12 Different Types of Axes & Their Uses – Which is Right for You?

Basic axes

While you can find axes designed for specialty uses, there are also a number of basic axes perfect for general use. If you want an ax because you want something to chop stuff, you’ll probably want to buy one of these. The trick will be figuring out which one.

1. Felling ax

If you need just one ax for your tool inventory, this is probably the one you want. It’s got a long handle with a medium head designed for chopping. It’s narrow enough to bring down trees but wide enough to do some light splitting.

Felling ax

2. Hatchet

A basic run-of-the-mill hatchet is basically a felling ax designed for one-handed use. Keep the blade sharp, and it can trim branches and small limbs from tree trunks. Take it camping, and you can use it to split small logs.

Hatchet

3. Hudson Bay ax

In-between a full-sized felling ax and a hatchet, Hudson Bay axes were designed by Canadian fur trappers to chop firewood while on long trips in the far north. You can use them with either one or both hands. And while they aren’t going to work on really big trees, they do the job with smaller ones.

Hudson Bay ax

4. Camp ax

Designed for one-handed use and portability, you might wonder what separates this from a hatchet. The answer is this: the backplate of a camp ax sticks out a little so you can use it to drive tent stakes into the dirt. Their manufacture also tends toward lighter weight construction.

Camp ax

Axes for rough work

Generally speaking, the wider the head the cruder the results. The reason is that axes with wider heads are designed for hewing and splitting rather than doing fine cuts.

5. Splitting ax

This is just a simple thick head atop a two-handed handle for splitting wood. It works best on small to medium trees, and especially softer woods, which don’t need the help of splitting wedges.

Splitting ax

6. Splitting ax with a maul

If you’ve got hardwood logs to split, a splitting ax with a maul provides maximum versatility. It’s got the thick-headed blade for splitting smaller logs, but the backplate also extends out behind it. This is the maul, which you can use to pound splitting wedges into hardwood logs.

Splitting ax with a maul

7. Splitting hatchet

There might be times when you can’t use both hands to swing a regular-sized splitting ax, or you have logs where a shorter handle would be more appropriate. In these instances, a splitting ax that is the size of a hatchet is best. If you need just one splitting ax, this isn’t the one you’d want. If you have an inventory, however, this is a good one to fill it out.

Splitting hatchet

Axes for fine work

If you have detailed work to do with an ax, you’ll want to find one with a narrower, flatter blade. This allows the woodworker to use a gentle scraping action rather than a two-handed brutish swing.

8. Roofing ax

Roofing nailers have supplanted this kind of ax as the primary tool for putting roofs on buildings. That said, some roofers still prefer to have this hand tool. A bit unusual among axes, the people who use this are primarily interested in the backplate used to drive in nails, not the cutting blade.

Roofing ax

9. Carpenter’s ax

A one-handed ax with a flat, narrow blade and a beard—the part of the blade that hangs down below the handle. With this tool, the woodworker can choke up higher on the handle, making the carpenter’s ax a nice option among axes designed to crudely chop a log.

Carpenter’s ax

10. Broad ax

Designed with a head that is flat on one side and beveled on the other, a broad ax is great for flattening the round edges of a log. Because it’s flat on one side, each individual ax is subsequently either right-handed or left-handed.

Broad ax

11. Adz

Not everyone thinks of an adz as an ax, however, it is a bladed tool used to scrape and shape wood. Some adzes can cut pretty deep, but some of the best work is done with narrow blades for finishing projects.

Adz

Specialty axes

There are a few professions that rely on specialty axes to get the job done. They have taken the basic ax design and perfected it to address the needs of their work. If you think you need one of these models, then your needs are pretty unique.

12. Fireman’s ax

Designed to help firefighters attack a blaze, this ax isn’t about working with wood it’s about getting wood out of the way. It’s got a chopping head and a spike extending out back to help pull open doors and pull apart walls.

Fireman’s ax

About the Author Adam Harris

Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!