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Last updated: June 11, 2021
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A felling axe is not your average tool you might see hanging out in the shed, it’s a professional axe for those who want to work in the forest the traditional way. Felling axes, unlike regular axes, are ideal for chopping very large trees due to their long broad edge – typically 11 centimeters or longer. Additionally, these axes are forged with more of a curved bit, making them most suitable for fresh cuts into resinous woods such as spruce or pine. If this is your first time ever hearing about them, make sure you do your research and keep reading here! We’ve got a fantastic list to help you find the best felling axe.
Our review into this subject expanded our learning curve on felling axes and the features which help one axe outweigh another in use as well as cutting depth. From the full weight of the axe and its resulting driving force, to the head material and how deep different metals will cut, we considered every angle of every axe before making this list. Additional must-have features were an extended handle length, handle material, and a strong sheath. We opted for manufacturers whose brands were better known, but also lesser known brands that offered translucency about the materials they use, the price of their axes, and the science behind every swinging cut they make. For any extra details about these features, you need look no further than after the charts in our guide!
Finally, please know that the research conducted into each of these models included long hours of reaching out to manufacturers – asking about the make, materials, and disciplines behind their design – and reaching out to verified customers of each product to gauge their experiences. Additionally, we consulted felling professionals – those lumberjacks themselves – and our final findings are organized below in a comprehensive buying chart for each product with an included instructive guide for each feature and the safe use of these axes. Frequently asked questions are answered at the end in our hope to provide all the information you need to purchase the best felling axe.
If you’re looking to chop wood in a professional and traditional way, don’t look any farther than the Gränsfors American Felling Axe with its broad 11.5cm head with an impressive 4.5” cutting edge.
It’s refined from Swedish axe steel – reportedly one the hardest steels which makes for the sharpest edge. The head is quite lightweight at 3.3lbs out of an entire axe weight of 5.3lbs meaning really anyone could handle this axe (so long as they’ve been trained). Additionally, the head is crafted with an intense curve for cutting into resinous wood and handling large trees with the wide arch of a long handle with considerable power.
The handle is 31 inches long, made from American hickory wood, and finished in a fine coating of linseed oil. Purchase of this axe comes with an amazing 20-year manufacturer’s warranty, which sets a high standard that other axe brands typically fail to meet; it also comes with a vegetable-tanned leather sheath.
Get ready to start swinging! German-made axes, like this one crafted in Wuppertal, are among some of the best felling-devices in the industry.
With an impressive 35-inch length from the butt of the handle to the C50 high grade carbon steel head, this axe will get the job done! The head itself is folded while hot and then machine pressed until it gets its necessarily broad and refined cutting edge, while the linseed oiled hickory handle is handmade in Switzerland which explains its traditionally long length.
The entire weight of this felling axe is 6.5lbs – easy for the professional feller to handle, though will take getting used to for a beginner lumberjack – 4.5lbs of this weight is just in the high strength head. The entire purpose of this open face drop forged, heat treated, and oil-hardened design is to create an axe with an impressive 53-56hrc on the Rockwell hardness scale, while also getting all those perfect angles for the best swinging speed.
All in all, this axe is professionally made and ergonomically balanced; it’s the choice for clearing your property and getting fuel for heating your home.
Council Tools has been making high quality axes since 1886, and this felling axe is no different! Unlike the above example which uses a combination of steel and carbon – where both metals have to reach their welding heat at the same time or risk the carbon burning away – this axe is forfeits an enhanced carbon cutting edge for very strong 5160 grade alloy steel.
The 36-inch handle is made from the finest American hickory, rivaling even the hardier Scandinavian handle designs. This handle is crafted with slight curve to create substantially more swinging power; upon arrival it is linseed oil finished and pre-dried below 10% moisture content to prevent shrinkage or loosening around the axe head.
Unique to the market, the axe head has the patented Dayton Style Head designed for chopping into a tree with maximum efficiency. This patent features a drop forged head which has been tempered to a hardness of 52-56, which even exceeds ANSI standards, and it is then honed to a razor-sharp 4.5” cutting edge.
A rather light felling axe, it weighs 5.6 pounds. Purchase comes with a premium leather sheath and a light coating oil.
The Helko brand is famous for its promise that no two axes will be alike, and so that makes each tool – such as this double bit beauty – a detailed work of art.
The head, as you can see, offers the advantage of a double bit where one head is reserved for hard felling (that can dull the axe) where the other head is kept finely honed. Shaped and handmade from C50 high grade carbon steel, this head not only offers advanced strength but also a sharpness which other ‘steel only’ axes can’t match.
Impressively, the double bit doesn’t even overweigh this axe, and weighs in at 3.5lbs out of an entire 5lb axe weight. On the Rockwell hardness scale, this head ranks 53-56hrc, which means one bit can easily be reserved for chopping undercuts in large timber while the other bit handles fine cutting.
Next, the handle is made from hardy American hickory at a 30-inch length and finished in boiled linseed oil. This axe has a slower swinging speed – due to the handles lack of curve – but it is one of the hardier handle designs, with a hardwood edge and notched steel ring wedge.
One of the lightest axes on our list, coming in at 4.4lbs for the entire shaft and head, any beginner would be perfectly happy to start felling with this beautiful product.
It’s hand-forged with folded and heated high-grade carbon steel – meaning it’s just as strong as any steel axe, but much sharper by merit of the carbon alloy. Shorter than your typical Swedish design, the solid American hickory handle is only 28 inches long, but it’s created with an impressive curve for advanced swinging speed. Hickory is used because its strong while also naturally absorbing shock from hard striking blows.
This model comes from a very trusted Swedish brand, Hultafors, which has been making axes since the 1700’s. These axes are known to have very broad heads with increased density and durability, making very deep and wide cuts, though with somewhat decreased precision.
All facets of the head have a clear tempered zone, allowing it to be sharpened while not detracting from the strength of the edge.
Swedish steal is said to be some of the hardest steel with the result of an extra sharpened edge once tempered and honed, and this axe not only boasts a brand operating since 1697 but also that same Swedish axe steal.
It is hand-crafted and the head is struck multiple times to increase its density and overall durability. Additionally, the heads superb craftsmanship creates a tempered zone which is designed to hold a very sharp 4.25” cutting edge. Multiple sharpening’s will not weaken this design. The American hickory made handle with a linseed oil finish has a 32-inch curved length for increased swinging power and driving-force speed. Additionally, this has to be one of the most functional while also stylish axes, with gorgeous Swedish decorative elements.
Finally, the overall weight of the felling axe is fairly low at 5lbs, with only 3.5lbs of the entire weight being the head. Purchase comes with a quality made traditional leather protective sheath, as well as a detailed user’s manual for the unversed lumberjack.
What do we love it for?
25” cutting edge
Leather protective sheath
Made from high quality Swedish steel
What were we disappointed with?
Metal head defects only included in warranty
Lightweight axes require a firmer grip
Things to Consider
The remainder of our guide is dedicated to explaining the uses, upkeep, and specific features for each felling axe, additionally we list the axes on our list which best represent these features. At the end we answer several frequently asked questions, and even list our own top nominations. It’s our hope this information helps you in you search for the best felling axe.
The felling axe – what is it?
Often also called a ‘forest axe’, the felling axe is a tool used for cutting down trees and removing branches, and their design goes back farther than the 15th century – though todays versions use higher grader materials and finer scientific designs. These axes are designed to chop across the wood grain in fine cuts that won’t mar or misshapen the results, and in this way they aren’t intended to split wood, but rather just to make trees fall. A decent felling axe will have a very fine thin edge that is also sharp and integrated into a tempered head much thicker near the back. Using these tools, a lumberjack can cut as deeply into a trees grain as possible.
How to prolong the life of a felling axe
For the most prolonged life and really the best use, only consider axes with a Hickory handle. Hickory resists and absorbs the shock of each blow better than other wood types, and with a protective finish hickory will last even longer. When periodically applying your own finishes and doing general upkeep on your tools, only use coatings of teak oil or other boiled oils (like linseed oil). Remember, do not use raw oils because these won’t dry and will cause a sticky resin on your axe; boiled oils dry and cure faster anyway, and do just as well at protecting your handle from the elements.
Tips on sharpening the axe
Based on the overall worn edges and sides of your axe – for instance, if you ran your finger along the edge and felt any nicks or burrs – then it will need to be filed to maintain its shape and then honed with a whetstone. The filing is quite easy and can be done with a fine-toothed flat file, sawing at the worn metal along the edges until you achieve the axes original shape. For the best results, while filing move your axe back and forth (this will create and even edge) and turn the axe over periodically while using a whetstone (this will give both sides a much keener edge). Minor damage is best treated with a coarse handheld whetstone, and never anything machined or too soft. Finally, if you have it on hand, strop your axe against some leather after making any strokes away from your cutting edge.
How to choose a proper handle length for your felling axe
Believe it or not, experts insist that the best handle length is one which provides comfort and easy handling. Where longer-handled axes can provide more power swings with much more speed behind each blow, this is only true if the person wielding the axe is strong enough and tall enough to handle it. Choosing an axe which lends you a balance between accuracy and powerful blows – perhaps with a medium or shorter handle – will make a job more efficient as well as more productive. A Swedish standard axe – which sets the standards for almost all felling axes – is actually too tall for many men, standing at a height of 36 inches from the bottom knob to the top edge. For your purposes, you might be better off considering axes within a range of 26 to 31-inch handles.
Features to know for choosing the perfect felling axe
The following features are ones you might have seen listed in the charts above. The following headings discuss each of these important features, and even give examples of axes which best exhibit ‘head weight’, ‘shape’, and even ‘materials’.
What head you choose depends on a mixture of materials and personal preference. Axe heads which use carbon steel designs are going to be sharper, lighter, but also much more expensive. The finest cutting edges will be seen to use carbon alloys. However, hardy steels – like Swedish steel, 1045 alloys, or perhaps even 4140 – when heat treated, folded correctly, and honed to a sharp edge can and will cut directly into a tree with deep broad cuts. On our list, some of the axes with the best heads are the Gränsfors Bruks American Felling Axe, 1844 Helko Werk Classic Expedition, and 1844 Helko Werk Hinterland.
Single bit and double bit
The only need for a double bit is when you want to reserve one side of your axe for heavy felling and hard cuts which will dull it, while the other side of your axe remains sharp for finer cuts and wood splitting. Double bit axes tend to be heavier, but for the exception of the rather light 1844 Helko Werk Hinterland.
An axe doesn’t need to be exceptionally heavy to work well. A good cut depends more on the alloy of your axe head, curve of the axes handle, and speed/accuracy of your swing. However, depending on the weight you yourself are comfortable carrying, you might tend to choose a lighter axe over a heavier axe.
All the axes on our list are made from the finest American hickory, and this is because felling axes really should only use hickory in their designs. A finished hickory wooden handle is naturally more balanced and the wood itself absorbs the shock of each blow better than any other wood type. This means you can take a long heavy swing without the worry of your blow fracturing or damaging the handle.
As stated above, you don’t necessarily have to choose the longest handle for the most power. Instead choose the best handle for your size and ability. To estimate this, stand three or even four feet (depending on your arm length) away from a tree and then extend your arm and see how close you come to touching it. The remaining distance between your hand and the tree should generally be the length of the felling axe you need. On our list, the longest axe is the Council Tool Velvicut 4#, with the shortest axe being Hultafors Felling Axe.
Single-bitted felling axes might come with straight handles, but the preferred handle shape is curved as it gives more of a natural feel and assists with swing. However, for double bit axes, you’ll generally see that the handle is straight, this is for making it easier to flip the axe around between both bits.
If you’re planning on consistently felling trees, get used to the blisters you might get and understand that as they callous your hands will become rougher and your grip/swing stronger. Varnish – if present – should be sanded off, because it will only make your handle slippery and therefore make the axe fly out of your hand while chopping. There is a difference between a finish being applied to an axe rather than a varnish, and rest assured that none of our products have varnished handles.
It’s a good idea to have a leather sheath, not only because it will keep your axe sharp and protected from the elements, but also because leather isn’t easily cut while being fit on an axe, and then the axe itself won’t cut you.
First, look at your axe and understand how it work. Without an understanding of why a tool is designed a certain way and how that design effects chopping down a tree, you might never develop proper form. Felling axes have a relatively low cutting edge coupled with a somewhat rounded blade, and because of this their design assists in chopping across the grain of a tree rather than with the grain. With this knowledge, it’s pretty self-explanatory that cuts and swings should be made sideways to a tree – however make sure you make your first cut at a 45-degree angle on the side you want the tree to fall. Continuing your cuts, you’ll make close to 45 degree swings each time, with each chop opposite the last until your around 1/3 of the way through the tree. Continue to the next question for the final steps!
You’ll cut an open-faced notch on the side where you want your tree to fall, so make sure you determine the best falling area before you make this cut. After making your top cut, proceed as mentioned with 45-degree cuts until your final cut at a downward angle of 70 degrees. Together, this should fell your tree, and it will fall in the direction of your open-facing notch.
Take breaks when your arms are weak, otherwise you risk having the axe slip out of your hand. Additionally, always cover your axe with a sheath when you’re done working, and never use an axe handle that hasn’t had the varnish sanded off of it. Remember that if others are around, “Timber!” isn’t just some silly lumberjack word, its how you warn others that your tree is about too fall. Never turn away from a falling tree until it has been felled to the ground in the area you wanted it.
Finally, here our top three felling axes, so rated by their materials and designs and functionality for all different kinds of wood cutters. If you’re finding it difficult to decide, any of these would easily make the best felling axe.
Gränsfors Bruks American Felling Axe. Nominated Best Axe All Around, this is tool is far superior to other axes on the market. Its hand designed from hardy Swedish steel, and comes with a fantastic 20-year warranty!
Hultafors Felling Axe. Our budget pick for this list, this axe has an extra sharp head hand-forged out of high-grade carbon steel and paired with a short hickory handle which could suit any lumberjack. This axe won’t weigh you down and it isn’t too long.
1844 Helko Werk Classic Expedition. This powerful axe, made with strong high-grade carbon steel which also makes for a sharper edge, is the ideal choice for felling hard-wood trees. If you have a felling task which involves oaks, maples, hickory, birch trees, beech and cherry trees, this is the axe for you!