Hatchet vs Tomahawk Differences Explained

When you go to a hardware store to buy a cutting tool for your next camping, choosing from numerous types of axes can be very confusing. As we are no combat experts, we often use the terms hatchet, ax, and tomahawk interchangeably. 

Although they have similar appearances, the tools are poles apart in terms of their design and usage. You can use a hatchet to chop firewood, but they won’t help while you’re hunting. Instead, the tomahawk is the ideal tool for hunting. 

To help you pick the right tool for the right occasion, we will discuss hatchet vs. tomahawk differences in shape, type, and usage. So, without further ado, let’s dive in. 

Comparison Chart: Hatchet vs. Tomahawk 

Before jumping the gun, let’s take a brief look at the key differences between a hatchet and a tomahawk – 

Features Tomahawk Hatchet 
Head Design Lightweight, detachable, single-blade, double blade, single with spike Heavy, not detachable, single-blade 
Cutting Edge 4″ length, sharp and tapered end, thin 4″ – 5″ length, sharp and tapered end, thick 
Handle Structure Longer, 19″ – 21″ length, lightweight, thin, rarely curved Very short, 12″ – 18″ length, heavy, stout, curved 
Usage Split wood, digging, ax-throwing, etc Chopping wood, hammering nails, camping, etc. 

What Is a Tomahawk? 

A tomahawk is a long single-handed ax with a shorter, narrower blade and a straight wooden shaft. As the blade is very thin, the tomahawk is lightweight and used in ax-throwing, hunting, and self-defense. 

Tomahawks fall into two categories as per usage: tactical tomahawk and throwing tomahawk. Tactical tomahawk is used by campers, crafters, and military troops. On the other hand, throwing tomahawk is specialized for sports and games. 

Identifying Features of Tomahawks 

From the early ages to the present days, tomahawk has undergone many changes, and you’ll see many differences in various tomahawk brands. Below we have rounded up some distinct features that you’ll find common in every brand. 

Design of the Head 

The head portion of a tomahawk is made pretty lightweight for extra convenience and weighs only 260 to 570 grams. There are 3 different designs of tomahawk head to serve multiple purposes, including – 

  • Single Blade 

Single-bladed tomahawks have a cutting edge at one side, only resembling the regular hatchets. 

  • Single with Spike 

This type of tomahawk has a sharp blade on one side and a pointed metal spike on the other side that serves for penetrative purposes. 

  • Double Head 

Here, the tomahawk features thin and sharp edges on both sides, resembling the regular double-sided axes. 

You can use the poll side for digging, breaching, or penetrating. The piercing spike is particularly useful in combats since both sides can be weaponized and used for striking more efficiently. 

In many brands, you will see small circles on the tomahawk head. These circles give the tool aesthetically pleasing looks and serve to make it more lightweight without discounting the performance efficiency. 

As the heads are easily detachable from the handle, you can carry the parts separately without concerning about storage. Moreover, if the handle is broken, you must separate the head and fix it with another handle to restart your work within minutes. 

The Cutting Edge 

The tomahawks feature a very sharp and tapered cutting edge for improved penetration. This bit is usually made from heavy-duty metal with stainless steel coating to prevent rust and corrosion. 

As the cutting edge is extremely narrow and has only a four-inch length, it faces less resistance while penetrating the wood. So, you can make deeper cuts without putting much force. Also, it easily sticks to the target in ax-throwing games. 

The Handle 

Handles of tomahawks are comparatively larger than hatchets but smaller than those of the typical axes. Usually, you will find tomahawks with a length of 19 to 21 inches. 

The handle is made from maple or hickory wood to make the tool strong and durable. You can create a forward motion more easily for precise hunting and throwing sports with long handles. 

Furthermore, tomahawk handles are suitable for two-hand use so that you can split woods quickly without facing the trouble of hand fatigue. The handle is the primary identifying factor of a tomahawk that gives the tool an upper hand over the hatchet in hunting and piercing. 

Size and Weight 

Typically, a tomahawk is longer than a hatchet but shorter than an ax. You can quickly identify a tomahawk among many other axes from the long handle size. 

Also, a tomahawk will weigh somewhere between 700g to 900g only. When you throw the ax or strike it on wood, the weight will distribute the force evenly, making it easier to complete the task. 

What Is a Hatchet? 

Just like many other axes, a hatchet is a compact tool with a short handle and a heavy blade on the head. A small handle and a sharp, thick head is the key to identifying a hatchet. 

As the hatchet has a smaller size, you can easily carry it in your backpack while you go camping outside. The top-heavy design makes it suitable for splitting wood to make shelter, campfires, and other outdoor tasks. 

Identifying Features of Hatchets 

So, you already know the key features of a tomahawk. Now it’s time to look at the identifying features of a hatchet so that you can easily differentiate between the two tools. Below are the common traits of a typical hatchet. 

Design of the Head 

Unlike the tomahawk head, the hatchet is much heavier to penetrate deeper into the wood logs. A hatchet head is made from strong and heavy metal with a proper anti-rust coating. In general, the head weighs from 560 grams to 800 grams. 

You can easily identify a hatchet from its heavyweight and sharp, wedge-shaped head design. In contrast to tomahawks, the hatchet is single-headed only and may or may not feature a hammer-head on its poll side. 

If it features a hammer-head, most of the hammer’s weight is concentrated on the head, making it simpler to split hardwood and other rigid objects. Moreover, you can use the hammer-like head to insert nails, clear trails, create fire, and set up your tent for camping. 

The Cutting Edge 

Although the cutting edges of both hatchet and tomahawk are pretty similar, you can distinguish them by the size and thickness of the edge.  

A hatchet has a thicker cutting edge than a tomahawk so that the weight isn’t evenly distributed and is focused only on the bit. The blade is 4 to 5inches long and less tapered. You’ll also notice that the cutting bit has no circle like the ones of the tomahawk. 

The Handle 

Without a doubt, the handles are the unique feature of a hatchet. Usually, the handles are stout, heavy, curved, and short. If you see an ax, a tomahawk, and a hatchet together, you can instantly recognize a hatchet as the smallest one. 

The handle features a curve or multiple grooves for a firmer grip, making it perfect for heavy chopping and splitting. Another feature that makes a hatchet unique is the fact that you can’t detach the head from its handle. 

The handle is made from high-density wood, steel, or fiberglass, which makes the hatchet extraordinarily reliable and long-lasting and makes up for the slight drawback of not having a detachable head. 

Size and Weight 

For its small and compact size, a hatchet is an ideal choice to carry for camping in distant locations. Between a hatchet and a tomahawk, the hatchet is the heavier one. 

Typical hatchets weigh from 500 to 1360 grams. You can use them for ax-throwing as the extra weight makes it easy to rotate and strike the target with a decent amount of force. 

Conclusion 

So that was everything about the hatchet vs. tomahawk differences. By following this write-up, you can specify the tools immediately. If you’re still undecided about which one to pick, let us help you a bit. 

We recommend you use the curved, small-handled hatchet for splitting heavy wood, building shelter, hammering nails, and camping. 

Similarly, you can opt for the lightweight, large-handled tomahawk for hiking, ax-throwing, hunting, and dealing with light wood. Choose the right weapon and do some hunting, chopping, and camping to your heart’s content. 


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Michael Culligan

I am a lumber worker who performs logging services for the forestry industry. I have spent years honing my skills and experience to become a well-rounded axeman. I'm exited to share my knowledge of axes and lumber tools with everyone to help.