Is an axe an axe? Unfortunately, the answer is no, and there is a difference between a splitting axe and a felling axe. Each has its own unique design, they weigh differently, and the blade is also different.
The splitting axe has a narrow head shaped like a wedge and weighs between 3 and 6 lbs. The blade isn’t razor-sharp but generally blunt.
The felling axe has a much broader, flatter head, weighs roughly the same as the splitting axe, and has a sharpened blade.
The splitting axe strikes and splits a log with the grain via the downward swing of the axe. The felling axe can cut laterally or downward, so the cut can be against or with the grain.
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Uses for the Felling Axe
To cut a tree down, hack off a tree limb, or cut larger chunks of wood down to the best size to split a log, then you reach for the felling axe.
It has a much sharper blade than a splitting axe because it cuts across the grain. You want to have a nice, sharp edge, especially if doing a lot of cutting against the grain of the wood. One thing about sharp blades that are frequently used is that they will have to be sharpened.
However, a felling axe does not split wood as easily as a splitting axe as it’s generally lighter all-around than a splitting axe, even though the heads are similar in weight.
The felling axe is excellent for just about any angle and is, therefore, a sort of “jack of all trades, master of none.”
- It looks like the classic axe shape humans have been using for millennia
- It’s smaller than a splitting maul so it can fit into tighter spaces
- It has a thinner head with less surface area – which means it doesn’t get stuck as often when chopping through knots or other irregular parts of tree trunks or woody brush.
- Sharp, wide blade
- It’s not very good for splitting firewood over the chopping block, because its thin head is more likely to get stuck between logs.
- Labor intensive cutting against the grain
- Blade frequently dulls
Uses for a Splitting Axe
If you wonder, the splitting axe is not the same as the splitting maul, though they both accomplish the same task.
A splitting maul is larger and heavier than a splitting axe and splits larger wood lengths with more ease due to the downward force due to its size and weight.
The splitting axe is top-heavy so that all of the gravity, in addition to the strength of your swing, will give you the best impact force possible.
Splitting axes with their dull blade, wide and heavy head, split wood with the grain, but they are ineffective in cutting any wood against the grain, such as chopping down a tree.
That’s not to say that you couldn’t chop down a tree, just that it would take you forever to do it, and you would expend a lot of wasted energy.
For those times when you are going to be splitting a lot of wood, the splitting axe is a lot lighter than a splitting maul, and you will get a whole lot more use out of it before you wear out.
- Best for splitting wood with the grain
- It does not require frequent sharpening
- Top-heavy and lighter than a splitting maul
- Useless for cutting wood against the grain
- Labor intensive, as it is top-heavy
- Has a larger head with more surface area and will get stuck in wood much easier than other types of axes
Can a Felling Axe Be Used to Split Wood?
You see this question bandied about the internet frequently, with the majority of responses coming at you like a “shrieking, horrified, absolutely never use a felling axe to split wood” reply, as if it were some terrifying idea perpetuated on humanity by a maniacal serial killer.
The truth is, it’s perfectly fine to use a felling axe to split wood, although some types of wood, such as hickory, might be a little harder to split.
If you have a good swing and you’re plenty accurate, a felling axe will split wood just fine.
However, felling axes are designed for chopping through the grain of wood and if used continually as a hacking or splitting implement they will break sooner than later.
There are many types of axes, and the felling axe is probably the most versatile amongst the rest.
Since it has a wide, light, and sharp blade with plenty of handle room, you can make use of it even in adverse situations where you usually wouldn’t use one.
Can a Splitting Axe Be Used to Cut Down Trees?
Sure, you can use a splitting axe to cut down trees, but it’s not recommended.
For one, the blade is nowhere near as wide as a felling axe, so you won’t cut across much surface area when you swing.
The design and shape of a splitting axe will make it cumbersome to swing the axe horizontally or at any angle other than downwards. It’s almost like a sledgehammer in the way it’s wielded in your hand. Finally, unlike a felling axe, the splitting axe has virtually zero flexibility.
It’s one of the least versatile axes on any axe list. What it does do, however, it does very well.
When splitting wood, you would be hard-pressed to find a better method outside of using a mechanized or hand-operated splitter. You don’t have to spend much time keeping the blade sharp as its wedge-blade shape is more than enough to penetrate the top of the wood.
In terms of axe types, you really can’t find two axes that are farther apart in terms of their uses, and you can immediately tell that they are two different tools just by observing their design aesthetics alone. If your interested in knowing the difference bettween an axe and a hatchet check out our guide Axes vs. Hatchets: Which is Better.