The best wood-splitting axes in 2023

Wood splitting axes review BBC Gardeners' World magazine

The cost of heating a home, along with the surge in popularity of outdoor firepits and chimineas, has created a huge demand for firewood.
An axe is an essential tool if you use wood from your own trees or buy whole logs, as large pieces will need to be split to fit your stove or fireplace. If the logs are still very fresh, splitting also helps them to dry out enough to be useful as firewood.
An axe is also handy for making little sticks and slivers of kindling. Making your own kindling is much cheaper and more environmentally friendly than buying it in plastic bags or using most types of commercial firelighter.

Axes come in many sizes and weights, so it’s important to choose one that’s right both for you and for the task. While many axes are designed specifically for either splitting larger logs or making kindling, some of the mid-sized models could be used for both jobs.
Creating your own firewood can be a very satisfying job that helps to keep heating bills down – and it’s excellent exercise, too. There’s a saying that wood warms twice: once when it’s split and again when it’s burned!


Our expert testers trial hundreds of garden tools to work out which will do the job well and offer the best value, comfort and quality. If you’re preparing freshly felled wood and need to remove small stems and branches, check out our guides to the best secateurs and the best loppers.
We’ve also tested essentials like the best garden spades and best hoes as well as more specific kit like the best garden shredders, the best hedge trimmers, the best pressure washers and the best strimmers. For your next DIY project, have a look at the best cordless drills and the best drill bits.


Best wood-splitting axes at a glance

Our expertise

To help you find the right tool we tested a wide range of axes to split logs of different sizes and woods, according to the recommended maximum for each axe. Each axe has a detailed list of pros and cons for clarity and has been rated according to design, comfort, performance and value for money. Every axe in our round-up below has scored a minimum of three out of five stars, so you can buy with confidence.

Jump to:


In every review we award the outstanding products our coveted Best Buy award. To see these and others we recommend, browse our pick of the best wood-splitting axes below:


Best wood-splitting axes in 2023

Fiskars Norden splitting axe N12

RRP: £79.99

Our rating: 4.8/5

Fiskars Norden splitting axe N12 review BBC Gardeners' World magazine
Fiskars Norden splitting axe N12 review BBC Gardeners’ World magazine

Pros

  • Versatile
  • Comfortable and well balanced
  • Premium and durable construction
  • Outstanding design features
  • Long warranty

Cons

  • Expensive

Winner of a BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Buy award for the best axe for all-round wood splitting, this is a premium, quality axe. Beautifully made and well-designed, it’s very comfortable to handle and use, with a perfectly balanced weight. This, coupled with a relatively light weight of 1.3kg and a mid-length shaft of 50cm, mean this axe is large enough to be used two-handed for splitting logs up to 20cm in diameter, while also being small and light enough for more accurate precision work like making kindling. So, the higher cost of this axe is balanced out by its versatility – there’s no need to have two separate axes for two different jobs.
The carbon-steel axe head has an anti-friction coating, and a precision-ground cutting edge helps to keep it sharp. The top end of the hickory-wood shaft has Fiskars’ special Fibercomp™ overstrike protection – claimed by the manufacturer to make that part of the handle virtually unbreakable. The axe head is securely attached to the shaft with an over-moulded connection, so there’s no danger of it ever flying off. This axe comes with a rigid plastic cover that fully encloses the head, and a 25-year warranty.


Wilkinson Sword hatchet

Price: £28.99

Our rating: 4.8/5

Wilkinson Sword hatchet review BBC Gardeners' World magazine
Wilkinson Sword hatchet review BBC Gardeners’ World magazine

Pros

  • Ultra-light and well balanced
  • Very good for precision splitting
  • Durable materials
  • Excellent design features

Cons

  • Limited to small work

Awarded a BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Buy for the best axe for kindling, this ultra-light, handy little axe is ideal for wood-splitting jobs that require precision and accuracy. Weighing in at just 610g with a length of 40cm, this very well-balanced axe is super-easy to handle, although its small size and weight do make it unsuited to larger jobs.
The excellent design has the top of the handle wrapped over the axe head (the only brand in our test apart from Fiskars to include this feature) so there’s no danger of the head flying off. The axe head is made from forged carbon steel while the handle is fibreglass and nylon, with a soft, non-slip grip and a flared end that makes it easier to hold the axe securely. A rigid plastic cover securely encloses the whole of the axe head, and the whole thing comes with a 10-year warranty.


 

Kindling Cracker Original

RRP: £129

Our rating: 4.8/5

Kindling cracker original Fandango Fire Tools BBC Gardeners World Magazine review
Kindling cracker original Fandango Fire Tools BBC Gardeners World Magazine review

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Requires no sharpening
  • Safe for users of any age
  • Accessories available
  • Five year warranty

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Best attached to a base
  • Requires a sledge hammer

Although it isn’t a traditional axe, this wood splitter does the job just as well, and once we’d tried it we had to include it in our wood splitting axe review. Forged from a single piece of recycled cast iron, this well designed and simple tool has an upturned axe blade set within a safety ring. It’s super easy to use, anyone can have a go – you simply need the strength to lift a  hammer, and there are no safety concerns or worries. For these reasons we awarded it a BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Buy for safety.
To split wood you simply hold a log inside the ring and give it a tap with a sledge hammer so that it sits on the blade unsupported. You can then remove your hand and strike the wood again, until it splits. There’s no danger of hitting fingers or thumbs and the axe blade is protected from the hammer by the safety ring. The wedge shaped blade doesn’t need to be razor sharp but sharpening is simple if you need to. You do need to use a sledge hammer with the kindling cracker, so this is an extra expense if you don’t already own one, and although you’re limited to splitting logs that fit within the 16cm diameter of the safety ring, a second King size cracker is also available with a larger 22cm diameter. We did find the Cracker easiest to use, permanently attached to a chopping block as it can move when splitting larger logs and screwing it to a block makes it more secure. We also found it struggled with large, unseen knots in wood, which catch on the blade and can make it tricky to get off, so it’s best to check logs for knots before you chop.
Compared to many of the traditional axes in our test, the kindling cracker is expensive but there are a couple that cost more and it does come with a five year warranty. It feels very robust and  long lasting however, and for the sheer ease of using it we think it’s a worthy Best Buy winner. The kindling cracker can be bought alone or as part of a bundle including a sledge hammer, fire lighters and cover and the cover is also available to buy separately.


Burgon and Ball chopping axe

RRP: £38.99

Our rating: 4.5/5

Burgon and Ball chopping axe review BBC Gardeners' World magazine
Burgon and Ball chopping axe review BBC Gardeners’ World magazine

Pros

  • Good price for size
  • Comfortable and efficient
  • Relatively light
  • Well made with some environmentally friendly materials

Cons

  • Hard to use on large or awkward pieces of wood

Awarded a BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Buy for the best budget splitting axe, this long-handled axe is well made using some traditional and environmentally friendly materials. The handle is made from FSC-certified hickory wood and there’s a soft leather pouch that fully encloses the axe head, secured by poppers. The axe head is forged carbon steel and the handle is shaped and slightly flared at the base, making the axe very comfortable to hold and ensuring a secure grip. With a moderately long handle of 73.5cm and an overall weight of 1.8kg, this axe is easy to swing hard using both hands and it successfully dealt with straightforward logs. However, it was less successful at tackling large or knotty pieces of wood. It’s a good axe for the price, especially as it’s backed up with a five-year warranty.


Fiskars Norden N10

RRP: £69.99

Our rating: 4.5/5

Fiskars Norden N10 axe review BBC Gardeners' World magazine
Fiskars Norden N10 axe review BBC Gardeners’ World magazine

Pros

  • Comfortable and well balanced
  • Premium and durable construction
  • Outstanding design features
  • Long warranty

Cons

  • Expensive for relatively limited versatility

Awarded a BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Buy for the best small axe, this smaller cousin to the Fiskars Norden N12 is of a similar premium build quality, is comfortable to use and has a perfectly balanced weight. This axe can be used one- or two-handed for precision work like making kindling, yet, with a shaft length of 35.5cm, is still just large enough to be used two-handed for splitting small logs. The overall weight of 1.2kg also gives this axe some force. The head is made of anti-friction coated carbon steel with a precision-ground cutting edge that stays sharp, and the top of the hickory-wood shaft has Fiskars’ Fibercomp™ coating to protect against overstrike damage.
The axe head is securely attached to the shaft with an over-moulded connection, so there’s no danger of it flying off. It comes with a rigid plastic cover that fully encloses the head, and a 25-year warranty.


Corona Max forged felling and splitting axe

RRP: £64.99

Our rating: 4.3/5

Corona max forged felling and splitting axe review BBC Gardeners' World magazine
Corona max forged felling and splitting axe review BBC Gardeners’ World magazine

Pros

  • Very robust and well made
  • Comfortable and well balanced in use
  • Highly efficient
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Coating chips on the head
  • No cover

Given a BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Buy award for the best long-handled axe for splitting wood, this axe is designed for strength and durability as well as ease of use. Despite being one of the longest and heaviest axes we tested, with a 86.5cm handle and weighing in at 2.7kg, the balanced design makes this axe easy and comfortable to use for relatively long periods of time. The length of handle makes it possible to get a good swing to tackle logs of various sizes, including awkwardly shaped and gnarly ones. It comes with a lifetime warranty and is made from quality materials: the axe head is forged high-carbon steel and the handle has a fibreglass core with poly casing, flaring out slightly at the end to give a secure grip. Being bright red makes it hard to lose, too.
The only downsides are that the red coating on the side and back of the axe head did chip in several places after moderate use, so it may become battered-looking with age (although without affecting its durability) and there’s no cover supplied for the axe head.


Bulldog log-splitting axe

RRP: £35.51

Our rating: 4.3/5

Bulldog splitting axe review BBC Gardeners' World magazine
Bulldog splitting axe review BBC Gardeners’ World magazine

Pros

  • Great for awkward wood
  • Heavy head splits logs with force
  • Keen price

Cons

  • Relatively limited versatility
  • Unbalanced
  • Tiny blade cover

Winner of a BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Buy award for the best large axe for tough wood, this weighty, long-handled axe is good to have to hand for larger, gnarlier and more awkward logs. The 91.5cm fibreglass handle – the longest in our test – is completely straight with a soft grip and is shaped at the end for a secure hold. It’s one of the two heaviest axes on test at 2.7kg and it does feel head-heavy, making it hard work to use for any length of time. It’s therefore not really ideal to have as your only large axe (unless the user is very tall and strong), but given its low price, it would be worth having this one in the shed for those times when it’s necessary to wheel out the big guns.
One downside is the very small and thin cover for the axe blade, which could be lost very easily.


The best of the rest

Although some models didn’t quite achieve a BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Buy award, they still have great features that make them worth recommending. Browse our pick of the best of the rest wood- splitting axes on test.


Burgon & Ball hatchet

RRP: £22.99

Our rating: 4.0/5

Burgon and Ball hatchet axe review BBC Gardeners' World magazine
Burgon and Ball hatchet axe review BBC Gardeners’ World magazine

Pros

  • Comfortable to hold and use
  • Good price

Cons

  • Limited versatility
  • Less balanced than some
  • Lacks heft

This short-handled axe is well made using some traditional and environmentally friendly materials. The 41cm handle is made of FSC-certified hickory wood and there is a soft leather pouch that fully encloses the forged carbon steel axe head, secured by poppers.
The hickory wood handle is shaped and slightly flared at the base. This, combined with the relatively light weight of 900g, makes the axe secure and comfortable to hold, especially for single-handed for jobs like making kindling. But this model isn’t as well balanced as some others and lacks the force needed to tackle anything larger. It comes with a five-year guarantee.


Wilkinson Sword splitting axe

Price: £49.99

Our rating: 4.0/5

Wilkinson Sword splitting axe review BBC Gardeners' World magazine
Wilkinson Sword splitting axe review BBC Gardeners’ World magazine

Pros

  • Very lightweight
  • Comfortable and well balanced
  • Fast to swing

Cons

  • Only cuts straightforward logs
  • Blade wore quickly

Despite its 71cm handle, this axe is very light at just 1.6kg, which makes it easy to get a fast swing to split wood with force. However, it couldn’t cope with larger or more awkwardly shaped logs, and the blade did show more signs of wear than others. The small axe head is made from forged carbon steel and, like the Fiskars axes on test, is enclosed by the handle to make it near-impossible to come apart in use. The handle is made from fibreglass and nylon, with a soft, non-slip grip and it has a flared end for a more secure hold. A rigid plastic cover securely encloses the whole of the axe head, and the whole thing comes with a 10-year warranty.


Niwaki hatchet

Price: £159.00

Our rating: 3.3/5

Niwaki hatchet axe review BBC Gardeners' World magazine
Niwaki hatchet axe review BBC Gardeners’ World magazine

Pros

  • Top quality materials
  • Well balanced and comfortable
  • Good for precision work

Cons

  • High price
  • Short guarantee

This Japanese-made hatchet axe is beautifully constructed using highly durable Japanese carbon steel, with a handle made from Japanese white oak. With a length of 45.5cm and weight of 1kg, it’s very well balanced and good to use one-handed for precision splitting on smaller pieces of wood. The head is fully enclosed with a striking red vinyl pouch. However, the price is exceptionally high, and the two-year guarantee is disappointingly short for the price and this level of quality.


Stihl forestry axe

Price: £40.66

Our rating: 3.3/5

Stihl forestry axe review BBC Gardeners' World magazine
Stihl forestry axe review BBC Gardeners’ World magazine

Pros

  • Light for size
  • Well balanced

Cons

  • Awkward length
  • Small blade cover
  • Short guarantee

This medium-length axe is 60cm long, with the axe head weighing in at 1kg. The ash handle is shaped and flared at the end to give a comfortable grip and the steel head has a small plastic cover for the blade only, which could be easily lost.
However, this axe is too long to use single-handed while also not being sufficiently long to comfortably use two-handed and get a good swing, even for the shortest of our testers. It comes with a two-year guarantee.


B&Q Magnusson hickory splitting axe

Price: £34.00

Our rating: 3.3/5

B&Q Magnusson hickory splitting axe review BBC Gardeners' World magazine
B&Q Magnusson hickory splitting axe review BBC Gardeners’ World magazine

Pros

  • Keen price and lifetime guarantee
  • Large head

Cons

  • Rather unbalanced
  • Straight handle
  • Hard to use

This long-handled axe with a hickory handle and forged carbon steel head is one of the largest in our test with a length of 80cm and weight of 2.6kg. The axe head has a thick, wedge-like shape but, although reasonably efficient and good in some regards, needs more force to split logs. This, combined with the considerable weight, makes it less balanced than most, so it’s tiring to use for any length of time. The wooden handle is also totally straight with no shaping or grip features. However, the price is low, a cover is supplied that encloses the whole head, and the whole thing is backed up by a lifetime guarantee.


How to choose a wood-splitting axe

A wood-splitting axe is designed to split large pieces of wood into smaller ones – either into logs of a suitable size to fit your stove or fireplace, or to make kindling.
The size and type of axe needed depends on whether the wood to be split is for logs or for kindling. Big chunks of wood need to be tackled with a larger axe with a medium to long handle, to achieve a high, fast swing using both hands. Smaller axes, often called hatchets, are designed to be used single-handed for greater precision and accuracy to cut small sticks or slivers of kindling wood. Whatever the size, wood-splitting axes are designed to split the wood along the grain, rather than across.
The type and quality of wood being split is also something to consider. Straight-grained slices of tree trunk or thick branches are relatively straightforward to split with most axes of a sufficient length, whereas anything that’s knotty, gnarly or particularly large will need to be tackled with a heavier axe with a longer handle in order to hit it with enough force and speed.
Also consider the construction, material, durability, warranty period and price – as well as how much the axe will be used.
And, at the risk of stating the obvious, an axe must suit your physical build and strength, otherwise you put yourself at considerable extra risk of accident or injury.

Handle

Most axe handles are made of wood or fibreglass. Wood is traditionally popular for its shock-absorbing qualities and hickory is a favourite due to its strength and flexibility. White oak is also very strong and is used for premium axes, though it’s less flexible. Ash is the lightest option and is springy and flexible, but copes less well with damp conditions and may need treating with oil.
An axe handle is usually shaped to a lesser or greater degree to give a good grip and to prevent hands slipping off the lower end of the shaft. Budget axes may only have straight handles. Fibreglass handles have to be straight but usually have a soft, textured grip of some sort.

Head

Most axe heads use carbon steel as it’s hard, is easy to sharpen and stands up to corrosion. Cheaper steel is used for budget axes and, though still hard and durable, does wear and corrode more readily. Most axes are made of medium-carbon steel, with premium models made using high-carbon steel which has greater hardness, strength and corrosion resistance.

Cover

Nearly all axes are supplied with a head or blade cover. This protects the axe from damage and corrosion whilst not in use and prevents accidental injury. The design and material of head covers varies considerably between models.


What type of axe is best for splitting wood?

The best axe for splitting wood should be comfortable to handle and suit your height, physical build and strength. For splitting large chunks of wood such as bits of tree trunk or large branches, the handle must be long enough to swing the axe with both hands from above your head to exert sufficient force. The best axe for kindling should be light enough to use with one hand and with a shorter swing.

How do I choose a wood-splitting axe length?

Choosing the best-length axe for splitting wood depends on several factors. There is great variation on handle length and choosing the right one depends to a large extent on the type and size of wood to be split. A longer handle is suited to splitting bigger pieces of wood as it gives a greater swing and hence greater force. Shorter handles give more precision but less force. As described above, the axe must also suit your physical build and strength.

Are heavier axes better for wood splitting?

A heavier axe head gives more force to split the wood, but only up to the point that the user can physically handle the weight. If the axe is too heavy to lift and swing comfortably, the actual force and effectiveness is reduced. Plus, there’s a big safety element to consider if the user is struggling to swing a heavy axe and land it accurately on the wood, as well as the possibility of physical injury from trying to lift and handle an over-heavy tool.

Using an axe with care

Always stay safe when using an axe.

Wear safety glasses, stout gloves, safety footwear and clothing that covers arms and legs.
When not in use, put on the safety cover and store well out of reach of children.

How we tested wood-splitting axes

The BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine reviews team tested a range of wood-splitting axes, with each product used to split logs or to split kindling to see how they fared. They were assessed according to the following criteria, with equal marks attributed to each:

  • Design: Looked at the material and quality of the blade and handle, the design of the tool and grip features.
  • Comfort: Assessed how comfortable the axe was to hold and use, taking into account the weight, size, handle length, ergonomics and grip.
  • Performance: Focused on how well the axe cut a variety of sizes and types of wood up to the maximum diameter specified for the product, and how durable the blade and handle proved.
  • Value for money: Considered all of the above along with special features, length of warranty and the price.

For more information on our testing process, see How we review


This review was last updated in May 2023. We apologise if anything has changed in price or availability.

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