A splitting maul is a woodcutting tool which is used to break short logs into smaller pieces. The pieces can be further split with the use of an axe once the maul has been used to break the log into workable pieces. Many hardware stores carry splitting mauls along with accessories such as replacement handles, and people who routinely process large amounts of wood may have several sizes available. The alternative to a splitting maul is a hydraulic splitter, which makes the splitting process go much more quickly.
At a casual glance, a splitting maul might look a lot like an oversized axe. The head consists of a large wedge-shaped piece of metal. Unlike an axe, a maul does not need to be particularly sharp, and in fact some people prefer to keep the tool slightly dulled. The splitting maul also has an unusually long handle when compared to a standard axe.
To use a splitting maul, the tool is swung down sharply on a log. The wedge pushes into the wood, ideally breaking the wood into two pieces. It may take several blows with a stubborn piece of wood. The blunt wedge design is intended to avoid situations in which the maul gets stuck in the wood, although it can happen if the wood is hard or knotty. Once the wood is split, it can be processed further with an axe into logs and kindling.
One of the most common problems people encounter with a splitting maul is using a maul of the wrong size. If the maul is too light, it will not be able to split hard wood effectively. If the logs are too long, this can also cause problems with the maul, as can splitting on a surface like soft dirt or mud, which is not well suited as a base for splitting and chopping wood. Inexperienced users may also tend to miss the log with a splitting maul. If the maul misses the mark, the woodcutter had better hope that it doesn't fall short and wind up on someone's toes.
A maul for splitting wood should be well maintained. While a sharp edge isn't necessary, rust can be harmful, making it a good idea to wipe the maul down after use, and to oil it when it is going to be stored seasonally. People should also routinely check the handle to make sure that it is firmly fixed in place. If the handle loosens, it should be tightened before the wood splitting maul is used. If a handle develops stress cracks or feels unstable, it may be time to purchase a replacement handle.