5 Best Hatchets for Splitting Wood

Woman Splitting Wood with Hatchet

Timber Gadgets is reader-supported. We may earn a commission if you buy through the links on our site.

Hatchets can make great tools for splitting wood, especially around campfires or for occasional use around the house.

It may surprise you to learn there is a difference between a hatchet and an axe. Hatchets are small and typically used with a single hand. Axes are long and require both hands.

  • A hatchet is typically 12 to 24-inches in length.
  • Full-sized axes (or mauls) are better for splitting wood than hatchets.

However, not everyone is comfortable swinging a full-sized axe or a 9-pound splitting maul. In this case, a splitting hatchet is a great fit for you!

For this reason, I’ve assembled a list of 5 of the best hatchets for splitting wood. In this guide, you will find my personal recommendation based on the specs and an in-depth review of each hatchet to help you decide which is best.

WeightLengthBrand
Estwing Fireside Friend4 lb14″Estwing
Helko Werk Mini Spalter2.5 lb20″Helko Werk
Gransfors Bruk Splitting Hatchet2 lb19″Gransfors Bruk
2 lb20″Hults Bruk
Fiskars X172 lb23.5″Fiskars
All links in this table go to Amazon.

What Makes A Good Splitting Hatchet?

Choosing a hatchet for splitting wood can seem like a daunting task if you’re not familiar with these types of tools. They come in different shapes, sizes, and materials, and have different uses. Some are made for felling trees while others are made for roofing, carving, or splitting firewood.

Suffice to say that splitting wood requires an axe (or hatchet) with certain attributes to accomplish the task in the most efficient way possible. After reading this section, you will know what makes a good splitting hatchet so you’ll know what to look for, whether you buy online or in a store.

The Shape of the Head

The shape of the head greatly affects how well the hatchet splits wood. Look for one with a moderate angle around the bit (blade) of the head. Also, the heavier the better.

Some of you are visual learners so I’ve added a picture to help.

Splitting vs Chopping Axe Head
This illustration shows two axe heads – one for splitting and one for chopping.

See the difference in the shape of the heads? The one on the left has a moderate angle, and it’s large. It’s good for splitting apart wood fibers. The one on the right has a sharp angle. They’re meant for chopping limbs or “felling” trees.

Listed below are the qualities of a good splitting hatchet or axe:

  • The head has a moderate angle, designed to push apart wood fibers.
  • A heavier head performs better than a lighter one.

For a splitting hatchet, find one with a head designed to split wood fibers apart, like the one on the left in the picture above.

Last but not least, it’s worth mentioning that the heavier the head and the longer the handle, the more force you can generate.

These are the reasons most people use a full-sized axe or splitting maul for the task of splitting firewood. Especially if you need to split a lot of wood.

The Quality of Materials

When selecting a quality hatchet, pay attention to the materials it’s made from. Likewise, there is something to be said about craftsmanship.

High-quality splitting hatchets are made from high carbon steel and have a nice, American Hickory handle. Finally, it will be hand-made by a skilled craftsman.

This may seem impossible, but when it comes to axes, there are still companies hand-making them. They’re reasonably priced, too.

Some key points to remember:

  • You can replace the handles of hatchets with wooden handles. Also, I believe wood is the best material for absorbing the impact of striking.
  • Composite and steel are the strongest handles, but they usually cannot be replaced if the handle breaks. Also, they don’t absorb the impact of a strike as well as wood.
  • The top-tier brands on this page (Helko Werk, Hults Bruk, and Gransfors Bruk) are hand-made. The others are machine-made and more likely to have imperfections.

So, I personally recommend a hatchet with a wooden handle. They cost a little more money but they’re worth it. Having said that, the budget options are perfect for someone who doesn’t need a fancy splitter.

Splitting Hatchet vs Full-sized Axe or Maul

Many of you know exactly what you’re looking for. If that is you, feel free to skip to the next section. However, some of you may not know if you should get a hatchet or a full-sized axe.

If that’s you, or you’re unsure if you fall into this category, please continue reading!

Most people tend to buy a full-sized axe for the task of splitting firewood. The reason? Well, longer handles and heavier heads make splitting wood easier.

If you’re comfortable swinging a full-sized axe, something between 28 to 36-inches in length, I encourage you to get one of those instead of a hatchet. It will make your life easier, especially if you’re splitting large rounds. See my best splitting axe and best splitting maul guides.

If, however, you’re not comfortable swinging a large axe or you’re not doing much splitting, a hatchet is a good choice for you. Please, continue reading.

The Best Splitting Hatchets Reviewed

Now that you know what makes a good hatchet for splitting, let’s have a look at them! Each of the hatchets below is well suited for the task of splitting wood.

Estwing Fireside Friend

Estwing Fireside Friend

The “Fireside Friend Splitting Tool” by Estwing is one of the best. It’s my #1 recommended budget option because the design and weight of the head are perfect for splitting wood.

I’m usually not a fan of axes with metal handles. This one is an exception, due to its design. It’s made to split wood and it does a good job at it. Here are some specs:

  • 4 lb head
  • 14″ in length
  • Steel handle with shock reduction grip

Because it’s a hatchet, and its intended use is to split wood, a heavy head and one-piece metal design are fitting for the task. Here are the pros and cons:

Pros

  • Great for splitting wood
  • Solid steel
  • Comes with a sheath
  • Cheap

Cons

  • It’s heavy (which can be a good thing)
  • Steel handle
  • Not hand-made

The two reasons I chose this hatchet as my favorite budget option are these: The head of the hatchet is designed specifically for splitting wood. It’s heavy and you can strike the poll (back) with a hammer if you need to. The second reason is the price. It’s the cheapest hatchet here.

My complaint is with the steel handle, and even that isn’t too big of a deal – especially if you’re not using it for long periods of time. Steel handles usually don’t absorb blows very well. They leave your hands hurting after continued use.

However, most people will find this tool more than adequate. I feel confident recommending it to you. So, this is my budget pick! If you’re looking for the absolute best splitting hatchet, continue reading…


Helko Werk Mini Spalter

Helko Werk Mini Spalter

The Mini Spalter is a smaller version of Helko Werk’s Spaltaxt splitting axe. The shape of the head is designed for efficiency in splitting wood. Listed below are some of the specs for the Mini Spalter:

  • 2.5 lb head
  • 20″ length
  • American hickory handle

Helko Werk is a german company that opened in 1844. They’ve been around for almost 200 years because they make high-quality tools.

They’re one of the top-tier axe-making companies, alongside companies like Hults Bruk, Gransfors Bruk, Hultafors, and Wetterlings. Suffice to say, you won’t be disappointed with any of their products. Here are some of the pros and cons:

Pros

  • Great for splitting wood
  • Premium materials
  • Hand-made
  • Comes with a sheath
  • American Hickory handle

Cons

  • Expensive

It’s hard to compare a budget hatchet to Helko Werk or the other top-tier hatchets listed here. This hatchet is something you can pass down to your children. They’re made from the best materials by craftsmen who know what they’re doing.

The price, in my opinion, is worth it! But I completely understand that not everyone is looking for a premium hatchet. Sometimes a nice, budget option is all you need.


Gransfors Bruk Small Splitting Hatchet

Gransfors Bruk Splitting Hatchet

This is my #1 choice for best splitting hatchet overall. The reason comes down to the shape of the head, overall design, craftsmanship, and steel collar. Here are some of the specs:

  • 2 lb head
  • 19″ length
  • American hickory handle
  • Steel collar

As far as craftsmanship is concerned, Gransfors Bruk uses a drop-forge and hand-makes their tools. The quality of materials is top of the line, just like the Helko Werk and Hults Bruk brands listed on this page.

It just so happens that the Gransfors Bruk splitting hatchet has a steel collar. Whether or not this is worth the extra price is entirely up to you. Here are the pros and cons:

Pros

  • Great for splitting wood
  • Premium materials
  • Hand-made
  • Comes with a sheath
  • American Hickory handle
  • Steel collar

Cons

  • Very expensive

The Gransfors Bruk company is among the most well-known axe brands in the world. Their tools are highly-coveted by axe enthusiasts everywhere.

You will not be disappointed in this hatchet. It’s designed for the specific purpose of splitting wood and it’s hand crafted by one of the best axe manufacturers in Sweden.


Hults Bruk Agdor 20″ Splitting Hatchet

The Agdor 20″ Splitting axe from Hults Bruk is the cheapest of the top-tier hatchets in this buyer’s guide. The design of this splitter is good but slightly different from the rest. The specs are listed below:

  • 2 lb head
  • 20″ length
  • American hickory handle

Hults Bruk is a Swedish company that opened in 1697. They’ve been open for hundreds of years because of the quality of their products. Let’s have a closer look at the pros and cons:

Pros

  • Good for splitting wood
  • Premium materials
  • Hand-made
  • Comes with a sheath
  • American Hickory handle

Cons

  • Expensive

They source grade A American hickory for the handles and use Swedish steel for the head of their axes. Just like the Gransfors Bruk and Helko Werk brands, you will not be disappointed by this hatchet. It’s well worth the money.


Fiskars X17 Splitting Hatchet

Fiskars X17

I almost always list a Fiskars axe in my budget options because they do a good job delivering value for the money. Their hatchets aren’t hand-made but they have decent materials and they’re priced to sell.

This is great for someone who needs a hatchet for occasionally splitting a few logs for a backyard fire, for camping, or for other reasons, the Fiskars X17 splitting axe is worth considering. Here are some specs:

  • 2 lb head
  • 23.5″ length
  • Composite handle

One thing I like about the X17 is the shape of the head. It is designed specifically for splitting wood. While I’m not a fan of composite handles, I can vouch for this one.

I propped one side of my Fiskars hatchet on a block before running it over with my vehicle to see if the handle would break. It did not.

So, general use is unlikely to break this handle but I would worry about sitting it too close to a fire. Here are some pros and cons:

Pros

  • Decent for splitting wood
  • Lightweight
  • Cheap

Cons

  • Composite Handle
  • Not hand-made

This is a nice budget hatchet. Having said that, I recommend the Estwing Fireside Friend over the Fiskars X17 for splitting. The reason is that the Estwing hatchet has a heavier head, with a design more suitable for splitting wood.


TLDR; These Are The Best Splitting Hatchets

Best Hatchet for Splitting Wood

Splitting wood requires a specialized tool. It may surprise you to learn that axes (and hatchets) have many different sizes and shapes, and they’re used in different ways.

For this reason, you need a hatchet designed specifically for splitting wood apart. The head of the hatchet should have a moderate angle and the heavier the better (usually).

Among the five products reviewed above, I recommend the Estwing Fireside Tool or the Gransfors Bruk Splitting Hatchet.

  • The Estwing Fireside Tool is my favorite budget option. It’s perfect for occasional use. The shape and weight of the head are perfectly designed for splitting wood.
  • Gransfors Bruk’s Splitting Hatchet is the best all-around. It’s also the most expensive. It’s hand-made with Swedish steel and American Hickory by one of the most well-known axe brands in the world.

In case you skipped straight to this section, I want to inform you that a full-sized axe or splitting maul is more efficient than a hatchet for splitting wood.

If you’re comfortable swinging a full-sized axe, you should get one. However, if you’re not comfortable swinging one, a hatchet is the way to go!

Featured photo credit: Komarov Dmitriy / Adobe Stock

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.