You can use a wrench for a hammer, a knife for a screwdriver, and even a shovel for a rake, but an axe is one of those tools that, when you need one, nothing else will suffice. Beyond weight, handle length, and personal preference, here are a few basic considerations when choosing a proper axe.

Double or Single Bit

A single bit head can chop wood and also perform other tasks, like driving stakes or wedges. Gransfors Bruks

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The blade of an axe is referred to as its bit, and the first decision is whether you need one or two of them. A double-bit axe has a blade on either end of the head and is designed exclusively for chopping. A single-bit axe has a blade edge on one end of the head and a flat hammering surface, or poll, on the other. Double-bit axes offer more cutting surface, while a single-bit axe is built for not only chopping, but also for pounding on spikes and stakes or being driven like a wedge.

Handle Material

Synthetic handles are more durable and shock absorbing than wood handles. Fiskars

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The axe handle, which is also referred to as its haft, can be classic wood, metal, or a synthetic material. Synthetic handles often incorporate shock-reduction components to minimize the impact to your joints. They are also more durable, although wood handles are easier to replace should one break.

Splitting Mauls

Sink a maul into a log, and if it doesn’t split the wood, you can use another maul or sledge hammer to pound the blade through. Gransfors Bruks

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If you primarily intend to split rather than chop wood, you need a splitting maul. It functions just like an axe but with a much heavier butt that creates a wedge-like blade geometry. Sink one of these in a round of hardwood, and then use a sledge hammer to drive it on through. Or use the maul’s butt to pound on dedicated splitting wedges.