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Hatchet vs. Axe (Differences, Recommendations, History, Anatomy)

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Cutting wood, need the right tool, don’t want to sound silly? A full comparison of the hatchet vs. axe, differences and similarities, when you should use them, and recommendations on what to buy.

hatchet vs axe

What’s different between an axe and a hatchet?

An axe is double the length of a hatchet. And you’re going to notice the head shape between hatchets and axes vary. The head of a hatchet is also smaller and has a significant taper. The head of an axe is larger and has a very slight taper (if any at all).


A hatchet can effectively be used with one hand, typically meant for chopping smaller pieces of firewood or small branches.

An axe is large enough for use with two hands (for maximum striking power). Axes are used for chopping larger wood.

When should I use an Axe vs. Hatchet?

When to use an Axe

  • Splitting firewood
  • Cutting down a tree
  • Hewing lumber

What is hewing lumber?

Hewing is a centuries-old process of converting a round log into square lumber for use as building material.

When to use a Hatchet

  • Split small pieces of firewood
  • Cut down saplings & very small trees
  • Chop small branches off a tree or bush
  • Useful when camping

What are the similarities of an axe and a hatchet?

An axe and a hatchet look very similar (other than the size difference) and it’s not hard to confuse the two.

With both an axe and a hatchet, the purpose is typically to cut wood. The difference between the two is in the scale and ability of each.

Both the axe and the hatchet have a steel head with a sharp edge called a bit. Both also have a handle that can be made out of either wood or a strong composite material.

What’s the history of the axe?

Early Axe

Archaeologists have deduced that they were usually attached to a handle to form a tool much like a hatchet. Such implements are often associated with the development of agriculture but ancient examples from Australia vastly pre-date agriculture anywhere in the world…

BBC News

The axe is thought to be one of the oldest tools ever used by man. Meaning: it probably dates back before we can actually… date back. We think that the earliest known axes were known as “hand axes”.

The hand axe head was “pear-shaped” and made with chipped stone to create a point, it most likely had a broad handle. We assume early man used the hand axe to butcher animals or dig up roots.

Parts of an Axe

Think of this as the anatomy of the axe. Each and every section of an axe has a name, these are the parts of an axe.

Parts of an Axe

Head of an Axe

The steel where the business happens. The head is the entire steel section at the top of the axe.


This is the center of the axe head, the spot the handle passes through.


Top corner of the cutting edge.


Where you’ll find the cutting edge. Very strong steel needed.


Bottom corner of the cutting edge.


The back part of the axe head. You could use this as a hammer.


The side of the axe head (what doesn’t get used for any business purposes).

Handle of an Axe

The wood… and uh… the handle. The material can range, the size must be large enough to heft with two hands to split wood.


Below the head of the axe.


Front of the handle.


End of the handle.


This is what you grip.

Parts of a Hatchet

Parts of a Hatchet

The anatomy/terminology of a hatchet is identical to that of an Axe.

Here are a few axe and hatchet recommendations. I own many axes and hatchets and these have made it to the top of the my list:

Axe Recommendations

Fiskars: The handle is considered stronger-than-steel, it’s a FiberComp handle with an inseparable insert-molded head. They’re virtually impossible to break. And yeah, I get it… it doesn’t look old-timey but I’ve used these a lot and everything about them is superior.

However, if you’re wanting an amazing, classic, wood handled axe, this 1844 Helko is pretty great.

Hatchet Recommendations

Similar to the axe recommend above, these Fiskars hatchets have an incredible blade, strong handle, and a solid weight distribution.

And for a compact camping hatchet, Gerber makes amazing products, highly recommended!

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Hatchet vs. Axe (Differences, Recommendations, History, Anatomy)

Dan Mixwell

Thursday 24th of November 2022

I bought the Gerber camping hatchet/axe, and I definitely recommend it. It feels sturdy, light-weight, and super durable.

Rob Benson

Friday 25th of November 2022