An everyday axe may do a great job of chopping wood, but that’s not their only use. Whether you’re looking to sculpt, toss, split, or destroy, there’s a specific tool to complete the task.

We’ve created a handy guide to the types of axes so that you can choose the right one for the job. Hopefully, you won’t require number 8 on this list any time soon!

Before we get started, you may also want to check out our beginner’s guide to parts of an axe. It’s worth reading if you’re new to the world of axes and don’t know the difference between the axe’s cheek and butt.

1. Adze

The adze was first used back in the Stone Age for carving wood and farming. The blades are very sharp, making them popular with carpenters, even today for leveling, trimming, and shaping wood. Hand adzes have a short handle and are swung with one hand while foot adzes are longer and require both hands.   

Tip: Check out our article on what is an adze to learn more about this handy tool.

2. Battle axes

Battle axes came in a huge range of sizes and shapes, all designed to perform specific tasks in combat. Some were huge devices like the bardiche that was a type of polearm with a huge blade, ideal for breaking up units of horsemen.  

The halberd was a legendary weapon that was an intimidating combination of spear and axe. They were easy and cheap to make while offering impressive reach in battle.

The axe-pistol was a German creation that combined an axe and a flintlock pistol. A lethal device when used in close combat.

3. Boy’s axe

A boy’s axe, aka cruisers, is a medium-sized axe that’s an all-rounder for any age (and gender), not just boys. Although they’re not designed for cutting down large hardwood trees, they’re good for splitting kindling, cutting down saplings, pruning, and trimming branches.  

4. Broad axe

A broad axe, or hewing axe, is a purpose-built tool to help carpenters transform round logs into timber with a flat edge. The axe head has one flat side and one side with a beveled edge, great for chopping. Timber mills and modern tools mean that the broad axe isn’t as popular as in previous centuries. 

Want to learn more? Check out our guide to broad axes and learn how the axes works and what it’s used for.

5. Carpenter’s axe

A carpenter’s axe is a little larger than a hatchet and is used for intricate woodwork projects. It has a very sharp blade, and the high-quality ones have an extremely straight edge for accurate cutting.

Other features of a carpenter’s axe are a flat butt for hammering and a groove to remove nails. If you need to fell trees and split wood this type of axe isn’t recommended.

6. Crash axe

Hopefully you won’t ever have to use a crash axe. They’re crafted into a very sharp cutting device that will allow you to hack into or out of a plane in the event of a crash.

A crash axe is usually all metal and has a short handle – it can cut through sheet metal relatively easily. This tool is also capable of prying open gaps and walls.

All aircraft must carry one of these axes if it can carry over 20 passengers. Unless you’re in the emergency services or the airline industry, you won’t have much use for a crash axe. 

7. Double bit axe

If one blade isn’t enough, then a double bit axe may be a good option. These heavy, symmetrical axes have a second blade where the butt is normally located.

Although no longer in mainstream production, these axes would traditionally have one sharp blade for felling trees and a blunt second blade for splitting kindling.

Due to their weight, they aren’t ideal for carrying, and using them for long periods will tire you out fast.

Find out some popular uses for a double-bit axe here.

8. Executioner’s axe

The executioner’s axe had a massive blade that was made to decapitate anyone found guilty of certain crimes. Due to its ungainly size, this axe had one purpose only and wasn’t suitable for other everyday tasks.

9. Felling axe

A felling axe, or forestry axe, is purpose-built for felling trees and limbing smaller logs. Their blade is sharp and thin with a flared shape, perfect for cutting down large trees. Its long handle provides leverage and power that is hard to beat in an axe. They are usually built tough and durable, with wooden handles made of superior-quality wood like hickory. 

The Achilles heel of a felling axe is wood splitting. Their blade is made for cutting across the grain of wood fibers; the head gets stuck when splitting wood which involves chopping along the grain.

The Dayton axe is a heavier type of felling axe that adds more power to each chop. It is made to deal with heavy-duty jobs.

10. Fireman’s axe

Firemen use the fireman’s axe to smash through windows and doors during fires and other emergencies. Also called a fire axe, one side of the axe head is a blade, and the other end is a pick-shaped point. These tools are easy to spot in emergencies as they are often painted in bright yellow and red shades.

11. Grub axe

The grub axe is also called a cutter mattock and is a useful tool for grubbing compact soil. They’re great for tilling soil for a new garden bed and breaking up tough roots.

Grub axes have a long horizontal adze on one side and a shorter vertical axe on the other. The combo allows for digging and chopping in one easy-to-use tool.

12. Hatchet

Hatchets are smaller than a regular axe and are an excellent all-purpose tool for around home or camping. They possess a flared, sharp blade with a robust, handle that’s often made of hickory. Common uses for the hatchet include chopping down small trees, splitting kindling, carving, cleaning up limbs, and hammering in tent stakes.     

13. Hudson Bay axe

A Hudson Bay pattern axe was created by fur trappers in Canada. It was an all-purpose axe, made to perform everyday tasks like chopping firewood. This is a medium-size axe that can be used with both hands or just one for easier jobs. For size comparison, a Hudson Bay axe falls between a hatchet and a felling axe.  

14. Hunter’s axe

If you’re a hunter then a hunter’s axe is an essential piece of kit. Whether you’re hacking up wood for a fire or your kill, this is a super-useful tool.

Things can get messy and slippery fast when you’re chopping up meat in the rain. The best brands have a specially grooved handle that is non-slip for extra safety. They also have a rounded flay which is better for skinning animals.   

15. Ice axe

Ice axes are a crucial piece of equipment used by mountaineers when climbing snow-covered peaks. They provide excellent support when walking over ice and snow, a lot like a hiking pole. They can also be used for cutting steps into hard snow on gentle slopes and act as an anchor on steep slopes.

Check out our article on how to use an ice axe if you enjoy mountain climbing or treks in alpine regions.

16. Jersey axe

The Jersey pattern, or Baltimore pattern, style of axe has added lugs or ears which extend the head’s cheek. It provides an axeman with more stability and increases the contact surface area between the head and the handle.

Some Jersey pattern axes have bevels forged into the head’s cheeks. This assists with cutting into sections and reduces the chance of the head getting stuck in wood when bucking.

17. Michigan axe

The Michigan axe was first used by American settlers in the 1800s to fell the eastern white pine. It is like a Dayton but has thicker cheeks and a rounder poll. This gave it the advantage of being useful for felling and, to a lesser extent, splitting. Their wide bits were perfect for biting deep into large tree trunks.

Learn more about the Michigan axe here. 

18. Miner’s axe

A miner’s axe has been used for centuries to mine for silver, copper, and other precious metals. They are made for working in confined spaces, having a short handle and heavy head.

These axes were excellent for installing bracing timbers in the mines which had low ceilings. They were also used to drive wedges when felling trees.

19. Pickaxe

A pickaxe is an excellent tool for breaking up concrete, rock, and hard ground. If you’ve ever seen movies with inmates working on the railroad, it’s these tools they are wielding.

This T-shaped tool usually has a metal head with a pointed pick on both sides. Today’s pickaxes often have a pick on one side and a chisel on the other, useful for prying apart rocks and earth.

Would you like to learn more about what a pickaxe is used for? Check out our guide now.

20. Roofing axe

The roofing axe, as the name suggests, was traditionally a useful tool for roofing. This double-headed axe has a sharp blade for cutting roof shingles and a hammer for knocking in nails to attach the shingles.

Another helpful feature of the roofing axe is a shingle gauge that can be hooked over the front face of a shingle that’s lower than the one being worked on. The proceeding shingle can conveniently be positioned against the head for neat, even rows.   

21. Shepherd’s axe

The shepherd’s axe used to be used by European shepherds. This tool had a small axe head and a long, straight shaft which made it useful as a walking aid. Although it was a handy walking stick, it also offered protection against humans, wolves, dogs, and bears. Of course, a shepherd’s axe was also great for chopping wood for fires and building shelter.

22. Splitting maul

If you’ve got a pile of logs that need to be split into smaller pieces and kindling, then a splitting maul will make life easier. They have a similar design to a felling axe, with a long handle for a powerful swing. However, its head is heavier and shaped like a wedge to cut with the wood’s grain.

Unlike most axes that need to be regularly sharpened with regular use, a splitting maul relies on the axe’s weight and wedge shape to chop through wood. That means it’ll do a good job even with a blunt edge.  

23. Swamper’s axe

Swampers used to clear roads in swamps before tree fellers got to work. They also limbed trees after felling and cut them up. These workers used a swamper’s axe that had wider, rounded bits than regular felling axes. This allowed them to work fast and reduce the chance of damaging timber that was frozen or contained knots.

24. Tactical axe

Tactical axes, or tactical tomahawks, are the equivalent of a Swiss Army knife, offering multiple tools in one. A relatively modern invention, they’ve gained popularity with survivalists, campers, hunters, and those in areas of armed combat.

A tactical axe is primarily used as a chopping device but can include a range of other tools. Screwing, digging, prying, hammering are some ways you may be able to use it. A compass, file, flint or even fishing line are some other popular additions to the tactical axe.

25. Throwing axe

Axe throwing competitions and recreation facilities are rapidly growing in popularity. If you want to take part regularly, you’ll need a set of throwing axes. These are specially made axes that are sturdy and weighted for precision throwing.

26. Tomahawk

The tomahawk was invented by Native Americans for use in battle and hunting. It was later adopted by the U.S. Army in the Vietnam War.

Tomahawks look a lot like hatchets, but they are much lighter and always have a straight handle. Other than fighting, tomahawks had various uses including chopping, digging, and prying. They’re a great option for camping and hunting as they’re light and easy to store away.

27. Viking axe

The Viking axe, or Danish axe, was a battle weapon used in the Viking era. These were large, double-handed axes often had large beards, but were surprisingly light and well-balanced.

The Vikings used these iron axes for hooking shields away from their enemies and tripping unsuspecting victims. They also sharpened the tips of the blade which allowed them to slash their enemy like a using a knife.     

Commonly asked questions

What is an axe head pattern?

An axe head pattern is the shape or engineering design of the head rather than an artistic pattern. There are over 17 different patterns for single-bit axes and 11 for double-bit models.

What are tiny axes called?

When people refer to small axes, they are usually referring to hatchets which are easy to wield in one hand. These tools are great for light yard work, camping, hunting, and survivalism.

Summary table of types of axes

Type of AxePopular Use
AdzeCarpentry and farming
Battle AxeCombat weapons
Boy’s AxeEasy to swing all-rounder
Broad AxeHewing logs
Carpenter’s AxeCarpentry
Crash AxeEmergency escape device
Double Bit AxeBattle and felling/splitting
Executioner’s AxeBeheading
Felling AxeTree felling and limbing
Fireman’s AxeBreaking into buildings and vehicles
Grub AxeTilling soil
HatchetSmaller, multipurpose tool
Hudson Bay AxeAllpurpose axe
Hunter’s AxeChopping wood and animals
Ice AxeClimbing and walking support on ice
Jersey AxeTree felling and limbing
Michigan AxeTree felling, limbing, and splitting
Miner’s AxeWorking in confined spaces
PickaxeBreaking up rough surfaces
Roofing AxeCutting shingles and hammering
Shepherd’s AxeChopping wood and protection
Splitting MaulSplitting logs
Swamper’s AxeClearing roads and limbing trees
Tactical AxeMultipurpose tool
Throwing axeTarget throwing
TomahawkBattle, light jobs, camping
Viking AxeBattle weapon

Related reading:
How to choose an axe with confidence.

Summing up

The types of axes on offer may seem overwhelming, but keep in mind many on this list are no longer everyday items. If you’re unsure which one is best for you, check the summary table above to get quick answers.

Once you’re worked out which axe is right for you, you might also want to learn how to keep an axe sharp or how to store an axe.

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