The Best Axe – Complete Buying Guide & Reviews

A great axe is one of the most satisfying and masculine tools at your disposal. Having the best axe means clear cuts, better products, and less hassle.

When most people think of an axe the first thing they think of is chopping wood for a fire. But that’s not the only thing an ax is good for. In fact, that’s only a small part of what you might need to use an axe for.

As a result, there are several different types of axes out there to choose from. It all depends on just what you’re going to do with it. Once you figure that out you’ll be on your way to choosing the right one.

Here’s our comprehensive list of the best axe options on the market currently to help with your buying process, no matter what your potential usage for the axe may be. Let’s take a look.

Estwing Sportsman’s Axe

​This 14″ camping hatchet is designed entirely of forged steel and includes a genuine leather grip that helps you hold on while you’re chopping, even if your hands are wet. Not only that but the leather makes for a more comfortable and soft grip for extended periods.

Ideal for chopping wood, this axe even comes with a ballistic nylon sheath that keeps you (and everyone around you) safer when it’s not being used. The sheath even doubles as a holder to fit the axe to your belt loop if you don’t want to put it in your tool belt.

Made in the United States with American steel, this ax is durable because of the single piece steel that it’s made from (there’s no worry about the head and the handle coming apart) and it’s tempered to increase the overall strength.

The polished head and neck make for a sleek look and the steel holds a fine edge easily for all of your chopping needs. It has excellent balance and comes in at less than 15 ounces total weight.

Things We Like:

  • One piece forged steel
  • Includes sheath
  • Sanded and lacquered leather grip
  • Fairly lightweight

Things We Don’t Like:

  • Really only best for chopping wood

Husqvarna Wood Axe

This wooden ax is likely just what you think of when you consider buying an ax and there’s a reason it’s still around. Available in several different sizes, this ax is a single bit version that has a hickory shaft.

There are wood and steel wedges used to secure it, keeping the head firmly attached even for your most difficult work. Not only that but it’s great for felling trees, chopping wood and other work that requires a lot of power because of the long handle.

For added safety, there’s a leather cover so you can store it wherever you need without having to worry about anyone getting into it.

Forged in Sweden with Swedish steel, these axes are designed to be cleaned regularly and must be stored in moderate temperatures.

Weighing in at 2.1 pounds, it’s a little heavier than some other options but has the right amount of heft for most needs.

The steel itself is designed for building axes and holds an edge well, even after extensive work. When you sharpen it you’ll also have an easier time of getting a sharp edge that can cut through just about anything.

Things We Like:

  • Forged with Swedish steel
  • Hickory axhandle
  • Heavy-duty axe
  • Head attached with wood and steel wedges

Things We Don’t Like:

  • A little heavier than other options

SOG Specialty Tomahawk

This tactical tomahawk is small enough that you can carry it easily but also large enough that you can accomplish just about any task you might need. Inexpensive and made with a stainless steel head and glass reinforced nylon handle it’s plenty durable.

Designed similar to a Vietnam tomahawk, it’s 15.75” long and weighs only 24 ounces. There’s even a lifetime warranty that says you’ll have no problem using it for anything that you want or need for as long as you want. That’s definitely going to make it easier for you to get out there, wherever and whenever you need.

Great for everything from chopping to excavation and extraction, this blade features a razor sharp blade that holds an edge well and also sharpens easily.

It also has a spike at the back that will allow you to accomplish even more tasks. The handle itself is even made with heavy-duty bolts and a steel ferrule to add durability and make sure it doesn’t break. There’s even a nylon sheath that includes a belt clip to make it easier for you to take it anywhere you need.

Things We Like:

  • Lifetime warranty
  • Glass-reinforced nylon handle
  • Stainless steel blade
  • Includes nylon sheath and belt clip
  • Balanced for easy throwing

Things We Don’t Like:

  • A little shorter than other models
  • May be too lightweight for heavy duty chopping

Columbia River Knife & Tool Tomahawk Axe

Available in one of three different versions, this tomahawk ax is hot forged with carbon steel for durability and strength. It also features a Tennessee hickory handle that’s durable for just about any task.

There’s a limited lifetime warranty that says they will take care of anything that happens from normal use and you’ll have no problem with advanced tasks.

That means anything from chopping wood to defense purposes. Made in the USA from hickory that’s grown right here, it has a sealed lacquer coat to increase durability.

Other versions include one with a hammer on the back and one with a spike so you can accomplish even more tasks. All you’re going to need is a sharpening stone because it’s able to hold a sharp edge easily but can also be sharpened very easily as well.

At only 9.9 ounces and 19 inches long, it’s the perfect size to take along with you wherever you need to go. It’s small enough to carry easily but large enough to take care of more extensive chopping tasks as well. The head is wrapped around the handle rather than connected to it, making it more securely fixed and allowing for a simpler balance.

Things We Like:

  • Hickory handle
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • Available with hammer or spike
  • Wrapped axe head
  • Lightest model on our list

Things We Don’t Like:

  • It being so light may cause complications with thicker material

Estwing All-Steel Axe

Forged out of a single piece of steel, this axe provides advanced durability as well as longevity, making it a great addition to your tool collection. It can chop logs and even small trees or even small pieces of kindling. Complete with a ballistic nylon sheath, you get a more secure way to carry and store your axe.

The grip itself is designed to fit your hand more comfortably and has a genuine leather grip. Hand sanded and lacquered, it’s more durable than a standard handle and makes it easier for you to hold onto for an extended period of time.

Made entirely in the United States and with American steel, this ax comes in three different versions, a sportsman’s, campers or special edition. The sleek design and the black steel gives it a great look and also helps with the balance and frame of the axe.

Adding the grip also helps to reduce the amount of shock that comes through when you’re working. Just clip it onto your belt and you’ll be ready to go a whole lot easier, plus you don’t have to worry about the head and the handle coming apart because of the way it’s forged.

Things We Like:

  • Vibration reduction by up to 70%
  • 4” cutting edge
  • Black steel for an elegant/sleek look

Things We Don’t Like:

  • Very heavy
  • Shorter than a regular size axe

Axe Features to Consider

Axes are actually great for more than just chopping. They are also great for carving and the style of the ax itself is going to be entirely different based on what you’ll use it for. 

Some have a thin edge and thick poll (chopping axes) while others have a thin edge and a straight bevel (carving axes).

Of course, these are generalities and different types of chopping or carving axes are actually going to have slightly different designs to them. Let’s talk a little more about those options here.

Single vs. Double Bit

A single bit ax is one that has a blade on only one side while a double bit ax has a blade on each side. The single bit ax gives you more weight to the poll and therefore is capable of cutting more quickly. On the other hand, a double bit ax has more balance because both sides are equal.

That means it is easier to swing and has more versatility to the uses. It’s also more accurate and can also be used for throwing and other lumberjack games as well.

Overall Axe Head Weight

A heavier ax is going to give you more force when you swing, which is why many people prefer 6+ pound axes. On the other hand, a lighter ax is going to give you more accuracy, which is where some people prefer a 3-5 pound ax.

If you’re stronger or as you start getting stronger you’ll be able to move up to higher weights. When you get more experienced with accuracy as well you’ll have the ability to change out your ax for something a little heavier.

Overall Axe Handle Length

The longer the handle of your ax the more force you’re going to be able to get as well, which is why many prefer this. A longer ax handle means that you have less control, however, which means that even if you have a higher amount of force you won’t be able to get the ax where you need it.

Moderating the length of the axe to approximately 31″ (depending on the height of the individual using it) will allow you to balance out the amount of force and the amount of accuracy available. A 28″ axe may even be enough for most purposes.

Axe Handle Materials

Traditional axes are made with wood handles, which could be any of a number of different types. Hickory and ash are generally the best options, but it’s not just about the type of wood.

You also want to make sure the grain runs parallel to the bit as this makes them stronger. A grain that is perpendicular is generally weaker and may have a higher tendency to snap.

Growth rings should also be narrow and tight to each other as this makes the wood much stronger. Plastic and metal handles are also available, however, plastic is weaker and metal handles can be too heavy and cause an unbalanced aspect.

You’ll also want to make sure to take good care of your axe to make sure it remains durable and long lasting.

Curved vs. Straight Handle

A single bit ax generally has a curved handle, which is actually the better option for this type. That’s because it’s more natural when you use it.

On the other hand, a double bit ax only comes with a straight handle. This is important because a curved handle can only be used in one direction and a double bit must be reversible.

A handle can have a big difference when it comes to chiseling wood as well as opposed to just straight chops. 

A straight, single bit ax can feel awkward when you’re trying to swing it and trying to use it, which is why you will generally want to avoid this.

Varnish or Not

Varnish comes in a range of different ax handles, but this can actually make the ax more slippery while you’re trying to use it. Sanding off the varnish makes it easier to hold onto and will help you get more friction and therefore more control.

On the other hand, the lack of varnish can lead to blisters more easily. The same is true if your ax has any type of painted handle. Because of the smooth finish, it’s difficult to hold onto, especially if your hands are wet or slick in any way.

Final Thoughts

Once you know what you’re primarily going to be using your axe for, it’s time to consider the specific type of ax you need. From there you’ll have no problem getting a tool that can take care of everything right away, and at the least amount of effort from you.

Whether you’re planning for just one task or something that will accomplish multiple tasks for you, there are plenty of axes that are out there to choose from. Keep in mind your needs and budget and proceed with confidence.

Our choice for the best axe money can buy is without a doubt the Estwing Sportsmans Axe, especially if you’re going to be using it mainly on wood. You can’t go wrong with this one, given it’s lightweight frame that can still pack a punch.

About Gus Donaldson

I built houses for over 30 years and recently retired. I've made lots of mistakes and hopefully teach you not to make the same ones. I still love to build and have a garage workshop that I use for hobby projects like the walnut bookshelf I made for my wife. I like to write and let people know that working with your hands and tools does not need to be intimidating.

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