Sharpening A Splitting Maul The Right Way

Sharpening a splitting maul might seem more intimidating than sharpening a knife, or even an axe, but it’s really not, you just have to use the right tools, and keep some important things in mind when you do it.

Should you sharpen a splitting maul?

I guess that is the most important question. Problem is, it’s actually quite controversial. Look up different websites and forums where people have discussions about it, and answers differ quite a bit from yes to no, from slightly sharp to a lot.

Personally I do suggest to sharpen a splitting maul, as I believe it’s an important thing to do to maintain its usability, but not to go crazy with it.

Actually, if the edge on your maul is blunt, it will often times bounce off the wood you are trying to split. This is not always the cause, as some wood is naturally more hard to split, hence making the splitting maul bounce off even if it’s not blunt, but most of the time it really depends on whether the edge has some sharpness to it, or is absolutely blunt.

It’s obvious that a splitting maul shouldn’t be as sharp as something like an axe, because after all, it is used for splitting wood, not chopping a tree down.

How to do it

All you really need is a bastard’s file (link to Amazon). These files come in many shapes and sizes, with handle or without. I suggest buying a longer one, such as the suggested 12 inch (31 cm), because it will be easier to use, and after all, you will be able to use it on more than just sharpening a maul. It also comes with a handle, so you won’t have to attach a separate one.

You might also want to get a file card to brush off any material that gets built up on the file as the time goes on, to make it perform at its best.

Anyways, now on to the actual tutorial, and it should be pretty self explanatory. Take your maul, rest it on a stool, chair, table, or put it in a vice, if you have one to keep it in place. Take the bastard’s file, and with a forward motion, go along the splitting maul’s edge on both sides, until you feel a sharper edge beginning to appear.

People often ask, on what angle should I sharpen my splitting maul? Generally speaking, you should aim for a 45 degree angle, but if you have doubt, just run your finger along the maul’s edge, and it should give you an idea on what angle to sharpen it.

The important thing to keep in mind is not to over sharpen it; again, don’t go crazy and make the edge super sharp, your goal is to simply keep your tool from bouncing off the wood you’re splitting.

This technique is obviously not the only one in the world. Some people sharpen their splitting mauls with an angle grinder, some with a bench grinder, others with a belt sander, but those ways are an overkill in my opinion. You simply don’t need those tools to achieve a basic edge on your tool, and even then, power tools like those can ruin the maul’s edge, making it brittle and useless.

This is one of those times when a simple hand tool such as a file can achieve everything you need, and it doesn’t even take that much time.

How often to sharpen a maul?

I would recommend to hit up the maul with a file every time you are about to go split some wood. If, during your splitting session, you hit the ground too many times, or simply see that the edge starts to go away, do it more frequently, just remember, don’t make it too sharp.

Every wood handled tool needs some additional handle care, and for a maul it’s not an exception – every season coat it with a nice layer of boiled linseed oil, to prevent the drying and cracking which can lead to premature breaking.

What about sharpening a splitting wedge?

Splitting wedges, on the other hand, don’t have to be much sharp at all.

I mean, if you use a wedge when you can’t seem to get through with a splitting maul, leaving it as blunt as it is is going to be good enough.

Giving the wedge a bit of a sharpening, every now and then, is more necessary for folks who mainly use a splitting wedge at all times. That is, they use one to start a slit in the round too.

As long as you got a good kerf going in the round, you shouldn’t stress the sharpness of the wedge itself.

You should take care of the mushrooming

Over time, the top of the wedge you use is going to start to mushroom out. You should address this thing as soon as you can get your hands on it.

Otherwise, those loose fragments could launch at you at any time during use, and let me tell you, I’ve heard enough horror stories of how bad it can end up.

It’s not that hard to do. Just take out most of the mushrooming with an angle grinder equipped with a cut-off wheel, and smooth out the edges with a sanding disk, that’s it.

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  1. I’m 62 and have started to get a sore neck when I split wood. I split about 6 cords a year and enjoy it – I chainsaw a bit, split a bit and so on. But the sore neck is no fun. I always used a dull splitting axe, but now I find that putting enough edge on the axe to get it into the wood makes splitting easier. I’ve also started tossing the axe into the wood instead of powering through and that lessens the shock of impact. Thanks for the good sharpening information. – Rob

    1. Just a follow up to what I said about “tossing” the axe. I don’t let go of it! I mean that I relax the muscles of my neck and let the axe’s momentum do the work instead of being tensed up at the moment of impact. Keep a good grip on the axe. – Rob

  2. Like everything… people have opinions and what seems silly becomes controversial.

    I don’t care what a purist says…. sharpen that sh!t

  3. I sit the axe across my knees & stick a strong magnet on the other side of the blade when filing.
    The magnet keeps the file in place and all I have to focus on is the angle.
    A 20lb-pull magnet should do. I also use a 70lb magnet which is terrific at holding the file, and can be placed further from the edge.
    After I’m done, the magnet can pick up all the swarf.

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