Why do you need a splitting maul
The splitting maul is used almost exclusively to split logs for firewood. It features a large, blunt, head with a somewhat convex shape on one end and a flat, sledgehammer-like poll on the other, and a long handle. The size of the maul head ensures that when you bring the splitting maul down onto the wood, it stays in place and does not slip off. While the bluntness of the head would make it difficult to cut across a wood log as you do with an axe, it’s ideal for cutting the wood lengthwise. The head centers itself perfectly just inside the log, moving along the wood and getting the grains to separate effortlessly. The convex shape of the head on the wedge-like part ensures that the maul does not get stuck in the log while you’re splitting the wood.
To correctly use the splitting maul, lift it above your head or shoulders and then bring it down onto the wood log. Its long handle ensures that from the log, the splitting maul moves straight to the ground and not to your foot or leg. In respect to this, you could say it’s as much of a safety feature as it is a functional component.
You can get creative with your splitting maul and get it to do a few of the tasks you would use a sledgehammer for. For example, you can use the poll end of the head to successfully drive a wedge into place instead of using a sledgehammer to do this. Likewise, you can use a splitting maul to push a piece of wood into place when building something or dislodge a wood plank, metal or concrete block when tearing down the shed, bringing down a wall or similar deconstruction activity.
These are the most commonly used types of splitting mauls. They are distinguished by their wedge-shaped heads, which are bigger and heavier than the head of a splitting or even felling ax. The head alone weighs between 2.7 and 3.6 kgs, effectively making the wedged maul the heaviest splitting maul around. This type makes quick work of splitting logs and is a must-have if you use plenty of wood logs throughout the year. The monster maul is a variation of the wedged maul, the only difference being in the shape of its head, which is more triangular, and the handle, an extra strong metal handle that is virtually unbreakable.
Splitting mauls with separate wedges allow you to use different wedges to split a log of wood. This means you get to choose the wedge you feel is best suited for the size of log you want to split and use a hammer to drive the wedge into the log. And you can switch wedges as you go along. The biggest advantage in using separate wedges with the splitting maul is that it enables you to split much bigger logs quickly and with less energy.
Powered log splitters
Powered log splitters rely on powered energy to split logs. They usually require a hydraulic or electric rod with piston to function; can be powered by electricity, gasoline, diesel, or other forms of energy; and may be electric or non-electric. There are small powered firewood splitters for home use, which can be used by the majority of folks who split wood on small-scale basis. Similarly, there are commercial splitters with the capacity to exert 30 tons of force or more and which are the go-to splitters of choice for large-scale wood splitting. Due to its more technologically advanced mode of operation, the powered log splitter is the preferred type of splitter today as it’s easier to use and gets the job done quickly.
How to differentiate an axe from a maul
If you can’t ever seem to figure out the difference between an axe and a splitting maul, well, you’re not alone. Most people can’t either, and with the exception of passionate old timers who’ll be seen working on piles of wood year round, majority of us need a little schooling on which one is a splitting maul and which one is an axe. After all, they do look alike.
One of the most obvious differences between the two is in the shape of the head. The splitting maul has a much larger, broader head than the axe. Look closely and you’ll notice that its blade is also thicker and blunt. The blade of an axe, on the other hand, is thin, somewhat tapered, and sharp. The handles are also quite different, with the maul having a longer, straight handle, and the axe a shorter, more rounded handle. Lastly, splitting mauls are much heavier than axes. While axes typically weigh between 2 and 3 pounds, splitting mauls fall in the range of 6 to 10 pounds.
Tips on proper usage of a splitting maul
You want to make sure that you’re handling the splitting maul right so that you don’t expend more energy or spend more time than you should while splitting your wood. Handling the maul right also ensures your safety during the wood splitting process. Although it largely has to do with how you hold the maul and being careful when bringing it down to ensure that it does not accidentally land on your feet, you should go a step further and establish an ideal splitting ground for your logs. Set up a place much like a chopping block where you can place the logs that need splitting. This should be preferably a hardwood base that is 12-20 inches high and twice as wide as the biggest log to be split. Such a block ensures you don’t bend low to split the wood and protects your back in that sense. When you get the height of the splitting block right, you can split wood without ever having to bend and this will prove to be less tedious.
How to properly maintain a splitting maul
Your splitting maul is bought to be used as-is and you can put it straight to work after getting it from the store. However, after using it for a while, and particularly after hitting a stone or consistently hitting the ground, you may need to sharpen the blade. There are plenty of DIY maul blade sharpening methods you can try, from using a wet stone to using a good-old file. We especially like the filing method; it’s fast and gives you results in the most effortless way.
Here’s a quick rundown on how to sharpen your maul blade using a file. Place the maul on an even surface. It doesn’t matter whether you do this sitting or standing, but whichever position you choose, it’s best to use a surface that’s on the same level as your hands. Position the maul in such a way that the blade is right in front of you. Take your file and grind it across the blade in unidirectional fashion. Repeat for a few minutes. Turn and do the same on the other side of the blade.
While sharpening the blade of your splitting maul, take care not to make it too sharp, as this may interfere with how effectively it splits wood. When the blade is too sharp it may jam in the wood, requiring you to stop and wiggle it out. You’ll end up spending more time splitting the wood and getting frustrated in the process. To avoid all these, just ensure you don’t over-sharpen the maul.
Other than regularly checking to ensure that the maul’s blade is in good shape, there is little else you need to do in terms of maintenance for your splitting maul. The handle is pretty robust and only if it breaks or comes loose should you get it replaced.
Features to consider while choosing a splitting maul
With the right kind of splitting maul, you should have an easy time splitting wood. Various features determine how good a splitting maul is. Take the time to understand how each of these features works in relation to the maul and the impact they have on the effectiveness of the maul. Below, we outline the most important features to consider when choosing a splitting maul and tell you why each is important. Let’s get to it.
Splitting mauls are heavier than splitting axes and weigh between 6 and 11 pounds. This heavier weight may scare you at first, especially if you’re new to splitting wood. But it has its advantages. The heavier weight of the maul is deliberately made so to increase wood splitting efficiency. As the blade sinks into the wood and opens it up, the weight of the metal head puts pressure on the wood, forcing the wood to split open along the grain. If the maul was light, splitting the wood would prove to be arduous and would require much more energy, perhaps even needing a couple of extra tools to get the job done. The lighter splitting mauls like True Temper Sledge Eye Wood Super Splitter-Maul are better to use for softer woods.
Think about the head
The head of the splitting maul stands out for its heavy weight. In most mauls, the head can easily weigh up to 4 pounds. As mentioned above, the weight is critical in enabling the maul split wood efficiently and makes splitting wood easy. The maul is distinctly shaped like a sledgehammer at the back end, and indeed, the maul is often used as a hammer where necessary. When splitting large pieces of wood, you can use this end to drive a wedge into the wood for easier splitting. You can also use this end to split large logs when using a splitter. The front end of the head is shaped like an axe, with a tapering end, albeit a thick, blunt one. We find that the Halder 3007.160 splitting maul has the best wedge of all.
When considering the head, it’s important to think of how strong the head is and how the joinery between the head and handle is done. This boils down to material and technique, as we explain below.
The maul head does the toughest work when splitting wood, even though the handle plays a crucial, supporting role. It’s therefore important that the head be made from a sturdy, hard wearing material. High-grade steel is the material of choice and gives a lifetime of service in most cases, even with heavy usage.
In some models, the head and handle are made from the same material and are seamlessly joined at the shoulder. This reduces the likelihood of breakage and such mauls will last longer than mauls with separate heads and handles. For mauls with wooden handles, the handle is secured to the head using expanders or wedges. For mauls with fiberglass handles, the handle is joined to the head using epoxy fillers. It may also be attached to the head using rivets. When buying your splitting maul, check the method used to join the handle to the head and ensure that both are firmly fastened into place.
The blade of a splitting maul is shaped differently than the blade of an axe. Whereas an axe blade is thin and sharp, the blade of a maul is thick and blunter. This is made so by design to make it easy for the maul to split wood on impact. A sharp blade tends to stick to the wood, making it almost impossible to split it as desired. Have you tried splitting wood with an axe? If you do this, the sharp blade of the axe consistently jams into the wood and you have to keep removing it. It makes splitting wood near impossible. But the same sharp blade used to chop down a tree works like magic, moving efficiently across the grain to bring the tree down. It’s the opposite with a splitting maul, and this difference is brought about by the shape of the blade.
The collar acts as a protective device for the handle. It protects the handle from not only overstrikes – where you miss the target spot and slam the handle against the wood, but also from the ragged edges that are formed when the wood splits irregularly and which can potentially damage the handle. The best splitting mauls come with a hardy but soft collar which doesn’t add to the weight of the handle but nonetheless offers the needed protection. Most collars are made from aluminum sheeting or paracord. If your collar gets old and worn out, you can improvise some using copper wire, electric cable, or any type of cord, and neatly wrapping it with tape. Just ensure that the cord you use isn’t too bulky and won’t be bigger than the head when wrapped around the handle.
Splitting maul handles are mainly made of wood or fiberglass, with options like the Monster maul consisting of a metal handle. Metal handles are the most durable, but they also tend to be heavier than the other materials. Wooden handles are the most commonly available. They are lighter, with good grip, but they’re also prone to breaking. To guarantee a longer shelf life, most handles are made from tough, resilient hardwoods, some of which may be fire-hardened to further strengthen them. A good example is hickory. Other hardwoods commonly used to make maul handles are ash, sugar maple, and birch. Fiberglass handles like the one used in the Wilton Tools 50830 are lighter and more durable than wooden handles and have no risk of breaking.
More about handles
When choosing between wooden and metal handles, wooden and fiberglass handles, and metal and fiberglass handles, it is important to also consider how comfortable the handle is. The best handles have a rubber coating towards the end where your hands will be positioned most of the time. This rubber casing not only protects your hands from calluses but also ensures good grip so your hands don’t slide down the handle as you lift or bring down the maul.
The length of the handle is critical too. Splitting mauls generally come with long handles. Check how long the True Temper Sledge Eye Wood Super Splitter-Maul is. The handles are much longer than what you get in an axe. This longer length is chosen to produce the maximum power required to create fruitful impact against the wood. The handle should be longer than your arm, so always check the length when buying a maul. However, there is no recommended standard handle length, and what’s too short for one person may be long for someone else, and vice versa. Your height will determine the kind of maul you settle for eventually.
To be sure, always practice swinging the maul while at the shop to be sure you have the right handle length. If buying online, check the dimensions of the handle then find a pole of the same dimensions around the house if possible and see how easy it is to swing it. This should tell you if the height is too long or too short, and you can then adjust accordingly.
Head to handle connection
If possible, choose one-piece mauls where the head and handle are forged from the same materials to eliminate the risk of the head coming off. If you cannot find such a maul, inspect the head and handle joint carefully before buying to ascertain that it is well secured and carries no risk of coming loose during use. Wilton Tools B.A.S.H.and Halder 3007.160 are examples of mauls with secure head-handle joints. With this second type of maul, you have to inspect the maul before use each time, just in case the wedges or rivets holding the handle in place have become loose. This is inevitable with use and you should be ready to refasten the wedges/bolts or have them replaced when need be.
The hardness range refers to the Rockwell hardness (HRC) of the steel used to make the maul head after heat treatment. The Rockwell hardness method uses diamond probe to measure how hard steel is. The higher the HRC number indicated, the stronger and harder the steel is. A good example of a hardy maul is the 1844 Helko Werk Germany Traditional Splitting Maul. When choosing between any two mauls, go for the model with a higher hardness range as it’s bound to withstand frequent impact with wood, the steel of wedges, and the occasional stone better.
Grip has to do with how well the handle stays in your hand when you hold the maul. The best splitting maul has a firm grip and your hands won’t slide up and down when using it. Most splitting mauls come with a good grip, but it costs nothing to feel the handle up and down a second or third time just to be sure. This way, you’re able to feel and test the difference between the handles of any two splitting mauls. The Wilton Tools B.A.S.H. is an example of a splitting maul with an exceptionally good grip.
The balance of your splitting maul is determined by the design of the head and the head and handle weight ratio. Where there is solid balance, as in the Gransfors Bruks Splitting Maul, the maul is easy to lift and swing. A poorly balanced maul would be difficult to operate and can cause you to lose your step or fall over as you try to lift it. To achieve proper balance, manufacturers have to ensure that the weight of the head matches the length and weight of the handle. Where the head or handle is too big or too heavy, there will be a mismatch and the resulting maul won’t be easy to use. As with grip, always test the balancing of the maul by lifting it while at the shop. You should lift and bring it down without straining.
The sheath will protect your splitting maul blade from accidentally cutting into hard surfaces such as rocks or stones that may dull it. It’s also a protective cover that keeps you and others, especially children, from getting injured by the blade. Most sheaths are made from leather, though it’s not unusual to come across sheaths made from faux leather. Examples of top mauls with premium sheaths are Gransfors Bruks Splitting Maul and 1844 Helko Werk Germany Traditional Splitting Maul. The material used to make the sheath isn’t as important as how practical the sheath is, although a natural material like leather would have advantages over synthetic materials, and vice versa for synthetic materials over natural. So it becomes a matter of personal preference.