25 Types of Axes (And How To Use Them)


People have been using axes since ancient times, but the tool has come a long way since then. Nowadays, we have specialized axes that have been specifically designed for certain applications....
 
With so many choices, it now becomes a matter of picking the right tool for the job. Some axes are still made to cut wood or for survival, while others can be more accurately described as souvenirs or display items. Here is a long list of the types of axes that you’re likely to encounter.

25 Types of Axes



A hatchet can be simply described as a small axe designed for one-handed use. Lightweight and compact, hatchets are ideal if you are planning to go on a hike or in any situation where mobility is crucial. It’s also a very versatile tool that can be used in just about any situation that calls for an axe or a knife.

What it’s used for

  • Hatchets are most often used for preparing kindling or pruning trees. Felling trees and chopping firewood is also within the realm of a hatchet’s capabilities but will take more effort than a larger axe.
  • Most hatchets come with a flat hammerhead opposite the cutting edge. This is useful for driving stakes on the ground while setting up camp or chipping away at a piece of rock for a makeshift firestarter. During winter, the hammerhead can also be used to strike the ice to make a hole for some ice fishing.
  • In some cases, a hatchet can be used as a replacement for the standard pocket knife. If you plan on catching some game for food, a hatchet can be used to cut out the meat and remove any bone or cartilage.

Features

  • Small, lightweight, and portable
  • Comes with either wood or synthetic (fiberglass) handles
  • Has a flat hammerhead opposite the cutting edge

Our recommendation: Fiskars X7 Hatchet


As the name implies, a felling axe is specifically designed for felling a tree. They have very long handles (28 to 36 inches) and an extremely sharp blade made to across the wood grain. Most felling axes come with wooden handles and a moderately heavy axe head (2.5 to 3.5 pounds)

What it’s used for

  • A felling axe must be used only for its intended purpose – for felling a tree. Due to its form factor, some may be tempted to use a felling axe to split firewood. This is a bad idea as the sharp edge will only result in the axe getting stuck in the wood.

Features

  • Very sharp cutting edge
  • Long wooden handles
  • Moderately heavy axe head

If you need to split firewood, then a splitting maul is the ideal tool. Instead of a sharp edge, a splitting maul sports a wedge-shaped head that weighs about 7 to 12 lbs. This combination of a heavy head and a dull edge rends logs along the grain instead of cutting through them.
 
Splitting mauls also typically come with a flat hammerhead opposite the cutting edge. This can be used to drive a separate splitter through the log in case the splitting maul alone cannot do the job.

The straight handle allows the user to more smoothly follow through the swing, making it easier to drive the maul deeper into a log. Just like felling axes, the handles of splitting mauls are typically quite long and range from 27 to 36 inches.

What it’s used for

  • There is no better tool for the heavy-duty splitting of firewood than a splitting maul. The length, weight, and shape of the head of a splitting maul all combine to make this task incredibly easy. When splitting firewood with a splitting maul, all you have to do is take a swing and let physics do the work.

Features

  • Wedge-shaped head
  • Very heavy axe head
  • Straight and long handle
  • Broad butt can be used as a makeshift hammer

The double bit axe is a versatile tool, which should be quite obvious given that it has two blades. One blade is kept sharper for cutting across the grain while the blunt edge is more effective for making deep cuts along the grain.

The larger axe head also gives a double bit axe the advantage of more heft. Whether for splitting firewood or felling a tree, the added weight should make the job a little easier. However, this also means that carrying a double bit axe around can be difficult and downright dangerous if not done properly.

What it’s used for

  • Double bit axes are commonly used by professional lumberjacks because of their versatility. With the choice of either a sharp or blunt cutting edge, double bit axes are suitable for just about any wood-cutting job. However, using a double bit axe also requires a substantial skill level.
  • With the extra heft in its head, double bit axes are excellent for throwing. This added power, however, comes at the cost of reduced accuracy. For this reason, there are only a few axe throwing competitions that allow the use of double bit axes.

Features

  • Two cutting edges – a sharp one and a dull one
  • Long axe handle (28 inches to 36 inches)
  • Straight handle

A broad axe is used primarily for hewing and is characterized by a broad cutting edge with a long beard. Hence, a broad axe is alternatively referred to as a “hewing axe” or “bearded axe.” The flattened blade features a bevel typically only on one side, making a broad exclusively suitable either for left-handed or right-handed use.

A broad axe gains no advantage from swing power, benefitting instead from precise control. Thus, a broad axe typically comes with a short (less than 23 inches) curved handle.

What it’s used for

  • The chisel-like cutting edge of a broad axe is designed only for one thing – hewing. This is the act of turning a round log into a straight beam This is done by cutting away the rounded surfaces of a log to turn them into flat faces.

Features

  • Broad, single-beveled cutting edge
  • Short and curved handle

A tactical axe does not have any specific form factor or distinguishing features. Instead, it’s a tool with a singular objective – to aid in survival. Tactical axes are typically small, lightweight, and serve a few different functions. It is a modern take on the traditional axe design with much more focus on its value as a survival tool.

What it’s used for

  • A tactical axe isn’t just an axe. When you’re in the outdoors, a tactical axe can essentially be a multi-tool. It can be used as a hammer, a prying tool, a shovel, or a Firestarter. The usual cutting edge is still there for cutting wood or preparing food.
  • Being a lightweight tool, a tactical axe also makes an effective weapon. In a close-quarters encounter, a tactical axe does not need a large swing to make heavy damage. This is a nice use for this tool that you hopefully will never need.

Features

  • Multi-tool functions
  • Lightweight and heavy-duty construction
  • Primarily designed for survival

One may think that any axe can be used for throwing, but that underestimates how much thought goes into designing a proper throwing axe. Throwing axes are very thin for better aerodynamics and come with straight handles that can be tapered down to fit any person’s throwing hand. They also come with very sharp cutting edges, making them easier to stick to target boards.

What it’s used for

  • While a throwing axe can conceivably be used to cut wood, it is best used for sport. Throwing axes are particularly well-balanced and sharp but may lack the robustness of a hatchet or tactical axe. The good news is that axe-throwing bars have become quite popular in the last two or three years.

Features

  • Very thin profile
  • Very sharp cutting edge
  • Straight wooden handle that can be customized by cutting down
  • Perfectly balanced axe head

The axe features prominently in Viking history, both as their most common hand weapon and as a tool for daily life. With their long and thin blades, broad edges, and prominent horns, Viking axes have a unique look that has made them popular for hobbyists and axe enthusiasts.

Although they can also be used to prepare kindling or delimb trees, Viking axes are most often used for display. 

What it’s used for

  • Viking axes make a great collector’s item, especially if you’re into ancient weaponry or historical artifacts. Since Viking axes can afford to prioritize form over function, there is a wide range of different axe designs that are commercially available. Viking axes can also be customized to make your piece unique from everything else in the market.
  • If you can get a Viking axe made with carbon steel and Hickory handle, then that should be perfectly usable for delimbing a tree or chopping some firewood. Don’t expect it to be as tough as an actual splitting maul or hatchet.
  • Viking axes have historically been used as weapons. In turn, even a replica Viking axe would make a good weapon if you’re in a pinch. If you need to defend yourself, then a good swing of a Viking axe should do some damage to an attacker.

Features

  • Bearded axe head
  • Broad and thin cutting edge
  • Prominent “horns” on the toe and heel of the head
  • Long and straight wooden handle

Our recommendation: Cold Steel Viking Battle Axe.


The tomahawk is a traditional weapon and daily tool used by the indigenous people of North America. Classically made with a stone head, modern tomahawks instead use a metal axe head but retain the lean design of the original model.
 
Tomahawks resemble hatchets and tactical axes because of how compact they are. A straight handle is one of the distinguishing characteristics of a tomahawk, as it makes release easier when throwing. In most cases, tomahawks are also lighter than hatchets.

What it’s used for

  • As tomahawks were traditionally used as thrown weapons, today’s tomahawks are still lightweight and balanced enough for throwing. Some knife-throwing competitions include tomahawk throwing as a separate category.
  • Due to their low-profile designs, tomahawks have gained popularity as a camping tool. Just like hatchets and tactical knives, tomahawks for bushcraft activities like preparing food, setting up camp, and preparing kindling.

Features

  • Small axe head with a straight edge
  • Straight handle optimal for throwing
  • Compact and lightweight design

Named after French explorer Sir Henry Hudson, a Hudson Bay axe is a versatile, one-handed axe historically used by French trappers and hunters. The Hudson Bay axe is characterized by a long cutting edge, a teardrop-shaped eye, and a 22 to 28-inch wood handle.
 
These are slightly larger than hatchets but are still portable enough to be conveniently used for trips in the bush. It is suitable for chopping small trees or splitting some firewood but isn’t quite as powerful as felling axes.

What it’s used for

  • A general-purpose axe, a Hudson Bay axe can be relied on in just about any situation. It’s portable but delivers slightly more swing power than a hatchet, making it suitable for more heavy-duty chopping work.

Features

  • Typically weighs less than 2 lbs.
  • Long cutting edge
  • Handle between 22 to 28 inches

Our recommendation: Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay Axe


Contrary to what many might think, a miner’s axe is not a pickaxe meant to shatter rocks. Instead, it sports a standard Dayton axe head but comes with a shorter handle no more than 20 inches long. This makes the miner’s axe ideal for use in tight spaces, hence the name. With a tapered cutting edge, the miner’s axe has transitioned from niche use to a more general-purpose tool.

What it’s used for

  • Traditionally used inside mining chutes, the miner’s axe has since become a general-use axe for working in tight or constricted spaces. It does not have a lot of splitting power but has a narrow cutting edge suitable for cutting and splitting.

Features

  • Dayton-style axe head
  • Short wood handle (20 inches or less)

A pick axe is a T-shaped axe typically used for gardening or landscaping. It has a distinct axe head that consists of two sides – one with a flat chisel-like edge and another with a pointed pick. The large axe head also provides more power during swinging. Pick axes comes in a selection of lengths and sizes and can be used either one-handed or two-handed.

What it’s used for

  • Pick axes are the ideal tool for breaking apart soil, concrete, or rocks. Solid blocks of material can be chipped away with the pointed pick, while gaps or splits can exploited using the chisel edge.

Features

  • Large axe head with a pointed pick and a chisel edge.
  • Straight handle
  • Can come in long or short handles made with either wood or fiberglass

The Dayton Axe is a classic. Easily identified by its bright red axe head, the Dayton Axe is named after the region of Dayton in Ohio. The distinctive red enamel is meant to deter rust in the axe head, giving this axe longevity even in outdoor conditions. 

What it’s used for

  • In terms of function, a Dayton Axe can be most accurately described as a felling axe. With a heavy axe head and a sharp cutting edge, the Dayton Axe is ideal for cutting across the wood grain. It can also be a satisfactory splitting axe given that you are working with wood that is free of knots.

Features

  • Lacquer-treated axe head
  • Curved blade with a gentle flare and sharp edge
  • Long hickory handle (around 36 inches)

As the name implies, the carpenter’s axe is a tool made for precise woodworking. It’s compact and can be used one-handed but is slightly bigger. A flat butt which can be used as hammer is another of its distinguishing characteristics.

Control and stability are more important in a carpenter’s axe than power. Thus, the short wooden handle typically has a notch for better grip. The light axe head is compensated for with a very sharp straight cutting edge. Some carpenter’s axes also come with small groove that can be used for nail removal.

What it’s used for

  • The carpenter’s axe is specifically used for fine woodworking. It’s not ideal for felling a tree or chopping up some firewood but is effective for higher precision and more detailed cutting work. If you’re planning to prepare home furniture from raw timber, then a carpenter’s axe is essential for the job.

Features

  • Compact size (slightly larger than a hatchet but smaller than a felling axe)
  • Lightweight axe head with very sharp cutting edge
  • Flat butt for hammering
  • Notched handle for better grip
  • May come with a nail removal tool

To be clear, there are several types of fireman’s axes. This is the pickhead version – a double bit axe that comes with a sharp cutting edge and a pick-shaped point. This is the tool of choice when firefighters respond to fires in urban areas, such as in houses and buildings.

Pickhead axes aren’t exceptionally heavy but come with long handles ranging from 28 to 36 inches. These are easily distinguishable by red-painted axe heads.

What it’s used for

  • The cutting edge and pointed pick combination make the pickhead axe the ideal tool for breaking windows, doors, floorboards, ceilings, and padlocks. This is an essential tool for firefighters responding to emergencies in urban areas.

Features

  • A double bit axe head with a cutting edge and a pointed pick
  • A long handle (28 to 36 inches) which can be either wood or fiberglass
  • Axe head is painted red for easy identification

16) Adze


A stone age-era tool, the most distinguishing characteristic of the adze is that its cutting edge runs perpendicular to the handle instead of parallel. With a very sharp cutting edge, an adze can be used both for cutting wood and landscaping. Some adzes can also come with a notch for removing nails.

Adzes can be designed either for one-handed (short handle) or two-handed (long handle) use. Adze heads can typically be removed from the handle to facilitate sharpening.

What it’s used for

  • Nowadays, an adze is most commonly used for grubbing or to help remove weeds in gardens. This mostly stems from the confusion between an adze and a hoe. Unlike a hoe, an adze has a sharp edge that can be used for cutting.
  • An adze can be used for quick bark removal from raw timber. It is also useful for trimming and shaping, although it provides a lower degree of control compared to other axe types.

Features

  • Sharp cutting edge perpendicular to the handle
  • Large and heavy axe head
  • Easily removable handle for easier sharpening
  • May come with a nail removal notch

Another type of fireman’s axe, the Pulaski Axe comes with a large axe head that combines a cutting edge and an adze. In contrast to a Pickhead Axe, the Pulaski Axe is the tool of choice for firefighters responding to wildfires. It has also been used for trail construction in forested areas.

The sharp axe edge is for general cutting work. The adze end is useful when digging through root-infested or hard soil. Most Pulaski Axes used for firefighting come with fiberglass handles for increased weather resistance.

What it’s used for

  • The Pulaski Axe is used by firefighters when responding to wildfires. Its adze edge is useful for cutting through or making holes in hard soil or through tree roots.
  • With its value for general excavation, the Pulaski Axe has also been used for trail construction, roadworks, and gardening. Just like the standard adze, the Pulaski Axe is a potential substitute for a hoe.

Features

  • Double bit axe head with a cutting edge and an adze
  • Typically comes with a 36-inch fiberglass handle
  • Easily identifiable by its red and yellow color scheme

18) Ice Axe


An ice axe is a specialized tool specifically designed for ice climbing and technical mountaineering in snowy regions. Its main “cutting edge” is a pointed blade with a jagged edge. This is meant to be driven on the ground or ice, at which point the jags dig in and prevent slippage.

Ice axes almost always come with a stainless steel or aluminum handle for durability, an anti-slip grip, and a rope for stashing. The opposite side of the pointed pick can have either a small hammer or adze to make the tool more versatile.

What it’s used for

  • Ice axes are an essential tool when hiking in ice or any type of slippery terrain. Its primary function is for hikers to strike into into the ground or ice to use it as a point of leverage. 
  • It can also be used to strike or hammer the ice and makes holes for ice fishing.

Features

  • Pointed pick with a jagged edge
  • Stainless steel or aluminum body
  • Comes with a rope tether
  • Can have a hammer or adze end to increase versatility

Our recommendation: Petzl Quark Hammer Ice Axe

19) Halberd


A weapon first used in the 14th century, a halberd can most easily be described as a combination of an axe and a spear. With a typical curved axe blade and a very long pointed head, the halberd had a very long reach that made it ideal for attacking horse-mounted enemies. As halberds are used only for display nowadays, they can come with any number of visual embellishments.

What it’s used for

  • Fortunately, we don’t go around fighting each other with spears and axes anymore. Halberds are now usually meant only for display and exhibitions. Thus, they don’t need to be sharp or even functional – they just need to look good.
  • The Papal Swiss Guard in the Vatican are some of the few people who still “wield” halberds. However, these halberds are also only for show. Any Swiss guard on duty is likely armed with more practical weapons.

Features

  • A large axe head with a combination of a curved cutting edge and a pointed spearhead
  • A very long handle (up to 41 inches) suitable for two-handed use
  • Typically has a lot of visual elements

Crash Axes vary greatly by design by they share a common purpose – as a multi-purpose emergency tool. Typically small and lightweight, a Crash Axe often comes with a short rubber-lined handle and both a serrated and smooth cutting edge. Depending on the brand, a Crash Axe can also be used as a hammer, pick, or pry bar.

What it’s used for

  • A Crash Axe is considered an “ad hoc” tool. It’s useful when it’s needed but has no specific purpose. Most emergency responders carry some form of a Crash Axe to help with breaking into restricted spaces or to eliminate obstacles.
  • A cabin of a commercial airplane is one place where you will almost certainly find a Crash Axe. This is an FAA requirement for any aircraft carrying more than 19 passengers. This is meant to help the crew cut away at the interior panels in case of electrical troubles.

Features

  • Typically hatchet-sized
  • Made of lightweight but durable materials like titanium or stainless steel
  • Usually have a rubber or fiberglass handle
  • Can have several different tools and functions

Our recommendation: Gemtor D56 Crash Axe


We thankfully don’t do beheadings anymore, so an Executioner’s Axe is nothing more than a prop or display piece. Typically identified by a large axe head, an Executioner’s Axe can have varying lengths and can be either single bit or double bit. One thing is for certain – an Executioner’s Axe is intimidating not only because of how it looks but also because of the fate of the person unfortunate enough to encounter it.

What it’s used for

  • As the name implies, an Execution’s Axe was used to carry out public decapitations as capital punishment. The use of cartoonishly large Execution’s Axes has become a trope in period pieces set in Medieval times. This is also a common piece in reenactments, as well is in private collections.

Features

  • A large, imposing axe head that can be either single bit or double bit
  • Typically a long wooden handle, although depictions may vary
  • Any number of visual embellishments

22) Mattock


Often mistaken for a pickaxe, a Mattock is a double bit tool that combines an adze with either a pointed pick or a standard axe cutting edge. This makes the axe head of a Mattock heavier, giving it more momentum and swinging power.

Depending on the specific tool included in a Mattock, it can be suitable for general-purpose digging and chopping. It is usually a two-handed tool to take advantage of the heavy axe head. However, there are also one-handed Mattocks available with shorter handles.

What it’s used for

  • Mattocks are mostly used for gardening and general yard work. As a more versatile version of the adze or pickaxe, Mattocks can be used to chop through roots, whittle large rocks, or break through the topsoil. 

Features

  • A double bit axe head with a broad adze on one side and either a pointed pick or sharp axe edge on the other
  • Can have a short or long handle, made with either Hickory or fiberglass

Although no longer as common as they used to be, traditional craftsmen still keep a Roofing Axe handy. Also known as a shingling hatchet, this compact axe a sharp cutting edge, a magnetized hammerhead, and a small notch on the side of the blade. This is called a shingle gauge and is used to ensure that shingles are evenly spaced when placed.

What it’s used for

  • A Roofing Axe is an excellent tool for cutting and installing shingles but is not useful for anything beyond this. Small but heavy, using a Roofing Axe makes hammering in nails or cutting up shingles a lot easier and quicker.

Features

  • A specialized cutting head with a sharp axe edge and a magnetized hammerhead
  • A shingle gauge for a more even setting of shingles
  • A one-handed tool with a short handle, made with either Hickory or fiberglass
  • Usually comes with a hand loop for added safety when working at heights

Our recommendation: Great Neck Roofing Axe


An axe made for the most challenging outdoor conditions, the Forest Axe is an all-purpose heavy-duty cutting tool. It is typically made with some of the most robust materials available including a carbon steel axe head and a Hickory handle. With a very sharp cutting edge and powerful swing, a Forest Axe is perfectly suited for felling trees, cutting up tree limbs, and chopping firewood.

Forest Axes vary greatly from one brand to another but are typically shorter than a felling axe but much larger than a hatchet. While there’s no standard for how a Forest Axe looks like, excellent craftmanship seems to be one of its essential components.

What it’s used for

  • A Forest Axe is good for any outdoor use that involves wood. Its premium materials and robust design make it effective even in the most demanding scenarios. 
  • A Forest Axe is sharp and handy enough to be useful in preparing game.

Features

  • Excellent craftsmanship, premium materials, and robust construction. A Forest Axe offers superior cutting performance in a compact build.

While most of us have probably seen battle axes in movies or TV shows, you likely will not see a genuine battle axe outside of a museum. In medieval times, battle axes were weapons that focused on power. They may not have the finesse and reach of a sword, but they can certainly inflict heavy damage. Real battle axes were heavy, cumbersome, and were built to withstand the severe punishment of battle.

Real battle axes varied greatly. They can have a single bit, a double bit, a pointed pick, or all three. These battle axes may have also had ceremonial significance and may be intricately gilded. 

What it’s used for

  • Used in ancient times as weapons, we can now only see battle axes in a museum or works of fiction. Battle axes are a very common element in just about any form of popular media from books to TV shows, movies, and video games.

Features

  • Battle axes are mostly used in fiction nowadays, so there’s no standard form that they need to take. Most times, battle axes are depicted as having two curved sharp edges. They are mostly used as heavy, two-handed weapons that are slow but powerful.

Conclusion


If you’ve only ever used a hatchet before, reading through a list of 25 types of axes may seem very surprising. It’s really quite natural, considering how axes have been useful tools since ancient times. Axes continue to be the tools of choice for many people, including professional lumberjacks and outdoor enthusiasts, despite the presence of more modern alternatives. 


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