What is the Difference Between an Axe and a Hatchet?

Probably you have known a hand axe as a hatchet, and mistakenly you did it. Now there’s a mysterious solution about asking the question, what is the difference between an axe and a hatchet? So, even if they stand close in their looks and shapes, there are numerous differences between an axe and a hatchet.

These differences range from size and functionalities to how each is intended to be used. Then what are those? And do we really have to care about them?

Let’s clear the air.

In general, both of these are used in woodworking. Basically, a hatchet is a type of axe that is mainly used in splitting small pieces of wood. Then again, the differences are legitimate. For the convenience of understanding, we’ll divide this discussion into different sections. Let’s dig in.

1. Anatomy

Bodywise, the similarity is ever-prevailing. However, axes are more significant where hatchets come in a small and handy size. Axes need you to use both of your hands while coming down. Yet, that can be done with a single hand when it comes to a hatchet. That being said, do not think that all the axes that can be used single-handedly are hatchets. If there’s no other difference, then those are just hand axes or commonly known as camping axes.

Dissecting the anatomy of an axe you’ll find parts like Bit, Edge, Bevel, Toe, Heel, Beard, Cheek, Eye, Wedge, Neck, Butt, Poll, etc. Almost the same goes for a hatchet too. But there is a difference!

The butt or poll and the eye are hardened in a hatchet. For clarification, the poll is the opposite of the axe head from the bit. Usually, axes have really flat polls but not hardened enough. Hatchets have set metal used in their polls.

This is also applicable to the eyes. Sometimes, hatchets have metal handles too, which kind of makes it necessary to have a hardened eye even more.

2. Shaft Size

Usually, hatchets vary from one-third to half of the size of a regular axe. Hand axes that are used for several camping purposes are two-third of proper axes. And in most cases, hatchets reach half of these axes.

The difference in shaft size determines the chopping angle and other leverages.

3. Head Shape and Weight

Even though they are similar (we know we’ve been saying this, for the umpteenth time, but it has to be said), the shape of a hatchet head is different from that of an axe. The axe head is more massive and subsides very slightly to the back end. With a small body, hatchet offers a narrow head that boasts of a large cutting blade.

Axes vary in sizes and weights. A hatchet is much different from a regular or bushcraft axe. While a hatchet is used for light chopping, regular ones are used for heavy-duty chopping purposes. Therefore, standard axes can weight up to thrice more to the weight of hatchets. That makes the hatchets really light and convenient to use.

4. Shaft design

Metal handles are standard in hatchets that can hardly be found in large axes. One reason behind this is the incapability to tolerate the extreme pressure used in standard shafts. You don’t want the handle to get tamed while you’re chopping large logs, do you?

That hatchets usually have a bit of curved or angled shafts that leans forward. On the other hand, hand axes and the regular ones have it angled almost 9-degree with the head.

The geometric shape of the axes allows them to go down really hard while doing some severe chopping business.

5. The Convenience and Portability

As you should already understand, hatchets are a lot lighter, making it more convenient and portable to use.

One can seriously carry a hatchet with a belt holster by his or her side. That cannot be said for a large axe. The long handles of the axe make it troublesome to carry along. So, you’ll need a separate arrangement to carry an axe to a campsite or some chopping destination. On the other hand, you can just take a hatchet anywhere with you. It’s almost as simple as carrying a camping knife with you.

6. When to use

Axes are used for different purposes. But mostly they are for working with wood. There are felling axes to cut down trees. Splitting axes split large logs for firewood. Forest axes are for bush crafting and stuff.

However, there are different axes too. For instance, carpenters’ axes are used for professional purpose, but Tomahawk axes are used as a weapon. So, as you can see, the usage of regular shafts is diverse.

Does that mean hatchets cannot be used for different purposes? Not at all. I mean, that doesn’t mean that at all!

Hatchets are usually for general usage that can do all the camp jobs effectively and efficiently. Sometimes, they’re also used for some axe purposes too. But they don’t function there efficiently enough. Hatchets can easily handle jobs like carving logs or preparing camping steaks. You can use them as knives to do regular stuff. Sometimes they’ll be as good as a Kukri Machete.

Also, it takes very little time to pick up a hatchet and strike. So, this one-handed gem can be used as an emergency self-defense weapon in the wilderness. What is more, you can have the privilege of using the back end of the hatchet as a hammer if you’ve mistakenly left the hammer in your place.


Coming to the final verdict of your question, what is the difference between an axe and a hatchet - hatchet is a smaller version of the axe and can be used with just one hand. It is multi-functional as it can do all the chopping, carving, splitting as well as hammering. But if you’re going to get through lots of woods, then an axe will be your ideal friend. That will save you from much hard work.

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