axe head from getting stuck in logs. The uniquely designed head disperses wood chips and wood dust away from the blade so that log splitting can be done as cleanly as possible. The bevel convex design of the blade gives more power to each cut and also helps make it easier to remove the blade from the wood. The Fiskars X27 blade is made of hardened forged steel that stays sharper longer than most traditional axes can.

The Fiskars X27 axe handle is designed to provide the most efficient way possible for you to split wood, lowering the need for multiple strikes on the same log and instead offering more splits on the first strike. The axe head and handle are designed with an optimum power-to-weight ratio to help increase swing speed, similar to the design ratio of an aluminum baseball bat. The handle’s textured grip won’t slip in your hands, which gives you improved control and eases the possibility of hand strain.

A sheath is included with the Fiskars X27 axe to protect both the axe blade and you as you transport and use it. The X27 Super Splitting Axe features a virtually unbreakable guarantee thanks to its FiberComp handle designed to absorb shocks that prevents it from being broken by overstriking. The hardened and forged steel blade won’t chip or crack. The PermaHead design has been developed to ensure that the blade can’t be separated from the handle. Fiskars offer a lifetime warranty for the X27 axe.

Users who have reviewed the Fiskars X27 Super Splitting Axe report that it works very well on hard wood such as oak, cherry or ash. However, knotty pieces of wood without a straight grain can sometimes be a problem. The axe head gets high reviews from users who say their Fiskars X27 axe heads didn’t need to be sharpened after splitting more than a cord of wood. Users do recommend keeping the blade well-oiled for maximum efficiency.

Some reviewers did have complaints about the Fiskars X27 handle. The primary complaint was that the handle broke too easily. Reviews reported that the handle was too short and slippery and broke or shattered, particularly when used with a wedge. Others reviewers reported that the X27 Super Splitting Axe couldn’t handle rounds of wood more than a foot in diameter. The axe head just bounced off the wood, rather than splitting it. However, many reviewers reported that the axe stood up to all the jobs they asked of it, including splitting large logs and dealing with wood that doesn’t have straight grains. Most reviewers were glad that they had purchased the Fiskars X27 Super Splitting Axe.

Bronze Product 3: True Temper Sledge Eye 1190400 Super Splitter

The Sledge Eye 1190400 Super Splitter from Ames True Temper is advertised as being an ideal axe for splitting and cutting wood. The axe sells for $42.99 online and at many retail locations. It’s officially called a wood splitter-maul, but it does the work of a log splitting axe. The axe weighs in at six pounds with the head itself weighing four pounds, and features a 36-inch FiberPro handle. It’s two inches by seven inches between its narrowest and widest places, and, at 33.5 inches, it is nearly three feet in length.

Although the True Temper Super Splitter is officially known as a maul, it doesn’t have some of the drawbacks a traditional maul has. The four-pound weight of the Super Splitter head gives this axe an effective swing that won’t tire you more quickly than you’d prefer when you need to split cords of firewood.

The FiberPro fiberglass handle comes with a molded handle guard feature that won’t slip or loosen, making this axe a safe tool to use to split wood without worrying about damaging the handle with extended use. The handle is manufactured with a fiberglass core and molded polypropylene cover that help make the True Temper Super Splitter as strong as possible. The handle can be easily replaced if necessary and has a limited lifetime warranty.

The Ames True Temper Sledge Eye 1190400 Super Splitter is advertised as being an ideal axe for both splitting and cutting wood. The integration of the lighter four-pound axe head and the fiberglass core handle make it easy to get into a swing that will allow you to split wood effectively and quickly.

Customers who have purchased the Ames True Temper Sledge Eye Super Splitter give the axe excellent marks for its performance in splitting wood that typically would require a heavier maul and wedge. The Super Splitter’s light weight doesn’t prevent it from splitting rounds of straight-grained wood nearly two feet in diameter with one swing. Even more importantly, the Super Splitter handles twisted logs that a more traditional axe can’t split, according to reviewers. Some reviewers report that the wedge shape of the Super Splitter head performs just as well as a maul does

However, some reviewers complained that the fiberglass handle didn’t stand up to splitting work as expected. A few reviewers said that their Super Splitter got stuck in a round of wood and shattered, while others said that using a wedge with the handle caused the handle to crack.

Overall, though, reviewers were happy with the performance of the Ames True Temper Sledge Eye Super Splitter. The lighter weight of the Super Splitter allows you to use the log splitting axe efficiently but with a lower level of fatigue than you might experience with more traditional and heavier axes. As one reviewer said, this is an excellent axe for the price.

#3 Bronze pick (3rd place): True Temper Sledge Eye 1190400 Super Splitter

True Temper Sledge Eye 1190400 Super Splitter

View it on Amazon for $42.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-bronze-awardThe Sledge Eye 1190400 Super Splitter from Ames True Temper is advertised as being an ideal axe for splitting and cutting wood. The axe sells for $42.99 online and at many retail locations. It’s officially called a wood splitter-maul, but it does the work of a log splitting axe. The axe weighs in at six pounds with the head itself weighing four pounds, and features a 36-inch FiberPro handle. It’s two inches by seven inches between its narrowest and widest places, and, at 33.5 inches, it is nearly three feet in length.

Although the True Temper Super Splitter is officially known as a maul, it doesn’t have some of the drawbacks a traditional maul has. The four-pound weight of the Super Splitter head gives this axe an effective swing that won’t tire you more quickly than you’d prefer when you need to split cords of firewood.

The FiberPro fiberglass handle comes with a molded handle guard feature that won’t slip or loosen, making this axe a safe tool to use to split wood without worrying about damaging the handle with extended use. The handle is manufactured with a fiberglass core and molded polypropylene cover that help make the True Temper Super Splitter as strong as possible. The handle can be easily replaced if necessary and has a limited lifetime warranty.

The Ames True Temper Sledge Eye 1190400 Super Splitter is advertised as being an ideal axe for both splitting and cutting wood. The integration of the lighter four-pound axe head and the fiberglass core handle make it easy to get into a swing that will allow you to split wood effectively and quickly.

Customers who have purchased the Ames True Temper Sledge Eye Super Splitter give the axe excellent marks for its performance in splitting wood that typically would require a heavier maul and wedge. The Super Splitter’s light weight doesn’t prevent it from splitting rounds of straight-grained wood nearly two feet in diameter with one swing. Even more importantly, the Super Splitter handles twisted logs that a more traditional axe can’t split, according to reviewers. Some reviewers report that the wedge shape of the Super Splitter head performs just as well as a maul does

However, some reviewers complained that the fiberglass handle didn’t stand up to splitting work as expected. A few reviewers said that their Super Splitter got stuck in a round of wood and shattered, while others said that using a wedge with the handle caused the handle to crack.

Overall, though, reviewers were happy with the performance of the Ames True Temper Sledge Eye Super Splitter. The lighter weight of the Super Splitter allows you to use the log splitting axe efficiently but with a lower level of fatigue than you might experience with more traditional and heavier axes. As one reviewer said, this is an excellent axe for the price.

#4 Budget pick (Best cheap): Cold Steel Trail Boss Hickory Handle Axe

Cold Steel Trail Boss Hickory Handle Axe

View it on Amazon for $23.19*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-cheap-budget-pickThe Cold Steel Trail Boss Hickory Handle Axe is the most lightweight of the axes reviewed. At 2.7 pounds, it can be packed into a camp site much more easily than a four- or five-pound axe can, so you’ll have an excellent wood-splitting tool at hand whenever you need it. The Cold Steel Trail Boss axe is 23 inches long, and eight inches wide at its widest point. The axe retails for $48.99 MSRP, but can be found for as little as $33 through online sites.

The axe head is manufactured of drop forged 1055 carbon steel and the handle is crafted from American hickory. The Trail Boss axe head boasts a European influence in its four-inch blade and its four-and-a-half-inch cutting edge. Although the axe is manufactured in China, Cold Steel is an American company that holds its axes to US standards of quality. One of the drawbacks of the Cold Steel Trail Boss axe cited by users is the lack of a protecting sheath. The axe does come with a rubber cover to protect the cutting edge, however.

Reviews of the Cold Steel Trail Boss axe indicated users are happy with how the axe blade retains its sharpness through continued use. The Cold Steel axe is a smaller tool ideal for handling logs that need to be split into kindling. However, many users reported that the axe handle was loose when they unpacked it or that it quickly broke once they began using it. Others reviewers reported that the handle split in two while they were splitting logs. The axe head also tends to come off when the axe sees a lot of intense use, according to comments by users.

In the end, though, reviewers say that the Cold Steel Trail Boss Hickory Handle Axe is a good deal for its price. It performs well as a short-handled and lighter-weight axe that can be more easily transported on hikes or camping trips. For the price, the Cold Steel Trail Boss is a good value.


Pre-purchase considerations

Splitting logs would seem to be a straight-forward job that you could accomplish using whatever chopping tool you have at hand. This might be the case for very small jobs, but when you have a cord or more of wood to split, you want to make sure you have the right tool for the job and the energy to finish it according to your schedule. For this reason and for your safety, knowing what to look for in a log splitting axe is essential.

Deciding between axe, hatchet or maul

The size of the pieces of wood you need to split will help determine the type of tool you’ll need. While a log splitting axe can easily handle smaller pieces of wood, a hatchet may be more effective and easier to use. Likewise, a log splitting maul is designed, thanks to its larger and heavier size, to more easily and efficiently work through splitting very large logs. The hatchet is designed to be lightweight enough to be used with one hand, so choosing it for larger jobs would be inefficient. The log splitting maul, on the other hand, at eight pounds is much heavier than an axe, so it’s best used to split or cut much larger logs.

Axes are further divided into categories themselves. If you’re cutting down trees for firewood, you’ll want to choose an axe designed to easily cut through the wood fibers of the tree you’re felling. A splitting axe, on the other hand, splits or divides the wood along the wood grain by forcing apart natural cracks in the grain.

Weight

The weight of the axe you choose is probably the most important thing you’ll want to consider. The weight is concentrated primarily in the axe head. How heavy the head is related to your strength is an important factor, but even more important is the ratio of the weight of the head to the shaft, also known as the poll. An axe with the proper ratio between the head and the shaft will give the best balance to help you aim your swing effectively so that you won’t miss the log completely and even possibly hurt yourself or someone else. However, if you can’t lift the axe easily to swing it, you won’t be able to effectively complete the log splitting job ahead of you.

Length

Related to the weight of the axe is the length of its shaft, or handle. A longer length will give you a swing that has more power. If the handle is too long for you, though, all the power in the world won’t help you if you can’t control where the axe head lands. Finding the right ratio of length to weight may take some experimentation that you might be able to accomplish by trying friends’ axes or shopping in retail outlets before making an online purchase.

Balance

The balance of the axe head is another important factor to look at when choosing the right axe for your wood-splitting duties. The axe head should be perfectly level when you lay it across your index finger and thumb. A well-balanced head will give you hours of log splitting enjoyment as you quickly work through the piles of wood awaiting you.

Materials

The materials with which a log splitting axe is constructed are almost as varied as the number of axe manufacturers. Axe heads can be manufactured of carbon steel or hardened forged steel. Handles run the gamut from American hickory to fiberglass with a polypropylene covering. No matter what materials are used in the axe head and handle, the best axe head is manufactured of one piece of steel with no visible joints that could weaken it. Likewise, the shaft should hold the axe head straight and steady with no vibration so that the head won’t be likely to fall off or fly through the air while you’re using it.

Conclusion (Wrapping it up)

Choosing the right axe for splitting wood isn’t a difficult or necessarily time-consuming task, but you do need to educate yourself before buying the first axe you find. It can be just as interesting to investigate the kinds of log splitting axes available on the market today. Recommendations from family, friends and neighbors who have used log splitting axes as well as internet reviews can guide you toward the axe that best meets your needs. With the right axe, splitting wood can be an enjoyable way to provide needed fuel for your family, give you physical labor your body needs and offer you the good feeling of a job done well on your terms.

Discussion and comments

We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?

Do you know of an even better product?

Comment below and help your fellow consumers make the right choice. Over to you!

Resources

  1. The Helko Vario 2000 Convertible Axe System- Is this the future of axes?, Rocky Mountain Bushcraft Blog, April 10 2012
  2. British Red, Choosing an Axe, Orionn49.com
  3. Brett & Kate McKay, How to Split Firewood, Art of Manliness, November 24 2009

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