Axe vs Machete: Cutting Comparison

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Written By Michael Culligan

With over 12 years of experience in Oregon's forestry industry, I have established myself as a skilled and knowledgeable lumber professional. As a passionate competitor in local timbersports events, I have consistently ranked among the top lumberjacks in my area. I take great pride in meticulously maintaining an extensive collection of restored vintage axes. I personally test every axe I review by using it to fell and chop up oak firewood on my land.

REVIEWED BY SPencer Durrant
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Axe and machete serve different purposes: an axe excels in chopping wood and splitting logs, while a machete is ideal for cutting through vegetation and undergrowth. Choose based on your specific needs in outdoor tasks, survival situations, or gardening endeavors.

Both tools have their own advantages and disadvantages, so let’s look at the best applications for an axe vs machete.

axe vs machete

Axe Overview

An axe features a wedge-shaped blade secured at a right angle to the handle. It is a cutting tool primarily used for shaping, splitting, and cutting wood. 

The head of the axe, which includes the blade, is heavy. The heavy head adds more force as you swing the axe. 

The most common types of axes include:

  • Felling axes
  • Splitting mauls
  • Hatchets
  • Carpenter’s axes
  • Fire axes

Felling axes are made for cutting down trees. They feature long handles to give you more power as you swing. 

Splitting mauls are made for splitting logs for firewood. They are often heavy. You allow the weight of the maul to do most of the work when splitting firewood. 

Hatchets are versatile axes and are the most comparable to a machete. You can use a hatchet one-handed as with a machete. You can also clear light brush with a hatchet, but a machete is better suited for the task.

Carpenter’s axes are used for carpentry. They are essentially small hatchets used for making smaller, more accurate cuts. 

Fire axes are made to cut through wood and other materials, including glass and building debris. The back end of the blade includes a point for breaking glass and digging trenches in the dirt to help block the path of fires. 

Camping axe in a wood block

Machete Overview

While an axe is used to chop, a machete is used to slice. A machete is essentially a long knife. The typical blade measures about 12 to 18 inches long. Machetes were originally used in agriculture and are useful tools for cutting vegetation and sugarcane. 

The long blade is also ideal for chopping. The weight of the blade gives you more force when chopping, allowing you to use it like an axe. Some people use machetes for chopping fruit.

There are also many types of machetes, including:

  • Latin machetes
  • Panga machetes
  • Bolo machetes
  • Parang machetes
  • Bowie machetes

The Latin machete is what most people think of when picturing a machete. It is a straight-back blade with a wide curve along the front. 

The Panga, Bolo, and Parang machetes are less common in the West but include similar designs. 

The panga blade broadens along the backside instead of remaining flat like the Latin machete. The Parang machete curves along the back and has a slightly shorter, thicker blade. The Bolo has a straighter back, but the tip comes to more of a point.

The Bowie machete, or Bowie knife, is a shorter machete often used for skinning game. It has less weight near the head of the blade. The balance of the Bowie knife is closer to the handle, which makes it less ideal for clearing brush. 

Machete stuck in wood

Axe vs Machete Comparison

Average Weight3 to 5 pounds1 to 2 pounds
Average Blade Length3 to 4 inches18 inches
Average Handle Length16 to 36 inches5 to 6 inches
Best for Clearing BrushNoYes
Best for Felling TreesYesNo
Best for CampingYesNo
Best for LandownersNoYes

Here is a closer look at how axes and machetes compare for different tasks.

Best for Clearing Brush

A machete is a preferred choice for clearing brush. It has a longer blade compared to an axe. The longer blade can cut more vegetation with each swing. 

Machetes can also cut through small trees, green wood, and groups of small branches. Using an axe would require much more effort when dealing with heavy brush. You may cut through a single branch at a time instead of several. 

Machetes are effective at removing grassy brush and woody brush. I prefer to use a heavy machete for clearing woody brush. The extra weight creates more energy during the swing. 

Best for Felling Trees

An axe is the better option for felling trees. It can penetrate wood with more force compared to a machete. 

The machete distributes the force of the swing across the length of the blade. You can chop down small trees and green wood with a machete. However, cutting a full-size tree with a machete isn’t something I’d recommend. 

Felling axes are the most used option for felling trees, as the name implies. The head of these axes tends to weigh two to four pounds. The heavy head can chop through thicker logs and into full-size trees.

The axe transfers all the energy to the head. This results in more power in a concentrated area. 

Always practice good safety, whether you use an axe or a machete to take down a tree. Pay attention to the presence of others before trimming. Falling tree limbs are the most common cause of accidental deaths involving trees

Best for Camping

A machete may be more useful than a large axe for camping. I am a big fan of using a bushcraft knife as my primary camping tool. However, I also find that a hatchet is the perfect camping accessory.

A hatchet is a small axe. It’s easy to carry and suitable for light chopping and clearing. You can use it to chop small logs for firewood and perform other tasks around the campsite. 

Those interested in bushcraft and wilderness survival may also prefer a hatchet. You can use it to create shelter or cut wood or rope. 

Yet, a machete is still recommended if you anticipate the need to clear a lot of brush, such as when going off-trail. 

Best for Landowners

The typical landowner may find a hatchet or another small axe more useful than a machete. A machete can help clear large areas of brush. The machete may not be as useful after you finish clearing the area. 

Axes are more versatile. You can use a small axe such as a hatchet for a wider range of tasks. You can use an axe to chop down small trees, clear light brush, or cut or chop food. You can also split firewood and perform crude carpentry.