Which One Is Right For You?
You are (most likely) not Arnold Schwarzenegger from Commando!
(weird way to start out a blog on splitting axes right??)
It had to be said - and I said it…
I had to get that out of the way if either of us are going to get anything out of this informational journey we're about to go on.
The biggest mistake I see our customers make is not being able to put their egos aside and instead instantly going for the biggest axe they see in our shop and taking it home.
8 times out of 10 that’s a bad idea.
I’m no math wizard but one thing I do remember from high school is the fact that: Force equals Mass times Acceleration.
That equation has A LOT to do with splitting wood with heavy pieces of sharpened steel and even more to do with missing a swing with that same beefy knife on a stick I just mentioned.
This is the long way of saying, when it comes to axes, “Size matters and bigger isn’t always better…”
Depending on your own personal situation, it may be a good choice to set your ego aside and go for that smaller axe - it’s easier to control when things go sideways, easy to accurately place a swing with, and allows you to swing it for a longer period of time before you start wearing out.
Now that that’s out of the way we can move on…
Whether you're a seasoned wood heating pro or just getting started, having the right splitting axe is key to making the job of splitting wood easier and faster.
In this post, we'll take a look at some of the best American-made splitting axes available on the market today.
I'll outline what makes each one special and why it might be the perfect fit for your needs. So if you're looking for a quality axe to help keep you and your family warm this winter, read on!
3.5lbs Classic Jersey - Curved Handle
This iconic axe looks like it was pulled straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting - I mean it just oozes Americana.
You can just imagine your grandfather, years ago, casually picking up this axe as he intently walked towards his wood pile.
This axe is hung on a 32”, curved hickory handle that feels great in your hands.
One of the first things you noticed are the phantom bevels that mark the cheeks of this axe - people claim these serve a purpose, personally I don’t think they do much to improve the splitting performance of this axe but man, do they look awesome!
The lighter weight of the head paired with the shorter handle make this a great daily splitter.
A normal, healthy, person will be able to swing this axe, no problem for 20 to 40 minutes with ease - if you do that a few times a week during the warm months you’ll be set to keep your family warm all winter.
As an added bonus, this axe carries the Council Tool Sport Utility finish that includes a coat of a rust prevention compound on the head - you’ll still want to keep the head dry but at least this offers a little more protection from the elements.
The 5lbs Splitting Axe
This is my personal favorite splitting axe - period. Full stop.
Give me a pile of unsplit wood, either the 28” or 36” versions of this axe, and an afternoon - you’ll have yourself one happy camper on your hands.
Council Tool spent a while literally mashing together different splitting axe patterns from history and testing them out until they landed on this final design.
This axe was designed with a singular purpose in mind - take big wood and make it smaller - and it accomplishes that purpose with ease.
The biggest downside to this axe is the fact that it’s 5lbs of steel on the end of a 36” handle - which is also the secret to its greatness as a wood splitter. With an axe like this, if you want to swing it for more than a few minutes, you have to learn to not try and muscle it around. You pop it up in the air, put it on course for a good swing, start it downwards, and then let it float.
You’re just there to keep it on target.
It’s a hard skill to learn but once you’ve got the feel for it you’ll be able to let this thing sail through wood until the sun goes down.
And like I mentioned above - with this axe you get two options to choose from - and for some the 28” version might be a little more manageable since the weight of the head is kept a little bit closer to your body.
3.75lbs Council Tool Pulaski - Sport Utility Edition
This weird looking axe with a funny sounding name is one of the prized tools in a wildland firefighters toolkit but one that is usually passed over for every other application.
I’m here to change that…
This axe deserves a place in your woodshed especially if you’re a person that likes to buy tools that have dual uses.
I’ve used the hoe side of the my Pulaski to do everything from dig out a latrine to help my wife dig holes to plant her Iris bulbs in. The “weird” side of this axe, besides being super useful, is the exact reason why it’s on this list.
There’s a technique that some of these new, gimmicky axes try to take advantage of that you can teach yourself where you let the weight of the axe fall to the side when you make contact with the wood and that motion helps to pop the log apart.
That weird looking part of the Pulaski is a whole lot of extra weight to let fall to the side - making that technique so much more effective.
It takes a little time to learn but learning it is one of those juices that are definitely worth the squeeze.
6lbs FE6 (Forced Entry 6) - Fiberglass Handle
I can already hear the “scoffs” and feel the judgment coming from my fellow Axe Junkies - “How dare I include an axe with a fiberglass handle!?”
I get it, I do, but hear me out…
The fiberglass handle has two benefits compared to its wooden counterpart - both of which really come in to play with a head that weighs this much.
- It get rid of a ton of energy coming up the handle from each strike that a wooden handle is going to let go right into the bones and connective tissues of your hands and wrists.
- I know I’ve NEVER done this (yeah right haha) but if you overstrike and end up hitting the handle a fiberglass handle is going to just shrug it off and keep going where that might be the last swing a wooden handle ever takes.
Like I said - when it comes to an axe that weighs this much if it’s going off course you just need to hold on and get out of the way - which may mean letting your handle take a pretty mean strike.
You could try to correct a strike like this on the way down when using a lighter axe - but not with an axe this size.
But again, like The 5lbs Splitting Axe, its weight is exactly why it does so great as a splitter. Although compared to The 5lbs Splitting Axe, The FE6 gets stuck a lot more often in my experience.
This axe was mainly designed to help firefighters open up the roofs and doors of burning houses so it’s no surprise that it is excellent at opening up and processing firewood.
It is also a great workout.
If you want to head into the cold season looking like you walked off of the pages a Thor comic book then take this guy to the wood pile a few times a week and let it do its work.
3.5lbs Sport Utility Jersey - Straight Handle
This axe is a more straight forward, no nonsense version of the first axe on this list - the Sport Utility Classic Jersey.
It doesn’t carry the iconic phantom bevels - but like I said above - I’ve never noticed a dip in its performance with the bevels missing.
For me the reason this axe splits so well is the fact that it comes on a 36” straight handle.
I love the feel and comfort of a curved handle but the longer, straight handle does seem to be able to generate and maintain a bit more power when striking the intended log.
I’m sure there’s a mathematical reason as to why that might be the case but until I hit my head during a freak roller blading accident and wake up with a genius IQ all I can tell you is that it feels a bit more powerful when I swing it compared to its curvy counterpart.
And again, this axe is a bit on the lighter side so whether you’re 7 foot, 340lbs or 3’ 4”, 90lbs chances are you’ll be able to swing this axe a bit longer than the 6lbs FE6.
Bonus - Axe For Splitting Wood At Camp
The Council Tool House Axe
Now at camp you’ll most likely need to split wood for a fire and you most likely won’t want to pack in a 36”, 6lbs axe to do it.
So I thought I’d include this bonus axe for you as my favorite working axe for a campsite.
The House Axe is a classic American axe that was meant as a kindling maker to keep next to your cook stove or fireplace.
Which meant it needed to have a small foot print but still be able to get down to business when it came time to create or maintain a fire. The traits that made it perfect for storing out of the way indoors are the same reasons why it works so well as a camp axe.
The Council Tool rendition of the American House Axe is a 2.25lbs axe head that sits on a 19” curved handle.
The heavy(ish) head on the shorter, ergonomic handle means that it’s easy to pack into camp and it is able to do a decent amount of heavier camp tasks like splitting wood with ease.
The price point is also a huge plus.
You won’t have to worry about your children or clumsy friends throwing this guy into the dirt accidentally - it can take a beating and keep on working.\
I hope you found this post helpful.
The axes listed above are my own opinion based off of my own experiences with them - do you have a favorite American-made splitting axe that wasn’t on the list? Let me know about it in the comments - I always love hearing about new axes to try out.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to let me know. And don't forget to pick up an axe and start splitting some wood!
It's a crucial part of becoming heat independent and can save you a lot of money in the long run.
P.S. to the folks that are saying “why not just buy a hydraulic wood splitter you dumb fart butt!?” First of all - that’s no fun.
Secondly - I didn’t say you shouldn’t also use a wood splitter - this was a blog on axes.
Thirdly - I think you should have redundant systems especially when it comes to keeping you and your family safe and warm. Axes are a great back up if your wood splitter breaks or if your access to fuel for your splitter gets cut off or interrupted.
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FE6 is my favorite lately. I am curious to also try the 5lb Council Tools splitting axe, see if it gets stuck less.
Tougher rounds I’ll use 8lb. maul custom shaped sharper convex to penetrate easier.
Smaller rounds <1ft. or shoulder/elbow weary I’ll use the ~3lb. Ochsenkopf OX 644 H-1255 Hatchet Spalt-Fix Rotband-Plus. On large rounds take from the edge and spiral into the round. This small maul helps prevent being sore. Use a higher base for the logs higher up since this splitter is so small. I wish Council Tool offered one of these.
Great topic, thank you for the article.
I also use a Helko Werk traditional splitter at ~5.5lb its not as powerful as the 8lb. maul. Meant to go in like an axe and get wide like a maul it does a good job, but FE6 goes in easier.
Big fan of tassies for splitting and both Plumb and Kelly made some wonderful ones. Ive also come across a few doubles that do wonders in the pile, but profile is everything, not all do good, but others split like the red sea.
Breaking the rules here, but the husqvarna A2400 is a wicked splitter. Wedge profile, ~4lbs, 28 inches. Synthetic handle but its got whip.
I have the camp axe with a 22 1/2" handle, similar to the house axe you mention here, and it stays sharp through a lot of abuse. Has enough weight to split some pretty large branch wood (5-6") and has a hardened pole. That is handy as hell.
The first axe you talked about with the phantom bevels, I believe they are more for getting a stuck axe out of the wood than actually splitting. One push down and a pull up and it pops right out. Whereas a straight profile is much harder to walk out of the wood. Just my personal experience.
That’s my two cents.
When are you going to get the 32" classic jersey axe back in stock?