Axes are an important tool that humankind has relied on for centuries. Constructed of two main components, a handle and an axe head, today, there are countless styles of axes to help tackle a wide variety of tasks.
While a typical axe handle is made from a handful of materials, such as wood, fiberglass, steel, or plastic, most quality axe heads are forged from the strength of steel.
To best understand the design and intended use of any given axe, let's take a good, long hard look at the head and get to know its parts. First of all, the blade or bit is the sharpened end of an axe head designed for cutting or splitting, and some are even made with a double-bit where both ends are sharpened.
The top corner of the blade is known as the toe, whereas the bottom corner is the heel. For axe heads with only a single edge, the side that's not sharpened is known as the butt.
It's a good idea to know these terms and what they mean because each component of an axe head - the blade/bit, toe, heel, and butt - can have a different shape, size, and sharpness depending on the task at hand.
What Axes Are Used For
As diverse as the style and look of different axes can be, so are their many intended uses. And while you may think of axes as a tool for chopping wood, you’d be surprised to learn that they can actually function as much more than that!
Typical uses of axes:
Now that we've covered the basics, here is an ultimate guide to 25 different axe heads and what they're used for.
Top 25 Types of Axes & Axe Heads
1. Felling Axe / Hatchet
A felling axe or hatchet is one of the most useful axes out there and is probably what comes to mind when you think of axes. They are one of the best tools for chopping wood and splitting large logs. A hatchet is a type of felling axe, but a smaller version that's a favorite for campers and survivalists.
- A super sharp and thin blade.
- A longer handle, usually about 2' long.
- Hatchet: a smaller version of a felling axe, generally weighing about a pound, with a 12" handle.
2. Shepherd’s Axe
Although it's not a tool you'll easily find today, this historic axe holds great Eurasian cultural significance. The shepherd's axe has a lightweight, smaller blade attached to a long and thin wooden handle doubling as a walking stick. Owners would take years to carve intricate designs into their sticks, and today they’re regarded as works of art.
- A strong and sharp blade on one side, flat, hammer tool as the butt.
- Long handles typically measuring three feet, that are intricately engraved with designs.
The shepherd’s axe is a great historical item, but not often used today.
3. Ice Axe
An ice axe is an incredibly necessary tool that mountaineers, ice climbers, and even hikers and backpackers rely on to climb and traverse icy and dangerous terrain. The blade is a curved piece of metal with a jagged edge and a sharp point that digs into the ground to stop slippage on ice.
- Made with a stainless steel axe head, shaped like a pick with a serrated edge to catch on ice.
- Stainless steel handle with sturdy grip and rope tied to the end.
A mattock is a super useful axe that landscapers rely on to break through tough topsoil, chop through pesky roots, and dip up small shrubs. Its double-sided axe head with a pick and a flat blade on each side, make it ideal for these types of gardening tasks.
- Blade made with a vertical axe head on one side, and a horizontal adze on the other.
- 3-4’ long handle often made of hickory wood or fiberglass.
5. Hudson Bay Axe
Named after a French explorer from the 17th century, the Hudson Bay axe is a super versatile tool that can handle limbing, felling small trees, and log splitting. This axe typically weighs no more than 2lbs, which is perfectly balanced to take on small to medium-sized projects.
- Sharpened long blade edge forged from high-grade steel.
- The handle usually measures 22-28”, and is often made of wood.
A bardiche is a medieval polearm where its first recorded use dates back to the 14th century. It's similar to a Danish axe but has a 2' long, curved axe blade and long wooden handle for wide swinging movements.
- A very long cleaver-type blade that usually measures 2’ and curves down to the handle.
- A wooden or steel handle no longer than 5’.
The halberd is another pole weapon with ancient beginnings founded in war. The axehead of a halberd consists of a sharp curved blade, much like a traditional axe, but with the added feature of a spike coming from the top.
- A curved or pick-shaped axe blade with a long spike attached.
- A two-handed pole measuring 5’-6’ long.
8. Dagger Axe
A dagger axe is a historic pole weapon that hales from China. It sports a dagger-shaped blade that’s mounted on a long wooden shaft. The handle was often as tall or taller than the person wielding the weapon. The blade has been made from various materials over the years ranging from jade to stone and then later, metals like brass.
- Dagger-shape blade made from stone, jade, bronze, and other materials.
- Long wooden shaft often the same height as the user.
The dagger axe was used in ancient China as a weapon in battle, but today is great to put on display.
9. Dayton Axe
The Dayton axe is easy to spot, as it's often rocking a red axe head. The lacquered head isn't just for looks, though. It also helps resist rust and prolong the life of your tool. This is a great axe to have for outdoorsmen or homes that have regular chopping needs.
- Red-lacquered single blade, forged from durable steel.
- Curved handle made from hickory no longer than 36”.
10. Axe Pistol
A weapon that dates back hundreds of years, the axe pistol is a unique combination between a gun and an axe. While we don’t recommend it for any woodworking needs, it is a fun collector’s item for any gun or axe buffs.
- Steel blade molded into the handle of a gun.
11. Miner’s Axe
The miner's axe is essentially a Dayton axe (it has the same axehead pattern and coloring), but it's fastened to a shorter handle measuring no more than 20". Its original use was for mining copper ore and other minerals, but today it's a helpful tool to have on hand for projects that need to get done in small and tight spaces.
- Single bit, Dayton axe pattern blade.
- A shorter wooden handle, typically 18-20”.
12. Forest Axe
A forest axe is specifically designed to tackle heavy-duty tree chopping projects. The larger and stronger axe head, as well as the longer handle, ensure the user can adequately wind up to deliver a powerful swing and cut through thick limbs and trunks.
- A larger and stronger axe head made of solid carbon steel.
- Typically a handle of at least 25”, with a sturdy wooden construction.
13. Carpenters Axe
The carpenter's axe is a compact axe that many people use for carpentry or woodworking projects or outdoor tasks because of its sharp blade, and hammer-like butt. It’s similar to a hatchet but slightly bigger to provide a bit more power.
- A super sharp blade, with a hammer-like end for camping uses.
- Wooden or steel handle, usually no longer than 20”.
14. Hewing Axe
A hewing axe was designed to turn round logs and lumber into squared-off pieces that can then be used to build various structures, furniture, and more. Today most people rely on sawmills to square up their wood, but a hewing axe can still come in handy for smaller needs.
- Flattened blade in a variety of shapes that's parallel with the handle rather than perpendicular.
- Traditionally a slightly curved grip for fine control.
15. Crash Axe
Developed by USAF pilots, the crash axe was initially designed to cut through walls, windows, and obstacles in the way of a rescue mission. Today, this hatched-sized and uniquely constructed axe is still used by emergency responders and can have a wide variety of multi-purpose uses.
- A hatchet-style axe head, often coupled with other tools like a hammerhead, short pick, nail claw, or pry bar.
- Very lightweight yet durable, often made of super-strong steel or titanium.
16. Shingling Hatchet
A shingling hatchet is a roofer's best friend! This handy axe has a hatchet-style head with an added notch to extract and take out nails. Opposite the blade, it usually has a flat hammerhead construction for driving in nails.
- A hatchet-like blade with a hammerhead butt, notch for taking out nails, and often magnetized to hold nails.
- Short 11" handle for more control, with shock-absorbent grip for long days of work.
An adze axe is an ancient tool that's likely been around since the stone age. This handy axe has a sharp cutting edge that's perpendicular to the handle rather than parallel. They are great for woodworking and wood carving, as well as for landscaping or horticultural needs.
- Sharp cutting edge made of steel, perpendicular to the handle.
- The handle comes in a variety of lengths, shorter for wood carving tasks (about 17"), and longer for landscaping projects.
18. Fireman Axe / Pulaski Axe
The fireman axe is a firefighter's tool of choice often used in an emergency to break down doors and windows either in a fire or in the aftermath. It features a long handle as well as a double bit axe head. One one side, there's a sharp blade for chopping, and on the other, a sharp pick-shaped point. It's also sometimes called a Pulaski axe.
- Red painted, double-bit axe head with a blade on one end and a pointed pick on the other.
- Wooden or fiberglass handle, averaging 36” in length.
A fireman axe is mainly used in fire emergencies to break down structures whether they’re walls, doors, or windows but may also be used for chopping wood.
☛ Our Pick: Nupla Pick Head Fire Axe with 28" Hickory Handle
19. Throwing Axe
Less of a tool and more of an item used for sport, throwing axes are typically tomahawks or tactical hatchets used in competitions. While they can certainly be used for any cutting needs, these lightweight, super sharp axes are primarily designed for throwing at a target.
- Stainless steel hatchet-style blade measuring about 2”.
- Well balanced, stainless steel handles covered in grip for throwing.
20. Battle Axe
Battle axes were explicitly developed for use during battle. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and designs, but are typically small enough to use with just one hand, but long enough to grip with both hands if in need of a more powerful swing.
- Variety of blades, some double-bit, some with only a single blade, often curved.
- Usually lightweight and measuring no more than a foot, but some as long as 5’.
21. Tactical Axe
Tactical axes are lighter and more nimble pieces of equipment made for throwing and close-combat. While you probably won't find yourself in any axe fight today (we hope!), people love them for the sport of throwing. Tactical axes are typically stylized after traditional tomahawks but also come in a wide variety of shapes and weights.
- Double-bit axe head with a sharp blade and sometimes a hammerhead, pick or sickle.
- A sturdy handle that's easy to grip.
22. Viking Axe
Viking axes were historically used by elite warriors in the time period between the Viking era and the Middle Ages. Today it’s an impressive axe that many people put on display or axe enthusiasts enjoy having in their collection.
- Long thin blade with pronounced or pointy horns at the toe and heel of the head.
- A wooden shaft as long as 5.5'.
23. Double Bit Axe
Double bit axes are tools that feature a double-sided blade, opening up the possibilities of functions. You'll often see double-bit axes on the market that have a super sharp cutting edge on one side, and a duller different shape blade on the other.
- An axe head with double the usability, and many options when it comes to shape, style, and material.
- Various handles, usually long and designed to be ergonomic for heavy use.
A Tomahawk axe is similar to a hatchet but designed to be a lightweight tool that's easy to use with just one hand. They are native to indigenous groups of people in North America, but today are popular general-purpose tools.
- A smaller hatchet-style blade with a straight edge.
- The handle's length varies depending on need with a longer handle (13" - 19") for chopping and shorter handle best for throwing (10" - 13").
25. Splitting Maul
Also dubbed a "block buster," a splitting maul is a heavy-duty axe used to split wood along its grain. It's a heavier axe than most and delivers a hard and powerful strike. On one side of the head, is an axe blade, while the other is shaped like a sledgehammer.
- Heavy axe head weighing about 5+ pounds.
- Long handle for increased swing speed, often longer than 30”.