The best felling axes can be used to take down small trees on your property, or when you’re out hunting or camping. When most people think of an axe they think of a standard axe used for chopping wood. However, when you cut wood, you’re cutting the piece of wood along the grain. The blade on a standard axe is very thin at the edges and will progressively get thicker and become a wedge that will divide the wood apart. However, the felling axe is designed much differently. These axes are used to cut down trees, meaning that it will cut across the grain instead of with it. Since the goal is to chop a tree down not to split wood this type of axe has a very long, sharp, thin blade that’s designed to sink deeper into the tree with every stroke. If you’re looking for the perfect felling axe that can take care of jobs in your yard or one that can take down small trees to use for firewood on your next camping trip, then you’ve come to the right place. I’ve put together this in-depth buyer’s guide that will include all the important features you need to look for in your next felling axe, what type of handle designs are available, and how to use this type of axe correctly to get the most out of it.
I’ve also tested out several axes, compiling a list of the top four that offer that type of durability and quality all buyers are looking for. Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that includes each of the models that made it onto my list, how they rated and their best features.
Felling Axe Comparison Chart
Hults Bruk Kalix Axe
This felling axe weighs in at 3.6 pounds, with a head weight of 2.25 pounds. The handle is twenty-eight inches long and made out of solid hickory. This compact axe is designed to handle small to medium-sized trees. The high-quality head consists of clear-lacquered ironwork, for smooth cutting precision. The weight of the axe promotes a longer use time, while making the axe easier to control.
- Improved swing control
- Excellent balance
- Needs to be sharpened right out of the box
This model is perfect for felling small to medium sized trees. The lightweight design improves the user’s control with every swing and minimizes shoulder and upper back discomfort. Made out of high-quality steel and equipped with a thick curved hickory handle, this is a felling axe that’s designed to last.
1844 Helko Werk Germany Black Forest Woodworker Axe
This felling axe is handmade in Germany and features an axe head made out of high carbon steel. The handle is made out of American hickory, complete with a linseed oil finish. The handle has been sanded down smooth with the use of 150 grit sandpaper. This axe also comes with a leather sheath and a bottle of protective oil. The handle itself is well-balanced, smooth, and feels good in the hand. The axe weighs just three and a half pounds with a head weight of just over two pounds. The length of the axe comes in at twenty-four inches, which is a good choice for the beginner, since the length helps to improve cutting control and precision.
- Axe head is made out of carbon steel
- Hickory handle
- Linseed oil finish
- Poor grain orientation
This lightweight, powerful axe is designed for felling small to medium sized trees. It’s perfectly balanced and features a long sanded handle made out of smooth hickory, with a linseed oil finish that won’t interfere with gripability. This is a beautiful, well-made axe that’s made from high quality carbon steel that can retain an edge longer, making this model very low maintenance.
Hults Bruk Torneo Axe
This felling axe weighs 2.86 pounds, with a handle measuring in at twenty-six inches in length. The head of the axe is made out of solid Swedish steel, attached to a handle that’s made out of American hickory. The compact design of the axe makes it easier to wield, giving the user more control with each swing. The bare finish of the handle will improve the user’s grip, preventing it from slipping when hands become sweaty.
- Head made out of Swedish steel
- Twenty-six inches in length
- Needs to be sharpened often
This model is well-built, featuring a solid design and perfect balance. The length of the handle is perfect for beginners who are just learning how to control and power their strikes. The compact design of the axe also helps to improve swing power and accuracy. This axe is a great choice for anyone searching for a durable model that can handle small to medium-sized trees.
Council Tool Velvicut Felling Axe
This is one heavy felling axe, weighing in at 5.60 pounds, with a head weight of four pounds. The head of the axe is made out of American steel, with a thirty-two-inch American hickory handle. The length of the axe combined with the sheer weight makes it a bad choice for inexperienced users since this model can be difficult to control. The long hickory handle was chosen for its grain density and orientation. The handle is mounted using a softwood wedge in addition to a round steel wedge for improved security. The head of the axe has been coated in oil to prevent rust. Additionally, linseed oil has been applied to the handle to protect it from the elements. Also included is a free, beautifully made leather sheath.
- Linseed coated handle
- Leather sheath
- American hickory handle
- Head is mounted with steel wedge and softwood wedge
- Length can make the axe difficult to control
This is a beautiful, well-made axe that can take on small to medium sized trees. The length of the handle and the overall weight of the axe can make it difficult for some users to wield, however, people with experience using an axe will appreciate its balance, durable design, and overall quality.
Gränsfors Bruks American Felling Axe
This is a pro-quality axe that measures in at thirty-one inches in length. This model is able to handle small to large trees due to its broad edge that measures in at 4 ½ inches. The long handle and heavier head make this one powerful axe to cut with. The axe weighs a little over five pounds with an axe head that weighs 3.3 pounds. Also included is a vegetable tanned, full-grain leather sheath that will protect the head from damage.
- Covered by a twenty-year manufacturer’s warranty
- Includes leather sheath
- Can handle large trees
This axe can take on any size of tree, features a well-balanced design and is covered by an impressive twenty-year manufacturer warranty. Due to the length of the handle and the weight of the axe, this model may be difficult for some users to swing and would be a better fit for a buyer with axe swinging experience.
This is a lightweight axe that’s easy to swing and features a high-quality steel head that weighs in at a little over two pounds. It’s equipped with a lightweight, durable fiberglass handle that measures in at twenty inches. The total weight of the axe is three and a half pounds, which is the perfect size for beginners or smaller users. This axe is well-balanced, with a handle that has rubber inserts that are designed to improve the user’s grip. The ergonomic design of the handle will also absorb impact, improving comfort. Additionally, it comes with a small silicone blade cover that’s designed to protect the blade during transport. Overall, this axe is a great choice for the beginner and offers the type of solid, well-balanced performance that’s essential for those new to axe use.
- Ergonomic grip
- Fiberglass handle
- Perfect for beginners
- Low quality blade cover
This model’s low weight makes it a better choice for beginners with no prior axe experience or smaller users. The axe can handle small to medium sized trees and features a well-balanced design and an ergonomic handle that will improve striking accuracy and user comfort.
Felling Axe Buyer’s Guide
A felling axe is a tool that’s used for cutting down trees or removing small branches. These axes are designed to chop across the wood grain using fine cuts that won’t misshape or mar the results. This type of axe isn’t designed to split wood, instead, it just makes trees fall. A good felling axe will have a very thin fine edge, with a tempered head that’s much thicker near the back. Using this tool, you can easily cut deeply into the tree’s grain. Now, let’s check out some of the benefits that come with using this type of axe over a standard splitting axe.
Benefits of a Felling Axe
- The felling axe is very different from a splitting axe in a number of ways and there are many benefits to choosing this type over a standard axe.
- The felling axe has a blade that’s significantly narrower and sharper than a splitting axe. It’s designed to cut crossways through the fibers of the wood.
- Using this type of axe properly will involve cutting using downward, quick strokes, making a felling axe much easier to use than a splitting axe.
- It’s the perfect choice to use for cutting smaller pieces of wood.
- Most models feature a lightweight design, which makes them easier to control
- These axes are a better choice than splitting axes for beginners, since the user will be able to enjoy swings that are more precise.
Other Important Features
There are many important features to look for in a felling axe including balance, weight, handle length, handle material, head design, and handle shape. I’ll go over these important features to help you choose a model that’s durable, perfectly balanced and designed to last. Let’s start off with the length of the handle and why handle length is so important.
A longer handle will provide more swing power and increased speed with each blow. However, this will only be true if the person using the axe is tall enough and strong enough to handle it. Choosing a model that officers perfect balance between powerful blows and accuracy will make each swing more efficient and productive. In most cases, a felling axe with a handle that measures in at 26 inches to 36 inches should be sufficient.
Axes that are made out of carbon steel are going to be lighter and sharper but they’re also going to be more expensive. Carbon alloy heads provide the finest cutting edges, however tough steel such as Swedish Steel when folded correctly and heat treated properly, can cut directly into a tree, with deep broad cuts.
Double and Single Bit
Double bit models are very common, but they only need to be used if you want to save one side of the axe for heavy felling and harder cuts which can quickly dull the blade. The other side can be used for wood splitting and finer cuts. Double bit models tend to be much heavier and can be more difficult to control. Single head models are more affordable, lighter, and generally easier to use; however, you only have the single side of the blade to rely on so if you have plenty of tree felling to do you may want to opt for the double bit models.
An axe needs to be somewhat heavy in order to work well and offer the proper balance. The quality of the cut will depend more so on the angle of the axe head, the accuracy and speed of the swing, and the curve of the axe handle. However, the right weight can also depend on the type of weight the user is comfortable carrying. Some beginners may prefer a lighter axe because they’re easier to control.
The best axe handles are made out of Hickory. Hickory should only be used since it’s incredibly durable not prone to rot and is considered naturally more balanced. The wood itself will absorb the shock of every swing better than other types of wood. This means the user can take a longer swing without the worry of damaging the handle or hurting their hands.
A single bit axe will come with a straight handle, however, there are curved handle shapes out there that will give the axe a more natural feel, while providing improved control with every swing. Double bit axes will only have a straight handle design which makes it much easier to flip the axe around.
If the model you purchase has varnish on the handle be sure to sand it off before use since it will only make the handle more slippery, allowing it potentially fly out of your hands when you’re chopping.
Using a sheath to cover the blade of the axe when it’s not in use is always a good idea. Not only will the sheath work to protect the axe blade and keep it sharp, but it will also protect the blade from the elements. Use a sheath that is made out of leather, since leather will not easily be cut up when it’s placed over the blade and is much more durable than sheaths made out of alternative materials.
Type of Oil to Use for Axe Handle
Felling axes that have a handle made out of hickory will last significantly longer with a protective coating, such as linseed oil or teak oil. Use only boiled linseed oil, not raw. Raw linseed oil will not dry and will leave the handle feeling sticky. A protective layer of linseed oil will prevent rot and other types of damage caused by the elements. The more layers added to the handle, the better.
Sharpening a Felling Axe Blade
An axe is sharpened based on how worn out the head is. When filing this type of blade, you’ll use a fine-toothed flat file. This type of file will work well at maintaining the edge’s original shape. In the event of minor damage, you can use a coarse whetstone to sharpen the blade.
To sharpen, you’ll keep moving the blade back and forth in order to grind the edge evenly. Any burrs can be removed by honing the edge using a whetstone in a rotating motion. If you want a keener cutting edge, you can strop it against a leather strap. For this method, each stroke should be made away for the cutting edge.
- Felling a tree will require a basic understanding of balance and physics. Prior to felling, make sure you look to see if the path of the tree when it falls will be free. Make sure the tree will not get hung up when it falls. Check the tree for a branch heavy side. A side with more branches can influence the direction the tree will fall. By holding the axe head down, you can use it as a plumb to determine how straight the tree will stand and if there’s any lean to it.
- Start by making a back cut, then work downward using a forty-five-degree angle if possible. Cutting upward will send an axe to the follow-through zone where your head is.
- Limbing is the process of removing the branches from a downed tree. The simplest way to limb a tree is by starting from the base and working your way up, cutting the under portion of the branch that’s located nearest to the trunk. The trunk of the tree should be used as a type of physical barrier between the axe and you. Utilize a golf swing in order to separate the tree branches.
- Whenever possible, try to move yourself around the tree, as opposed to moving the tree around you. Limbing a downed tree with the help of a felling axe can be the easiest, simplest way to obtain firewood in an emergency situation, or just when you’re out camping and running low on wood.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Difference Between a Felling Axe and a Splitting Axe?
A splitting axe creates small chunks by splitting the fibers of the wood apart. A felling axe can cut through the wood fibers.
What Kind of Axe Do I Need to Cut Down a Tree?
The felling axe is used to chop trees perpendicular to the grain. There are a couple of different types of felling axes: rounding and wedge. The rounding axe is used on hardwoods, while the wedge axe is used on soft.
Why is an Axe Handle Curved?
Curved handles for single bit models began to appear in 1840. The curved handle design became very popular, simply because people loved how it looked. However, these days, the curved design is now the standard. A double bit axe will always have a straight handle.
What Type of Axe Should I Buy?
When you’re shopping for an axe, the first question you should ask yourself is whether you need the axe to split smaller or bigger pieces of wood. A splitting axe blade is significantly heavier and designed for splitting medium to large sized logs. A Fiskar axe is designed to have better than average balance, providing the user with more control and chopping precision.
Should an Axe be Razor Sharp?
Yes, an axe should be very sharp. A dull axe can easily bounce off the surface of the wood, leading to a serious injury. Additionally, you’ll need to use more physical effort to cut with a dull blade, whereas a sharp blade will allow you to easily chop through thicker wood. Because of this, it’s always important to check the blade’s sharpness before you handle a big job.
The right type of felling axe can make short work of any small tree or limbing job.
Now that you know more about what features to consider on your search for the best felling axes, you’ll find that choosing the right axe for your felling needs is a much simpler process. You can choose a model based on the weight, handle design and material, and one you’ll feel comfortable using and carrying. Additionally, the products that I’ve included here will give you a great idea of the types of top axes available on the market that scored well in a variety of areas including power, durability, and overall quality.