We’ve carried a small tomahawk, and full size axe travelling around Australia for the better part of a year now, and they’ve both cut a huge amount of timber for our camp fires. I’ve never been that happy with the axes performance, and recently replaced it with a cheap block splitter, which has completely and utterly blown my mind.
Now, some of you will read this and think yep, you’re a donkey. Others (and you don’t have to admit it) will be in the same situation as me, and have no idea that there is far better ways to break up firewood for camping that don’t involve the use of an axe!
Block splitter vs axe
The simple explanation is this; block splitters are meant for splitting wood, and axes are meant for cutting wood.
I’ve almost never used an axe to cut timber when camping. We have a chainsaw and bow saw, and they both do a much better job. The axe though, was a nightmare for splitting wood. Anything solid, or tall, or remotely green would never split properly, and the axe would frequently end up getting wedged into the timber with such force that I couldn’t remove it.
In actual fact, the entire reason I went to replace the axe in the first place was that the handle was starting to fatigue badly in a weird moulding arrangement, from yanking it back and forth so hard to unjam it from timber that it regularly got wedged in when trying to split it.
You don’t have to spend much
Our axe was a cheap one from Aldi, and cost about $20. I literally bought the cheapest block splitter in Bunnings, for $23 and it’s a ripper.
Why does a block splitter work so much better?
There’s two major differences between a block splitter and an axe. The first is the weight of the actual head, which is substantially heavier on a block splitter. If you’ve ever tried to use a small axe, and then gone to a heavier one, you’ll know how much of a difference this makes.
The extra weight splits the wood much better, and this is obvious from the first swing.
The second difference is the shape of the head. An axe is quite narrow, whereas a block splitter is much wider, and has a much less steep angle where you hit. This does two things; makes the timber split easier, and reduces the chances of it getting stuck hugely.
I’ve had ours stuck a few times, but about 95% less than our axe, and when it does get stuck, its easy to get out. If you jam an axe in a piece of timber, its incredibly difficult to pull out and your chances of breaking the handle are much higher.
What’s the downsides of a block splitter?
Obviously, you’re going to add some extra weight when you move to one of these. They’re also absolutely useless at cutting wood, if that’s what you are after.
I’ve also noticed that when you apply more energy to the timber, its got a much greater chance of something going wrong. With an axe, you’d rarely have chunks fly off, but the block splitter is far more dangerous in this regard.
I smashed a big block of wood the other day and a huge chunk flew off and smashed into my angle, leaving me speechless and hobbling around with a big swollen ankle. Chunks break off much easier, and you need to be careful using one. My old habit of cutting wood in thongs is much less safe when using a block splitter.
I’ve also noticed that the head on ours is much smaller than an axe, and also not at the end of the handle, which makes hitting small timber more challenging, and I have hit the handle a few times already!
Get a block splitter
If you split wood often, and are currently using an axe, go out and spend $23 on a block splitter. I cannot believe how much easier and better it is, and it makes my life camping so much more enjoyable. This, in conjunction with our 18V Ryobi Chainsaw makes collecting firewood for camping a dream.
Yes, you can leave a comment below and tell me I’m an idiot for not knowing this; it’s OK!