From farming to weaponry, axes date back across most of our history.
The limitless uses these tools have provided us with are truly remarkable.
Most axes fall into three categories:
- woodcutting axes
- tool axes
- battle axes
We’ve got dozens of different axes to share with you today, along with pictures and descriptions of what they’re used for.
Types Of Axes And Their Uses
Woodcutting axes are the most common axes, used for felling, hewing, or splitting wood.
Tool axes range from pickaxes for mining to mattocks for gardening.
Battle axes include executioner’s axes, tomahawks, and the mighty halberd.
Axes vary in size and use. Axe heads are designed and shaped for specific purposes. Some axe heads are double-bit, giving the axe two blades or other additional features.
From the forest to the mine, and from the farm to the battlefield, this ultimate guide covers 40 different types of axes you may encounter.
Dating back to the Stone Ages, adzes have served as woodworking and farming tools.
An adze’s blade is perpendicular to its handle, giving it an L-shape.
In woodworking, smaller hand adzes are used to carve or smooth the wood. In farming, larger foot adzes serve in the place of hoes. Adzes are also helpful in removing tree bark.
Industrial tools like the sawmill replaced their use, but adzes are still used to craft certain hand-made items like barrels and buckets.
2. Battle Axe
Originally adapted from utility axes, battle axes are typically arm-length and built for warfare.
This weapon dates back to the Paleolithic period and has since evolved into countless forms.
Battle axes were particularly common during the Middle Ages, used by Vikings and knights alike. Battle axes were forged in one-handed and two-handed styles and usually weighed between one and seven pounds.
“Battle axe” is an umbrella term for any type of axe built for combat. Specific battle axes include the Dane axe, Halberd, Japanese axe, and tomahawk.
3. Bearded Axe
Also called a Skeggøx, a bearded axe was a common weapon in Viking Age Scandinavia.
Bearded axes got their name from the shape of the axe head, which extended downward like a hook or a beard.
The bearded axe was designed to have a large-edged blade while keeping the rest of the build as light as possible. Bearded axes served as both weapons and tools. Today, these kinds of axes are often used for shaving and planing wood.
4. Broad Axe
Broad axes are known for their wide head shapes.
Broad axes are generally used for hewing or cutting a fallen long into usable lumber.
Broad axes come in two styles: side axe and double bevel axe. One side of the axe head is beveled on side axes, while the other is flat to provide versatility. On double-beveled axes, both sides are beveled.
Though seldom used today, humans have used broad axes throughout almost all of history until the 19th century. Their most common uses were for constructing ships, frames, and railroads.
5. Carpenter’s Axe
Carpenter’s axes are small, multi-purpose axes commonly used in woodwork and joinery.
Usually slightly larger than a hatchet, the carpenter axe is a one-handed tool meant to be by the carpenter’s side through the entire woodworking process.
The poll/butt of the carpenter’s axe head is blunt and designed to serve as a hammer. Many carpenter’s axe heads feature a beard to give the axe a larger edge with less weight. Some carpenter’s axes even include finger notches along their handles.
6. Crash Axe
A crash axe is an emergency tool.
Small and lightweight crash axes are designed to break through doorways, walls, glass, and other blockages.
The head of a crash axe is thin, with either serrated or sharp edges. They often include a notch intended to catch on surfaces.
Today, the crash axe’s primary use is on airplanes. Crash axes are mandatory for commercial airlines with at least 20 seats. In an emergency, the crash axe helps passengers create an escape route.
7. Cutter Mattock
Often referred to as a “grub axe,” cutter mattocks are a type of gardening axe.
Cutter mattocks have two edges on their heads: a vertical axe blade and a horizontal adze blade.
A cutter mattock looks like a pickaxe with one end twisted 90-degrees. Cutter mattocks are particularly useful for grubbing and removing tree stumps or other lawn obstacles.
The adze ends of cutter mattocks are used for digging in the soil while the axe end chops. They are also used to create holes in the earth the perfect size for planting seeds.
8. Dayton Axe
Also known as a “boy’s axe,” the Dayton axe has its roots in Dayton, Ohio.
Dayton axes are specially shaped with curved blades to increase swing velocity.
Dayton axes are particularly useful for cutting down trees. Though they’re still in use today, boy’s axes aren’t nearly as common for felling trees as they once were.
Dayton axes are similar to most other felling axes. Their main difference is their head, which is usually small but thick. The Dayton axe is easy to swing and still leaves a massive mark in the tree, though not as deep as other felling axes.
9. Double Bit Axe
The double bit axe looks similar to the Dayton axe but with two cutting edges instead of one.
Double bit axes first came into popularity in the 19th century and have been in common use since then.
Double bit axes are great for chopping and splitting wood. One end of these axe heads is usually dull, intended for splitting, while the sharper end chops.
Double bit axes aren’t as great at cutting down large trees as the Dayton axe and other felling axes. However, they are useful at felling smaller trees.
10. Executioner’s Axe
In the 1700s, the axe and block were among some of the most common forms of execution.
Executioners’ axes were often equipped with large axe head shapes to cut through a person’s entire neck.
Examples of executioners’ axes usually weighed at least 8 pounds, heavier than most axes to help crush through bone. Wielding an executioner’s axe, or “heading axe,” was not easy work. Executioners had to be precise and in good shape.
11. Felling Axe
Another umbrella term, felling axes are designed specifically for felling or cutting down trees.
Felling axes have various axe head patterns, including single bit and double bit.
Felling axes are usually kept incredibly sharp, aside from the dull edges of double bit axes. Most felling axes feature long handles gripped with two hands.
Some models of felling axes are one-handed and can be as small as hatchets.
12. Fireman’s Axe
Also called the firefighter’s axe, fire axe, and pick head axe, the fireman’s axe is most commonly used to fight fires.
They are colored brightly, usually in red, to be easy to spot during an emergency.
Fireman’s axes feature a long point on one side to puncture glass and other surfaces. The fireman’s axe is sturdy and heavy, built to tear through any wall or doorway as quickly as possible.
13. Forest Axe
The forest axe was designed to be the lumberjack’s best friend.
Forest axe heads are long and flat, capable of felling the largest trees and chopping lumber with excellent precision.
Other chopping/splitting axes cut with the fibers of the wood. Forest axes cut across the grain of the wood.
14. Halberd Axe
Also called the halbert, halberd, and “the Swiss voulge,” the halberd axe is a long, two-handed battle axe that dates back to the 14th century.
Halberds were generally around 6 feet long with a menacing axe blade, a hook on the back, and a sharp spike on top.
The hooks on halberd axe heads latch onto clothes and armor during combat. When used efficiently, halberd hooks could dismount horseriders from their horses. The spikes atop halberds were added to oppose spears and pikes.
Hatchets are generally the smallest axes available, designed to be held in one hand.
Hatchets include a sharp, sturdy axe blade and a hammer on the opposite side.
Hatchets give you the ultimate one-handed tool wherever you may be. The hatchet blade helps chop lumber or get through thick vines.
The axe head itself is also useful for starting fires. Today, you will find hatchets among the gear of campers, hikers, and surveyors.
16. Hewing Axe
Initially, hewing axes were used for cutting, shaping, smoothing, and rafting timber.
“Hewing axe” is an umbrella term for various axes, each with its specific hewing purpose.
For example, the broad axe is beveled and can chop most timber. The Cooper’s Adze was smaller with a rounded axe head, handy for shaping wooden bowls.
17. Hudson Bay Axe
Hudson Bay axes are generally used for chopping and splitting light amounts of wood.
Hudson Bay axe heads feature a blunt poll/butt that can double as a hammer.
These axe heads generally have a flat top with a sharp “beard” pointed down. This beard gives the Hudson Bay axe a more prominent cutting edge and a menacing appearance.
The Hudson Bay axe allegedly originated in the United States by the French as a trading tool.
18. Hunter’s Axe
The Hunter’s axe looks like any other hewing or splitting axe, but its head has additional capabilities.
The hunter’s axe is efficient at chopping through wood and meat.
The Hunter’s axe’s bearded blade is sharp and sturdy enough to chop and split most types of lumber. This axe is handy when hunters need to build a secretive hideout.
When sharpened right, the hunter’s axe is efficient at chopping meat. Its rounded axe head also helps in the process of skinning.
19. Ice Axe
Also called a climbing axe, the ice axe aids mountain climbers in scaling icy or uneven terrains.
Ice axes feature a sharp spike at the bottom ends of their shafts, helping the axe dig into the ground when used as a walking stick. The ice axe’s head includes a large pick, intended to be thrust into the ground ahead of the climber.
Ice axe picks help other climbers ascend.
A climber can anchor the pick of the ice axe on the mountainside or cliff face to assist climbers below them. Others can climb to that point using a rope without fear of the ice axe breaking.
20. Jersey Axe
The Jersey axe is a felling axe with a unique axe head pattern.
Rather than having a “beard,” the Jersey axe includes “ears” protruding from both ends of the cutting edge. These ears make the blade longer without having to be too heavy.
The head of the Jersey axe widens at the base, along the handle. The handle itself curves in a 3-foot S-shape.
21. Lathe Hammer
Also called “lathing hatchets,” lathe hammers are part hammer and part axe.
Lathe hammers are used for installing lath, the thin wood usually placed under roof shingles.
Lathe hammerheads feature a hammerhead on one end and a hatchet blade. The hammer side is used for hammering nails, while the hatchet side is used for cutting/shaping the wood.
22. Michigan Axe
The Michigan axe is strikingly similar to the Jersey axe.
The Michigan axe also has protruding “ears” on its head but with rounded edges instead of sharp edges.
Unlike the Jersey axe, the Michigan axe is available in double-bit and single-bit. Its head is widely rounded and provides enough weight and force to break through most wood.
23. Miner’s Axe
The miner’s axe began to be used by miners during the Middle Ages.
It’s unclear if the use of this particular tool originated in Sweden or Germany.
Like the pickaxe, the miner’s axe was particularly useful for mining copper and silver. Miner’s axes have short handles and long heads, intended for use in mines and other small spaces.
24. Multipurpose Axe
“Multipurpose axe” is an umbrella term for various axe types considered “multipurpose.”
For example, double-edged axes like mattocks and hatchets count as multipurpose axes.
Today, some one-handed multipurpose axes have blades, screwdrivers, and other tools like a Swiss Army knife.
Though not the most dependable, some multipurpose axes have removable heads that you can change out with shovel heads or other tools.
Pickaxes are T-shaped axes with picks on at least one end.
The pick is pointed yet sturdy, capable of breaking most terrains.
The opposite ends of pickaxe heads typically include a flat, horizontal edge used for chopping and hoeing.
The flat edge of the pickaxe sometimes features another pick instead. One end of the pickaxe is usually longer than the other in these situations.
26. Pick Mattock
Like the cutter mattock, the pick mattock is a gardening axe with two uses.
The head of the pick mattock has two ends: a horizontal adze and a pick. A pick mattock is a pickaxe with an adze blade on one end.
The adze is fantastic at digging through soil and creating holes for seeds. The pick breaks through tough soil and even rocks.
The earliest designs of the pick mattock date back to the Late Mesolithic Era. Historians believe agriculture would not have been as prominent in humanity without the invention of the mattock.
Poleaxes are long battle axes that would often reach 8 feet in length.
Like the halberd, poleaxes featured large spikes on their tops serving as spear blades. Certain poleaxes included points on both ends.
Most poleaxes had wide, rounded axe blades that were slightly smaller than Halberd blades. A hammerhead was often added to the back of the poleaxe, adding brute force to this weapon’s capabilities.
Poleaxes were particularly popular among European infantry during the medieval ages. Being among the longest battle axes, poleaxes were particularly useful at tripping and disarming enemies.
28. Pulaski Axe
The Pulaski axe is the recommended tool of choice against wildfires.
The axe head is equipped with a cutter mattock blade on the back, making the Pulaski incredibly helpful at digging, chopping, and pulling apart brush.
The Pulaski axe was created by and named after Ed Pulaski, a US Forest Service Ranger. After rescuing over 45 firefighters in 1910, Pulaski recognized that better tools were needed to combat the forest during emergencies.
29. Racing Axe
In most cases, racing axes are splitting axes built for speed.
Racing axes feature in woodcutting championships across the world. These types of axes are designed to be the best of the best.
Most racing axes have a curved head thicker in the center and thinner on its sides. This aerodynamic design increases the speed of the swing.
Racing axes are generally more expensive due to their intricate detailing.
30. Shepherd’s Axe
The shepherd’s axe is one unique blade.
A combination of a battle axe and a walking stick, the shepherd’s axe was often used by shepherds and nomads in the Carpathian Mountains.
Shepherd’s axes were tall and thin, usually at least 4 feet long. Shepherd’s axe heads were sharp on one side, often with a beard to give the blade a little more length.
The back of the shepherd’s axe head was flat and blunt, sometimes used in the place of a hammer.
31. Shingling Hatchet
Though they’re not nearly as common as they used to be, roofing axes and shingling hatchets are helpful tools for installing shingles on a roof.
The shingling hatchet head has a thin metal blade on one end and a blunt backing that serves as a hammer. The edge is incredibly efficient at cutting, lining up, and getting under shingles.
These small axes are also efficient at removing nails.
The invention of the nail gun has made this roofing axe almost obsolete. Some roofers still use shingling hatchets today, especially for more demanding projects.
32. Splitting Hatchet
Splitting hatchets are a one-handed variety of splitting axes.
Despite what the name suggests, splitting hatchets are not as great at splitting and chopping wood as other splitting axes.
Instead, splitting hatchets are particularly useful at shaping and chopping timber that’s already cut.
Splitting hatchets are also ideal for kindling, allowing you to chop smaller sticks and branches without using the energy required by larger splitting axes.
33. Splitting Axe
“Splitting axe” is an umbrella term for various axes.
As the name implies, splitting axes are efficient at splitting wood.
Splitting axe heads have more of a wedge shape than felling axes. This axe head style allows most splitting axes to graze along the fibers and grain of the wood, creating a smooth and natural cut.
34. Splitting Maul
Also called the “block buster,” “chop and maul,” “block splitter,” “sledge axe,” and “go-devil,” the splitting maul is the combination of a splitting axe and a sledgehammer.
Most splitting mauls have wedged heads. On one end of the head is a sturdy blade with “ears.” On the other is a large, metal block like a sledgehammer.
The sledgehammer end is incredibly efficient at hammering and gives the entire axe more weight and momentum. The splitting maul is one of the most efficient splitting axes around.
35. Swamper’s Axe
The swamper’s axe features a design meant to delimb fallen trees.
For a time, a “swamper” was a woodcutter who came to the scene after the trees were down. They were responsible for cutting off and breaking down the tree branches.
Swamper’s axes typically had double-bit heads. One end was kept sharp for chopping, while the other was dulled for splitting. As the swamper job position dissolved, so did the use of the swamper’s axe.
Most swamper’s axes are carefully maintained antiques.
36. Tactical Axe
Tactical axes are a modern form of tomahawks, one-handed battle axes.
Certain law enforcement departments, particularly S.W.A.T., began producing these weapons, and the axe has taken popularity since.
Tactical tomahawk axes include large, bearded blades. Their axe heads often have gaps inside them to decrease weight. Certain tactical axe shafts also double as pry bars.
37. Throwing Axe
Throwing axes are small, one-handed weapons intended for throwing.
A throwing axe would spiral through the air, gain momentum, and then lodge into its victim when thrown overhand correctly.
Throwing axes date across much of human history, particularly the Middle Ages.
Today, axe throwing is a common sport. Similar to archery and darts, the sport of axe throwing is about precisely wedging the axe into a target’s bullseye.
Tomahawks are one-handed battle axes that originated in Native American culture.
Traditional tomahawks were small with straight shafts and single stone blades.
As time progressed, metal eventually replaced the tomahawk’s stone blade. Some tomahawks featured spikes and hammers on the backs of their heads. Tomahawks were versatile weapons, able to be thrown and used in close combat.
Today, you’ll find tomahawks used for camping and axe throwing competitions. Some armed forces and law enforcement departments use modern versions of tomahawks, such as the tactical axe.
39. Universal Axe
Also referred to as “all-around axes,” universal axes are general-purpose axes that are efficient at felling, hewing, chopping, and everything in between.
Universal axes don’t look like anything special. They usually have a single-bit head with a standard blade. The blade is designed to cut along wood fibers and helps with the woodworking process at just about every step.
Unfortunately, the universal axe is far from the perfect axe. Capable of almost anything, the universal axe lacks specialities.
Anyone trying to do fine hewing or detailing should look for a different axe than this one for the best results.
40. Viking/Dane Axe
Also called the “Viking axe,” “English long axe,” “Danish axe,” and “hafted axe,” the Dane axe is a battle axe with a broad, thin, and deadly blade.
The blades’ horns gave them a frightening appearance, especially when drenched in red.
Dane axes were used primarily during the Viking and Middle Ages, though Vikings weren’t the only ones to wield them.
These weapons were often reserved for the highest-ranking warriors in places like Anglo-Saxon England.
Different Types Of Axe
From the tomahawk to the Pulaski, and the halberd to the pickaxe, it’s incredible how many uses axes have.
What axe is right for you will depend on its intended use.
If you want a number of different types of axes in one set, check out the Helko Werk Axe Sets.
We hope this guide was a helpful foray into the different types of axes worldwide.