Hatchets are a handy all-purpose axe, great for light yard work. Their size and weight open them up to jobs that would be cumbersome with a regular axe.

We’ve pulled together the 17 most popular uses for a hatchet. Whether you’re looking to buy one or want to get more out of the one in your shed, we have some creative ideas. Let’s dive in.

17 creative uses for a hatchet   

A hatchet is a versatile tool that can be used for chopping, splitting, hammering, throwing. It can do most jobs an axe can, only it’ll take extra work. If you’ve lost your razor, a hatchet can even be used to shave which is handy if you’re expecting company. 

​1. Clean up limbs

A shorter handle makes it easy to wield a hatchet with one hand. You could clean up the lower limbs of branches around the home. You’ll allow more light through and homes in fire-prone areas will be less susceptible to bush fire.

Be sure to also check out how to make a firebreak with an axe. A hatchet is great for clearing out the smaller vegetation.

2. Creating tinder

A sharp hatchet is ideal for shaving tinder that’s make fire starting a breeze. Hold a piece of kindling vertically and use the axe blade to shave thin slivers of wood that’ll burn fast.

3. Branch breaking

Instead of using the blade to chop tree branches, but that can be hard work. It may be easier to find dry, dead branches attached to the tree and bash them off with the butt of the axe. It will only take one of two swings to break off a branch that’s the right size for a fire.

4. Yard work

There are loads of jobs for your hatchet in the backyard. Herbs like rosemary can become thick and woody if left unchecked, so chop it back easily with a few well-directed swings. You can trim overgrown tree branches and shrubs. Use hatchets like a hammer to drive stakes into the garden.

5. Shaving

We’ve never tried this, but lumberjacks were known to shave with their hatchet. A file or whetstone can transform a bit to a razor-sharp edge that’ll remove facial hair easily. It’s not an ideal size so we aren’t going to recommend this one. If you must try it, please take care – we can’t imagine how big the nicks would be with a slip of the wrist!

Make sure the blade is super-sharp before shaving and be careful.

6. Fire starting

If you’re stuck out in the bush without a flint or lighter, use a hatchet as a last resort. You’ll need paper or dry tinder to get the fire started. Then, strike a suitable rock against the hatchet’s blade to make sparks. If you get that spark onto the tinder, protect it from the wind and gently blow until it catches alight.  

7. Self-defense

Hatchet-like axes have been used as a backup weapon for centuries by warriors. They’re easy to swing in confined spaces and deadly sharp. Hopefully, you won’t need a hatchet for this purpose, but if your life is in danger, a hatchet may be able to save your life.

8. Tree debarking

If you’ve felled a tree, then removing the bark makes sense. It is an excellent hiding place for insects that can damage the wood. A hatchet makes quick work of removing bark, no matter what size the tree is.

9. Carving

Whether you want to kill a few hours out camping or at home, carving is a fun, rewarding pastime. Hatchets are a useful size for intricate working with wood. You could fashion a rustic spear, bowl, or kid’s toy. Just watch those fingers and wear protective gloves.

10. Throwing

Axe throwing grows in popularity each year, with throwing centers popping up all over the United States. Test your dexterity and skill level by visiting a venue or setting up your own target at home. You’ll need plenty of space located well away from other people.

11. Make a sharpener

It’s best to use a file or whetstone to sharpen blades, but if you don’t have any, make a sharpener instead. Select a green tree branch that is around 2 feet and lop it off with the hatchet. De-bark the branch, dip in water, then rub it in the sand for an abrasive sharpening tool. We haven’t tested this out so won’t vouch for its effectiveness.

12. Splitting kindling

A hatchet won’t replace a splitting axe or maul for splitting large piles of kindling, but it works for smaller jobs. Always have a stump underneath to stop the blade from slicing through the wood into the ground or your foot.

Watch your fingers when chopping kindling with a hatchet.

13. Meat processing

Hatchets make quick work of butchering meat. Larger game like deer and antelope can be chopped into manageable bits. At home, smaller animals like rabbits or poultry are quickly processed with an axe.     

14. Felling small trees

By cutting V-shaped notches into a tree, it’s possible to fell them with a hatchet. They’re not ideal and a felling axe or boy’s axe is preferable, but a hatchet will work if it’s all you’ve got.

A hatchet makes easy work of felling small trees.

15. Shelter building

If you need to build a makeshift shelter, a hatchet will speed up the process. Instead of searching for fallen material, chop branches to the exact size needed and create a lean-to or teepee-style shelter.

16. Driving tent stakes

Rather than taking a hammer camping, use the back of a hatchet to drive in tent stakes. When you’re back home, use the butt of the axe to bang in garden stakes.  

17. Ice breaking

Clearing a path or driveway is hard work with a shovel, especially if hard ice has built up over. A hatchet can break the ice into smaller chunks which is easier to shovel. It also does a great job of chopping through ice to access water.

Related reading:
Discover 27 axe varieties and their uses.
Learn about the anatomy of an axe.
What are the uses for a camp axe?
Find out how to select your next axe.

Commonly asked questions

What is a Hatchet?

A hatchet is a small axe that can be used for a wide range of jobs with one or both hands. It has a sharp blade on one side of the head while the other has a butt which is useful for hammering.

What is the difference between an axe and a hatchet?

A hatchet is a small-scale axe, that can be used with one hand, while an axe required two hands. A regular axe has more power, excellent for bigger jobs like felling a large tree. Hatchets are lighter, easier to carry around, and best for jobs that require precision.

Is a hatchet good for survival?

A hatchet is a handy all-purpose tool that is lightweight and compact. It has a wide range of uses outdoors, including chopping trees, making shelter, splitting kindling and tinder, defense, and meat processing.

Is a tomahawk a hatchet?

A hatchet and tomahawk are both compact axes held with one hand. However, a tomahawk’s head and bit are more tapered, and its handle is longer. Both axes can be used in similar ways, although a tomahawk was traditionally used for self-defense and hunting; tomahawks were designed as an all-round tool.    

Are hatchets legal?

Hatchets can legally be carried in some states while in others they’ve been banned. In most cases, professionals who are using a hatchet for their everyday job can legally carry one openly. It is best to check the legal status in your state before carrying one.

Summing up

Hatchets are one of the most versatile tools you can own, and they don’t use up a lot of space, at home or camping. Use them for a range of tasks including chopping, splitting, hammering, and throwing.

While a hatchet can do most jobs that a full-size axe can do, it does have its limitations. It lacks power and felling a large tree with one would be a poor use of your time and in some situations, dangerous. Choosing the right tool for each job is sometimes half the battle.  

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