Tips For Buying a Handy Axe

A hand ax is a large, general-purpose bifacial Paleolithic stone tool, often oval or pear-shaped in form and characteristic of specific Lower Paleolithic industries. Usually made from flint or chert and shaped by pressure or percussion, hand axes tend to be symmetrical along their longitudinal axis. The most common ones have a pointed end and rounded base, with both faces knapped to partially remove the natural cortex and give them their characteristic shape. Hand axes belong to the two-faced or wider biface tools group.

a man using a lumberjack ax to cut a tree.

Hand axes are mostly used to dig land for vegetation, chop wood or remove tree bark. Due to its diverse functionality, there are various types of axes available in the market.

If you are not familiar with different axes and their specific purposes, ax shopping might prove a bit hectic for you. But worry not, for we here to offer a helping hand. Below, we have prepared a thorough guide on different types of axes to help you on your ax shopping spree!

Factors to Consider When Looking for an Axe

a hand ax cutting through firewood

When looking for the perfect ax that will chop down both your wood and your worries, you need to consider the following factors:


When buying an ax, pay close attention to the weight of the head. If the head is too heavy, you will lose accuracy, and if it is too light, the ax will not cut very deep.


When buying an ax, pay close attention to the weight of the head. If the head is too heavy, you will lose accuracy, and if it is too light, the ax will not cut very deep.


A longer handle has a better swing and gives more leverage, while a shorter handle offers more precision. The size varies from ax to ax: for instance, the standard length of a full-sized felling ax is 36 inches.

Types of Axes

Some of the most commonly used axes are:

  • Tactical Ax

The tactical ax is a modern invention, often used as a multi-tool. It is commonly known as a tactical tomahawk. Although its prime use is that of a chopping ax, a tactical ax can also function as a close-range weapon, a pry bar, a shovel, and a hammer, making it popular among law enforcement officers, soldiers, and security staff. Moreover, it is also often used for camping trips. Tactical axes are generally made from steel so that they have the strength to cope with a multitude of arduous tasks.

  • Grub Ax

The grub ax, also known as a cutter mattock, has a head on one side and an adze on the other side. As the name suggests, the ax is great for grubbing in compacted soils and rough terrain. It proves very useful in the garden, as it can dig holes to set new plants in or break up resistant roots of old plants.

  • Forest Ax

Forest axes are robust axes specifically forged for felling trees. They have extra long handles to cut down gigantic trees. Evert forest ax has a characteristic sharp and flared blade with a slightly curved tip.

  • Hudson Bay Ax

Hudson bay ax is a medium-sized ax designed by Canadian fur trappers. They are commonly used to chop firewood but can be used for other tasks, as well, while on extended north trips. In size, it is in between that of a hatchet and a full-sized felling ax. You can handle it with either one hand or both hands. It proves useful in small tasks like chopping splitting jobs; however, it is not suitable for cutting large trees due to its size.

  • Hatchet

A hatchet is an all-purpose ax that most people buy for yard duties. It has a chunky handle made of hickory wood; however, it is smaller than most axes size-wise.  Its weighted head has a flared shape that comes to a sharp-tipped blade. A hatchet is mostly used for felling small trees and for chopping and splitting logs. Balance is crucial in a hatchet to produce more accurate swings and cuts.

  • Splitting Maul

Splitting mauls are ideal for splitting wooden logs. They are designed similarly to felling axes, with a long wooden handle to deliver powerful swings. Splitting maul produces a grainy cut, which results in a split wood rather than chopped wood as cut by a falling ax. The head has the shape of a chunky wedge, with one sharp end and one blunt end. However, the former end does not need to be razor-sharp to be functional, for the shape and weight of the blade will do most of the work. Due to this reason, splitting mauls require honing much less frequently than other axes, as they can work well even when their ends are quite blunt.

  • Tomahawk Ax

First used by Native Americans, Tomahawk axes originate from North America. They were wielded by both sides in the American Revolutionary War and later in the Vietnam war. They have a straight handle and are noticeably lighter. The straight handle makes the ax easier to wield in combat and throw at an opponent, and the sharp blade makes it useful for a range of jobs, including digging, prying, chopping, and splitting. They have a multipurpose functionality, able to be used for a range of bushcraft activities. Tomahawks are also famous for use in knife throwing competitions, where they have their separate category.

  • Felling Ax

The most popular ax used today is the felling ax, also known as the American ax. These axes are designed for the specific purpose of felling trees and chopping logs of wood. A standard felling ax with a handle made of strong hickory wood weighs between two and four pounds. The characteristic long handle of the felling ax helps the wielder deliver a mighty swing with greater leverage resulting in a better cut. Its blade has a flared shape with a sharp and thin tip. The blade is forged in a specific way to cut against the grain of the wood. Felling axes chop well and are excellent for their intended use of felling small trees and branches; however, they are not ideal for splitting as their blades tend to get stuck in the wood.

There are a myriad of designs available amongst felling axes, with blade patterns named after the places where they were forged. Due to the variety in felling axes, people are often confused between its different types when going ax shopping. To help you out, below we have categorized some of the most commonly used felling axes:

  • Dayton Ax

Named after Dayton, Ohio, Dayton Ax has a curved blade with a gentle flare. Axes with this style are ideal for general outdoor jobs.

  • New England Ax

The New England ax has a sharp, straight edge along the blade and a slightly bearded bottom edge.

  • Michigan Ax

First invented in the 1860s, the Michigan ax is similar in style to felling trees. It has a curved head that is perfect for chopping down large trees and dense wood.

  • Connecticut Ax

Connecticut ax is one of the most popular axes, adorned with the shape of a slightly flared edge.

The Takeaway

Axes, like every other tool, come in a multitude of shapes and sizes to be apt for different purposes. To buy the perfect ax, you should select one that is compatible with your specific needs. The ax material impacts the accuracy of its swings and the precision of its cuts. On the other hand, the shape of the blade used in an ax affects the smoothness of cuts. Before using an ax, make sure you take proper precautionary safety measures as the ax often weighs a lot, and its blade is quite sharp. The sizes differ from ax to ax depending on its intended purpose. For instance, a hunting ax is larger than a cutting ax. So, when going ax shopping, keep in mind what material you want to use the ax on and, more importantly, how you want to cut or shape that material.

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