Axe Vs Saw | Which should you choose to cut wood? | The Edge Cutter

There are two primary tools that people generally prefer taking along while going for a wilderness exploration to gather firewood. These tools are namely; an axe and a saw. It is quite challenging to differentiate between these two. Whichever you pick, either option has some or the other benefits and setbacks. An axe and a saw differently contribute to the practice of woodcutting.  So, your tool selection will primarily depend on the type of wood projects you deal with. There are many other considerable factors like weight, portability, versatility, safety, etc. which are discussed further. 

Before moving to the respective benefits and setbacks of an axe and a saw, we have briefed both the tools  in an order. This will give a clear understanding of the fundamental nature and application of both the tools. Plus, you will be able to decide better between the two. 

Axe Overview

An axe is a wood chopping tool that includes a long wooden handle with the steel cutting edge typically made of iron. The flat part at the back of its head is often used as a hammer for hammering tent stakes. This tool is generally used for limbing trees or for splitting wood. 

The good thing about an axe is that if its haft gets broken after a long term application, you can replace with another similar piece of hardwood handle or some other hickory. The edge of the axe head must be regularly sharpened with a flat rock or whetstone to retain the cutting efficiency of the tool. Overall, an axe is the most durable wood cutting/splitting tool compared to an axe. 

Saw Overview

A saw is a wood cutting tool which includes a long, sharp teeth-bearing blade attached to a long wooden handle. This tool is solely for making precise cuts on the woods, unlike the axe; which is used for split breaking the woods into pieces. The saw blade is available in a variety of sizes, ranging from (380 to 600) mm (around 14.9-23.6 inches approximately).

Note: In this article, we are solely discussing everything about a handheld saw. 

This tool is the most used in the field of woodworking and carpentry to slice wood into varied structures. This is done when the user is deliberated to make a wooden object by joining those cut pieces. Other than that, it can be used to make intricate cuts or curves on woods which is not the scene with an axe. You can use this tool for sawing jobs (if any) around your residential space. If these are what you are looking for, go for this speciality saw. Overall, saws are less efficient in terms of longevity. But this tool is more versatile and a safer substitute to the axe. Though a saw requires much physical effort to get the task done, it cuts reliably as per the user requirement. 

Note: There are different types of handheld saws available on the market. Each type is designed to cut different categories of woods. While some can cut softwood, some are only fit for cutting hardwood. Check out the product specification while buying a saw for your project. 

Benefits and Setbacks of an Axe

  • Benefits

(i) An axe is the best tool for quick cutting of lumbers along the grain. It is an incredible tool, typically for vertical splitting of the wood. Just one strike and you can chop out a wood that’s 12 inches deep. This is something in which a saw would take much time and effort to get the same task done.

(ii) An axe is a durable wood cutting tool and fit for long-term applications. 

(iii) It is a one time investment; you can use a flat rock or whetstone to maintain the tool’s sharpness. Plus, in case of its broken handle, you simply have to replace it with another similar piece of hardwood; don’t go buying a whole new axe. 

  • Setbacks

(i) An axe is not a user safety option as any accidental stroke might make you bleed terribly. Whereas, a saw can only cause you minor cuts or injuries in case of any mishap during work. 

(ii) You cannot expect a cleat cutting experience with an axe. Split breaking the wood into irregular pieces would be the appropriate thing to say when you are using an axe.  

(iii) Axes are relatively heavier and sharper than the saw. 

Benefits and Setbacks of a Saw

  • Benefits

(i) The foremost thing that matters in a saw is its safest application and it being more functional than an axe. 

(ii) It can make precise cuts and so, you can use it for making intricate cuts and curves on woods as per the requirement which is not possible with an axe. 

(iii) You can cut the wood in any direction- along or against the grain. 

(iv) A saw is lighter, and more compact than an axe. So, it does not require more physical effort to carry it than using it during the cut.

(V) Some saw models come in a folding style that keeps the sharp end protected when not in use. So, it is a safer tool to carry along.  

  • Setbacks

(i) A saw consumes more time and effort consuming than what an axe takes to complete a task. 

(ii) It is not a suitable option for splitting firewood

(iii) The longevity of the tool (the blade; to be precise) is less than an axe.

Factorwise Differentiations of Axe vs Saw

  1. Versatility

There is no such definite comparison between the two in terms of their versatility. Where an axe can be used both as a knife and a hammer, a saw can be used for chopping lumber into pieces, making curves, and intricate cuts on the wood piece. While an axe excels in split breaking woods along the grain, a saw can make straighter cuts both against and along the wood grain. 

  1. Safety

An axe can cause major injuries to the user in case of improper swing and hit. Therefore, it should always be a second option if there is any other better option than this. 

Talking about a better alternative, a saw is always the safest one to choose. This tool is rather easy to handle. 

  1. Portability and Weight

A saw is lightweight compared to an axe. Hence, it is easier to carry around than an axe.   For instance, the weight of a 7.5 inch folding saw is about 14 ounces, whereas that of an  11 inch axe is at least 22 ounces.

  1. Durability and Sharpness

No doubt, the durability of an axe is more than a saw. It is a reliable tool in terms of long-term rough applications. However, the axe edge should be regularly sharpened as it keeps losing it after every short while of use. You can use a knife sharpener or whetstone to do so. However, it takes time to sharpen the tool properly. 

On the contrary, a saw is less sturdier than an axe. A saw blade is susceptible to breakage and has more weak spots due to it folding construction. It cannot withstand long term heavy duty application. Talking about it pluspoints, a saw does not lose its sharpness frequently. Even if it does, you can replace it with another blade. Here, you are free from spending time on improving the tool’s sharpness as the blade is readily available on the market. 

Quick Comparative Analysis of Axe Vs Saw on Varied Grounds


Can be easily sharpened with a flat rock Hard to break and hence, durable Can cut large lumber pieces, be used for digging, and its back side acts as a hammer 

Budget-friendly tool Excels in making straight, clean, and precise cuts and curvesCan be used single-handedly Easily portable, lightweight cum compact tool If the blade gets broken, it can be replaced with a newer oneSafer to use

Heavy tool and hence, not easily portableHard to use single-handedly Has higher risks of getting majorly injured Costiler tool 

Highly time and effort consuming Not fit for long term heavy duty applications


While considering the positives and negatives of an axe and a saw, both are found better than each other. The setback in one tool is fulfilled by the other and vice versa. So, your product selection should be based on the type of projects you deal with. The selection also depends upon your skill level and experience in handling the tool. Beginners are recommended to start with a lighter tool, i.e. the saw. If you are looking for a long term tool, then keep it simple and go for an axe. However, if you are running with a tight budget, a saw is more affordable than an axe. According to experts, a saw is a rather better alternative as it is comparatively safer and more functional provided that you are ready to invest much physical effort and time in getting the work done. 

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