The pickaxe is one of the oldest tools still used in modern society. It’s a simple hand tool with a wooden handle connected to a metal head. One side has a chisel, while the other has a pointed pick. Keep reading to discover some practical uses for a pickaxe. We’re about to run through all its applications so that you can put yours to better use.
What is a pickaxe used for?
A pickaxe is a handy tool best used for cultivating land, landscaping, demolition, ice-breaking, and mining. It is a good option in situations where power isn’t available or you don’t want to damage an expensive tool on a tough job.
1. Cultivating land
An everyday use for the pickaxe is cultivating land. Farmers have used pickaxes to break up the earth, mix in fertilizer, and aerate the soil for centuries. The idea is that a well-prepared seedbed helps plants grow.
Today, rotavators and other types of farm equipment have replaced the pickaxe. However, home gardeners continue to use the tool to break up soil in their vegetable patches before planting seeds.
Landscapers occasionally call on a pickaxe to help with landscaping projects. A chainsaw or regular axe can easily fell a tree, but what about the roots? They’re not easy to chop, and saw blades are at risk of damage, so pickaxes are an excellent alternative. They can break stubborn root systems into manageable pieces. Cement paths and driveways are also easy to remove with the pickaxe.
Highly recommended reading: If you’d like to unleash the power of a pickaxe, then check out how to swing a pickaxe the right way.
The pickaxe is built tough and smashes through almost any manufactured material. It is excellent for removing floorboards without heavy machinery. The pointed end of the pickaxe pierces through wood, allowing it to be pulled up or pried out. Other materials like plasterboard and adobe are also no match for a solid pickaxe.
4. Breaking up ice
During the depths of winter in snow-prone areas, roads are often obstructed by thick layers of ice. One way to clear a path is using a pickaxe to break up the ice and snow. Once the ice is broken into smaller pieces, shovels or snow blowers can remove it from the driveway or road.
Most modern mines have come a long way since pickaxes and dynamite. But amateur miners looking to strike it rich may still use a pickaxe, searching for veins of minerals like copper, gold, and silver.
Historically, the pickaxe made a fearsome weapon for soldiers. A pickaxe is heavy and powerful enough to deliver a fatal blow when forcefully swung.
However, a more prevalent use in battle was hooking the enemy’s shield and ripping it away. This tactic made the enemy vulnerable to attack, as soldiers could attack with their swords or mace.
- Long pickaxes tore Cavalry from their horses, helping to level the playing field in battle.
- More recently, during the Second World War, German soldiers used a double-sided pickaxe called an entrenching tool to dig trenches.
In prehistoric times, the pickaxe wasn’t just used for hand-to-hand combat by armies. Farmers also used the tool to defend themselves from thieves stealing crops and animals.
Pickaxes are one of the best tools for serious roadside emergencies. In the event of a car crash, they can break a window or pry open a door.
For rock climbers, a climbing pick is a type of pickaxe that helps ascend icy or rocky peaks. It helps with hooking onto rocks and embedded pitons, metal spikes driven into cracks for use as anchors. Check out how to use ice axes here.
9. Railroad construction
Pickaxes were a common sight on railway lines in past centuries. Their job was to prepare the land for new lines by clearing the terrain, digging holes for the foundations of bridges, and clipping through tree branches growing close to the track. They also chiseled out rocks and earth to clear a path for the railway line.
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Commonly asked questions
Can a pickaxe break rock?
A pickaxe can break up some rock types, but it takes a lot of work. It also depends on the type of pickaxe you use and how powerful your swing is. In most cases, you’re better off using a power tool like a jackhammer to break up rock.
Can a pickaxe be used as a weapon?
A pickaxe can be used as a weapon if swung hard enough. The pointy section will easily penetrate skin and crack bones. However, it is a cumbersome tool that is best for downward swings into the ground.
What is the difference between a pickaxe and a mattock?
Pickaxes have a pointy pick at one end of the head and a chisel at the other. Mattocks have an adze on one side and a pick or axe on the other. Although different tools, they perform similar functions and are often used interchangeably.
What is the head of a pickaxe made from?
Most modern forge-welded picks are made from steel because it offers excellent durability.
Why does a pickaxe have two heads?
A pickaxe has two heads, so it can perform two different jobs. The pick can break up rock, while the adze chops roots, tree branches, and undergrowth. Having two sides to the head also counterbalances the weight of the tool.
A pickaxe is a handy piece of equipment to keep in the toolkit. It breaks rocks, clears paths, chops roots and branches, and cuts into earth. In extreme circumstances, it could be used for self-defense.
Are you trying to decide whether a pickaxe is worth buying? Think about the other tools you already own and if you would get better use from a pick. Consider the type of ground you’ll be working with to ensure it’s right for the job. If roots, concrete, and hard soil are in the way, pickaxes are a low-cost, quiet way to clear the area without needing power. Those mostly breaking up rocks should consider a jackhammer.
To buy one for home use, visit your local hardware store or search online for suppliers. Many different types are available, so there’s bound to be one that fits your needs.