Chainsaw Vs Axe: Which Is Best And When Should You Use Them?

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An ax and chainsaw can be used in tandem – there isn’t a competition over which is best!

A chainsaw is mostly used for felling trees and then sectioning them up into rounds. The chainsaw is always used for cutting across the grain of the wood (except when milling lumber).

A splitting axe or maul is then used for cutting up these sectioned rounds into appropriate-sized pieces of firewood. You would not use a chainsaw to split wood, nor an axe to buck logs, though each is helpful at different stages.

There are, of course, felling axes that are used to drop trees, but it takes A LOT of work. Ultimately, the two tools serve different purposes and it’s always good to have both on hand when processing firewood.

Chainsaw Or Ax

chainsaw or axe to split wood
Chainsaws and axes/mauls have very different functions

This image is an example of how both a chainsaw and an axe are used together. The chainsaw is a Husqvarna 450 and the axe is actually a log-splitting maul.

These hardwood trees (gum and macrocarpa) had been down for a number of years already, which is why you can see some decay in the outside layers. I used the chainsaw for sawing the log into sections, and I have the maul on hand to help out when necessary.

Mauls are good for:

  • Knocking a round off that is still hanging on after using the saw – you don’t want to use a chainsaw right down to the ground as it blunts the chain
  • Use as a wedge in a bind – not ordinarily recommended because of the chance your chainsaw will hit metal
  • Helping to remove a stuck chainsaw bar – though don’t damage the saw

I always have an axe or maul on hand when working with my chainsaw. It always comes in handy, one way or another. I have a splitting axe that I keep down in the forest so that I don’t have to lug the maul down there. 

Axes can fell trees, but it's slow hard work
Always keep an axe on hand when using a chainsaw

When it comes to axes vs mauls, they both serve different purposes and so are used on different occasions. You can see that this axe doesn’t have a sledgehammer-like end to it like the maul.

These lighter axes are better for limbing branches and felling small trees. You don’t want to be swinging a huge heavy maul around to lop off a few small branches. That is dangerous and tiring.

Everyone should have an ax and a chainsaw, not one or the other. They are both hugely useful tools that can be used for firewood or in the case of an emergency.

A big storm will hit everywhere at some point or another, and both these tools can help out greatly in the tidy-up. If you have a lot of wood to split, one of these Tractor Supply log splitters will get things done faster and easier.

Ax Vs Chainsaw FAQs

best way to split wood
A heavy splitting maul or axe is best for splitting hardwood

What are the pros and cons of using a chainsaw over an ax?

Chainsaw Pros:

  • Much faster cutting
  • Use a lot less physical energy
  • Able to cut through thicker trees
  • Able to section up logs

Chainsaw Cons:

  • Much more expensive
  • Requires gas and oil
  • Louder
  • More dangerous

Keep in mind, of course, that they are really used for different purposes.

Is an ax or chainsaw best for splitting wood?

An ax is best for splitting wood once it has been cut down to the right length with a chainsaw.

You would not use a chainsaw to cut sections into fire-sized pieces of wood. It’s dangerous to cut small pieces of wood in this way, and you’ll lose a lot of wood to sawdust (though sawdust has its uses).

Will using an axe or a chainsaw make a stump decompose faster?

The difference between the two would not be huge, but the chainsaw may cause stump rot sooner.

With the chainsaw, the stump can be cut flat and closer to the ground. Also, the chain tears at the wood fibers creating an opening for water. An ax will generally leave a smoother cut which might repel water better, but it depends on who is doing the cutting!

If you want the stump to disappear sooner, drill holes into the surface so that water can seep in easier and sooner. Alternatively, use a good stump grinder to have it gone in a matter of hours.

What is the largest tree width you would use an axe on before choosing to use a chainsaw instead?

Personally, I use a chainsaw for everything – though sometimes it’s one of our mini chainsaws. It’s just so much quicker and easier.

I certainly would always use a chainsaw for anything thicker than 5 or 6 inches. Why waste precious energy when you don’t need to?

Chainsaw vs axe: which is best to have in combat?

Obviously a chainsaw, except in the case of a prolonged battle.

You don’t want to be up against an ax-wielding combatant while you fill up your gas and your chain bar oil.

Is a chainsaw or axe better for throwing?

That depends on who you ask!

Throwing axes is a popular and ever-growing sport, while chainsaw juggling could also be considered a type of throwing… right?

Chainsaw Axe

To sum up, don’t think of chainsaws and axes as two different competing tools – think of them as conjoined tools.

Instead of ‘chainsaw vs axe,’ think ‘chainsaw axe.’

You really need them both!

Let us know if you have any more questions about using chainsaws over axes, or vice versa, in the comments below. We’d love to add some more to our FAQs to help everyone out.

Once you’ve taken down and tree, here’s how to get grass growing after stump removal.


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