What Is The Difference Between A Hatchet And An Axe?

Axe for chopping wood, hatchet for outdoor needs. Axe heavier, longer; hatchet lighter, more compact. Axe for trees, hatchet for kindling, hunting.

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.

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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.

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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?

  • Splitting and creating kindling
  • Driving in stakes
  • Wood carving
  • Shelter building
  • Processing wild game
  • Snow and ice tool

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.

Are hatchets considered axes?

Hatchets are indeed considered axes, although they are distinct tools with varying purposes. The interchangeable use of the terms axe and hatchet can cause confusion, especially when comparing hand axes and hatchets due to their similar sizes.

What is a hatchet with a hammer called?

A hatchet with a hammer is commonly referred to as a splitting maul, also known as a block buster, block splitter, chop and maul, sledge axe, go-devil or hamaxe. It is a heavy, long-handled axe specifically designed for splitting wood along its grain. One side of the maul’s head resembles a sledgehammer, while the other side resembles an axe.

What is the stick of an axe called?

The stick of an axe is commonly referred to as the haft. It was traditionally crafted from sturdy hardwoods such as hickory or ash, but modern axes now frequently feature hafts made from long-lasting synthetic materials.

Why does an axe have a sharp edge?

An axe has a sharp edge because the pressure exerted on a small surface area is greater compared to the pressure exerted on a larger surface area. As a result, the knife and axe edges are maintained sharp to facilitate easier cutting of objects.

Why do firefighters carry an axe?

Firefighters carry an axe because it serves as a versatile tool for various tasks during firefighting operations. This includes smashing windows or doors to gain access and chopping holes in roofs for ventilation purposes. The axe, specifically designed for firefighting, can be used as a striking tool on its own or in combination with other tools commonly used by firefighters.

What’s the difference between a hatchet and a tomahawk?

The main distinctions between a hatchet and a tomahawk lie in their design features. Tomahawks are equipped with straight handles, which are hafted at the bottom instead of the top, and they possess longer handles in relation to the head. Additionally, tomahawks were specifically crafted to serve as both weapons and tools.

What is the difference between an axe and a maul?

The difference between an axe and a maul lies in their characteristics. A splitting axe is lightweight, possesses a sharper cutting edge, and features a shorter handle. On the other hand, a maul is equipped with a blunt, hammer-like edge that is utilized independently or in combination with a wedge to forcefully open cut wood.

Is an axe better than a hatchet for splitting wood?

An axe is more effective than a hatchet for splitting wood due to its longer length and increased leverage, making it ideal for splitting larger logs. On the other hand, a hatchet serves as a versatile multi-tool and is easier to handle with one hand due to its smaller size and lighter weight. Therefore, when preparing for a camping trip, it is important to bring the necessary tools while minimizing unnecessary items.

Is a hatchet good for chopping wood?

A hatchet is suitable for tasks such as fine detail work, limbing, small splitting jobs, and occasionally felling small trees. Although it may not excel at splitting, it can still be utilized to create kindling or break down smaller pieces of wood when necessary.

Can you use a splitting axe to cut down a tree?

The splitting axe is not suitable for cutting down a tree because it lacks the necessary sharpness and is too heavy. To effectively fell a tree, a forestry axe or a felling axe is required. Among all types of axes, the felling axe is the fastest when it comes to tree felling.

What type of axe is best for cutting down trees?

The best type of axe for cutting down trees is the single-bit felling axe. This axe is designed for both felling trees and splitting wood, with one cutting edge and a flat face on the other side. Typically weighing around 3-5 pounds, these axes are widely regarded as safer than other felling axes.

Do you need to sharpen a splitting axe?

The splitting axe needs to be sharpened in order to maintain its optimal performance. To keep the blade or “bit” sharp, basic tools can be used. It is important to note that axe and hatchet blades can become worn after only a few wood splitting sessions.

What is a wood splitting axe called?

The wood splitting axe is commonly referred to as a splitting maul, which is also known by various names such as block buster, block splitter, chop and maul, sledge axe, go-devil, or hamaxe. It is a heavy, long-handled axe specifically designed for splitting wood along its grain. The splitting maul features a sledgehammer-like head on one side and an axe-like head on the other side.

What is a Michigan style axe?

A Michigan style axe is an axe commonly used for felling trees, gaining popularity in the 1860s. Its distinctive feature is a curved head, making it well-suited for chopping down large trees and dense wood varieties.

What is a hatchet good for?

A hatchet is useful for various tasks as it is a versatile and compact tool. It can be employed outdoors for chopping trees, constructing shelters, splitting kindling and tinder, providing defense, and processing meat.

Can a hatchet cut wood?

A hatchet can indeed cut wood, but for optimal wood chopping, it is recommended to have a sturdy and heavy axe or even a maul, which is a type of axe with a sharp edge set into a thick and heavy head. However, in a pinch, a good camping or survival hatchet can also get the job done.

Do you sharpen a hatchet?

You should sharpen a hatchet by starting at the top edge of the blade, tilting the hatchet to your chosen angle, applying pressure downward while moving the blade back and forth over the top of the stone, with a slight rotation. Each section should be sharpened in overlapping phases, applying an equal number of back-and-forth sets to each section.

Are hatchets good for survival?

Hatchets are beneficial for survival as they serve as versatile tools alongside top-notch survival knives and dependable multi-tools. When you arrive at camp, a compact hatchet can make a significant difference. It proves useful for various tasks such as cutting down small trees, removing branches, preparing game, and splitting wood.

Are hatchets good for self-defense?

Hatchets can be effective for self-defense as they serve not only as survival tools but also as formidable weapons.

Can you walk around with a hatchet?

The legality of carrying a hatchet in public varies among different states in America. It is advisable to review local laws to determine if it is allowed. Generally, if you can demonstrate a legitimate need for the hatchet and there are no malicious intentions, you should not face any issues.

Can you hammer with a hatchet?

Nowadays, many single-edged axes and hatchets are designed with a flat side on the back that can be used as a hammer. However, it is important to note that not all axes and hatchets have this feature. If your camping axe happens to have a flat back side, then it is indeed possible to use it as a hammer. Nonetheless, caution should be exercised when doing so.

What to look for when buying a hatchet?

When buying a hatchet, it is important to consider several factors. The size of the blade is a crucial aspect to look for. Additionally, the handle should be well-designed to ensure optimal use of the hatchet. The material used in the construction, the weight, and the structural design are also important considerations. Lastly, it is helpful to read reviews to gather more information about the hatchet before making a purchase.

What can a hatchet cut?

A hatchet can be used to chop and collect limbs off of trees, making it a useful tool for survival. It is also commonly employed for splitting kindling to start fires. Hatchets are smaller than traditional axes and are typically swung with one hand. The head of a hatchet usually weighs around 2.2 lb.

Can you use a hatchet as a throwing axe?

The hatchet can be used as a throwing axe. Small hatchets are commonly used for axe throwing as they are more suitable for beginners. The International Axe Throwing Federation (IATF) specifically mandates the use of this type of throwing axe, with the requirement that the handle must be made of wood.

What is a small axe called?

A small axe is called a hatchet. Hatchets, also known as scout axes, are designed to be used with one hand while the other hand holds the wood in place. They are not only great for throwing, but also useful for making rough cuts in relatively small logs.

Is A tomahawk the same as an axe?

The tomahawk, used by various Indigenous peoples and nations in North America, is a type of single-handed axe that typically resembles a hatchet with a straight shaft. In pre-colonial times, the head of a tomahawk was crafted from materials such as stone, bone, or antler, while European settlers later introduced heads made of iron and steel.

What is a war axe called?

A war axe is commonly referred to as a battle axe, which is an axe that is specifically crafted for combat purposes.

Why do axes have beards?

Axes have beards because the lower portion of the axe bit, known as the hook or “beard,” extends the cutting edge below the width of the butt. This design feature allows for a wider cutting surface while maintaining a low overall mass of the axe.

What is the military use of tomahawk?

The military use of the tomahawk has evolved over centuries, serving as a versatile hand weapon in battle and a multi-purpose tool for tasks such as wood chopping and animal processing. In contemporary times, both military personnel and civilians rely on the tomahawk as a reliable survival tool.

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