11 Types of Axes Every Homeowner Should Know
Make sure you grab the right axe for the job by learning when to use each of these popular axes.
Many people can think of a few different types of axes, but if they are asked to expand on this list to include types of hatchets or the proper axe names, then it’s less likely that many would be able to answer.
Different kinds of axes have been around for thousands of years with a variety of shapes, sizes, names, and purposes. The various types of axes and uses have improved as technology has continued to develop, increasing the strength of metal, the bonding process between the axe head and the shaft, as well as replacing wood with lightweight, durable fiberglass for better control.
To learn about the differences and purposes among types of axe heads and axe patterns, continue reading for detailed information on the most common axe types and axe styles.
1. Felling Axe
Felling axes are one of the more traditional axe styles that are specifically made for felling full-size trees and chopping through thick logs. These tools have a long, curved handle that is traditionally made of wood, though modern felling axes may also have lightweight, durable fiberglass handles that are easier to pick up and swing. The head of a felling axe typically weighs between 2 to 4 pounds and it has a flared shape with a sharp, thin tip for splitting wood fibers.
The long handle of a felling axe increases the power of the user with greater leverage. These axes are a good option to have around the home for maintaining trees on the property, removing rotten trees, and chopping firewood.
Best For: Felling axes are specifically intended for chopping wood and felling full-size trees.
Our Recommendation: Fiskars Chopping Axe – Get it at Amazon for $43.48
Fiskars’ chopping axe is equipped with a 2.31-pound head and a thin, sharp felling blade. It is ideal for felling trees and chopping firewood.
While large felling axes are made to be used with two hands, a hatchet is a one-handed tool for chopping, splitting, and felling small trees. The compact size makes it easy to pack a hatchet into a bag to take hiking, climbing, camping, or fishing, and these tools are typically lighter than other axes, allowing them to be used for longer periods before fatigue begins to set in.
Hatchets generally weigh about 1 to 2 pounds and have wood or fiberglass handles. Some hatchets may also have full-tang designs that improve the control and power of the user. The tang is the piece of metal that extends from the head of the hatchet into the handle. Partial-tangs end as soon as they enter the handle, while a full-tang extends completely through the handle.
Best For: The smaller size of a hatchet is designed for felling small trees, chopping firewood, and splitting kindling.
Our Recommendation: Gerber Gear Pack Hatchet – Get it at Amazon for $29.99
Full tang construction improves control and helps to increase the strength of strikes for simple and effective chopping, splitting, and light felling.
3. Splitting Maul
These heavy-duty axes can be used with a felling axe to quickly chop and split wood. While the shape and appearance of a splitting maul may give the impression that they can be used to fell trees, these axes are actually intended for a downward swing. With this in mind, splitting mauls are better for chopping wood and they work best when they can be used to cut with the grain of the wood.
Simply set up a wide log in a vertical position, then bring the splitting maul down onto the top of the log to cut through the wood and split it into pieces. They also have a wedge side that can be used to break up kindling into smaller pieces, making it easier to quickly and effectively start a campfire. The axe head of a splitting maul weighs about 8 pounds, and it’s the weight of the axe that does most of the work so a proper swing is required to use the weight to its greatest effect. Off-balance swings tend to use more energy with less effect.
Best For: Splitting mauls are heavy-duty axes for chopping wood and splitting kindling.
Our Recommendation: Hooyman Splitting Maul – Get it at Amazon for $51.83
The 8-inch-wide head has a convex shape for splitting wood, while the flat side of the splitting maul is suitable for breaking up kindling.
4. Carpenter’s Axe
Don’t take a carpenter’s axe into the woods. These tools are best reserved for fine woodworking, construction, and demolition projects where the finely honed edge can make accurate cuts in the wood without causing needless damage to the project as a whole. Some carpenter’s hatchets are also equipped with a groove built into the blade that can be used for pulling nails, while others may have a blunt hammer head on the opposite side of the blade, allowing users to quickly drive nails or wooden dowels.
These axes are often mistaken for hatchets because they are typically only slightly bigger in size, making them well-suited to carry on a tool belt or pack into a toolbox. However, they don’t have enough weight to be effective for chopping or splitting logs.
Best For: Use a carpenter’s axe for fine woodworking projects, not camping, hiking, or climbing.
Our Recommendation: Estwing E32H Carpenter’s Hatchet – Get it at Amazon for $37.34
This full-tang carpenter’s axe or half-hatchet is perfect for construction, demolition, and woodworking.
5. Hudson Bay Axe
The goal when designing a Hudson’s Bay axe was to blend the tree felling power of a felling axe with the compact size of a hatchet so that the tool would be easier to carry, but also effective at felling trees in the Canadian wilderness. The result was a medium-sized axe that is good for a wide variety of tasks, making it ideal for the Canadian fur trappers that developed it.
While Hudson’s Bay axes are no longer used as much as they once were, they are still useful tools that are ideal for extended camping trips. Depending on the strength of the user, these axes can be swung with one hand or both hands to fell small trees, chop wood, and split kindling to make a fire. They generally have a curved hickory handle and one blunt side on the axe head that can help to drive tent pegs or even dig holes.
Best For: A medium-sized axe for felling small trees, chopping firewood, and splitting kindling.
Our Recommendation: 2lb Hudson Bay Axe – Get it at Cowlitz River Rigging for $37.69
Choose from the 18-inch or 24-inch curved hickory handle and get a compact, lightweight tool for chopping wood, splitting kindling, and driving tent pegs.
6. Double Bit Axe
These classic double bit axes were once very popular because they combined the felling power of a felling axe, with the chopping and splitting power or a splitting maul by having two sides to the axe. The sharp side of the axe was specifically intended to fell trees, while the blunt side of the axe head was better for chopping logs and splitting kindling. Many people now use either a felling axe or a splitting maul, but for those with heavily forested properties or in the bush, a double bit axe is a good option to help maintain the growth of the trees and split wood for the fireplace.
Just keep in mind that the double-sided head makes these axes more difficult to carry, so it’s important to have an axe head guard to protect your back and clothing from the blades. Additionally, the head is heavier than a felling axe head, so users may tire out more quickly when they are swinging one of these axes.
Best For: Use the sharp side of the axe to fell trees and then switch to the blunt side to chop wood and split kindling.
Our Recommendation: Estwing Double Bit Axe – Get it at Amazon for $42.49
The Estwing double bit axe features two hand-sharpened and durable axe heads for felling, splitting, and taking on other tasks encountered in the bush.
A pickaxe isn’t technically an axe, despite the name. Instead, it is a type of digging tool that is commonly used in gardening. However, due to modern media, it is more commonly recognized for its potential as a mining tool. One side of the pickaxe has a pointed pick that pierces hard dirt and clay, making it easier to remove with a shovel, while the other side has a curved or flat adze head that can pry rocks from the ground or dig furrows in the soil.
These tools are excellent for home gardening, making quick work of dry, hardened soil and allowing DIY gardeners to effectively transform their gardens by removing rocks, tilling the soil, and breaking up clumps of clay. Some pickaxes may also be suitable for climbing, though make sure that the pickaxe is specifically designed and tested for this purpose before you attempt to use it for climbing.
Best For: Break up hardened dirt and clay or pry rocks from the earth to prepare the soil for planting.
Our Recommendation: TABOR TOOLS Pick Mattock – Get it at Amazon for $21.99
Designed with a durable fiberglass handle that absorbs the vibration of the user’s strike, this pickaxe is excellent for breaking up clay and hard dirt for gardening projects.
8. Dayton Axe
A Dayton axe is actually a type of felling axe that was named after Dayton, Ohio, when it was modified to have a specific head shape and style. These axes are full-sized felling axes that were once regularly used to fell hardwood trees. They are still in use by some people, though the specific Dayton pattern is no longer as popular as it once was.
The Dayton axe head pattern has a long, curved blade with a gentle flare and a balanced shape that makes it easier to swing the axe sideways to cut against the grain of the wood. They are larger than Hudson Bay axes, so it may be more difficult to carry a Dayton axe in a bag. However, they are well suited for maintaining forested properties.
Best For: These full-sized felling axes are primarily used for felling hardwood trees.
Our Recommendation: 4# 36″ Council Dayton Axe – Get it at Clowlitz River Rigging for $42.99
This Dayton axe has a hydraulically seated axe head to ensure that it won’t slip while felling trees.
The purpose of an adze is not for splitting, chopping, or felling like a traditional axe. Instead, these tools are best used for woodworking projects where they can scale bark, shape timber, trim wood, and hollow out logs. Ambitious hobbyists can use an adze to handcraft a canoe, which is one of the more traditional uses for these impressive tools.
An adze may also be combined with another tool to create a multipurpose device, like a pickaxe, which often features a pointed pick on one side and an adze or chisel on the other side. Adzes vary in length, weight, and even blade shape, but they are usually held in one hand and they all feature a horizontal blade, similar to a hoe.
Best For: An adze is ideal for carving wood, hollowing out logs to make canoes, and shaping timber.
Our Recommendation: FITOOL Forged Woodworking Hammer, Woodcarving Straight Adze – Get it at Amazon for $22.99
Use the straight adze blade to scale bark, shape timber, or trim wood, then switch to the hammer head to pound in small nails with this hybrid tool.
10. Fire Axe
This tool is also known as a Pulaski axe because it was designed in 1911 by a man named Ed Pulaski. It was made for use by the United States Forest Service, though these tools are now popular with all emergency response personnel. The sharp axe blade is used to cut through wood and other materials, like a door or broken debris, while the other side of the axe is an adze blade that is particularly useful for digging dirt lines to block the path of spreading fires.
Depending on the design and the specific purpose, a fire axe may have a pointed pick instead of an adze blade. This pick makes it easier to break through tough materials, like brick, mortar, and wooden beams or studs so that rescue workers can move through walls instead of having to clear a collapsed doorway.
Best For: Forest rangers and first responders use fire axes to cut through wood and other materials, dig dirt lines, and break up debris to rescue trapped individuals.
Our Recommendation: Nupla 6 lbs Pick Head Fire Axe – Get it at Amazon for $91.96
Chop through wood, dig up earth lines to block spreading fires, or break debris with this impressive fire axe.
These modern tools are specifically designed as multipurpose tools that can perform the basic function of an axe or hatchet with a sharpened chopping blade. They may also be used for digging holes or hammering tent pegs, and some products are tough enough to be used in place of a pry bar. Tactical axes vary in size and weight, though they can usually be recognized by the sleek, modern appearance that resembles a tomahawk.
Law enforcement officers, soldiers, security staff, and survivalists make regular use of these axes as effective hand weapons that are lightweight and easy to carry. However, they are just as effective at chopping wood for a campfire or even as a backup cooking tool, as long as the blade is properly washed before coming into contact with food.
Best For: Designed for chopping, tactical axes are multipurpose tools that can also be used to shovel, pry, or hammer depending on the needs of the user.
Our Recommendation: SOG Tactical Tomahawk Axe – Get it at The Home Depot for $49.95
This multifunctional axe has a thin, powerful chopping head and a sharp pick to drive through debris or to help dig holes.