9 Best Kindling Axes (2020 Buyer’s Guide)

Splitting kindling does not have to be a difficult, tedious job. The right axe or hatchet can speed up the process so you can get down to roasting your hot dogs or marshmallows or warming up after a long day of hiking.


So we’ve put together this comprehensive list of the best blades for producing kindling.

Hatchets versus axes for kindling

Telling a kindling axe apart from a hatchet can be tricky. They have similar sizes, are both designed to be used with one hand, and look almost the same save for a few subtle features. Either one is useful for chopping kindling, but each option may present tradeoffs in terms of weight and overall utility.


A kindling axe is basically a hand axe. It has a thick, wedge-shaped axe head that tapers only slightly from the back of the axe head to the cutting edge. In contrast, a hatchet has a smaller body, a larger cutting head, and an almost V-shaped taper to the cutting edge. Although kindling axes used to have longer shafts, telling the two apart based on their handles has proven to be unreliable in recent years.


The heavier axe head of a kindling axe makes it more suitable for chopping work that’s heavier than just hewing for kindling. If you need to cut wood logs, then a kindling axe can get the job done, albeit a lot slower than if a wood splitting maul was used. The downside of a kindling axe is that the few additional pounds from the thicker axe head can make it tedious to carry around, especially if you’re constantly on the move.


A hatchet can be treated similarly to a utility knife. It’s compact and lightweight enough to bring anywhere and can be useful for all-around chopping or cutting work. The long and thin blade of the hatchet makes it for suitable for cutting across the grain and is particularly useful for preparing kindling or handling a carcass. The thin axe head and short handle makes handling a hatchet with one hand very easy, providing a good combination of accuracy and chopping power.


However, a hatchet lacks the sheer power of a kindling axe. They aren’t even the best tools for chopping kindling but can still be used if you’re in a pinch. If you need to chop wood, then it’s going to take a lot of time for a hatchet to get the job done. Think of a hatchet as a multi-purpose tool for general outdoor and survival needs. 

What to look for in a kindling axe

Choosing a kindling axe is quite different from choosing a full-sized axe because you’re looking for a balance between portability, ease of use, accuracy, and chopping power. How much you need to focus on any particular aspect depends on how heavily you intend to use your kindling axe or if you want it to be useful beyond just chopping kindling.

Weight

The weight of the kindling axe will be affected by the size and shape of the axe head, the length of the handle, and the material used for the handle. A kindling axe (or a hatchet, for that matter) needs to be light enough to be held with one hand. This will vary from one user to another. Kindling axes can range from incredibly lightweight (less than 1 pound) to moderately heavy (more than 2 pounds).

Handle length

There isn’t much variation in the length of handles of kindling axes and hatchets — the typical range is between 14 to 16 inches. However, even an inch of difference can provide a palpable increase in an axe’s chopping power. As you would expect, longer handles also make for heavier axes so certain compromises will have to be made.

Handle material

Just as with full-sized axes, the handles of kindling axes come in three material options — wood, fiberglass or steel. The relative benefits and drawbacks are also the same.

  • Wood is a classic go-to option that provides good vibration absorption, durability, and longevity. It is a bit more prone to damage by moisture and other outdoor elements, so leaving it out by the woodpile probably isn’t a good idea. The good thing about wooden handles is that they can be easily replaced.
  • Fiberglass handles are a much more lightweight alternative to wooden handles. They also provide superior resistance to moisture and similar durability and vibration absorption. Take note that a fiberglass handle needs to be paired with a similarly lightweight axe head for proper balance. The downside of a fiberglass handle is that it’s not as easily replaceable as wood — you’ll have to check if the axe manufacturer offers a handle replacement service.
  • Steel handles are rare despite being very cheap and durable. This is because they are heavy and offer virtually no vibration absorption. This means that the impact of chopping anything is fully transferred to the arm of the person swinging the axe. Over a long period, this can result in serious physical injuries.

Sheath

Kindling axes and hatchets are made to be carried around, so a high-quality sheath is an essential accessory. A sheath not only protects you from the sharp edge while carrying the axe, but also helps keep the cutting edge sharp.

Grip

Since a kindling axe is meant to be held in one hand, its handle needs to come with a grip that provides additional tackiness. This is typically achieved with a rubber sleeve which also provides added vibration absorption. A grip needs to be securely bonded with the handle and durable enough to withstand frequent use without getting worn down too quickly.

The 9 best kindling axes


This compact axe from Estwing combines the compact form factor of a kindling axe with the heavy-duty heft of a firewood splitting maul to create one of the more versatile single-hand axes available today. At 4 pounds, it is also one of the heaviest, so we recommend this for those who are a little more experienced in handling axes.


The single-piece construction of the forged steel axe head extends all the way to the handle. This isn’t all bad, as the whole handle has been covered with a thick shock reduction grip which serves the purpose of providing tackiness while absorbing any vibration from each axe strike.

The heavy axe head of the Fireside Friend makes short work of splitting small portions of firewood while remaining accurate enough for preparing kindling. The hammerhead also comes in useful for driving pegs into the ground or as a spot for tapping with a hammer, should you need to split larger or harder pieces of wood. The included nylon sheath rounds up an overall high-quality package from Estwing.


Although the extra weight makes the Fireside Friend useful in the hands of an experienced user, it can also make this axe dangerous. The handle is hardly long enough to hold with two hands, so you need to make sure that you are strong enough to hold on to this axe when used single-handed. 

Weight

4 pounds

Handle length

14 inches

Handle material

Steel

Grip

Shock-reduction grip

Sheath

Nylon sheath

Best for

Wood splitting


A true classic, this kindling axe from Snow & Neally comes with a gorgeous hickory wood handle, a heavy carbon steel axe head, and an included leather sheath. The finish of the axe head combined with the grain of the handle makes this axe a work of art that is as beautiful as it is functional.


At a total weight of 4 pounds, the Snow & Neally kindling axe has enough power behind it to split small pieces of wood. Just keep in mind that even at 15 inches, the handle of this kindling axe was not designed to be used with two hands. It’s also one of the more well-balanced kindling axes around, making it a great choice for axe throwing.

The carbon steel material of the axe head is top-notch. One of the major complaints about this kindling axe is that it does not come pre-sharpened. You’ll have to do a bit of work to put a sharp edge on it, but the material is tough enough to keep that edge for a long time.


This is a solid and reliable kindling axe that does not strive to offer anything new, instead excelling as a traditional axe.

Weight

4 pounds

Handle length

15 inches

Handle material

Hickory wood

Grip

None

Sheath

Leather cover

Best for

Axe throwing


The Schrade Stainless Steel Small Axe was crafted to be as different as possible from the traditional kindling axe. By combining different synthetic materials, the Schrade small axe manages to be one of the lightest kindling axes. It’s also a very small axe, making it a great tool to carry around if you’re going on a trek.


The fiberglass handle provides good strength and vibration absorption, coupled with a tacky TPR rubber grip. The axe head comes in two parts — a stainless steel sharp edge and a solid hammer pommel with a waffle pattern. The hammer pommel comes in handy if you need to drive stakes into the ground, while the sharp edge is perfectly suited for preparing kindling.

Another feature that adds to the utility of this axe is the ferro rod that is hidden inside its shaft. Used with the axe head, this ferro rod can be useful as a quick firestarter. It’s a nice addition that not many kindling axes provide.


Keep in mind, this small and lightweight axe isn’t entirely appropriate for heavy-duty uses. While it’s a good all-around cutting tool, it’s likely not going to withstand chopping large pieces of firewood and definitely can’t fell a tree. 

Weight

1.4 pounds

Handle length

11.8 inches

Handle material

Fiberglass

Grip

TPR Rubber

Sheath

Hard plastic

Best for

All-purpose


Continuing the Schrade brand’s penchant for designing axes that offer all-around utility, the Mini Axe/Saw Combo is a mini axe with a concealed 6.9 inch saw blade in its handle. This fact alone makes this mini axe one of the more compelling options for those who are always on the go and need to carry around a versatile cutting tool.


Lightweight and compact, the Schrade Mini Axe and Saw comes with a hard-plastic sheath with an integrated lanyard for better portability. The rear side of the axe also features a hammer pommel. With this combination of tools, you should be prepared for just about anything if you’re going camping.

It should be pretty obvious that this mini axe was not made for heavy-duty chopping work. While the axe and saw combo can handle cutting down small branches and twigs to prepare kindling, you’re almost certainly not going to chop a large piece of firewood with it.

Weight

1.5 pounds

Handle length

12 inches

Handle material

Rubber

Grip

None

Sheath

Hard plastic

Best for

All-purpose


The 14-inch camp axe from Truper looks great at first glance with its bright yellow fiberglass handle and heat-treated steel blade. At the bottom end of the handle is a rubber sleeve that provides grip and additional vibration absorption.


The blade of the axe comes pre-sharpened and has a nice, thin edge. The heft of the axe head combined with a lightweight handle has made the Truper Camp Axe one of the most popular in the field of axe throwing.

While it’s not the smallest kindling axe you can find, the compact design of the Truper Camp Axe makes it a handy tool around the house or farm. It’s perfect for light cutting work such as preparing kindling or chopping small chunks of firewood.


On the downside, the quality of the axe head may leave some disappointed. While suitably tough for light work, heavy chopping can dull the cutting edge of the axe quickly. Some warping has also been reported by users of this product, particularly after prolonged use. If you’re looking for a kindling axe for regular and heavy work, then you might be better off with something a little more premium.

Weight

1.5 pounds

Handle length

14 inches

Handle material

Fiberglass

Grip

Rubber

Sheath

None

Best for

Axe throwing


The 14-inch axe from Stansport is far from perfect. It does not come with a sheath, the axe head needs a lot of sharpening before use, and the quality control on the grain direction of the wood handle seems poor. Moreover, the decision to manufacture the handle from “hardwood” and not hickory wood makes it less durable over long-term use.


However, this axe has a saving grace — the drop-forged steel head. Drop forging can create an axe head that is heavy, strong, and hardly any porosity. Developing a sharp edge on the axe head can be tough at first, but it holds this edge very well. This is a testament to the quality of the material. The flat edge of the axe head is also excellent for hammering.

The price of the Stansport 14-inch axe is fairly reasonable, even if you factor in the need to replace the handle. That’s the beauty of a wooden handle, of course. The important part is that the essence of the axe — the head — is made with excellent quality.

Weight

1.5 pounds

Handle length

14 inches

Handle material

Hardwood

Grip

None

Sheath

None

Best for

Wood splitting

Best hatchets for kindling


There’s nothing quite like the Fiskar’s Hatchet, which is probably one of the reasons for why it’s so popular. This single-piece hatchet comes with a powder-coated axe head that is fully integrated with a shock-absorbing handle made with proprietary materials. The result is a wonderfully portable and lightweight axe that is absolutely perfect if you’re going out camping.


The hatchet comes with a hard-plastic sheath that securely locks into position, keeping you safe from the sharp edge and protecting it from damage. A hole at the far end of the handle provides a spot to loop through a paracord so you can simply tether this axe to your backpack or hiking pants. Remarkably light and resistant to the elements, the synthetic build of this hatchet is one of its strongest suits.

Despite the excellent build, this product is still just a hatchet. It works flawlessly when chopping small branches for kindling but struggles when working with larger and harder pieces of wood. The sharp edge can also be dinged when struck across hard surfaces. As long as you recognize the limitations in using a hatchet, the Fiskar’s Hatchet should prove to be a valuable, long-lasting tool.

Weight

1.5 pounds

Handle length

14 inches

Handle material

Fiberglass

Grip

None

Sheath

Hard plastic

Best for

All-around


Another popular model, the 14-inch hatchet from Estwing is made of a single piece of steel from axe head to handle with a thick leather grip for comfort and vibration absorption. The single-piece construction gives it extra durability but eliminates any possibility of a handle replacement.


The size of the steel piece makes this hatchet a little heavier than the others, although not by much. The added heft does give it a bit more power, so you might have an easier time in chopping up small pieces of wood. Felling an entire tree is theoretically possible although it’s going to take a lot of time. The balance of the hatchet also makes it a good candidate for axe throwing.

The tackiness of the leather sleeve does not provide a very good grip because of the varnish. Instead, it would be better to sand off the varnish and apply some oil. Ultimately, treating the leather with varnish was a bad call for Estwing – a case where aesthetics was prioritized ahead of utility.

Weight

1.7 pounds

Handle length

12 inches

Handle material

Steel

Grip

Leather

Sheath

Ballistic nylon

Best for

All-around


Husqvarna sells a wide range of hatchets and axes, so this brand is a good go-to option for all your axe needs. We’re focusing on this 13-inch hatchet with a hickory wood handle. A true classic, the wooden handle has properly oriented grains and is curved optimally for comfortable single-handed use. The Swedish hand-forged steel comes sharp and stays sharp after sustained use.


The thick wooden handle and hefty axe head put the total weight of this hatchet at 2.2 pounds - significantly heavier than the other hatchets in this list. This extra weight makes it less optimal for camping so you may prefer keeping this axe in a shed for use around the yard or farm.

Despite how excellent this hatchet seems on paper and during the first few times that it is used, it has a major flaw. The number of users who have reported the axe head splitting apart after some time is more than what we’re comfortable with. More than rendering the axe useless, such an incident can be very dangerous.


The silver lining is that Husqvarna supports their products with a robust warranty policy. If this hatchet does break apart prematurely, there’s a good chance that you can get a replacement. Still, this level of quality is disappointing for a fairly expensive hatchet from a well-established brand.

Weight

2.2 pounds

Handle length

13 inches

Handle material

Hickory wood

Grip

None

Sheath

Leather

Best for

All-around

Conclusion

While you can just collect loose chunks of wood and twigs, the best kindling comes from chopping small pieces off a solid and well-seasoned piece of firewood. That is a job for a kindling axe or hatchet.


These small axes are designed to be used with a single hand, so balance and grip are key. Of course, all the usual qualities need to be there — durability, safety, and weatherproofing. As with any job, the right tool can make it a whole lot easier.


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