The 9 Best Felling Axes (for Non-Lumberjacks)


Cutting down a tree is a HUGE job. It’s not something you would want to start doing with the wrong tool or technique. Even the USDA Forest Service requires their employees to go through extensive training before they are cleared to cut down trees.
       

While we’re not going into great detail about the proper tree cutting technique (the USDA Forest Service has a great manual), we can help you out with choosing the proper felling axe. As the name implies, a felling axe is specifically designed for felling trees. Check out our list and buying guide for the best felling axes available today.

Product Name

Handle length

Weight

Pros

Top pick

32 inches

5 lbs

Comes with a leather guard
Excellent Swedish steel head
Suitable for big or tall people

31 inches

5.3 lbs

Curved bit for cutting across the wood grain

Suitable for experienced lumberjacks

Comes with leather sheath

26 inches

2.8 lbs.

Lightweight

Short handle

Fit for all-around use

28 inches

3.5 lbs

Lightweight

Very sharp edge

Very good weight distribution

23 inches

2.6 lbs

Carbon steel axe head
Lightweight

26 inches

5 lbs

Handle has a light lacquer coat

Excellently made handle

Good for all-around work

23 inches

5.3 lbs

Reduced friction on the axe head

The blunt side makes an excellent hammer

Good grip on the synthetic handle

36 inches

3.5 lbs

Suitable for tall people

Inexpensive

28 inches

5.3 lbs

Inexpensive
Excellent rubber grip on the handle
Lightweight

Should you use a felling axe or a chainsaw?


Although we’re huge axe enthusiasts, a felling axe has a huge rival in terms of how well it can cut down a tree – the good old chainsaw. Obviously, there are huge differences between a chainsaw and an axe, but when should you consider using one or the other?

Use an axe if you don’t know how to use a chainsaw

The number one reason to prefer an axe over a chainsaw is the sheer danger that a chainsaw poses, especially in inexperienced hands. A chainsaw has a pretty strong kickback once it starts and hits a cutting surface. Not being able to control this kickback is a sure recipe for disaster.

This does not discount from the fact that felling axes are also dangerous. Even reaching a state where you can efficiently use a felling axe will take a lot of skill and experience. However, the consequence of a minor slip-up when using a chainsaw is much graver than with an axe. Things can go wrong very quickly with a chainsaw. Unlike an axe, a chainsaw is a machine that will keep on running even after things have gone awry.

Use an axe for portability

Unlike a chainsaw, you can bring an axe just about anywhere. Aside from the fact that chainsaws are much heavier, you’ll also need to carry around containers of bar oil and gasoline. In contrast, a felling axe only needs a whetstone or a sharpening file. If you need to travel a great distance, then a felling axe certainly seems to be the more practical option.

Use an axe for versatility

A chainsaw is probably the fastest tool for cutting down trees or chopping wood, but it’s not good for anything much else. On the other hand, a felling axe can be equally useful for cutting kindling, hammering down stakes for your camp, or for preparing food. If we had to choose between the two for a hike or a long road trip, we would probably go for a felling axe.

Use a chainsaw if you need to get a lot of work done

Speed is where a chainsaw truly shines, especially if there’s a lot of wood that needs cutting. Unlike a felling axe, most of the work in a chainsaw is done by its motor. The physical exertion is still there, as you’ll need to carry it around and endure its vibrations. As long as you know what you’re doing, you should be able to get more work done in less time with a chainsaw.

We are slightly biased towards a felling axe, but we think that it’s simply a more all-around, practical tool compared to a chainsaw. There are also so many things that can go wrong with a chainsaw – such as broken teeth, loose chains, and worn out bars – that the upkeep of one is tough to justify.

As to the risk, both a felling axe and a chainsaw are dangerous when they are not used correctly. Keeping safe while using either tool is then up to the person – an inexperienced, distracted, or careless user is more dangerous than any tool could be.

How to choose a felling axe


Felling axes are the heavy hitters of the axe world, but that does not mean that they are all about raw power. As with any tool, balance is a crucial element in determining how effective a felling axe is. Here are some pointers for choosing a good felling axe:

Head material

The material used for the axe head is probably the most important factor to consider when choosing a felling axe. Carbon steel is the gold standard when it comes to axe heads – it’s relatively light, very strong, and holds a sharp edge well. Alloys with higher chromium content, such as 4140 steel, are less expensive than carbon steel and have better resistance against corrosion. In any case, you will want to go for an axe head which has been made using a drop forging process for superior strength.

Handle material

Most professional lumberjacks would prefer a wooden handle on their axes, specifically American hickory. This is mostly because wood provides good strength, traction, and impact resistance, all of which are important for cutting down trees. Wood may need a bit of maintenance, but a bit of oil should be enough to protect it from moisture during storage. Don’t get an axe with a varnished wood handle, as the varnish will significantly reduce your grip.

Most importantly, a wooden handle can be replaced if it falls apart. The same cannot be said for plastic, fiberglass, or metal handles. Fiberglass might be the only alternative worth considering since it’s lighter, very durable, and offers the same vibration dampening capability as wood. 

Handle length

It’s hard for us to recommend a handle length as the optimal length will vary from person to person. While a longer axe delivers more swinging power, it is also much harder to wield. Our best piece of advice is to go with a handle length that you are comfortable with. A person with a short reach should do well with a 28-inch axe, while a taller person may benefit from the added power of a 36-inch axe.

Weight

Axe heads can weigh up to 7 lbs., which sounds like it should be ideal for quickly cutting down trees. However, this added power can also compromise accuracy. If you’re not particularly strong or experienced with felling trees, then you may want to keep to a conservative range of 2 to 5 lbs.

Single bit or double bit?

In most cases, a single bit axe would work perfectly well for felling trees. The blunt side of a single bit axe is also useful as a makeshift hammer. A double bit axe is a more all-around tool, as it typically has a blunt edge (for felling trees) and a sharper edge (for chopping wood and kindling). Double bit axes are a little harder to handle, so we would not recommend getting one unless you know what you’re doing, and you absolutely need it.

In summary, a good felling axe isn’t necessarily the most powerful. Rather, it’s the one you can best work with, considering your physical stature and level of expertise.

Make sure you know how to cut down a tree


While this article is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to cutting a tree using a felling axe, it would be irresponsible of us not to give a few safety tips. The best thing about using a felling axe safely is that it’s also often the best way to make the job of felling a tree fast and efficient. Here are just some of the most basic tips for cutting down a tree with your felling axe.

Keep your felling axe sharp

The number on safety rule when using any type of axe is to make sure that the axe is in good and sharp condition. A dull axe isn’t just an ineffective tool – it’s downright dangerous, as there’s a good chance that the axe can deflect with each swing. A felling axe does not need to be razor-sharp, but a few minutes spent on a whetstone or sharpening file will not hurt.

Wear boots, goggles, gloves, and a hard hat

Part of proper safety practices is wearing the appropriate safety gear. Felling trees is one of those cases where you would rather over-prepare for things that could potentially go wrong. The goggles and hard hat will protect you from debris or falling objects (threateningly called “widowmakers”), while the boots could be your last line of defense against a missed swing. Gloves are arguably optional, as some people find that they grip their felling axes better when barehanded.

Learn how to grip and swing the axe properly

This point is a little hard to describe with words, but we’ll try, nevertheless. To properly grip a felling axe, take your dominant hand and hold it 3/4 of the way from the knob (the bottom of the handle) to the head. Your other hand will then be positioned close to the base of the handle.

When swinging the axe, the idea is to let it go through a natural swinging motion and to let the weight and momentum of the axe head do most of the work. The dominant hand should slide from its position all the way to the other hand near the base of the handle. This way, the dominant hand provides some control of the accuracy of the swing and simultaneously adds to the swinging power.

The principle applies whether you are doing a forehand swing or a backhand swing. In either case, make sure you have a stable base (both feet planted on the ground, shoulder-width apart) and that you don’t strain your back by hunching forward.

45-degree cuts are the most effective

The most efficient cut to make when felling a tree is one that is made at around a 45-degree angle. The accuracy of each swing is a lot more important than the power behind it. Give the felling axe a bit of a twist as you remove it from the tree after each swing to help remove the chip that this chopping strategy creates.

Cutting through the wood grain at a direct 90-degree angle takes tremendous effort while cutting close to the vertical runs the risk of the axe getting deflected. The 45-degree strategy is also doubly effective when you’re cutting a notch on a tree in preparation for felling it.

Decide the direction you want the tree to fall

The larger the tree you’re trying to fell is, the more it becomes important to plan out your steps. This includes making sure that you have enough clearing to swing your axe and choosing which direction you want the tree to fall. Your choice of falling direction will dictate where you cut your front notch and back notch. The USDA Forest Service manual has a good discussion and illustration of what these notches should look like.

Part of planning for the falling direction is determining an escape route for when the tree starts falling. This should be opposite the direction of the falling tree, but at an angle. Make sure that the escape path is clear, even if you have to do clearing yourself.

Be wary of knots and branches

Despite the strength of your felling axe, never use it to cut directly into a knot or the root of a tree. If needed, cut around them or chip away at them using a different cutting tool or with another axe. Knots and roots are very hard and will likely deflect your felling axe.

Just as important is making sure that your axe does not run into any branches or brush mid-swing. Again, an axe that is deflected mid-swing can be very dangerous. To avoid this problem, make sure to clear enough space around the tree to allow you to fully swing your axe in both vertical and horizontal directions.

Felling axes are designed for a singular purpose, although this does not mean that they cannot be useful outside of felling a tree. In this case, however, versatility takes a backseat to the axe’s ability to efficiently and effectively cut a tree down.
Raw power may be important in the hierarchy of things to consider when buying a felling axe, but it’s still important for the axe to be the right weight and size for the person wielding it. Just as with any job, cutting down a tree is easier and safer when done with the right tool.

Best axe sharpening files



Tall people often find that even full-sized axes typically come in just a few inches short of becoming comfortable for their grip or stance. An incompatible felling axe can literally be a pain to use, as having to over-extend while cutting down a tree can lead to a host of back and leg problems.
The Atran Felling Axe from Swedish brand Hults Bruk is one of the few felling axes which should be comfortable even for extra tall people. True to its heritage, the Atran felling axe feature a Swedish steel head. The axe should be sharp enough for use when it ships, but it can be honed to a razor-sharp edge if needed.

AT 3.5 lbs, the axe head of the Atran felling axe is a little lighter than usual. This is likely an effort to keep the weight down, considering its huge 32-inch American hickory handle. The wooden material does a great job of absorbing impact resistance, and it has been cut with a nice comfortable contour and good wood grain. What it lacks is an acceptable finish, so you might as well buy some coarse-grit sandpaper if you’re getting this axe.
All in all, the Atran felling axe is one of the few acceptable axes for tall people. It’s not an exceptionally heavy axe, but what it lacks in weight, it makes up for in swinging power.

 tech Specs

Pros

Cons

Head material: Swedish Steel

Handle length:  32 inches

Handle material:  American Hickory

Weight: 5 lbs

Comes with a leather guard
Excellent Swedish steel head
Suitable for big or tall people

Handle finish lacks refinement
Very long handle
Moderately expensive


There are three noteworthy things about the Gransfors Bruks American felling axe – it has a moderately long handle, an exceptionally heavy axe head, and it’s very expensive. If you can afford it, then you can rest assured that you own one of the most premium felling axes in the market today.
The entire axe weighs a hefty 5.3 lbs. and has a 31-inch handle made with American hickory. It has an axe head made of carbon steel, which is pretty much the gold standard in terms of strength and durability. With some work, the edge can be honed to a razor-sharp state.

This version of the American felling axe comes with a curved handle for those who prefer a bit of contour to their grip. The broad edge and curved bit of this felling axe make it exceptionally well-suited to cutting across the grain, which should make short work of cutting down a tree.
The fact that it’s very heavy and hard to wield is one of the things that limits the target market of this felling axe. This is something we can recommend to professional lumberjacks and those who have a lot of experience with working with axes. It’s certainly not a beginner-friendly felling axe.

 tech Specs

Pros

Cons

Head material: Carbon Steel

Handle length:  31 inches

Handle material:  American Hickory

Weight: 5.3 lbs

Curved bit for cutting across the wood grain
Suitable for experienced lumberjacks
Comes with leather sheath

Very expensive
Heavy
Not beginner-friendly


There can be a bit of difficulty in finding a felling axe that suits your particular grip and physical stature, so here’s a safe option. The Hults Bruk Kisa axe is a medium-sized felling axe with a manageable weight and a handle length which should be comfortable for most people.
As with other Hults Bruk axes, the Kisa axe has a head made of premium Swedish steel and an American Hickory handle. The axe holds a sharp edge very well and should be pretty tough to damage. When in good condition and used with proper technique, you’ll make short work of any piece of wood with this axe.

The short handle of the Kisa axe places it at the borderline of what can be considered a felling axe, so it’s a little more apt for all-around use. As one would expect, this ease of use comes with the unfortunate consequence of reduced swinging power. If you have to fell a large tree, then you might have your work cut out for you if you’re using this axe. Still, using an axe that is compatible with your size is much more important than getting that extra boost in swinging power.

 tech Specs

Pros

Cons

Head material: Swedish Steel

Handle length: 26 inches

Handle material:  American Hickory

Weight: 2.8 lbs

Lightweight
Short handle
Fit for all-around use

Lacks power
Moderately expensive


Felling axes with synthetic handles may not be the tool of choice for many, but we think that most lumberjacks should at least try swinging this 28-Inch Chopping Axe from Fiskars. The weight of the axe has been distributed well enough to make swinging it feel much more natural. With its heavy axe head, this axe should make short work out of felling a tree.
The Fiskars Chopping Axe stands out easily with its charcoal black color scheme that pervades from handle to blade. The handle is made of Fiskar’s signature FiberComp material, which they claim is stronger than steel but still lightweight. An insert-molded head is connected inseparably to the handle.

The axe head of the Fiskars Chopping Axe is a bit of a mystery in that Fiskars isn’t very forthcoming with details on its material. The axe head performs really great and holds a sharp edge well, but a little bit of transparency on the side of Fiskars would not have hurt. Hiding details behind proprietary brands is a bit old-fashioned and will not help them sell their products in a market where transparency is key.
The design of the handle of the axe is unusual, as it has no curves whatsoever. Theoretically, this helps as you slide your leading hand from one end of the shaft to another, but it does take some time to get used to. This does not detract from the fact that this is one of the best felling axes available today in terms of performance.

 tech Specs

Pros

Cons

Head material: No info

Handle length: 28 inches

Handle material:  FiberComp

Weight: 3.5 lbs

Lightweight
Very sharp edge
Very good weight distribution

Proprietary names conceal the materials used for the axe
Lacks contours on the handle


At less than $25, the Trail Boss axe from Cold Steel is the kind of axe you would want to hold back your expectations on. Still, it’s not a bad choice for someone who is shopping for a felling axe on a budget.
Despite the modest price, the Trail Boss axe comes with the usual carbon steel axe head and American hickory handle. At only 2.6 lbs., this is a relatively lightweight felling axe that should be easy to carry around for most people. 

The European-style axe head seems like a nice touch, but it ultimately only good for aesthetics. The edge of the axe is quite dull when it ships, and the glazed surface makes it even harder to sharpen. It’s not impossible to work through this transparent layer, especially with a coarse sharpening file. Beneath all that. Beneath all that is a high-quality carbon steel axe head which can be honed to perfection.
Take note that the axe ships only with a cheap silicone guard for the axe edge, so you might need to buy a leather guard.
The Cold Steel Trail Boss Axe is a very inexpensive felling axe which is easy enough to use even for those who lack experience. It’s sharp enough for chopping wood or for cutting down small trees but may not have the power for more demanding felling jobs.


 tech Specs

Pros

Cons

Head material: Carbon Steel

Handle length:  23 inches

Handle material:  American Hickory

Weight: 2.6 lbs

Carbon steel axe head
Lightweight

Lacks swinging power
Only comes with a silicone guard
Edge lacks refinement


The Snow & Nealley Single-Bit Axe is endearingly old-fashioned. It comes with a hickory wood handle with good grain and a broader fawn’s foot than what we are used to seeing nowadays. The carbon steel axe head feels hefty enough to make each swing powerful. All in all, it does not deviate much from what we can expect a felling axe to be but strives to perfect every component of it.
The hickory handle of Snow & Nealley axe comes with a light lacquer coat, presumably to help protect it from moisture. It diminishes how well the handle can be gripped but can be easily removed in certain areas with some light sanding. In any case, the quality of the handle is one of the highlights of this felling axe.

The quality of the carbon steel axe head is a bit more questionable. Not only does it ship with a dull edge, but it does not seem to be able to hold a sharp edge for long. This can be remedied by frequent honing, although you may find the axe head getting worn down faster than expected. If you expect to use your felling axe frequently, you may need to get one with a stronger axe head.


 tech Specs

Pros

Cons

Head material: Carbon Steel

Handle length:  26 inches

Handle material:  American Hickory

Weight: 5 lbs

Handle has a light lacquer coat
Excellently made handle
Good for all-around work

Comes with a dull edge
Holds a sharp edge poorly


We think really highly of axes with old-fashioned wooden handles but every now and then, a felling axe with a composite handle comes along and manages to impress. The Composite Multi-Purpose Axe from Swedish brand Husqvarna is one of those.
In contrast to other felling axes with composite handles, the Husqvarna multi-purpose axe is quite heavy 5.3 lbs. for a 23-inch handle. Two things contribute to this – a heavy axe head and a stainless steel component in the handle. This construction puts a lot more power behind each swing, although it also means that this isn’t an axe we would recommend for beginners.

The blunt side of the Husqvarna axe head was deliberately designed to be used as a hammer. This can certainly come in handy if you need to use a splitting wedge to cut down a tree. Unlike old-fashioned axes, using the blunt edge as a hammer does not compromise the integrity of the entire axe head.
The Husqvarna Multi-Purpose Axe would have ranked higher in this list if not for the apparent quality control issues. This has come up not just with this axe, but for other Husqvarna axes as well. The most common manifestation of the issue is the axe head getting cleaved in the lateral direction near the sharp edge and on the heat-treated section. The fact that Husqvarna describes the axe head as being made of “high-quality” steel doesn’t help their case, either.

 tech Specs

Pros

Cons

Head material: High Quality Steel

Handle length:  23 inches

Handle material:  Fiber-reinforced PA

Weight: 5.3 lbs

Reduced friction on the axe head
The blunt side makes an excellent hammer
Good grip on the synthetic handle

The handle is difficult to replace
Axe head lacks strength


At 36 inches, the handle of this Single-Bit Axe from Council Tool is one of the longest. There probably aren’t a lot of people tall enough to handle a 36-inch axe, but for the few that are out there – this one’s for you.
The axe’s handle is made of traditional American hickory with a very slight curve. The axe head is hydraulically sealed to the handle, making a snug and secure fit. The forged steel axe head has been coated with red enamel and clear lacquer to protect from corrosion, although we imagine that you can sand these off easily if desired.

At only 3.5 lbs., the Council Tool felling axe is surprisingly light for its size. It does not need to be heavy, after all – the sheer swinging power of the 36-inch handle should be enough to make clean cuts across any wood grain.
The biggest flaw of this axe is that the construction of the handle seems to have failed to take into consideration its length. Since the handle is so long, it magnifies the impact that the handle receives with each strike of the axe. This has resulted in several incidents of the axe handle falling apart, often catastrophically.

 tech Specs

Pros

Cons

Head material: Forged Steel

Handle length:  36 inches

Handle material:  American Hickory

Weight: 3.5 lbs

Suitable for tall people

Inexpensive

Very long handle 

Does not come with a sheath 

Handle Lacks durability


Axes with composite handles are typically more expensive than their wooden counterparts, so the V28 Chopping Axe from LEXIVON is a nice surprise. From the straight taper of the handle to the all-black axe head, everything about the V28 axe feels modern.
At 28 inches, the handle of the V28 is just the perfect length for most people. The fiberglass composite material feels premium and strong, as does the tacky material on the grip that improves traction. The handle is lighter than it looks because it’s hollow inside. This helps keep the weight of the axe down, although we question the wisdom of that design when it comes to balance and durability.

The hollow handle means that a huge portion of the weight is in the axe head, thus increasing swinging power. However, you’ll have to do a bit of work to get the axe to this state, as it ships with a very dull edge. This is nothing that a file or whetstone cannot handle but make to plan accordingly if you decide to get this axe.
Overall, the LEXIVON V28 axe offers reasonable quality for its price. If you can’t be bothered with taking care of an axe with a wooden handle, then this fiberglass alternative is a convenient and cheap alternative.

 tech Specs

Pros

Cons

Head material: High-Carbon Steel

Handle length: 28 inches

Handle material: Fiberglass composite

Weight: 5.3 lbs

Inexpensive
Excellent rubber grip on the handle
Lightweight

Comes with a dull edge
Hollow handle design feels imbalanced


Tags


You may also like

5 Awesome Axe Throwing Targets

5 Awesome Axe Throwing Targets
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Subscribe to our newsletter now!