If you want to work with wood, the first step you need to nail is the differentiating between awfully similar tools, such as the maul and the axe. At first glance, you would think that they are pretty much the same items and are interchangeable.
However, there are actually a few aspects that set them apart; you can find them in our maul vs axe article here. Be sure to read through this thoroughly; after all, only when you understand the difference between them, can you select the most appropriate one for your needs.
Overview Of Maul And Axe
A maul is a tool that is used for heavy tasks, like crushing, ramming, splitting, and driving wedges. Thus, it has a handle and a heavy head. It originally went by the name “war hammer” and was used as a weapon. Today, the maul is a must-have for every Arborist and woodworker.
An axe is also a tool in Arborists’ and woodworkers’ kits. It is used for chopping or splitting wood. There is a wooden handle and an attached steel blade. It also has a long, rich history worth learning about.
Fun Fact: The handle of an axe is also called a helve.
Maul Vs Axe – Similarities
As you have read in the opening and the overview, both the maul and the axe are tools to work with wood, usually cutting or shaping. They both have handles and a head that does the hitting. In addition, they each have several different types.
Maul Vs Axe – 4 Main Differences
- War Hammer
This was a medieval weapon used by cavalry and foot soldiers, all the way back in the 2nd century. It was very popular in the 15th and 16th centuries as well. This is what it looked like:
There are long and short ones. The long ones had handles from ~5 to 6 feet and were used on foot while the short ones were 2 to 3 feet and used on horsebacks.
The head had a solid square side and a spiked side made of iron or lead. During this time, it was used to strike on the helmets of soldiers and cause concussions. It was also used to knock horses at the legs and send soldiers toppling down.
- Post Maul
This is shaped a lot like a sledgehammer. It has a metal head that is big and flat. People use post mauls to drive tree stakes or fence posts into the ground. There are old and new versions of this type of maul, though the main difference is only the size; older ones are much larger.
- Spike Maul
This is also commonly referred to as a spiking hammer. It is a hand tool used at the railroad for track work. Specifically, it drives spikes onto the sides of the rails.
It is about 8 to 12 pounds and has two components: the steel head and the 80 to 90 centimeter handles.
- The Head: Is elongated, double-faced, and typically over 30cm long. One side is longer and thinner while the other is shorter and larger in diameter.
- You can sometimes find ones with symmetrical heads.
- The standard one has a square cross section, plus squared ends.
- But there are also bell ones that are cylindrically shaped.
- The Handle: Usually made of hickory or ash wood, although some modern ones are made of fiberglass or special non-conductive material for electric tracks.
- Splitting Maul
As implied in the name, this type of maul is used to split wood. Like the types of mauls above, the splitting maul has a long handle. Its head, on one side is like a sledgehammer, and the other side is like an axe.
It goes by a lot of different names: hamaze, go-devil, block buster, block splitter, chop and maul, sledge axe, and go-devil.
Modern mauls are made of strong hardened steel heads and durable fiberglass or plastic handles. Here is a photo of one:
- Types of axes depending on the design:
This type of axe is shaped like a “T”.
There is a double metal head with a pointed pick on one side and a chisel on the other side. The pick side can be straight or curved. The handle is 3 feet long and typically made of hickory or ash wood, but nowadays, many are also encased in plastic and made of carbon fiber. Together, a single pickaxe weighs around 2.5 pounds.
With such design, the pickaxe serves as a hand tool for prying, gardening, and landscaping.
- Double Bit Axe
As you can see in the photo above, this type of axe has two symmetrical blades on either side of the head.
However, usually, one blade will be blunt and the other will be sharp. The blunt side is used to split wood while the sharp side is for felling trees or chopping.
The design makes it two axes in one, which is handy if you do not want to buy two separate axes. However, the double head is cumbersome and very heavy.
- Type of axes depending on the user:
- Miner’s Axe
As stated in the name, this type of axe is used by miners, particularly miners in the Middle Ages who mined for silver ore in copper in Europe.
This axe has a short handle but a very long head. Among miners, the axe is a symbol or status. Fancy ones have detailed engravings on the head.
- Carpenter’s Axe
This axe has a sharp, straight-edged blade and a flat butt, which can be used as a hammer. Some will also have a groove to remove nails from wood and a notch on the handle for improved grip and precise control.
- Types of axes depending on the usage purpose:
- Felling Axe
The blade is sharp but flared. There is also a thin tip that cuts against the grains of wood. However, note that this type of axe is not meant for splitting wood; their blades can get stuck in the wood.
- Throwing Axe
This type of axe was historically used as a weapon in battle. Foot soldiers would throw them at the enemy to cause fatal damage. Nowadays, throwing axes are also used in competitive sports.
Mauls have handles that are much longer than axes. As a result, mauls put more space between your feet and the head that is striking and safeguards you from injuries.
However, you will have to use your entire body to swing it, which can be tedious, tiring, and technically challenging.
Even so, it is also important to note that short handles offer versatility. You can do many things with just one axe.
Mauls are a lot heavier than axes. As a whole, they are bulkier and more difficult to handle, especially if you have weak arms.
Since axes are more lightweight, they are also portable and beginner-friendly. Moreover, they are less likely to cause muscle fatigue during and after they are used.
As mentioned earlier, the maul was used back in the medieval period by soldiers and cavalry as a weapon. Other popular recorded uses of this tool are
- The Harelle revolt (1382): Paris rebellious citizens seized 3000 mauls.
- The Battle of Roosebeke (1382): French men used mauls to fight.
- The Battle of Agincourt (1415): English archers used mauls to fight.
The earliest examples of axes with handles were in 6000 B.C. During this time, the axes had wooden handles and stone heads. Over the years, many variants emerged to cater to different users and purposes.
Maul Vs Axe – Which Should You Be Using?
Now that you have information on both tools, you can decide on which to use. If you cannot make up your mind yet, here is our recommendation:
Get the Maul if…
- If you need to exert and distribute a lot of force.
- If you are worried about feet injuries while woodworking.
- If you have strong arms and are not bothered by a heavyweight.
Get the Axe if…
- If you need a versatile tool that you can carry with you easily.
- If you have weak arms and cannot handle too much weight.
- If you want to avoid getting muscle fatigue while woodworking.
With that, you have just gone through our article on maul vs axe. Hopefully, you have learned the key differences between the two hand tools and can make an informed decision about which to get for yourself. Let us know which you chose in the comments below! Also, do not hesitate to leave us questions.