Best Axe/Bock Splitter/Maul for splitting Jarrah Rounds?

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Best Axe/Bock Splitter/Maul for splitting Jarrah Rounds?

Unread post by Shann Low » April 22nd, 2016, 4:17 am

Curious if anyone has experience with splitting dry Jarrah rounds with an axe / maul / block splitter and has found one that's exceptional at the task, that they would like to recommend?.

For those in the eastern states... comparable eucalyptus (gum) species to Jarrah would be around 8.5 on the Janka Hardness scale & Green density is about 1170 kg/m3, air-dry density about 820 kg/m3.

I am after the best damn one can be found / bought...

Lad cuts about 40 tonnes / winter of dry Jarrah each year and has lucked upon a good axe or two and even the odd reasonable bock splitter.. but they do tend to get nicked pretty frequently in his neck of the woods, out of the trailer, ute or his back yard even, and finding another good one, takes time and expense & a lot of trial and error often.

I have been researching the heck out of this, and finding next to nothing that has real world experience in the hands of a serious user.

Some axes just don't crack / split the Jarrah they bind in tight and take the dickens to get back out again to have a second go sometimes for the exact same result.

Intranets full of great advice about northern hemisphere axes designed for softwood - that zillions of happy users swear bye who have never seen hardwood like Jarrah in their lives....

Some of the cheapo block splitters work O.K. on the REAL tight gnarly grain of curly tight grained helical twisted old stags...BUT you don't want to be swinging one of those heavy buggers all day on nice dry straight grain Jarrah from a dead stag - that just needs the right lighter axe to pop it first hit every time.

So really I am after a combo of 2 (axe) and splitter (maul) that will both do an outstanding job on dry Jarrah rounds depending how tight (or not) they are.

I have searched and searched and found a selection of axes etc available from near and far used and new from $10 to over $1000.

Having to BUY one of each an d test them all is just out of the question.

What have you guys used that proved to be outstanding on splitting Jarrah rings?

Not interested in competition racing axes for e.g. that are designed to chop across the grain into logs for competitions... they are wonderful axes but designed with much finer angled grind (15 degrees) to the wedge than a work axe (20-22degrees) - that when you smack them into end grain to split a round, just buries in and binds.


These racing axes look awesome...& are for cross grain chopping - but aren't much use for actual splitting of end grain, as in splitting rings.


This crew of Swedish makers have a world wide reputation for axes etc & make a expensive (~$250) splitting maul, as depicted but no idea how it will stand up in Jarrah being northern hemisphere and designed principally for softwoods & can't find any online reviews of its use in Jarrah.

Then there's a zillion used Aussie & Imported Kelly, Plumb, Keech, Craftsman etc standard axes that from experience can vary widely in their suitability when it comes down to strictly splitting end grain in rounds.

And that's the issue... a great many axes are designed for either firemen or foresters to be 'general purpose' and carried in their vehicle for busting thru doors or walls, or cutting a log or limb off the track, to splitting firewood at camp at night & they are OK at all of those tasks, BUT - they are just average at all those tasks - they don't excel at any one of them, least of all someone wanting to split 40 tonnes a year in winter of jarrah firewood rounds.

These days only competition log choppers actually chop their way cross grain thru a log or heavy limb, everyone else carries a chain saw and cuts their logs off tracks with one of those, then reverts to the axe to split up the rings bucked off the log with the chainsaw, into firewood for the camp that night!

So in reality most axes (here anyways) get used for splitting rings - a task they were never really initially designed to perform extremely well (in Jarrah at least).

Really speaking these days if you have a chainsaw you just need a block splitter of some kind for the really gnarly rounds or those with a branch/knot in them, and a great splitting axe for the rounds that will pop when hit with the right axe first time, every time, for the nice dry straight grained ones.

The trouble is finding those two BEST items of equipment, without having to buy 20 different ones of each and test them all against each other for a real world comparison.

This morning on a whim I picked up a US Made "Chopper 1 mechanical axe / splitter" off Gumtree to have a crack at splitting Jarrah rounds with!.

Bit of an unusual concept and no idea yet how it will go on our Jarrah - I have my doubts, but will give anything a go in the quest to find that ultimate axe & splitter suited to use here. I will report back on it eventually once I test it out on Jarrah rounds specifically.

So have at it - what's your best / favorite axe & maul/splitter for splitting firewood out of dry hardwood rounds?

Keen to hear what others use and have found to be exceptional for the task.

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Re: Best Axe/Bock Splitter/Maul for splitting Jarrah Rounds?

Unread post by Peter Aawen » April 22nd, 2016, 8:41 am

I reckon that Chopper 1 thing is just a gimmick, I watched that vid & I really can't see it 'adding' anything to the deal beyond what any similar sized/shaped block splitter would do..... It's a reasonably shaped & effective splitter, but those 'dogs' look to be a gimmick & the splitter itself is gonna be too heavy for a lot of swinging!! Even the bloke on the vid says that towards the end!! :frog:

I've done a little timber 'felling & getting' in my time, not too much nor for too long on a paid basis (but some, & they weren't un-happy with my work! ;) ) but ever since I was a tiny pup we've always had either a wood stove or a couple of S/c heaters in the house & we've always had a wood lot or collection licence for the State Forests near wherever we were living, getting all our own wood & often most of our timber needs ourselves (all my kids can swing a mean axe!) At least we did that until a few years back & my body gave up on me, but I've done my fair share of wood cutting & splitting.... So my opinion on this might not be strictly 'professional' but it's certainly 'educated thru use!' Soooo, IMO on what's the best splitter - I don't really think there is just one!! What works best on one log might not work well on the next, & the next might even be out of the same tree....

So if you are out cutting & splitting wood, you really need to have a (small? Maybe....?) selection of axes & splitters just to give yourself a chance of having the one that is going to be close to ideal for the particular bit of timber you are working on right now.... & you might hafta try a few to find that one, & once found, you still might hafta change your choice a couple of times as you work thru a tree & the nature of the wood varies a little as you go. I still keep a couple of different Fiskars 'axes' in the 4WD, but they are just to keep the campfire going & get us out of trouble in the bush - capable & generic, but not specialist tools....
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Re: Best Axe/Bock Splitter/Maul for splitting Jarrah Rounds?

Unread post by Shann Low » April 22nd, 2016, 9:09 pm

I suspect you could well be right about the Chopper 1, Pete.

My "fall back plan B" for the Chopper 1 is to strip it and polish it to a high shine - fit a fancy highly polished She-oak handle and get Mark Chopper Read to autograph it and make it into a wall hanger / curiosity piece! :lol: :waycool:

But this is my issue how many axes do I have to buy to find a couple that are corkers rather than also-rans?

An average axe is fine for the once in a blue moon when you might get stuck - but doing it to make a quid is another story, where time is $$$ and you need the right gear!

I did find a heap of "possibilities" on Evilbay & Dumbtree but many are in the eastern states!.








I would love to own em all... but that's just me in my exuberant mood, the more sensible me is saying, find one or two that others have had major success with and start with those!.

This crowd make a working axe version of their racing axe with the 22 degree chisel working edge.


They will also mill the cheeks out to lighten it a fraction and make it look like their racing axe grind, (for a fee):-

1 x Tuatahi work axe with fitted Hickory handle = $425.00
+ Leather cover = $150
+ Cheek flutes = $35
Credit card fee @ 2% (If you choose this option) or, Bank transfer = $13.40
1 x Packaging & Cartage = $60.00 (Includes axe and axe cover only)

So new = $683.40 NZ = $639.35 Aus at today's exchange rate.

That's a *******' lot of cash for one axe....(3 x 1.5 tonne loads & all weekend cutting, chopping and delivering to pay for it). It would wanna have a start switch and chop wood on it's own for that kinda outlay.

Another "option" to consider...I guess (I've driven a lot of star pickets with a star picket driver that works like this, and it's not as much fun as it looks, i know from experience).

I think that its correct you probably need a selection of axes, mauls and gymp hammers and wedges to do the task justice, which is probably where we will end up eventually, I am guessing.

I just want to shorten the process somewhat if possible - to get there with the least time pain and expense, by learning from the experience of others!

Perhaps it's even eventually worthy of an article for 4WD action magazine maybe... the definitive "which axe" article!.

If your gonna carry one you, might as well make it the best one you can afford.

Camp site "chop off" competition...see who can buck and split the most firewood in 1 hour - followed by many cold ales round the camp fire to discuss / dispute the results! :thumb:

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Re: Best Axe/Bock Splitter/Maul for splitting Jarrah Rounds?

Unread post by nilla60 » April 25th, 2016, 8:55 am

I have a double bit Gransfors Bruk, they are beaut hand made axes. Block splitters are a lot more crude, invariably the handles get trashed as the head sinks into a block, cranky grains/knots mean blows are more difficult to control, there's no need for a fine cutting edge when splitting. I wouldn't spend big bucks on a splitter.

I have noticed that decent steel and a simple (flat) wedge shape seems to work the best, especially with tough wood and cranky grain. Nothing like a hydraulic splitter though.

My fave high speed splitter is neither safe nor portable:

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Re: Best Axe/Bock Splitter/Maul for splitting Jarrah Rounds?

Unread post by Shann Low » April 25th, 2016, 6:12 pm

Thanks Nilla - the double bit Gransfors Bruk is one thats high on the list at the moment.

There's a new player also from Italy that I am also looking at, right now.

Not sure yet where this will end up.We shall see I guess.

There is one issue I guess that's cropped up in relation to axe and maul / splitter design....

MOST northern hemisphere axes - apart from being designed for softwoods and trees that aren't anywhere near the density weight & diameter we deal with here, are designed so that the "bit" of the axe bites in level - when the block is stood up on top of a chopping block - i.e. closer to waist height.

That's true also for once a ring is broken into pieces for further splitting on top of a chopping block.


When the ring is large in diameter (up to 3 feet) and too heavy to be lifting them onto a chopping block to split, then MOST are first split where they lay on the ground.

Because they are close to the ground, when the axe or maul actually hits them, it's only the toe of the bit (or maul), that enters the wood!

Whats REALLY needed, for splitting rings on the ground - is a axe & or maul head, that is shaped so that when hitting the ring down near the ground (below knee level), the bit part of the axe or maul hits "flat" on the bit rather than wearing out just the "toe" part all the time!.

You get any old craftsman plum etc axe that's had any real use in Oz in the bush and the toe of the bit is always worn well down... because it does all the work - (While the heel part of the bit has almost no wear from new) because the axe isn't designed for that type of "swinging low to the ground" work - it's something a little unique to WA & Jarrah fire wooding situation I guess.

Time (and effort) is $ when fire wooding and big Jarrah rings are usually rolled near to the trailer, kicked over on their side and hit with axe or splitter right where they land... coz you'd do your back in lifting them up to put them on top of another ring to split them.

So either the axe and maul heads need to be designed to strike the wood flat when striking just below knee level, or the flat head needs to be mounted to the handle at an acute angle so that again the bit part of the axe or maul strikes flat at below knee height when struck.

Seemingly no axes are designed this way... (fear of damaging chipping the head if the axe passes thru the wood and strikes dirt / rocks beneath) - which I can understand if your chopping wood at home and only dealing with small sections that the firewood man delivers:-


When your at home and dealing with smaller portions, yes you can lift them up onto a chopping block, to split with a conventional axe - but not so when your the guy breaking up the original ring out in the bush once it is on the ground, in order to deliver!

The current axe and maul offerings don't allow for that use specifically... it's a compromise using the toe of the axe or maul for a purpose it was never specifically designed for, at an low angle it was never designed for!.

That's my own take on it at the moment.

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Re: Best Axe/Bock Splitter/Maul for splitting Jarrah Rounds?

Unread post by typhoeus » April 25th, 2016, 7:42 pm

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Re: Best Axe/Bock Splitter/Maul for splitting Jarrah Rounds?

Unread post by nilla60 » April 25th, 2016, 10:02 pm

I was thinking in theory that a tougher timber would be easier to split with a finer edge, but not as fine as an axe which as you point out tends to sink in without splitting. That maul looks like its somewhere in between a regular splitter and an axe. My uncle bought a cheap Chinese maul/splitter from somewhere that was a bit like that maul, it was terrible until he ground the stupid curved "lips" off the blade to give it more of a flat wedge shape, I can't recall how well it turned out but I haven't seen him carrying it about.

I have an an old Scandinavian axe that I find to be a bit light for Aussie hardwoods so I also have an old Plumb I use for camping; good to cut with and not too bad as a splitter when required.

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Re: Best Axe/Bock Splitter/Maul for splitting Jarrah Rounds?

Unread post by TLC60S » April 25th, 2016, 10:21 pm

I'm Interested what your pick would be cause I know nothing about axes but wanted a good axe to carry in my camper .
I didn't like what I saw in hardware stores so didn't have one until visiting one of those small town country markets near a forestry area { Johns River Markets N.S.W } that had second hand axes for sale. The axe I brought for $40 has stamped in it HYTEST forged tool & it works great. The guy I brought it from seam to know what he was talking about or at least was a good salesman .
I'm happy with it but don't know if it is good for what your after.

Cheers TLC60S

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Re: Best Axe/Bock Splitter/Maul for splitting Jarrah Rounds?

Unread post by Shann Low » April 26th, 2016, 6:06 am

TLC60S - the Hytest are a good axe that's been around a long time and work just fine for general chopping & splitting. If you keep it really sharp & stored somewhere safe in the 4x4 with a cover on the edge it SHOULD get you out of most trouble with limbs or small trees over the track, where you can chop thru the middle say and put a winch cable or snig chain around the small tree trunk or large tree limb and just drag it back & off the track - do the same with the other half - and your track is then open to get the vehicle/s thru.
It will also serve well in camp for general firewood duties.
There are a number of oldies around similar to the Hytest that have stood the test of time. Plum, & Craftsman, spring to mind, Cyclone probably have one too.

The difficulty arrives when the forested area you visit or live in, has trees with trunks a meter or more in diameter - then when you come across one blown down across a track - you basically need a stihl 066 model chainsaw with a 36 inch bar to cut the darn things off the track... it COULD be done with a sharp Hytest axe, IF you have the time to spare - & the energy / stamina, to chop your way thru, but the weekend would be over before you got thru the track (which is why many make a new track around the obstacle thru the bush rather than move it, or back off and find another track going to the same place - and leave it for someone with a big chainsaw and loader to deal with).
Typically our Forestry dept will use large chainsaws & 950 loaders to shift such problem logs and open tracks as "burn boundaries" in spring and autumn to allow their 4 x 4 fire trucks thru to manage the controlled hazard reduction burns.
A good general purpose axe like the Hytest is really all you need as long as its sharp and has a sound handle - UNLESS as is the case here you actually want to go fire wooding and shift say ~3 tonnes of split rings in a weekend.
The Lad has a series of stihl chain saws of varying sizes for different tasks (falling, crowning and limbing, and bucking the log into rings then a series of axes and mauls for splitting.
Some of the saws he has varying length chainsaw bars and chains to suit different sized trees he encounters. His woods usually sourced off private property, coz of his falling skills - local farmers will contact him when they have a problem tree that's leaning over the chook house or fence/s etc, and they aren't game to fall it for fear of damaging the structure. They will get him in to do the task so that the tree goes where they want it with various hanging dutchman type felling techniques to lay a tree where gravity normally wouldn't land it using more straight forward "scarf it and back it down" falling techniques which just put it where gravity wants it to go.
Things like trees that WANT to fall across say the highway - from the private property, but NEED to fall into the farmers paddock... that's when they get a qualified faller in to do the task.
And in return to ease the pain on their hip pocket paying for his skills and time / effort, he will usually ask/offer if they want him to fall it, crown it & buck it into rings and split, load & cart it away for a reduced bill. Then he goes and delivers it for cash as split firewood. That way he makes a decent return for his weekends work (usually close to $1K bye the time its all done). He is looking at buying a stump grinder next to remove the stumps as well (for extra $ of course), a small 3 or 4 tonne tipper truck (so he can carry all the wood in one load for speed), an some kind of wood chipper to deal with all the small stuff that's not suited to firewood from the crowns. Being a rural forested area, sometimes he gets people bu a house block that's not cleared & they want quite a few trees removed for their house pad - so that can provide sometimes ongoing work for a few weekends. He makes reasonable $$ and it avoids having to have a D8 dozer and 950 loader trucked in, just to clear a 1/4 acre block in town. There's all sorts of issues with unloading tracked dozers on sealed roads within the town, the shire get pretty antsy if you tear up their new bitumen road unloading a steel tracked dozer in a new rural subdivision!.
So for him - the axe and maul choices and expenditures are more justified for more expensive gear, to get the job done easier and faster - where time is $$.
One of the big issues is that locals see good gear and nick it (out the back of his ute and trailer) It's happened overnight when the vehicles are parked up - while inside paying for fuel at the servo etc. SOME (minority) of people in a timber town see a nice (expensive) axe & maul & think - "I will have that!" and help themselves and there's a weekends hard graft & work gone, just to pay to replace them... And the issue is when they were good OLD tools sometimes they aren't made any more and finding replacements gets tougher.
Its much the same issue tradies have with people knocking off their gear from building sites overnight. Your tools of trade are kind of important to how you make your living. The whole steel canopy I made recently for his ute was solely so he could keep his chainsaws etc locked up overnight from the light fingers that like to help themselves. He has even had good axes and mauls nicked in the bush between delivering loads of split wood.
So I guess its more important when its your livelihood to have the best gear you can afford versus what axe to carry in your 4wd for the occasional tree limb over a track and general camp duties - but I do understand that some people take personal pride in what gear they have in and on their 4wd and want only the best.
In that case, any of the more expensive offerings from around the world would make GREAT investment for the 4wd.
Gransford Bruks

etc are all good axes (along with many more) BUT we are talking about axes that start around $200 and go all the way to $1000 or more.

That gets awful expensive if someone passing takes a liking to it, enough to help themselves while your not in camp, say off fishing or whatever.

Tassie is a place where often you will find a LOT of the old timers timber guys & competition log choppers had the very best axes available back in the day (Racing Kellys and Plums, Keysteels etc) and are getting too old and tired to keep swinging them and tend to sell them off, sometimes for a lot less than they are probably worth here on the mainland.

I would think at the end of this we will probably have 4 or 5 good axes and same with mauls, just so we have the right one for the job on the day.

The farmers and land owners who pay good $ to have trees fallen and removed etc - expect the guy they are paying to be professional and show up with all the best gear for the job so they are getting good value for their dollar, not paying someone an hourly rate to swing a blunt old axe, all week.

It's having the right gear, and being skilled with it, (and not killing yourself in the process), that gets the world of mouth you need to get more work in small rural towns these days.

That's why I am investing so much time and effort to find out from others - what works / has worked for them in the past, so that when I see something special pop up used for sale online with evil bay or gumtree, if its a bargain I know in advance to get in quick and buy it before someone else in the know does likewise and beats me too it.

I am just doing my homework really - I've been looking at crew cab tip trucks with a crane, stump grinders, wood chippers, dingo's with attachments etc - planning out what gear to get to build the lads part time business into something eventually he can build into a full time one as the economy seems to be going into the crapper. No one knows what the future holds & how long his existing long haul trucking job will last.

Also this gear expenditure for him with a small business is all tax deductible and there's even a $20K investment allowance ATM where he can fully depreciate any purchases in the current tax year. His current trucking job earns enough to have a tax bill that's a problem come tax time where he gets little back out of the usually $30K+ he pays in Tax! (Meanwhile Tax office tells us that 2/3rds of corporations & big business who each earn more than $1M turnover a year pay ZERO tax!).

So he has to get his small contracting business cranked up and start making investments into good gear that will earn their keep, and deliver some tax breaks as well. Otherwise he just gives it all to Malcolm Turd-bull who's busy seeing too it that all his silver spoon fed zillionaire mates, pay zero tax for he rest of their lives!. :irked:

I suspect the $20K investment allowance scheme that's s'posed to run until end 2017 tax year, MAY 'magically' just 'evaporate' at this years May Budget delivery speech in a months time!

That's why I am spending such research effort now, to find "the right gear" to invest into now, before the tax break opportunity passes/vanishes!.

Just trying to stay one jump ahead of the crooked/stupid pollys we have running this country basically.

Most of this tax reasoning etc wouldn't apply to the average Joe just looking for a capable all purpose axe to carry in their 4wd, BUT - you'd be amazed how many capable business guys, with a wealth of life / work experience and a taste for / experience with "good gear", get around on 4wd forums etc.

It's all about sharing the knowledge and experience.

I try to give back as much as I take and learn...from the forums members where I can.

I am not too proud to ask for hard won advice from fellow forum members! There's no point learning life's lessons the hard way if you can avoid it, by listening to what others have already learned the hard way.

Swinging axes is one of those mind numbing tasks where you have enough time on your hands to ponder the eternal question:- "There's got to be a batter way / better tool - to do this!"

Axe development really hasn't come a LONG way, given that the first stone axes appeared going back maybe 40,000 years or more!.

My mind ponders away.... can I some how fit a blank bullet into the axe head and blow my way thru this darn tree ring (The ramset axe?) :lol:

I prolly just have too much spare time on my hands... anyone else would likely get themselves into serious strife with this much spare time to kill. I might well do so yet, after all, the weeks not over yet! :rolleyes:

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Re: Best Axe/Bock Splitter/Maul for splitting Jarrah Rounds?

Unread post by Shann Low » April 26th, 2016, 8:58 am

For anyone having trouble visualizing the process being described, this US vid pretty much shows whats spoken of above.

Just imagine that the timber is double the hardness of the pine shown in the video and of course double the weight per ring.

And no hydraulic splitter as of yet! :)

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Re: Best Axe/Bock Splitter/Maul for splitting Jarrah Rounds?

Unread post by BigDutchy » April 28th, 2016, 9:00 pm

Absolutely unrelated but funny anyway....

I used to work out west with "kids of the street". We would hike for days, did lots of fencing, track maintenance etc.
To get a hot shower we had to fire up the donkey and to cook we had to get wood for the stove.
I always would challenge the boys in wood chopping.
They could pick the axe I would pick the timber.
I always would give them the hardest wood that I could find and give my self a fair chunk of pine....
Being the gentleman I am I always offered the boys the first go.
After a few minutes I would tell them to pull their finger out and start working....
after a few minutes more I would offer them to show how it was done.
In one big swing I would split my piece of timber in one go.
I would then pick it up and chuck it straight on the fire.....
(burn the evidence.....)
I told these big street wise boys to man up and start working a bit harder.
I loved it and built instantly respect.....

The axes we used were absolute shite. Welded steel handle axes. They never got stolen, abused every day and lasted for ever.

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Re: Best Axe/Bock Splitter/Maul for splitting Jarrah Rounds?

Unread post by Shann Low » April 29th, 2016, 12:49 am

I hear ya Big Dutchy!

I have seen a hand full a termites could fall a tree faster than some guys! :lol:

Half the fun is learning tho & from your mistakes is often the best way because it prevents you having to learn it twice or more times before it sinks in.

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Re: Best Axe/Bock Splitter/Maul for splitting Jarrah Rounds?

Unread post by Shann Low » April 29th, 2016, 1:42 am

Tuatahi is ordered, now there's just the 4 months wait period while they make it, by which time winter should already be over. :rolleyes:

Ohh well - working at polishing up the Chopper 1, and will probably custom make a handle for it while I wait.

Also on the lookout for a few more various axes... gonna corner the Aussie axe market - my evil plan for world domination! Muahhahaha! :lol:

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Re: Best Axe/Bock Splitter/Maul for splitting Jarrah Rounds?

Unread post by rowdyskrooza » May 12th, 2016, 7:38 pm

Hey mate,
I know it certainly is nothing like the axes you are currently looking at but have you ever seen/held/used a Fiskars X27? Myself and all of my family/extended family use them and love them. Of course being in QLD we don't have an excuse to always be cutting wood but we still do use them a fair bit and are yet to fault them...if you ever do though Fiskars stand behind their product and replace it immediately no questions asked 99% of the time.
Here's a link to customer reviews: ... ing-Axe-36
If you think the last 4 words of the national anthem are gentlemen, start your engines, you might be a redneck.

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Re: Best Axe/Bock Splitter/Maul for splitting Jarrah Rounds?

Unread post by nilla60 » May 12th, 2016, 9:11 pm

I was going to say I have an old Fiskars 1133 lurking in the back of the shed, but taking to the crud with a scourer I find a stamp revealing it is a Billnäs. ... llnas.html

So it looks like they had been around since 1641, but made their last axe in 1983, some 60 years after they were acquired by Fiskars. Nice, hadn't given the origin of that axe much of a thought until this thread.

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