The Difference Between a Hatchet and an Axe

The Difference Between a Hatchet and an Axe

When you’re planning on buying something high-quality that will last a while, it really helps to be certain you are getting exactly what you need. Hatchets and axes come in a slew of varieties. But at the end of the day, both hatchets and axes are excellent tools that can accomplish a large variety of tasks.

In this post, we will go over the differences between a hatchet and an axe. Although there are obvious differences between the two, there are equally as many subtle variations as well. Each is designed to be the most efficient at their different tasks.

The anatomy is different

Hatchets can come with a hammer on the back of their head. In comparison, an axe never will, but an axe can be double-edged. This simply reinforces the concept that the two tools are used for very different purposes.

Hatchets can be made of metal, but axes never will. Additionally, hatchets will also have slightly curved handles. Meanwhile, axes won’t – they are often cut at a 90° angle in line with the head.

Anatomy is certainly similar between hatchets and axes. They both have Bit, Edge, Bevel, Toe, Heel, Beard, Cheek, Eye, Wedge, Neck, Butt, and Poll. However, in a hatchet, the butt and pole are hardened. Same goes for the eyes. This is especially important with a metal hatchet.

Hatchets are generally more portable

Hatchets are the smallest tool of the trade, therefore, the most portable. A hatchet can be clipped directly onto your belt. This way, you can take it into the woods with you without any hassle. Conversely, an axe would clip into your belt but bang up your leg the whole time. Also, it could pose a safety hazard to clip it onto your person.

Axes weigh much more than hatchets

Axe heads alone weigh up to three times as much as hatchet heads. Splitting a tree won’t be a problem. Then again, it also makes the axe much heavier and less portable. If you prefer something between sizes, we recommend investing in a hand axe.

Metal and wood hatchets weigh around 2 lbs, while an axe can weigh around 4 lbs.

Typical uses and specialties

Buying the right tool for the job will save you a lot of time. Hatchets and axes are used for very different things, but arguably the hatchet will be the most versatile tool you can bring on a camping trip.

Smaller projects requiring more detail can be accomplished efficiently with a hatchet. Since it’s so short, the hatchet gives you utmost control over smaller projects that require more detail. Making a spoon, making a bow, hammering tent stakes, carving, building a shelter, breaking ice, cleaning up limbs, creating tinder, making kindling, fire starting, and wild game processing are just a few of the uses for a hatchet. We are sure you can find even more!

Since axe heads weigh three times as much as hatchet heads do, axes are perfect for splitting large logs, bucking trees, and felling trees. Because of its size, an axe requires fewer strokes to cut through wood. The weight of an axe will carry the blade through a tree-like butter.

How to maintain an axe or hatchet

One of the biggest culprits for damage will be corrosion. Any time the tool is left in the rain, it can sustain significant weakening from rust. As the water pulls oxygen away from the metal, it disintegrates over time.

To prevent this in the first place, clean and store your tool properly. Scrub the head with light steel wool and turpentine. A substitute for turpentine can be acetone. Then clean the handle completely, removing any dirt.

Over time you may find that the handle needs repair. Hand sand it to make it smooth again. Then take some linseed oil and a cloth and work the oil into the handle. Last, oil the head too. It goes beyond maintaining the tool. It increases its efficiency, making it easier to cut into the wood. Rem Oil and Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO) are both good options.

Sometimes you will run into issues that are better off replaced than repaired. At times, a warped handle can be beyond repair. Steaming and working the handle takes a lot of time. This is why it’s better to store the axe or hatchet in a dry place, to begin with. Just make sure it isn’t a hot climate because this can shrink the handle.

Sharpening techniques

Sometimes you need a quick touch-up while other times, the hatchet or axe is chipped. Both can be remedied with either a file or a grinder. We recommend clamping the head to a work table to make sure it doesn’t move while you file it down.

Before you know it, the entire axe or hatchet will look brand new. This is especially important considering how costly a high-quality axe or hatchet can be.

Invest in a quality hatchet – It’s worth it!

Hatchets can vary from $20 and up, like the Swedish-made hatchets from Gransfors Bruk. Axes also range similarly in price, but it all boils down to how long you plan on owning the axe or hatchet you buy. For instance, the best tools are hand-made with high carbon steel.

They hold their edge for a very long time, with outstanding quality. This way, you won’t have to waste time sharpening it constantly. Another thing you will get when you buy a high-quality hatchet or axe is a carefully crafted handle with straight grain. This means they are stronger, easier to work with, and run without weave or curl.

There are many axes or hatchets available for around $50 that are still high quality without burdening your wallet. Depending on how often you use it, though, we might recommend investing in an expensive one that you can maintain over many years with a much higher quality of use.

Knowing the difference between a hatchet and an axe

If you are going to purchase a hatchet, make sure you buy it for smaller projects. It will always win in terms of portability, weighing less, and being perfect for bushcraft projects. Since it’s small, you have great control over how it lands.

In comparison, you will generally need an axe for felling or bucking trees. Anything smaller than an axe will weigh so little it won’t work that well. You can also buy a double-bladed axe for a different feel to it.

John Sunder

John Sunder, an outdoors and bushcraft enthusiast, is the founder and operator of A collector of axes and hatchets, he enjoys writing and educating people about these amazing and ancient tools while also writing about other outdoor experiences.

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