Axes

Best Axes: In-Depth Buyer’s Guide for Leading Models in 2020

wood chopping

Many outdoorsmen will tell you that one of the most essential tools you can have on hand is the axe. It’s versatile, durable, and can hack through pretty much anything. However, there are many options to choose from, which can make finding the best axes feel like a difficult challenge, especially for the avid outdoorsman who’s in need of a model that can withstand heavy-duty use.

I’ve reviewed many of the top products available, and I’ve narrowed it down to the all-time best six axes. These models are built tough and can handle any type of material you set in their path. I’ve also created a buyer’s guide, which will list many of the important features each model has to offer. Below, you’ll see a comparison chart, which lists the important specs you’ll want to pay close attention to, in order to determine which model has what it takes to meet your needs in the great outdoors.

Axes Comparison Chart

Product Axe Head Length Handle Rating
Husqvarna Wooden Multi-Purpose Axe


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Single-Bitted 26"Wooden
Fiskars 751110-1003 IsoCore Maul


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Single-Bitted 36"Rubber/Steel
TABOR TOOLS Chopping Axe


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Single-Bitted 24"Fiberglass/Rubber
Council Tool Michigan Axe


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Double-Bitted 36"Wooden
Channellock 361067 Camper Axe


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Single-Bitted 14"Fiberglass

Husqvarna Wooden Multi-Purpose Axe


Our Rating: (5/5)

This is a multi-purpose axe with a single-bit design. It measures in at twenty-six inches in length with a head that’s attached to a shaft that’s made out of hickory. This model can be used for wood chopping, felling trees, and more. The handle length offers better control, which makes it a great choice for the beginner. The head is made out of Swedish steel that’s been hand-forged, for top of the line durability. It also comes with a leather edge cover, for safer transport and storage.

Pros

  • Twenty-six inches in length
  • Handle made out of hickory
  • Leather cover included
  • Multipurpose

Cons

  • Not recommended for thicker wood

Conclusion

This multipurpose model is built tough and the perfect choice for the beginner who needs an axe that’s easier to handle and one that’s doesn’t come equipped with a heavier axe head. This model is perfect for camping, backyard cleanup, felling small trees, and more.

Fiskars 751110-1003 IsoCore Maul


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This is one heavy-duty axe and it’s the perfect tool for driving stakes and wedges or splitting wood. The patented IsoCore shock control system is designed to absorb vibration and impact shock in order to reduce user fatigue and discomfort. The riveted head is built tough and will not snap off or slide down, regardless of what type of material you’ll slicing through. Additionally, the soft-grip handle promotes user comfort while minimizing fatigue, allowing you to easily take care of that wood pile.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Riveted head design
  • Soft grip
  • Shock absorbing technology

Cons

  • Not designed for beginners
  • Longer handle is a trade-off for loss of swing control

Conclusion

This model features a heat-treated forged steel finish that comes complete with a special rust-resistant coating, for an axe that’s designed to last a lifetime. This is one powerful axe and a model that can handle slicing through full-grown trees, thicker lumber and branches, and much more. Because of the longer handle, this model is only recommended for seasoned axe users, since this longer length means a loss of control when you swing.

TABOR TOOLS Chopping Axe


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This axe is designed for preparing kindling from small to medium-sized wood and features a length of twenty-seven inches. This model is perfect for hikers and campers and can be a great choice if you’re looking for a compact axe to store in the trunk of your car or utility vehicle. The blade comes equipped with a protective band that’s made out of rubber, for safer transport and storage. The axe head is made out of tough steel and comes with a protective coating that reduces the chances of chips and dings. The handle is made out of fiberglass and thick rubber designed to prevent blisters.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Excellent balance
  • Compact design
  • Perfect for camping

Cons

  • Not designed for thicker branches

Conclusion

This isn’t a heavy-duty axe, so it shouldn’t be used on large trees or thicker branches. However, it will make a great addition to your camping gear and can handle felling small trees and small to medium-sized firewood. The lightweight design and durable blade make this model more beginner-friendly since it offers an excellent balance that gives the user more control with each swing.

Council Tool Drake Off Road Tools  Classic Michigan Axe


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

The axe features a thirty-six-inch double-bitted wooden handle made out of hickory, and a natural steel finish axe head that comes with a clear lacquer that’s designed to prevent rust. The head of the axe has been hydraulically sealed to the handle in order to improve durability. The serrated aluminum wedge used is lightweight and designed to improve cutting power.

Pros

  • Hickory handle
  • Double-bitted design
  • Serrated aluminum wedge
  • Equipped with a natural steel finish axe head

Cons

  • The longer length of the handle makes it difficult to control swings

Conclusion

This is a tough, versatile axe that can be used for felling small and large trees, it can cut through thicker branches, and it’s a must-have tool for work or your next camping trip. The longer handle takes away from the user’s control, so I wouldn’t recommend this heavy-duty axe to those with no prior experience.

Channellock 361067 Camper Axe


Our Rating: (4/5)

This small axe is a great choice for the hiker and camper, but is not tough enough to handle thicker firewood or branches. It weighs in at just a little over a pound, so you’ll have maximum control over every swing. The carbon steel axe head is durable and lightweight, further improving user control and cutting precision. The handle of the axe is made out of fiberglass that’s coated in rubber, which will cut down on user discomfort and blisters.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Fiberglass handle
  • Carbon steel axe head
  • Perfect for beginners

Cons

  • Not designed for thick branches
  • Not recommended for pro use

Conclusion

If you don’t have any prior experience handling an axe, then this lightweight, durable, compact axe may be right up your alley. While it’s not recommended for pro use and can’t handle cutting through thicker branches and firewood, it’s perfect for felling small trees, cutting up kindling and small branches, and features the type of lightweight design that will improve user control and cutting precision.

Axes Buyer’s Guide

Axes are very functional, versatile, and will come in handy in a variety of situations. They can be used for more than just splitting firewood, which is why so many preppers and outdoor enthusiasts are searching for a model that can withstand heavy-duty use.

An axe has a few main functions:

  • Shaping
  • Splitting
  • Cutting

This is a fantastic, versatile tool that can help you get through a job much easier and faster than ever before. Considering there are many styles and types of axes now on the market, each of which tends to vary in terms of quality and durability, this buyer’s guide will be invaluable to the homeowner, prepper, hiker, or camper, in need of a powerful axe that they can really rely on.

Benefits of Using Axes

male worker

  • An axe is a handy, all-purpose tool that you can keep in your pack when you’re camping or hiking or canoeing, or you can store it in the trunk of your car. Basically, this is a must-have tool for any type of outdoor adventure.
  • You can use an axe to process firewood, quickly. It can also be used to clear downed trees, shave kindling, or cut through thick ice.
  • An axe will be an essential tool that you can use to dig your car out of snow or mud.
  • When you’re camping and setting up your tent, if you don’t have the appropriate hammer on hand, use an axe to pound the tent’s stakes.
  • While an axe is often considered a multipurpose tool, it’s surprisingly specialized. An axe is used for shaping, chopping, and splitting wood. With the right model, you can save a lot of time and money.
  • While a chainsaw is the clear winner when it comes to cutting up wood, your axe will still come in handy. It can be used as a mallet to pound in chainsaw wedges, or it can take care of those oddly shaped branches that you can’t cut with a chainsaw, for safety reasons. Additionally, chainsaws need to take breaks periodically, to prevent them from overheating. If you don’t need a break, but your chainsaw does, then you can use your axe to finish the job, until your chainsaw has cooled down enough.

Other Important Features

Below, you’ll find a list of other top features that you’ll want to pay attention to, before you hit that buy now button.

Head Design

The head design is the most important spec to pay attention to when you’re shopping for a new axe. Ideally, the head of the axe should be made out of quality steel and should be forged, not cast. Casted steel tends to weaken over time and is a cheaper type of steel that you’ll commonly find on lower-priced axes.

Forged steel heads involve more layers of steel, which results in a much sharper and stronger head. This, of course, will add to the durability of the axe and allows you to get more use out of it.

Double or Single Bit

Many experienced outdoorsmen will tell you that a single-bitted axe is the way to go. It’s the most common type of axe on the market, but if you’re looking for the most bang for your buck, then you’re going to want to go with a double-bitted axe.

Single-bitted axes have a reputation for cutting faster, due to the added weight from the end of the axe head. But the double-bitted axe is more versatile and offers a more balanced swing. This style of axe is more balanced because both of the ends of its head are equal in weight and length. When you swing this axe, there will also be less wobble, which will improve the user’s accuracy. This results in cutting that’s more efficient. The real key to chopping wood is control, not power.

Since the double-bitted style axe comes with two cutting edges, it offers more opportunities to create a variety of cutting edges, based on your needs. This means, instead of purchasing different types of single-bitted models for certain tasks, you can buy just one double. This axe can easily handle a variety of jobs, including cutting roots, chopping, splitting and more.

In the end, whether you choose a single or double-bitted model, it will really be a matter of personal preference.  Since it has a couple of cutting edges, the double tends to require the user to be more safety-conscious compared to when using a single model.

Axe Head Weight

Another factor that you’ll need to consider when you’re shopping for a new axe is the weight of the head. Many people mistakenly believe that they need to use the heaviest axe head possible, since it provides more force, however, for the beginner, or for everyday use, you’ll want to stick with a model that’s five pounds or under. While it’s true, an axe with a heavier head will offer more striking power, you’ll lose a lot of accuracy in your swing, especially if you’re new to axe use. Most experts will recommend models that are around three pounds of weight. As you grow stronger, you can progress to a five-pound model or higher.

Handle Length

Most people will usually opt for a model that comes with a longer handle since it will allow them to swing using more force. However, going with a shorter handle is often the best choice. A longer handle can help to deliver more force, however, you’ll also lose some control in your swing, so it won’t matter how much force you use. If you’re looking for a model that offers the best combination of accuracy and force, then go with a shorter handle, which will allow for improved cutting efficiency. The handle length is usually measured from the knob at the bottom up to the top edge. These handles will come in a couple of standard length options. The first is referred to as the boy’s axe, while the second is categorized as full-size. The full-sized model will measure in at thirty-six inches. However, this length may be too long for some users, especially beginners. A better option is a model that measures in at thirty-one inches in length. This length will offer a nice combination of force and control.

But if you’re not using an axe to split firewood or using it for work purposes, then go for the boy’s axe. While you may be picturing a tiny axe that’s suitable for children, this type of axe actually measures in at twenty-eight inches, which is ideal for the average-sized adult. While this type of axe doesn’t offer the same level of power as a full-sized model, you’ll definitely have an easier time controlling it.

Material

lumberjack

Next up is handle material. Many models of axes will have plastic handles, but you’ll want to avoid these and instead go for a model that comes equipped with a wooden handle. Ideally, go for a handle that’s made out of ash or hickory. Once you’ve found a handle that’s made out of ash or hickory, make sure you inspect the direction of the grain, in addition to the growth-ring quantity and width. The grain of the wood should run parallel to the bit. Handles that have perpendicular grain that runs to the bit are usually much weaker and can snap when you’re striking into a tree or another type of dense material.

The wood should have growth rings that are narrow, numerous, and very tight. Handles that have this type of wood pattern are much more durable than models with growth rings that are broadly spaced.

Next, check out how the ax head is mounted to the handle.

Straight and Curved Handle Designs

The handle of an axe can be straight or curved. With a single-bitted model that’s designed to fell trees, you’ll usually come across curved handles. If you decide to go with the single bitted option, then make sure it features the curved handle design. This will make every swing feel more natural.

If you’re looking for a double-bitted model, then the only option you’ll have is a traditional straight handle. This is because, if the handle was curved, you would not be able to flip the head around to use the other side.

Varnish

If you purchase a model at your local hardware store, then the odds are the handle is going to have some varnish on it. So, before use, make sure you use some sandpaper to remove it since varnish can make the handle too slippery, especially if you use the axe with sweaty hands. A handle that doesn’t have varnish means improved control. However, the big drawback to an unvarnished handle is the fact that it increases the likeliness of blisters on your hands.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Difference Between a Felling Axe and a Splitting Axe?

The splitting axe is designed specifically to fell larger trees and handle big logs and huge rounds of wood. The felling axe is long and big enough, but the splitting axe is usually much bigger and often weighs over seven pounds, with a length of forty inches or more. Using a splitting axe will take experience, force, and precision. The felling axe is more beginner-friendly and designed to handle felling small trees.

What is a Carpenter’s Axe Used for?

This type of axe is very small and only a little larger than a hatchet. It’s often used in traditional log-building, joinery, and woodwork. It also features a more pronounced finger notch and beard, which will allow you to use a choked grip for improved control.

What Angle Should You Sharpen an Axe?

When you sharpen your axe, focus on the angle at the bit end. The axe doesn’t feature a straight consistent wedge. As you move up the axe bit, you’ll encounter different angles of thickness. In most cases, an axe will have a thirty to forty-degree angle at the end of the bit, with a fifteen to twenty-degree angle approximately half an inch from its cutting edge.

Final Thoughts

The best axes will allow you to cut, slice, and rip through pretty much everything. The products included here in my guide are top of the line, so you should have no trouble finding a model that offers the type of features you need, based on application. I hope this buyer’s guide has helped to explain the importance of each of the features you’ll find on your standard axe and how they can impact performance, in addition to helping you choose a model that will meet your needs, at a price you can afford.