Axe vs Hatchet: Differences Explained

Updated on January 11, 2023 by

Axes and hatchets are very similar tools but with some key differences.

Axes are much larger that weigh over 3 pounds with a 20 to 36-inch handle, while a hatchet is smaller and weighs between 1 to 3 pounds and is between 12 and 18 inches in length.

Axes are used for felling trees and splitting logs, while hatchets are better suited for preparing kindling or carving wood.

A cutting tool is a must-have in your shed for chopping wood or doing DIY wood projects, no matter which part of the world you live in. In almost every hardware store, you’ll find several types of cutting tools, including axes and hatchets. 

As the tools are almost similar in appearance, it’s tough to pick one per your needs. Yet, understanding axe vs. hatchet differences is crucial as you can’t use axes as a substitute for hatchets. You can use an axe to chop wood, but only hatchets are suitable for outdoor camping. 

To assist you in finding the right tool, we have narrowed down the key differences in the appearance, types, and usage of axes and hatchets. Without wasting any time, let’s get rolling. 

Comparison Chart: Axe vs Hatchet 

In a hurry? Then have a quick look at the basic differences between an Axe and a hatchet:

Features AxeHatchet 
Head Design  Heavy, wedge-shaped with a flat poll side Heavy, features a V-shaped cut and a hammer-like poll side 
Shaft Structure Double-handed use, 20″ -36″ length, no curve Single-handed use, 12″ -18″ length, curved structure 
Weight  Heavy, minimum 3 pounds Heavy, 1-3 pounds 
Usage Chopping trees, splitting wood logs, shaping wood, etc. Cut softwood, hunting, axe-throwing, etc. 
This table explains the differences between an axe and a hatcet

What Is an Axe? 

Axe is the most common cutting tool worldwide, featuring a long wood-made shaft and a metal wedge at one end of the shaft. The tool is used mainly for chopping tree branches and splitting wood. 

Since the metal wedge is made from heavy metal, it helps you cut any rigid object without applying much force. The wedge blades have sharp and tapered edges to make the task more convenient. You can identify an axe as the heaviest and longest tool in a hardware store. 

Husqvarna Multi Purpose Axe

What Is a Hatchet? 

A hatchet is usually regarded as a smaller version of a regular axe. The fundamental difference is that hatchets are more compact with heavier blades and smaller shafts featuring curves and grooves. Most hatchets have a V-shaped cut on their blade that separates the tool from other axes. 

Because of the short length of the tool, it is suitable for cutting smaller wood pieces and carrying in your backpack for hiking and camping. 

You will often hear a hatchet called a hand axe.

husqvarna wooden hatchet

Differences between an Axe and Hatchet 

The main differences between an axe and a hatchet is that a hatchet has a much shorter shaft, a shorter cutting edge, a flat poll side, and a much lower weight.

Since Axes and hatchets are widely used tools, you’ll notice various features in different brands. However, some basic features are the same in every axe and hatchet. Let’s look at the basic differences between the two tools based on the common traits. 

The Shaft 

Do you want to identify a hatchet instantly? Just look at the length of the shaft. Compared to most axes, the hatchet is way shorter, with a total length of only 12 to 18 inches. The hatchet is usually regarded as one-handed. It is so compact that you can handle the tool with one hand. 

Apart from the length, you can differentiate a hatchet by the curve of its shaft. The defining curve helps you have a stronger grip on the axe handle to cut the wood logs with more precision and safety.  

On the other hand, a typical axe has a long shaft with a length of 18 to 34 inches. However, some smaller axes have a shaft length exactly as a hatchet. Axe handles are mainly made from strong wood or fiberglass, whereas hatchet handles are made from metal, wood, or fiberglass. 

Although the shaft of some axe types might have some angles, the most common axes usually meet the head at a 90-degree angle. If you can pick up the curved axe with one hand, be sure that’s only a hatchet. 

The Head 

Most people find many similarities in the head of the axe and hatchet. But if you look closely, you’ll notice the differences. Usually, the head of an axe is 5 to 7 inches long, featuring a very short cutting edge. You might also find some double-bladed axes with two blades on each side. 

Unlike the hatchets, the head of an axe is entirely wedge-shaped without any V-like cut. Most axe heads are made from heavy metal to penetrate even the thickest wood. This part of the axe is detachable, so you can change a broken head or handle anytime. 

As for the hatchet, the blade is much shorter with a thinner and longer tapered end. You can’t detach the hatchet head from its handle, so the head is made from heavy-duty metal to ensure durability. 

The V-shaped funnel is another prominent identifying feature of the hatchet that allows it to pierce thick objects with less effort. Examine the head of a tool to determine whether it’s a hatchet. 

The Poll Side 

If you fail to spot a hatchet from the shaft or head, the shape of the poll side will surely tell the identity of the tool. A poll side or butt is the opposite side of a blade. 

In most hatchets, a hammer-like head on the poll site assists you in driving a nail. When camping, the poll head can help you set up a tent. 

On the contrary, an axe never has any hammer-like feature, and it has a flat poll side unsuitable for hammering tasks. 


The regular axes have a bigger size; they weigh more than hatchets. An axe generally weighs more than 3 pounds, whereas a hatchet weighs between 1 and 3 pounds. 

The heavier weight of the axes allows you to strike with more power. In contrast, the hatchet is easier to handle and more suitable for carrying on an outing. 


Axes are used for various tasks that mainly involve wood for their outstanding functionality. The primary purpose of using an axe is to cut down a tree and split wood to make houses, benches, shelters, wood boxes, and many other woodcrafts. 

Carpenters use their customized axes to give the wood preferred shapes. Different sizes of axes are also used for recreational games like axe-throwing. 

Compared to the regular axes, hatchets are much versatile in their functions. They are perfect for all camping tasks, including cutting softwood, clearing trails, hiking, and hunting. 

You can also use the hatchet to break hard ice and get clean drinking water. As the tool features a sharper edge, you can use it as a weapon against wild animals


Well, there you have it all about axe vs hatchet differences. Our guide will hopefully help you spot the little details that make the tools different. If memorizing everything seems too much, here’s a summary for you. 

The tool with the longest shaft and plain blade is an axe. If you want to buy a hatchet, you’re looking for a small axe with the smallest shaft and a hammer-like head. As simple as that! 

Photo of author

Michael Culligan

I am a lumber worker who performed logging services for Oregan's forestry industry for over a decade. I have spent years honing my skills and experience to become a well-rounded axeman. I enjoy timbersports and have ranked in my local lumberjack competitions. I'm exited to share my knowledge of axes and lumber tools with everyone to help. I also have a large collection of restored vintage axes that I carefully maintain.