Emergency Supplies

What Is The Difference Between A Hatchet And An Axe?

Walking into a hardware store can get real confusing, real quick. All you want to do is chop some firewood or start that wood project, but you see a wall of shiny cutting tools, and they honestly all look the same sometimes.

What is the difference between a hatchet and an axe?

You use an ax to chop wood and a hatchet for other outdoor needs. But what does that actually mean?

It means you can’t just use an axe as a substitute for a hatchet and vice versa.

Head DesignMetal wedge, flat poll sideLighter, but still heavy metal head, V-Shaped, hammer-adjacent poll side
Shaft StructureTwo-handed usage, length of 20″ to 36″, lacks a curveBuilt for single-handed use, length of 12″ to 18″ length, curved shaft
WeightA minimum of 3 pounds, heavy Weighs between 1 to 3 pounds
UsesTree chopping, limbing branches, etcHunting, bushcraft, ax-throwing, etc.

We will dive deeper to learn the difference specifically between a hatchet and an ax and what you need for your next DIY project.

What is an axe?

Difference Between A Hatchet And An Axe

Most people have seen an ax, if not held one. It is the most commonly used cutting tool in the world. 

An ax has a long shaft made of wood and metal wedge on the business end. The sharper the ax, the better it chops all sorts of wood.

Typically, you can quickly identify an ax because it’s the heaviest and longest cutting tool hanging from the wall.

What can I use an ax for? 

  • Cutting timber for logs
  • Splitting firewood
  • Felling Trees
  • Limbing branches
  • Bushcraft
  • Hunting
  • Carpentry and woodworking

How should I use an axe?

Axes are super sharp and can be heavy and get cumbersome. It’s why safety is so important when you’re handling any cutting tool.

  • Get the chopping area ready by removing any hazards. You don’t want to back into a tree trunk after yelling TIMBER.
  • Grip the ax as tightly as possible while remaining comfortable and in control. Keep your hands 1 to 2 inches apart.
  • If you have a way to mark the target that you’re aiming for, it always makes it easier to lock in on what you’re chopping visually.
  • Chop, chop, and chop until you get the job done. But, if you get fatigued or pained, take a break. Mistakes happen when you’re tired and hurting.

What is the difference between an axe and a tomahawk?

Your everyday axes are typically two-handed cutting tools with a narrow, triangular eye.

A tomahawk is a single-handed tool that many Indigenous nations in the United States once used for all sorts of purposes. And a tomahawk typically has a round eye.

What is a hatchet?


Many refer to a hatchet as a smaller version of an ax. But an ax and hatchet have entirely different purposes.

A hatchet has a heavier blade and is far more compact than an ax. And, you can find on most hatchets a V-shaped cut that signifies that it is in no way an ax.

You can also find specialized hatchets for a variety of purposes.

What do you use a hatchet for?

Can you use a hatchet to chop wood?

A hatchet might drop on a moderate-sized tree. But most hatchets aren’t built to chop wood. A razor-sharp ax will always be a better option if you’re looking at chopping wood easily.

But, a hatchet is handy when splitting wood and is often easier to handle because of its lightness.

What’s better, a hatchet or an axe?

Axes are heavier than hatchets and are perfect for cutting down trees and chopping wood. But, you want a smaller cutting tool that can function as multiple tools when camping or in bushcraft.

It isn’t that one cutting tool is better than another. It is that axes and hatches have different uses and benefits. 

Can I throw my axe or hatchet to ax-throw?

You’re not going to find any type of throwing ax in your corner hardware store. Under no circumstances should you use a traditional ax or hatchet when competing or for fun.

Competing with a throwing ax or hatchet takes a lot of practice, the right tool, and tons of safety.

Axe and Hatchet Safety

  1. Never swing an ax downwardly in a circular motion; you can cut off a toe or cleave your knee off if you miss your target.
  2. The head needs to be covered when you aren’t using the cutting tool. Transporting blades is dangerous, and you don’t want to leave them lying around.
  3. When you notch too, fell a tree, don’t chop upwardly because if it bounces off, your neck, throat, and face are at risk.
  4. A loose ax or hatchet head is the most dangerous thing to take a chance with. The cutting tool head will literally fly off the handle.

FAQs about Axes & Hatchets

Should I sharpen my axe before I use it?

When taking down a tree, you will pay more attention to the clean edges. An ax doesn’t have to be sharp enough to shave with. You can over-sharpen cutting tools, causing the metal to thin and become weak.

You just want an ax that can go through tree bark fibers, which doesn’t require a lot of sharpening.

How do I maintain my hatchet?

The maintenance for a well-designed, razor-sharp hatchet is pretty much exactly like the maintenance of your knives. You will keep the metal parts dry to avoid oxidation and the handle well oiled. And, it never hurts to sharpen the edges with a sharpening stone every once in a while.

Changing out the handle or changing the grind angle will be more complex and may require a professional.

How long does an axe last?

Quality axes and hatchets can last a lifetime and beyond if you maintain them properly. Cleaning and storing cutting tools are the two primary keys to it having a long lifespan.

Once a year, take your hatchet and ax and oil the handles, and clean the blades. It guarantees it will be ready for your next trip to the woods.

How much should I spend on an axe?

You want an ax that will be on the ready when you want to use it. It means that it is going to take a little bit of investment to get the biggest chop for your buck.

The average price of a high-quality ax ranges between $40 and $125. Now, if you’re looking for a premium ax, it will run you around $200 to $250. Artisanal axes are hand-made and finely finished, costing upwards of $500.

How heavy should a splitting axe be?

A splitting axe is one of the heaviest axes because they have to be. A splitting ax can range from the standard 3 to 6 pounds. If you still find you need something heavier, a maul is a sledgehammer-type tool that weighs up to 8 pounds.

One of the only reasons to go with something heavier than 5 pounds is if you compete in wood-slitting competitions.

By AlwaysReadyHQ Team

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Location: Atlanta, GA, USA

The AlwaysReadyHQ Team is made up of writers and editors with experience ranging from emergency paramedics to former FEMA policy writers to natural disaster reporters.

Our goal is to provide clear, concise, organized, realistic, and actionable information to help you and your family feel comfortable and ready for anything. Less scared and more prepared.

We only source from authoritative sources such as government agencies and industry associations to bring reliable information to directly to you.

Andrew Riley - Contributing Editor

Andrew grew up in a country known for earthquakes, volcanoes, and typhoons. But despite the chaos and destruction of natural disasters, he remembers the resilience and readiness of neighbors, despite a lack of official government aid. He hopes that his team of experienced writers bring a bit of that to all of AlwaysReadyHQ's readers.