What is difference between Axe and Tomahawk ? | The Edge Cutter

The differences between an axe and a tomahawk are basically based on two factors: one is their historical evolution, another is their appearance. Both the tools might look quite alike to many but there are certain visible differences which we will find out below. So, let’s get started..

Historical Evolution of Axe and Tomahawk

Considering the historical standpoint, an axe is a primitive tool which saw first innovation in its design in the 1800s, in America. Previously, an axe had a simple construction of a haft/handle and a head; bearing a ball shape at its back and a sharp edge at the front. 

On the other hand, a tomahawk is the smaller version of an axe that emerged in the early period of colonial America. This tool was mostly used for trading with Native American tribes. Apart from that, tomahawk was used by outdoorsmen and explorers, too. Considering the design and appearance, a tomahawk is the shrunken or compact version of the then existing modern European axes. However, it is hard to distinguish between the constructional differences while considering an axe and an early version of a tomahawk . 

With time and evolution, a tomahawk got more exposure and preference on the market because of it being a lightweight tool. An axe is the heavier one. 


An axe is chopping tool and can be used in various applications including

  • Wood Splitting 
  • Wood Cutting 
  • Hammering
  • Hunting, and
  • Firefighting

It is made of two components; a haft and a head. The head is made of hard metal, basically of iron and has many parts. Each part contributes to different ways by which the head chops and balances. The axe is designed for using bi-handedly. To make maximum impact on the workpiece, the tool needs a wider backswing, thus gaining momentum on the tool to exert more force required for cutting. You can also use it for splitting wood pieces that are too large to be cut by a tomahawk. It is also a good fit for felling lumbers and stripping off barks from the trunks. 

Clearing obstacles, making shelter, setting a tent, making bridges, etc., and any task that needs a notable amount of force, are some of the additional jobs you can achieve with an axe. 

Different categories of axes are available on the market which range between 19 inches and 22 inches. An axe falling in this range is most preferred by the hikers; as carrying a regular axe on the belt could be cumbersome in their journey. Apart from that, it is a good tool for users who are mostly on the move. It fits your survival kit or backpack just right. 


The tomahawk, or simply a “hawk”, is basically a tool belonging to a category of hatchet. Even in North America, the terms “tomahawk” and “hatchet” were interchangeably used to address the same tool. But there is a slight difference which comes from the technique by which the heads are attached to their respective helves. Moreover, its blade is thinner than the hatchet. 

The tomahawk was developed with the intent of using it single-handedly. It has three differential factors with respect to an axe. 

Those components are namely; an eye shaped back, a helve/handle, and its hafting technique.

  • A ball shape at the back of its head is round. But not so round compared to the narrow, triangular eye of an axe. 
  • Its haft is longer than an axe.
  • Unlike the axe which can be hafted from the top, a tomahawk follows a bottom side hafting method. That means the head of a hawk can only be fitted to its handle by inserting from the bottom. Whereas, in an axe, this has to be done from the top. Momentum and friction of the hawk keeps its head (in position) from slipping out of the haft. In case of the axe, a wooden wedge is fitted to the head to keep attached to the haft in place. 

Tomahawk can be used for cutting logs, woods, and bushcraft. You can also use its backhead for hammering purposes in camping. While some tomahawk come with a round shape at the back of its cutting edge, some come with a spike at its back. So, you can accordingly determine its use as per the situation and requirement. 


Considering the application point of view, both the axe and tomahawk are more or less similar. Apart from the historical evolution of both the tools, there is only a slight difference in their constructional design. So, if you want to settle for one, then consider your requirements and then purchase. It is the requirement that varies among the users which determines their tool selection.

If you are looking for a large wood cutting tool, then go for an axe. You can even choose a handaxe if you do not need its regular version. Else, go for a tomahawk for bushcraft and others.  purpose and  or other  of it. 

Use a hatchet for chopping. If you need more power and force for larger chunks of wood or for tree chopping, use an axe. If you need something in the middle use a handaxe. 

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