Axe Vs. Hatchet; Defining Terms

I’ve recently been reading about axes with very short handles, and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.  Historically, the difference between an axe and a hatchet has been one hand. An axe is a tool traditionally used with two hands. A hatchet is used with one. While the various companies will try to sell you an axe with a 12″ handle, don’t believe them. They know they can charge more for an axe than a hatchet. But if the tool needs just one hand to wield, it’s a hatchet.


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  • Good point.
    To this I would add a couple of things.
    Firstly, is there a difference between the function of a full sized head on a small haft?
    Second, some crafting tools – most notably the side axes and carving aces – are axes with short handles. Not really conventional bushcraft tools but they are termed axes despte being one handed in their usage.

  • Tim

    Good points, Sam. I don’t know the answer. I’d call a full size head on a short handle a hatchet, but it’s just my opinion. Maybe also a uni-tool (as opposed to a multi-tool)?

  • i’ve always understood a hatchet to have a cutting edge on one side and a hammer head on the other.smaller axes were called hand axes.

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