Here at Axe and Answered we know that not all axes are the same. Aside from the differences in brands and manufacturers, there are different types of axes as well.
In fact, there are five major different types. Depending on what the task you are looking to accomplish will determine which of the following five types you should use.
The Different Major Axe Types
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The first type of axe isn’t an axe at all. Well, it is, but it’s more commonly referred to as a splitting maul.
If the name doesn't give it away, this tool is used mostly to split trunks into smaller pieces of wood. It does so by having a much chunkier wedge-shaped head.
This wedge will literally split wood along the grain, thus where it gets its name from. Where splitting mauls are concerned, weight and width of the wedge trump a sharp blade. These are not precision instruments.
Another feature of a splitting maul that makes it easily recognizable is how wide the butt, or non-contact side of the head is. This is partially due to the fact that it's necessary in order to get a great wedge shape for splitting wood while also making the head heavy enough to do its job. But, this wide butt can be used in tandem with another person to help drive their maul through particular hard woods.
Example of a Splitting Maul
This Granfors Bruks splitting maul is an absolute beautiful example of everything you could ask for in a log splitter.
It's difficult to beat the quality of a hand-forged Swedish splitting maul. Both the head and the handle are works of art. The weight of this beast and the quality of the build will let you take on almost any wood splitting task that is humanly possible. It also includes a leather sheath to protect the razor sharp bit for when in between jobs.
Much different than the mauls above, a felling axe is used to fell or chop an entire tree down as opposed to working on already fallen lumber.
A felling axe has a thin bit as it’s meant to dig deep into trucks with each swing of the handle. They are typically fairly light with long handles or shafts allowing the user to to get good leverage and power into each swing.
Not all felling axes are the same. Some may have handles made from different woods and there are both single and double bit axe (sometimes called a double headed axe) variations.
Regardless of the specific design, if you are looking to chop down a tree or clear limbs from a truck, a felling axe is the right choice.
Example of a Felling Axe
This Helko Werk felling axe is a true work of art and will make quick work of anything standing in your way.
- German high grade carbon steel head
- American hickory handle crafted in Switzerland
- comes with a USA made leather sheath to protect the bit
The German drop forged & heat treated steel head, hand finished Swedish made hickory handle, and premium American made leather sheath bring three countries together to make one the best felling axes you'll ever swing at a tree. It's made to do two things: fell trees and last a long time.
Hudson Bay Axes
The Hudson Bay is in a way a small version of a full-sized felling axe. It has a fairly light and thin bit meant to make quick work of tree branches and even some young trees.
This little bad boy is actually a one-hander and is sometimes considered a 3/4-sized axe as it’s not quite as big as a full-size one but bigger than most hatchets. They are typically two to two and a half feet long.
It's a very common choice for anyone doing any kind of outdoors' trade like trapping and for campers as it's much less cumbersome than a full-sized option. If you need to clear some light brush, branches, or saplings and small trees, this is a perfect choice<. Just don't try taking down a seriously wide hardwood with it.
Example of a Hudson Bay Axe
This Snow and Nealley Hudson Bay axe is a fine example of everything a Hudson Bay axe should be.
- medium length 24 inch hickory handle
- 1 3/4 pound lightweight axe head
- include leather sheath to protect the bit and keep you safe
The American made Snow and Nealley Hudson Bay axe is perfect for any type of trail work you might encounter, from clearing brush to trimming branches and felling saplings. The hand-forged steel head looks great and holds up well if treated properly.
You can probably take a pretty solid guess as to what a carpenter’s axe is used for. If you guessed they’re perfect for chopping down giant redwoods you aren’t even close.
A carpenter's axe is a small almost hatchet-sized axe made with control in mind. Like the Hudson Bay it's a one-hander, but it's even smaller. Most handles are around one foot in length, give or take a couple inches in either direction depending on the manufacturer's design.
Another very telling trait is that these axes have very long beards. The reasoning behind this is the higher the user can choke up on the handle the more control they have over the blade. That’s something that is very important for someone doing woodworking.
They also tend to have a fairly sharp blade because anyone working with one of these needs to make plenty of precision cuts.
Chances are if you need a carpenter’s axe or carving axe, you already know why.
Example of a Carpenter's Axe
This Husqvarna carpenter's axe is a fantastic example of a well-made and affordable carpenter's axe.
- great for carving and whittling due to its straight cutting edge
- high quality hand forged Swedish steel axe head
- high quality hickory handle with lanyard hole
The Swedish Husqvarna carpenter's axe is the perfect mix of quality and affordability. Yes, there are cheaper carpenter's axes available, but this model is about as much of a value model out there, meaning you get much more than you pay for.
Another bearded axe is the standard broadaxe or broad axe. While the name might conjure up images of giant medieval executioner's tool, this type of broadaxe is actually a woodworking tool.
While a felling axe chops trees down and a splitting maul splits logs into firewood, a broadaxe is used when a more subtle touch is needed — take for instance when the round edges of a log need to be taken off for building a cabin or crafting planks or beams.
Because the primary use of this type of axe is to get carve a flat surface from a round one, the heads don’t have that typical symmetrical shape. They are instead usually designed either for a right handed person or a left handed person.
Out of all of the five major types of axes listed, this one is the most specialized. Trying to chop down trees of split firewood with it isn't a fun or overly efficient use of your time.
Example of a Broad Axe
This Vaughan broad hatchet is one of the better models you'll find if you don't plan on really splurging on a top-end model.
- 4.5 inch right hand cut hewing hatchet
- solid and sturdy hickory handle
- flat hammer style poll
- proudly made in the USA
This broad axe or hewing hatchet manufacture by Vaughan is a solid bang-for-your-buck choice, and with the blue steel head, it looks awesome. It's designed specifically for woodworking, so while it will do its job well, you won't want to be splitting logs of felling trees with it.
A survival axes have a name that basically speaks for itself. It's a tool that you would use for simple but important tasks when outdoors for the sake of keeping you from meeting your maker.
There's actually a lot of crossover between survival axes and other smaller axe types Husdon Bay axes and camper's axes. They are usually smaller than the big bad log splitting mauls and the lean mean tree felling axes.
Many survival axes are actually small hatchets. They can be a simple well-made hatchet, or they can be fancier and include extra items like a magnesium fire starter accessory that nests in the handle.
Example of a Survival Axe
This Gerber branded Bear Grylls model survival axe is a very good example of what you might find in your local outdoorsman shop. It's on the smaller size, but has a very sharp blade and full tang design to ensure its durability.
This survival hatchet is a very solid bang-for-your-buck choice. It's nots going to break the bank, but it will do damage to anything that gets in its path.
As you can see, not all axes are the same. They vary in length, weight, shape, and blade or bit sharpness, all according the what their specific purpose is.
Some are crafted to fell trees while others are designed for intricate woodworking. Just like any other tool, you want to use the right type of axe for the job whenever possible.
And, while it should not need to be mentioned, it’s important to remember that not all brands’ are of equal quality. A cheap but sturdy splitting maul might be fine if you only use one to occasionally split logs for firewood, but if you’re a more serious user, invest in a higher quality product.
Please feel free to comment below if you have any questions or comments, or send me a private message here. Thanks for reading!