Post Updated: 26 Feb 2023
Do you sometimes sit and stare out at your back yard and think, hmm… maybe I SHOULD cut down that tree? I don’t like the shape of it, it blocks the sun from my patio, I’m tired of clearing up dried leaves that blow all over the garden. Birds roost in it and use my lawn as a toilet… Yep, it’s got to go!
Or maybe you’ve got a piece of land where you can chop down some trees to harvest your own firewood. Perhaps you’re undertaking a bigger project like building a woodstore or cabin.
DEAL OF THE DAY!!!: Free Karambit Knife
There are many reasons why cutting down trees is necessary, and if you’re going to be doing this with an axe, you’ll need a good one, trust me. I’ve cut down a few trees in my time!
There are a few things you’ll need to consider before you go out and get an axe though…
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Straight to the point – The best axe for cutting down trees
The best axe for felling trees is the Gränsfors Bruks American Felling Axe. It’s a very capable axe for most chopping jobs – and it will last a lifetime.
What kind of axe is best for cutting down trees?
What is the best axe for cutting down trees?.. A Felling axe is specifically designed for cutting down trees. They have broad, razor-sharp cutting edges that cut deep into the fibers of the wood with each stroke.
Forged with a curved bit, ideal for cutting into fresh wood and fitted with a long handle to provide ample power to the swing.
Sure, you CAN have success with a reasonably sharp all-purpose axe but it’s gonna take you 5 or 10 times as long. The best advice I can give is to invest in a good felling axe. It’ll make life so much easier… and you might even find it enjoyable!
What size of felling axe do I need?
A full size felling axe is 36 inches long and weighs around 4 lbs on average. That’s a big axe and most likely not necessary for the average Joe.
It’s tempting to go for the biggest felling axe thinking that it must be the most effective at chopping down trees, but a balance between power and accuracy is always the preferred choice here.
You need to be able to maintain good control while being able to deliver a powerful swing, so my advice is to choose a 28 to 31 inch felling axe. My go-to axe for felling trees is the Gränsfors Bruks American Felling Axe 31. It’s a very capable axe for most chopping jobs – and it will last a lifetime.
I’ve said many times in other articles that if you invest in a quality axe, you’ll never need another one. Stay away from the cheap hardware store axes – the steel is too soft and they wont last a few hours of serious chopping.
The best axe for cutting down trees is a high quality felling axe!
If you’re looking for some recommendations for buying an axe, check out my guide on choosing an axe for any job, big or small: Choosing An Axe: The Essential Buyers Guide
Now, although a large felling axe can be put to work on any size of tree, it can be overkill for the smaller stuff.
You may only be interested in felling a specific size of tree or maybe you’re looking to supplement your large axe with a small or mid-sized one for thinner or softer trees.
For smaller tree cutting and pruning – all you will need is a Silky saw.
Related Article: Best Silky Folding Saws For Bushcraft
Lets look at some other options for chopping trees that may suit your specific requirements perfectly:
The best axe for cutting down trees is not normally given to a hatchet. A hatchet is a one-handed cutting tool widely used in bushcraft to perform a wide range of tasks including chopping, carving and splitting small wood for the fire.
They’re not really known for their tree-felling capabilities, however… a good quality hatchet can be the perfect tool for felling trees with up to 2 or 3 inches of thickness. A large felling axe is not necessary here!
Good choices in this category would be:
The Small Axe
A small axe can be used one or two-handed. The handle is around 20 inches in length, and the head can weigh anywhere between 1.5 to 2.2 lbs. These are considered one of the most versatile axes for bushcraft since they are small enough to carry and have adequate chopping power for the kind of jobs you would encounter in the field.
Small axes are ideal for trees of up to 4 inches in diameter and can cope with something bigger if you’re willing to put in the work. Is it the best axe for cutting down trees… not really.
This type of axe is one step up from a basic hatchet but for a 4 inch tree a Small Axe may be all you need. Some suggestions of a fine Small Axe are as follows:
The Boy’s/All-Purpose Axe
A larger version of the small axe is the Boys axe, also considered an all-purpose axe. The handle is between 25 to 28 inches in length, and the weight of the head is around 2 – 3 lbs. You could comfortably chop anything around 6 inches in diameter with a good quality boys/all-purpose axe.
These axes are a great in-between size if you find smaller axes too lightweight and a large axe too cumbersome for the task at hand. The best axe for cutting down trees is a full sized Felling axe.
However a nice 26 inch handle is a very manageable length for most and a Boys Axe is often recommended as a beginner axe for novices and children. Here are some fine quality axes in this range:
The Felling Axe
When most people think of an axe they’ll probably picture a felling or chopping axe. These are the axes you picture over the shoulder of a lumberjack. They are medium to long length axes used for chopping down large trees.
Typically they have a thin, razor-sharp blade which cuts deep into the wood fibres to facilitate the felling of a tree.
The handle is over 30 inches in length – a full size felling axes is usually around 36 inches. The head can weigh anywhere between 3 – 5 lbs or more. A good quality felling axe is the king of all axes and should be able to cut through wood like butter. This is the best axe for cutting down trees.
If felling large trees is your aim, you must invest in a proper full-sized felling axe. Some great examples in this range are:
Chainsaw or Axe for cutting down trees?
If the tree is BIG then you should consider a chainsaw as your main cutting tool, but be aware of the dangers of using a chainsaw. I’ve heard so many stories of people going out, buying a chainsaw without any idea of the safety precautions and lets just say it didn’t end well! So if you choose the chainsaw option, PLEASE be careful.
Related Article: What should I look for when buying a chainsaw?
Yes, chainsaws are probably the quickest way to fell a tree but for your average garden variety tree this is probably overkill – and a lot less fun.
Just last week me and my two boys spent an hour chopping away at a couple of 5 inch apple trees until we all finally shouted TIMBERRRRR as they fell to the ground. Awesome family time and great fun – the kids loved it!
With an axe, obviously there is an element of danger as well but far less than a chainsaw. So for BIG trees of course a chainsaw is the obvious choice, but for average sized trees a good quality axe is cheaper, safer… and a lot more fun!
DEAL OF THE DAY!!!: Free Karambit Knife
The takeaway from this article should be the need to assess the size of job before you decide on what size of axe to use. You can make do with a hatchet for very thin or dry trees.
A small axe or boys axe will be able to handle up to 5 inches of thickness. But the best axe for cutting down trees of anything over 5 inches in diameter is always a good quality felling axe.
As I have said in previous posts, a cheap axe will not last even a few hours of serious chopping. So the axes listed throughout this article is a good place to start if you want a decent chopping tool that will last.