This review is written to indicate the best axe uses. Felling, splitting, carving, hewing, and of course throwing. I will admit I have not personally tested all of these axes, and it would be nearly impossible to test every single axe brand for each class. Therefore to that end, this cannot be considered an all encompassing review.
So here is what I did, I compared several of the top axe reviews found online for each class, injected a bit of my own knowledge then tallied up the final scores to bring you the the top reviewed axes from top axe review articles. I will mention the top two axes for each class.
Simply put, this article will save you about an hour of searching on Google. But I do recommend you also look into other brands that may have not made the cut for this article. So lets get to it. I figured it would be nice to start with the most traditional of axes, the axe known by all. Some other more obscure types like camping axes and axes for survival fall within their own categories.
To get a good idea at all the different axes out there, check out this Types of Axes article.
The Felling Axe
After looking over several reviews I was surprised at the number one result. Not because it’s not a quality axe, but simply because although the brand is known, this series of axes is not well known as far as the general public goes, it’s not generally something you’ll find at your local hardware store. So I was a bit surprised by how many have reviewed it.
The company I speak of is Council Tools, but not their general line, it’s the American Felling Axe from Council Tools Premium Velvicut line up.
This is a fantastic very traditional axe, the Velvicut line is produced by Council Tools’ most experienced crafters. It is a high quality axe in just about every sense of the word. The pattern used for the axe is the classic Dayton pattern, which is a long standing favorite of woodsmen for a full size felling axe.
It has a more narrow wedge shape than other axes. The hefty four pound weight combined forces allow it to cut deep and remove wood quickly while not being overly fatiguing. It is made of 5160 alloy steel which is a high carbon steel with the addition of up to 0.9% of chromium, which helps create outstanding toughness and fatigue resistance.
Though the addition of chromium is not enough to categorize the steel as stainless, it does help combat corrosion to an extent which is always a good thing. The steel is hardened to HRC 52-56. The axe comes hafted on a 32 inch American Hickory contoured handle.
So in short the Velvicut American Felling Axe(Get it here) is made with great steel and great craftsmanship right here in America. It will come razor sharp and won’t be hard to keep it that way. Did I mention it’s guaranteed to last a lifetime?
The Splitting Axes/Mauls
Though I’m thinking from an axe enthusiast point of view, if I shift to a general public mindset it becomes less surprising. Though the top felling axe is fairly pricey, the top splitting maul comes out at a pretty cheap price. I actually read through even more reviews on this one because I was surprised, but I found it tops the list of almost every top splitting axe review.
The splitting axe that receives the highest praise is Fiskars x27 Super Splitting Axe.
I will admit, personally not a fan. Not because it lacks quality or anything bad like that, it’s simply preference. I like axes I can swap the handle on and I prefer the more traditional wood and steel combination compared to steel and plastic Bleh! However, even if the handle breaks, the axe is cheap enough to buy another, and I’m thinking that was a motivation for the design.
Still there are only good things said about it. It’s not plastic junk, it holds up quite well, it likely won’t hold up as long as some higher prices axes, and it’s not something you’ll likely want if you make your living splitting wood. But for seasonal wood splitting, it’s perfect for the job.
The x27 has some fancy tricks up it’s sleeve though, but before I get to that lets talk about the basics.
The x27 has a 36” handle and being a plastic material called “FiberComp”, it’s a bit lighter than good ole Hickory and also more shock absorbing, reducing fatigue. I was unable to find information regarding what steel is used for the axe but from what I was able to gather it seems it’s nothing too special but is hardened a little more than your typical axe allowing for a sharper, longer lasting edge.
But as we’ve learned from some of my other articles, the more hardness, the more brittleness. The one complaint I found about this axe was simply that if you hit the ground, or maybe even a knot in a tree, you will likely get chips in the edge. So chipping can be avoided by simply paying attention.
The axe head also has a low-friction coating which is supposed to help it slide through the wood easier. It also has a convex blade geometry to help separate the wood.
The x27 was designed and perfected for the best power to weight ratio, which increases swing speed which effectively increases the power of the swing. It is supposedly designed for maximum efficiency and splits wood in one swing more often than not. I’ve never used one, so I can’t tell you if that is true, but a couple Youtube videos seem to indicate that it does indeed when properly used.
Lighter, faster, less exhausting and little maintenance makes this a great splitting axe. Many swear by it for their splitting needs, I’ve seen a few comments stating you can do 7-8 cords before it needs to be sharpened. That may be true if you are only splitting softwood, but you should hone your edge after use every time for best performance and safety.
I feel it necessary to also mention Friskars Iso Core 8lb Maul, you can swing it or hit it with a sledge hammer which can be useful if you are unable to make a full swing or have full power with an axe. It is made to the same standards as the x27. Did I mention they are said to be unbreakable?
The Hewing Axes
well there wasn’t really much in the way of reviews as not many companies make hewing axes anymore.
There are a few hewing axes (broad axes) out there still. The best option I know of which has pretty endless positive reviews is Gransfors Bruks Broad Axe model 1900. Yes, it’s quite pricey but with proper care it will be a family heirloom.
It comes in at three and a half pounds with a 19.5 inch slightly curved Hickory handle. The best part about this particular axe is the options that Gransfors offers. The standard version comes with your usual double beveled edge for your basic hewing needs. However you can also get it with a single bevel for left or right handed use which means the opposite side is completely flat.
Along with the option to have the bit offset from the handle instead of inline. This allows for a smoother finer finish to your hewed log due to the aggressiveness of the single bevel and because the offset handle allows you to keep the axe closer to the log without bouncing the axe eye off the log every other swing (which is really aggravating).
I can’t find information on exactly what steel is used, but I can assure you it’s high quality Swedish steel and hardened by a skilled tradesman.
Another of the limited options the Council tools Broad Hatchet(check it out here) which comes in at a little under three pounds, and comes attached to a 28” slightly contoured Hickory handle.This axe seems to be Councils basic quality and from what I’ve read in various places it may require some sharpening before use. Though it also has a peppering of glowing reviews which makes me wonder if there may be an intermittent quality control issue.
Either way with a little love and care it is completely capable of being a good long lasting tool, though I wish it had a single bevel option.
There are a few other small broad hatchets and such from random tool companies, likely quick cheap Chinese made tools. However there are also many smaller axe makers who make broad axes. They can be found on Etsy, Ebay, or through a Google search, you may even find you have a local axe maker. It’s never a bad thing to support a local craftsman.
On To Carving Axes
The Carving Axe class has a lot of options, due to this I had to do a little extra research because there are random entries on most reviews and I wanted to be as fair as possible.
So for this one most of the top choices were different, however second place was held by the same axe on most reviews. That axe is the Gransfors Bruks Large Swedish Carving axe. As we well know by this point, Gransfors knows what they are doing. This carving axe was developed in collaboration with two master craftsman, who used inspiration from old designs.
The handle is 14.5 inches long and moderately contoured. The weight comes in at 2.2lbs. Of course the axe is made of quality Swedish steel. But what makes it a good carving axe?
Well let me tell you. Anyone who has done wood carving knows that you need to have gripping options, sometimes for more control sometimes to carve a difficult section. This axe was certainly designed with that in mind.
The contoured handle allows for a hold near the bottom of the handle for fast or strong strikes, where control and accuracy are not quite as important, such as roughing out a project. But the contour also allows you to have a nice grip in the center and even right up against the axe head, which provides better easier accuracy and control. The axe head is even designed to allow space for your fingers.
Nobody should have a problem finding a comfy grip on this axe. The head itself has a long curved razor edge giving you flexibility in your carving. This axe comes with a double bevel, but I believe you can also get them with a single bevel, but you might be on a waiting list for it.
Of course you also have the heirloom quality of the tool which will last a lifetime and beyond, it’s a bit pricey but think of it as an investment, if times get tough you can easily sell it for not much less than you paid as long as you took proper care of such a nice woodworking tool. I do want to throw in some honorable mentions for you guys to check out.
For the woodworking enthusiasts out there, my Number 1 Recommendation for step by step projects is Teds Woodworking Class. I can’t get enough of all the blueprints they have..
The PFEIL craving hatchet(see here) is an excellent tool made by the Swiss, it’s a great little carver and won’t break the bank to bad. A lot of people mention “The Robin Wood” carving axe out of the UK. I had never seen one so I checked it out. It’s quite the nice little carver as well, and has a much lower price than many others.
So in all honesty not one review I read gave the same top recommendation, and to my surprise, most of the recommendations were complete junk. Most of the reviews listed axes/tomahawks that came in well under $50 most under $30. You get what you pay for, these axes are not made to be throwing axes and are not high quality and therefore are a waste of money.
If your axe has plastic on it, it is not a good throwing axe. The plastic will be the first thing to break and it won’t take long. Once the stress from the hits builds up it will break. If it has screws in it, it will break.If it has more than a steel axe head and a handle, it will break.
That being said I believe most traditional quality tomahawks would work well. I did find one review that surprised me. It was suggested the Gransfors Wildlife Hatchet For Sale was great for throwing.
So I thought about it, 13.5” handle, 1.3lbs, with handle and head design that just says “throw me….I’ll stick”.
Of course the usual Gransfors quality and craftsmanship is there as well. This particular review was done by the owner of an axe throwing venue so I figure he knows what he’s talking about. It is great for intermediate to advanced throwers, and has lots of other uses as well.
Interested in throwing? Check out this guide to throw axes for yourself!
So in short, it looks like Gransfors is at the top of their game and everyone else is just trying to catch up. Although it’s important to consider it’s like buying “brand name” you can pretty much get the same thing for cheaper but it won’t say Gransfors on it.
People like whats popular and known. But also the quality and craftsmanship of Gransfors products is nearly unmatched. Remember there are many axe makers out there in the world, and you have the internet. So thus ends my review of the reviews. I hope you found some useful information and come back to check out some of my other articles.
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