20 Types of Axes and Their Purpose: Get These for Prepping and Homesteading

types of axes

What’s one tool that’s most neglected by preppers?

Without a doubt, it’s the axe. However, many preppers dismiss it in the favor of a knife or something a little less….messy.

In reality, an axe is one of the most versatile tools that you can use. From processing game to chipping firewood, axes are effective in various scenarios.

If you’re heading for the woods, the axe will save you tons of effort and time. And when it comes to self-defense, axes have earned a savage reputation that can hardly be matched by a knife.

The axe is one of the most ancient weapons used in human society and throughout the ages multiple variants were designed for specific purposes. Choosing the right design from these wide types of axes can be challenging. So we are here to tell you all about 20 types of axes and their purpose. After having used different axes in the past few years, I feel that axes are the perfect tool when you want a sharp edge to make a shattering impact.

And the number of ways you can use it is simply limited by your imagination.

1. Tactical Axe

While axes are an ancient tool, the tactical axe is a relatively new invention. What makes it great for preppers is it can be used as a multi-purpose tool. While the primary use is for chopping, it’s also used as a shovel, hammer, and self-defense weapon.

Other than survivalists, the tactical axe is a popular choice for law enforcement teams, firefighters, and security staff. With a high-quality steel blade, this tool is perfect for building a fire, digging holes, and field-dressing animals.

The USMC Elite Tactical Bruiser Survival Tomahawk Axe is one of the best products in the market. It’s got a solid construction with a durable handle that makes it perfect for chopping wood or breaking bones. In addition, it also has a compass and a lanyard.

2. Cutter Mattock

A Cutter Mattock is also known as a Grub Axe and is mainly used for digging, chopping. It’s often used in gardening or for digging holes or trenches. While the exact origin of the cutter mattock is unknown, some say that it was popularized in the 17th century.

The tool has an axe on one side and a longer adze blade on the other. The axe is kept vertical while the adze blade is kept horizontal. This makes the adze blade more effective for penetrating deeper into the soil. 

Truper 31638 Cutter Mattock is one of the best options that offer the right balance of quality and ergonomic design. The fiberglass axe handle is shock absorbent to make the tasks easier on your muscles.

3. Tomahawk

The Tomahawk has earned a reputation for being associated with Native American tribes. Basically, it’s a robust but lightweight axe with a long handle for heavy cutting work. They are designed with a lighter head to cut down the weight.

Tomahawks can be classified into two categories- the tactical tomahawk and the throwing tomahawk. While throwing tomahawks are mainly used for recreation, tactical tomahawks are used as multipurpose tools by the military, campers, and preppers.

I’ve used the CRKT Woods Chogan Tomahawk axe and found it as a top-grade tool for heavy-duty wood chopping. Apart from the high-quality carbon steel blade, it also has a hammerhead that makes it a great outdoor tool.

4. Hatchet

A hatchet is similar in design to a Tomahawk, with one major difference. It’s small enough for one-handed use. The compact size makes it ideal for use in small spaces and also easy to carry in a bug out bag.

Generally, hatchets are between 10 to 16 inches in length and weigh between 1 to 3 lbs. The opposite side of the small axe blade can have a hammerhead or a spike that makes it a versatile tool. While it’s small, the weighted axe head gives the hatchet considerable chopping and limbing efficiency.

If you’re looking to buy a hatchet, check out the SOG Tomahawk Tactical hatchet.  The combination of an axe, spike, and a metal pommel makes it one of the best compact survival tools in the market.

5. Double Bit Axe

Double bit axes appeared in the mid-1800s and are used for cutting, splitting, and chopping wood. Since it has two edges, this axe doesn’t need frequent sharpening. 

Another benefit is you can use the two edges for two different types of work. While one edge can be used to split wood, the sharpness of the other side of the head can be preserved for more precise work. Combined with a high-quality saw, this is a great tool for woodworking.

The Estwing Double Bit axe is a top-grade double bit axe with a forged steel structure and a solid grip. With two edges, the axe is a bit heavier. But that makes it great for heavy-duty tasks.

6. Felling Axe

The felling axe is one of the primary types of axes used specifically to cut down large hardwood trees. These are usually large in size, and the handles can extend beyond 36 inches. This also makes them heavy, with the weight going above 5 pounds for some designs.

To deliver a better cutting action, these axes have a long cutting edge. There are multiple varieties of felling axes. Some common types are Michigan or Dayton axes, named after the region in which they were developed.

Most top-end felling axes like the Helko Werk Germany Bavarian woodworker axe come with slim and sharp edges that penetrate deeper into the wood. Since the axe is for heavy cutting, the curved hickory handle provides the right grip.

7. Broadaxes

These axes were used for cutting timber for activities like wooden shipbuilding, log building, and for railroad ties. Broadaxes are between 32 to 36 inches in length and can weigh between 3 to 6 pounds. 

Generally, broadaxes have a flat face and a bevel face. That means you can use them as left- or right-handed tools only. However, some broadaxes like the Muller Carpenters Right Bevel Broad Hatchet Axe, have a shorter length for working in small spaces.

The design allows you to use this axe as a more precise tool for creating a flat face on a block of wood. Also, it can be used along with a survival saw for general utility work.

8. Carpenter’s Axe

If you want an axe for woodworking tasks other than felling trees or chopping firewood, check out the carpenter’s axe. The design allows you to have better control of the edge and deliver precise cuts. Usually, carpenter’s axes are lighter in weight for easy handling.

These axes are small in size and ideal for tasks like woodworking or roofing. Some of the designs also have features like a notch on the blade that helps to pull out nails. Often, these axes have long beards that allow users to grip the handle closely for better control.

The Estwing – E32H Carpenter’s hatchet is forged from one piece of steel which makes it a great tool for carpentry. The shock-reducing grip works great when you need to use it for heavier tasks.

9. Hudson Bay Axe

The name of this axe is associated with Sir Henry Hudson, who used to trade with Native Americans in the 17th century. Originally, these axes came with a round eye. With time the design was altered to an oval eye.

Hudson Bay axes are around 22 to 28 inches in length and great for cutting and chopping jobs. While the relatively smaller head doesn’t make it ideal for felling, it’s an effective tool to tackle the jobs around a survival shelter.

The Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay axe is made from fine grain steel that offers excellent durability and edge retention. The top-notch craftsmanship makes it an easy-to-use campsite tool.

10. Fireman’s Axe

This axe is a multi-purpose rescue toll designed primarily for firefighters. It can be used to break down doors or windows and to cut electric wires. The compact design makes it highly portable and easy to use in confined spaces.

These axes have a blade on one side and a pointed spike on the other. The edge can be used as a pry bar, and also to dig or chop holes for ventilation. Besides, it can be used as a camping tool as well. 

We found the United Cutlery Black Savage Firefighter axe as one of the top products in terms of quality and durability. The stainless steel blade and a rubberized handle make it a robust tool for tackling emergencies.

11. Pick Axe

A pick axe is a common tool used mainly for farming and gardening. It has a chisel at one end and a pointed pick on the other. This makes it the perfect axe for breaking up hard or rocky soil. The chisel end is effective to open up the splits in the soil or a rock surface.

Other than that, a pick axe can also be used to break up hard surfaces like cement, or ice. Another variety of the pick axe is the mattock. This has a horizontal blade at one side.

This pick axe from Fiskars has heavy-duty construction and a shock-absorbing handle. The riveted head can absorb impacts without breaking a sweat.

12. Viking Axe

The Viking axe has a historical significance for being related to the Viking era. While they were brutal fighting weapons, the traditional designs were large and heavy. Modern designs are lighter and easy to wield. 

A primary feature of a Viking axe was the blade sharpness. It made it an effective weapon for delivering a deadly blow. At the same time, the butt can be used for striking heavy blows. However, these axes aren’t made for chopping hardwood.

The Norse Tradesman 24″ Viking battle axe bearded skegg axe head and a teakwood handle. The blade has a 56-58 Rockwell scale hardness which makes it a great weapon for self-defense.

13. Swamper’s Axe

These axes were designed for swampers of the old days. Their job was to cut up a tree into smaller, transportable pieces after felling. Since the task needed quick chopping, the blade of these axes was sharp and robust.

These axes are medium in length and made from high-quality steel. Durability was important for preventing blade breakage while chopping hard or frozen wood. I have found these axes great for splitting kindlings as well.

The Fiskars X25 Splitting axe offers a solid combination of balance and striking power to make it one of the best Swamper’s axes in the market. 

14. Splitting Maul

Quite simply, if you add an axe head to a sledgehammer, you get a splitting maul. They have a long handle and can weigh between 6 to 8 pounds. The wide head is designed for the effective splitting of wood.

The splitting maul is great if you want some additional power for handling heavier logs. On the downside, you will get tired more easily while handling the tool. So, a lighter axe is a better choice for survivalists.

The Tabor Tools splitting maul is a robust and heavy tool designed for delivering one-strike splits. The 32-inch handle with a rubber grip makes it an easy to swing axe.

15. Forest Axe

Forest axes are a heavy-duty version of felling axes that are used to bring down large trees. Generally, these axes have a long, rounded edge that can cut across the grain of the wood. The handles are on the longer side for effective swinging and felling small trees.

Since they are large and heavy, this axe can’t be carried around as a part of your survival gear. It’s best to store it permanently in a bug-out location. However, compact versions of this axe have also been developed for the use of hunters, forest workers, and fishermen.

The Gransfors Bruks small forest axe has a high-grade steel blade and an ergonomic handle. At the same time, it’s compact and weighs around 2 pounds only.

16. Boy’s Axe

These axes may have been originally designed for boys. But today, they are good enough for any man looking for a good chopping tool. And since they are compact and lightweight, these axes are great for outdoor use.

A typical boy’s axe weighs around 2 to 2.5 pounds with a handle that’s around 25 inches long. Unless you are looking to handle hardwood, they are a great tool for regular cutting and chopping tasks.

The Council Tool Boy’s axe has a 2.25 pound forged steel head with a hickory handle. The hand-sharpened tool is perfect for light cutting and hunting tasks.

17. Miner’s Axe

This unusual-looking axe originated in the European mines during the Middle Ages. The axe comes with a small handle and a relatively large head that makes it ideal for close-quarters action. The short handle isn’t effective for heavy blows but it’s an effective tool for a variety of other tasks around the campsite.

The Council Tool miner’s axe offers a good quality blade with a 20-inch handle. The head is slightly tapered to make it suitable for cutting and splitting.

18. Throwing Axe

Axe throwing has come a long way from middle age battles and lumberjack pastime. Today it has become a bona fide sporting activity and the axes come in a wide variety of designs.

You can pick a throwing axe with a long handle for extra power. A shorter handle will give you more accuracy. Besides, there are some tactical axes that can also be used for throwing.

Among the various types of axes, the  Cold Steel throwing axe comes with a classical look and offers solid value at an affordable price. It also doubles up as a compact camping hatchet that makes it a good prepping tool.

19. Crash Axe

These hand axes are primarily a safety tool used to break out from emergency situations. Many aircraft carry crash axes that might help passengers to escape after a crash. They can also be used to break open panels in case of an electrical fire.

In addition, this rugged multi-purpose axe can also be a great survival tool in the wilderness. It’s a versatile tool that can be used with a compound bow and a knife for tackling a wide range of emergency situations.

HX Outdoors Mercenarys Tactical Engineer axe is a handy tool that can be used in a variety of survival scenarios.  Apart from a sharp blade, this axe has a hammer, and a pry tool as well.

20. Ice Axe

An ice axe is a tool that’s closely associated with mountaineering. If you need to climb a steep icy slope, the ice axe provides additional security to prevent you from sliding down. And in case of a slip, it also helps you to self-arrest.

One end of an ice exe has a sharp pick and the other end is an adze. The length can vary depending on the purpose. Some longer versions of the ice axe also double up as a hiking pole.

The Petzl – Summit EVO is a mountaineering ice axe that’s designed for anchoring on hard ice or snow. If you’re planning to visit alpine terrains, this is a tool that you should definitely carry.

Final Thoughts

So these are the 20 different types of axes that are commonly used for various purposes around the homestead. Your choice will depend on the purpose of use, along with functionality and weight. That said, there’s no harm in picking multiple axes for different purposes.

While an axe isn’t a substitute for a survival knife, it’s best that you carry both in your bug out bag.

Be it building a shelter, hunting, digging, or self-defense, an axe is a tool that still holds its own in the era of technology. 

But don’t just take my word for it. Best try it out.