Unlike the usual and often smaller axes that you may see lying around in every other shed, felling axes are professional tools, far superior in how they are built and what they are used for. As the name suggests, felling axes are designed for the specific purpose of felling small to large trees. You must do your research before buying the best-felling axe because it should be something you should be able to pass onto your generations.
To identify felling axes and choosing the best amongst them, you should look at peculiar axe properties like the length of the handle, the blade geometry, materials used, weight, price, and durability among others. If this sounds overwhelming, this article will guide you through the things you need to consider while choosing an axe, and then, with this acquired information, give you the top felling axes options available on the market today, to choose from.
But first, let’s start with why you even need a felling axe in the first place.
Why do you need a felling axe?
When you are splitting wood with a splitting axe, you are cutting along the grain of the wood. It doesn’t take much force to cut along the grain. The thick wedge-shaped blade of the splitting axe divides the wood apart and you get your firewood.
However, felling trees is not an easy task since you need to cut across the grain of the wood and it requires huge effort to try to sink your standard axe deep into the tree. And this is why you need a specialized tool for such a special task. Felling axes are designed for this specific purpose by providing a razor-sharp, very long, and thin blade to easily cut perpendicular to the wood fibers.
While people are often found to be felling few smaller trees with standard axes, felling axes become a must-have tool if you want to remove good-sized trees from your property or when you need to regularly chop down trees. Now that the ‘why part’ is done with, we can now move to the main information:
What to look for in the best-felling axe?
The first factor into consideration while making any buying decision will be the price of the product. Felling axes can be purchased anywhere from $30 to $300. This huge range in price is attributed to other factors discussed below that determine the quality and the durability of the axe.
Felling axes are known to have a longer handle length than other standard axes. However, the optimal length for you will depend mainly upon what you are comfortable with. But short and long handles have their pros and cons. A short handle is easy to swing but might not generate enough force.
In contrast, a longer handle will have a stronger impact on the wood but is difficult to aim and handle. The actual length of the handles will be around 30-inches for a short axe and around 35-inches for a long axe. Again, the best length for your felling axe will depend on your height, body power, and your skills, and experience in felling trees.
The material that goes into forging the head for the felling axe is a very important factor in determining other important qualities of the axe like the Head durability and Weight of the axe.
Weight of the axe:
Most of the weight of the axe comes from its head material. Heads made from tough steels like Swedish steel and 1045 alloys are heavier and the ones made from carbon steel are lighter. While felling axes can be found with weights as much as six or seven pounds, it is most likely that the best weight for your needs will be well below 5 pounds.
Like longer handles, heavier heads generate more force while swinging but are extremely hard to control and practically not suited to be carrying around while felling a large number of trees across large areas. So, the best weight will be around 2-3 pounds on the lighter end for beginners and 4-5 pounds on the heavier end if you have some tree-felling experience.
Felling axes are one of the tools that need to be most durable. Ideally, you must be able to pass on your felling axe to your grandchildren. Most durable axes are made from steel but there are different types of steels forged in different ways – some more durable than the others.
Although sharpening the blades of a felling axe is almost always required, it will be a lot easier if it needs to be done less often. There are axes with heads made from other materials like carbon alloy that are lighter and sharper but might be more expensive and less durable.
The best handle material for felling axes is Hickory. Felling axes can be made from other woods like ash, birch, and walnut. But, the ability of a fine hickory handle to absorb shocks from the impact and its natural balance will increase its durability and will be easy on the hand, giving it a more ergonomic feel. Most of the professionals in the field consider hickory as the best handle material for felling axes. However, composite handles also offer durability and ergonomics and unlike wooden handles, are not susceptible to grain flaws and damage.
On the other hand, it is much easier and economic to replace a wooden handle than composite handles.
The shape of the head (Single bit or Double bit axe)
Although most of the best-felling axes are single-bit axes, double-bit axes can be a great tool if you intend to use your axe for two different purposes. A double-bit axe will have a razor-sharp side used for chopping and felling while the more dull and blunt side will be used for splitting and debarking. Double bit axes are mostly heavier but are always better than having to carry two separate axes.
The shape of the handle should be ergonomic and comfortable for extensive usage. A slight curve is given to the handle in most felling axes, more prominently on the throat and the knob on the base of the handle to allow for a better grip while swinging. Also, double-bit axes have a straight handle shape to make two-way usage possible. You should always try to get a feel of the felling axe that you intend to get beforehand so that you can decide yourself on what handle shape fits your hand and your choice best.
Top options for the best fellings axes in 2021
Now that we know all there is to know for a proper assessment of felling axes, we will now go through the best felling axes available on the market today. Through intensive product research, customers’ responses, and hands-on experience, we have come up with an in-depth review of six of the best-felling axes you can buy today, one of which will most probably be the one that serves your needs perfectly.
1. Gränsfors Bruks American Felling axe:
The one brand name that comes synonymously to premium quality axes is Gränsfors Bruks. The Gränsfors Bruks American felling axe is a professional felling axe much preferred by experienced fellers because it provides incredible power through its 31-inch handle and a head weight of 3.3 pounds. It is a perfectly balanced axe made intricately by hand-forging Swedish steel and fitting them on carefully crafted American hickory handles. The axe comes with a ready-to-use sharp edge, which it holds very well even after felling numerous large trees.
Additionally, its quality is backed by a 20-year manufacturer’s warranty scheme so you can be assured that it is a tool that will last for many years. Moreover, it comes with a full-grain, vegetable-tanned leather sheath that protects the blade at all times.
This is a premium felling axe, satisfying all the best felling axes qualities we discussed. But, premium products come at a premium price. This is priced at around $300. Although it is one of the most expensive felling axes you can get on the market, in the long run, however, this will turn out to be a great investment, especially if you intend to make good use of it through the years.
- Head material: Swedish Axe steel
- Handle Material: American Hickory
- Handle Length: 31 inches
- Head weight: 3.3 lbs
- Total Weight: 5.3 lbs
- Cutting edge: 4.5 inches
2. 1844 Helko Werk Germany Classic Expedition
Helko Werk felling axes come in 3 categories: Classic, Traditional, and Vario. While each axe within all categories is great in terms of build quality and fit for specific purposes, the Expedition of the classic line is a workhorse when it comes to serious felling operations. Reserved for the toughest and heaviest jobs, the head alone weighs 4.5 pounds, and a 35-inch handle balances the equation. It has a polished head that reduces cutting friction while also resisting rust. The sanded handled is further finished with boiled linseed oil.
This is a machine forged axe made using C50 high-grade carbon steel to achieve an impressive Rockwell hardness scale of 53-56hrc. This axe is a tool that will be difficult to handle for the beginner but once you get the hang of it, you will be impressed with the perfect ergonomics and working mechanics of this tool. The pricing of this axe is around $160 and if you require an axe for a heavy-felling job, you will be getting great value for money.
A vegetable-tanned premium leather axe sheath along with a bottle of axe guard protective oil is included with this axe.
- Head Material: C50 High-Grade Carbon Steel
- Handle Material: American Hickory
- Handle Length: 35 inches
- Head weight: 4.5 lbs
- Total Weight: 6.5 lbs
3. Hults Bruk Atran
Operating from a facility in southern Sweden since 1697, Hults Bruk is a great manufacturer of some of the best axes. Specifically, there are three standard felling axes named Torneo, Kalix, and Atran which differ only in terms of head weight and handle length. Out of these, I have chosen the Hults Bruk Atran for the list because it is the largest one and capable of felling small to large-sized trees while the others are suited only for small and medium trees.
Although the heaviest among the three with a head weight of 3.5 lbs, this is a fairly lightweight felling axe and a good fit for most. Similarly, it has a medium handle length of 32 inches made from US-sourced hickory. For head material, Swedish axe steel is struck multiple times to increase the density and durability of the axe which is furthermore built with a tempered zone to hold and retain a very sharp edge with each sharpening. This is a stylish axe and comes with a traditional leather protective sheath and a detailed user manual.
Last but not the least, one of the most impressive features of this axe is its price. You can get this great quality axe for around $130, which is significantly lower than the other axes with similar quality. Finally, if the size of this axe is a bit large for you, you can always opt for the smaller Torneo (26 inches) and Kalix (28 inches) which are some of the best felling axes in the smaller category.
- Head Material: Swedish axe Steel
- Handle Material: American Hickory
- Handle Length: 32 inches
- Head Weight: 3.5 lbs
- Total weight: 5 lbs
4. Helko Werk Traditional Double Bit Axe
Double bit axes remove the hassle of having to carry two separate axes when used for different purposes or for continuous felling that reduces the sharpness of the blade. This double-bit axe from the traditional product line of Helko Werk felling axes is the best option for a double-bit axe in the market as it is made from premium grade C50 high carbon steel that is hand-forged using a drop hammer on open dies.
The 30 inches straight handle is made from A-grade American hickory through a careful individual selection process followed by finishing with boiled linseed oil and 150 grit smooth sanding. The head weighing three and a half pounds has blades on either side that can be shaped to be used for felling and splitting separately. It comes with a 1 oz. bottle of Axe Guard protective oil and a full-grain leather sheath is included as well.
This multipurpose and highly capable tool is priced at around $210 and can be a tool you can rely on at all times, for several years. However, double-bit felling axes are not as famous as single-bit axes for a reason. Single bit axes are specifically designed to give you the best leverage for felling a tree. So, you should get this double-bit axe if you want to make the trade between quality and ease.
- Head Material: C50 high carbon steel
- Handle Material: American Hickory
- Handle Length: 30 inches
- Head weight: 3.5 lbs
- Total weight: 4.75 lbs
5. Council Tool Velvicut Premium American Felling Axe
This axe is marketed as a premium felling axe which is manufactured by Council tools, an American axe-making company and it perfectly justifies its branding. It is an axe that is definitely different from the rest in the list since it uses 5160-grade alloy steel as head material that promises durability, strength, toughness, and an impressive ability to hold an edge. Moreover, the head is forged into a Dayton pattern with the angle of the head hung slightly closed. With 4 lbs as head weight only and a massive 36 inches hickory handle, this axe can be hard to swing for beginners.
The slightly curved handle is finished with linseed oil and the moisture content is reduced to 10%. However, the handle is slightly rough on arrival which can be easily and cheaply fixed with sanding and applying linseed oil. The cost of this axe is fairly high at around $225 and comes with a good quality leather sheath and coating oil.
- Head Material: 5160-grade alloy steel
- Handle Material: American Hickory
- Handle Length: 36 inches
- Head Weight: 4lbs
- Total weight: 5.6 lbs
6. Husqvarna 26” Multipurpose Axe
Finally, the definition of the best-felling axe depends on what you need the felling axe for. While the Husqvarna multipurpose axe is not a felling only axe, it might be just the one you need if you are looking for an axe to fell small trees in your property or an axe to take on your next hike to collect firewood.
The length of this axe is just 26 inches and has a very light head weight of 1.75 lbs. This makes it a compact axe that is easy to carry and the best first-felling axe for someone who is just getting started on the job of felling trees. It can be used for splitting, delimbing, debarking, processing, etc. But it works best as a felling axe because of the thin profile of its bits that sinks deep into the wood.
As a result, this robust and easy-to-use quality tool might be the one you are looking for if you need a budget axe for light felling, chopping, and splitting tasks since you can get it at a reasonable price of around $85.
- Head Material: High Carbon Steel
- Handle Material: Hickory
- Handle Length: 26 inches
- Head Weight: 1.75 lbs
- Total Weight: 2.1 lbs
Some brands that make good quality axes
Some brands have been making great quality axes for centuries like Hults Bruk and some newer brands easily compete with the traditional brands. Felling axes made in Sweden and America have a great reputation as the best ones in the game while countries like Mexico and China are not so far behind these days.
Some of the brands that offer a range of great quality felling axes in no particular order are:
- Helko Werk
- Gransfors Bruks
- Council Tool
- Snow & Nealley
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: Can a felling axe be used for splitting and other purposes?
Answer: Felling axes are used for splitting wood and other purposes by two types of people- one who doesn’t understand the difference between different types of axes and the other who understand them perfectly and are capable of splitting wood with felling axes. But felling axes should not be used for splitting wood since it is not designed for that purpose. Felling axes have blades that are sharp and narrow to cut across the grain of the wood with multiple strokes. On the other hand, splitting axes have a thick bit that quickly penetrates the wood along the grain and the thickness of the blade disperses the wood to split it apart.
You should not use a felling axe for splitting because its thin blade will get stuck in the wood and it will be trouble to get it out. If you need to perform both felling and splitting tasks simultaneously, you can choose the double bit axe that has one sharp and thin bit designed to fell trees and another thick bit that is used for splitting.
Question: What should be the sharpness of a felling axe blade?
Answer: The blade of your felling axe should be razor-sharp. Traditionally, tree fellers used to ensure the sharpness of the axe by dry shaving their hair on the back of their hand.
It might seem like a sharp edge can lead to injuries but it is the other way around. Since a dull axe will readily bounce off the surface of the wood upon impact, it increases the chances of an injury. A sharpened axe easily chops into the wood. This also allows you to feel large trees with very little effort as compared to a dull axe. For this reason, you should regularly sharpen your axe, sometimes even in between single felling operations. Regular usage of handheld whetstone yourself to correct minor damages will keep the axe in perfect condition, but make sure to have it professionally maintained whenever necessary.
Question: How do I keep my felling axe in good condition for several years?
Answer: The main durability of your felling axe comes from the material used for the handle of your axe. Hickory handles are the best because they easily deal with the shocks of each impact during felling. Even if the handle breaks, it can be easily replaced as authentic replacement handles are sold by the brands themselves. Composite handles on the other hand require you to replace the whole tool if it breaks.
American Hickory and other wooden handles will last even longer with a protective finish and coatings like boiled linseed oil and teak oil. Raw oil is avoided because it doesn’t dry easily. Regular sharpening, as mentioned before, is essential to increase the functionality of the tool. Finally, it is needless to say that you should protect your axe from water and sun and exposure to other elements to ensure that it will be in perfect condition for years on end.
Question: What are the safety considerations for using a felling axe?
Answer: As easy and effective as a good felling axe will make felling and chopping down trees for you, axes are serious tools that demand to be respected and used properly and safely. Numerous people get axe injuries every other day. You should follow the following safety considerations to avoid such a situation:
• Choose the right type and size of axe for you. Most of the accidents occur when axes are too short or too long than they should be.
• Wear proper gear like axe gloves to avoid blisters.
• Sharpen your blade razor-sharp.
• Always use a good quality sheath to protect your blade and protect yourself from the blade.
Additionally, you should always take breaks while felling a tree so that you don’t risk the axe slipping out of your hand because of weakness. Using properly sized wedges and multiple wedges for lager trees is essential to control the direction of the fall of the tree. Finally, you might have heard lumberjacks yell ‘timber’ while a tree starts to fall. This is not just a tradition but a good practice to make everyone aware to avoid accidents.
You now have a clear understanding of what qualities you should look for in the best quality felling axes. But recognition of the best quality felling axe is only the first step while choosing the best one for you.
Whenever you are looking for a felling axe, you will want the best one that gets your job done perfectly for you and within the price range, you can afford. Although the lower-priced felling axes might not last as long as the highest quality axes, they might be enough for the task you need to complete and you’ll save a few bucks. However, an initial investment in a great quality tool that will last for generations and you can proudly hand it down to your children is a good financial choice to make, especially if you regularly need to fell trees.
Which of these two options you decide on, or if you are still confused about your decision, choosing one of the axes that we’ve reviewed and recommended should make you feel well satisfied while using it in the woods.