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Knives vs Hatchets!?

A guy on the forum was trying to say that knives are better woodchopping tools than hatchets and almost as good as axes. Is it just me, or does this sound pretty strange. If knives are more efficient, then why would we have ever invented the hatchet in the first place!? Somebody please give me your opinion on this.
I wish I could carry a hatchet everyday along with my knife!(It would make a heck of weapon) I think that it is ludicrous to state that a knife is superior to a tool (hatchet) specifically designed for the task of chopping. Is the pommel of a knife also better than a hammer for driving nails? OF COURSE NOT! A knife may be able to do many things well...but it can't do all things BETTER than tools that were designed to do a specific task.

My .02

Dec 15, 1998
Any specifics? In GENERAL, hatchets make better choppers, but there are exceptions to the rule. I have a 15" HI khukuri that I expect would outchop just about any hatchet made.
A knife, because of its having a sharper edge and more acute blade angle, WILL out hack an average hatchet given that the amount of effort or energy is equal. This is only because of the more efficient cutting edge on a knife. Because of the weight and balance of an average knife, it does not offer the kinetic potential of an axe, with all of its weight on the end of the handle where it can develop inertia more efficiently.

The drawback to having a sharp angle for impact cutting is that the edge will be much more suseptable to damage. Axes have fairly blunt grind angles, and are more so intended to retain their shape more than an edge. The inertia incurred by swinging the axe will more than overcome their not having a keen edge.

Given that wood cutting efficiency is matter of edge geometry and kinetic energy, it would not surprise me that there are a few large knives that would outhack a hatchet. A khukuri is a prime example. Larger hunting/camp knives that are heavy in the blade would be another. Then there is the venerable machete. I have one that I keep in the truck for trail clearing, and it is much more efficient to use on small trees than a hatchet or an axe. For larger trees I break out the 12 guage, but that is another story....

Axes do have their use, of course. In a area where there is plenty of swinging room, axes offer the the potential to get more work done. Axes and hatchets are better than knives in splitting wood because of their wedge shape, and because all of their energy potential is in the head of the axe/hatchet where the bulk of the weight of the tool it.

Ugh...Hopefully someone out there can decipher what I just said.....



"No, it's a Vaquero Grande in my pocket, but I am happy to see you!"
MegaFolderians Unite!!

Okay, we're talking hatchets here, not axes, just to confirm.

I wouldn't make a statement as strong as "knives outchop hatchets". First off, it obviously depends on the knife. An SRK won't beat a hatchet, but I'd expect the Ang Khola to blow most of 'em away. Second off, I haven't done enough testing myself to come to any hard conclusions. However, on rec.knives there are a few people who have done tests, and I seem to recall them coming to the same conclusions -- provided you pick the right kind of knife, it will outchop a hatchet. If we head over to rec.knives, maybe someone there will respond. I'm not married to either view yet.

But I will say this. For anytime I'm going out into the field, camping or cleaning up my back yard or whatever, a hatchet never seems like a great choice. It's too specialized, it's heavy, and more general tools like machetes or kukris can often fill the role as nicely or better, depending on what you're doing. I realize you didn't make any statements about hatchet usefulness, just about performance, but I thought I'd stir the pot a bit

Brock not all knives can out chop and out split hatchets, (and compete with axes) but some can, here's one:


The smaller knife is a Spyderco Endura.

If you are interested in what it can do here are some links you might find interesting:

<a href="http://www.physics.mun.ca:80/~sstamp/knives/20_ang_khola.html">

There are reviews of its smaller brother on the main page above that one.


[This message has been edited by Cliff Stamp (edited 10 February 1999).]
Yek, not all hatchets/axes have big thick edges. Serious woodcutting versions have a very thin edges and they are usually hollow ground with a very wide face that flairs out to about 2 times the width of the back. They are meant to take a very fine edge and hold it for a long time. They will not chip out on anything as soft as wood. The better hatchets have angled handles, that feature it not necessary on the axes of course.

What you are describing is more along the lines of a general utility axe/hatchet. They are designed for durability and splitting. Its what you would take to chop a section of sods out of your lawn for example.

I bought a cheap bolo at a flea market and put a better handle on it (built up with layers of latigo leather and filed and sanded to shape). I originally had the idea of cutting brush with it, but it also chops wood better than any hatchet I've ever used -- and it's lighter than most of them, too.

Why do hatchets exist? You can use the back of one for a hammer, and that might be useful for some people. I think most people who use hatchets just want something to chop with that's more portable than an ax -- and they've never tried a bolo or a kukuri or a machete.

The superiority of the bolo is clearest in cutting brush, a job it does easily where a hatchet would be practically useless, but it's clearly superior for chopping wood, too. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as I know in countries where bolos or kukuris or machetes or similar are common -- there aren't any hatchets.

-Cougar Allen :{)


I frankly wonder the same thing. People who cut trees for a living, they uses saws or axes, right? (or these days, chainsaws). Where in the world are hatchets in heavy use, anyone know?

Joe, hatchets are extreemly common around here and up until this generation wood was the way to heat your house and axes and hatchets were the way to knock it down, pair it up and cleave it up. Even though wood stoves are not as common now and chainsaws are used heavily, hatchets and axes are still fairly common.

You get the normal cheap wedged utility ones that just about everyone has for chopping and splitting. This is rarely used on wood (to chop, will be used to split) but for more "dirty" tasks just as sods and such. There are also woodcutting axes which are much thinner with angled handles, wood craftmen/carvers use them for rough work. They are used over Bolos / Khukuris / Machetes, because the latter have never been seen here and are generally glanced at and then passed over because of the "rambo" complex some people have towards large knives. Note as well that a decent hatchet/axe is fairly cheap. If you spent the same amount on a large knife you would get a piece of junk, however if you make sure that the handle is not pinned on (as that can be a fault point on cheap blades), you can most likely rehandle it as Cougar pointed out and have a decent knife.


[This message has been edited by Cliff Stamp (edited 10 February 1999).]
Well, I do a lot of wood cutting for my wood burning stove and I have an 18 inch hatchet(2 pound head). I also have a spec ops ats-34 machete and a khukuri both of which can out chop the hatchet. They have the weight and better edge angle. For the big jobs I use the big 10 pound Axe. I guess a huge arabian sword or huge 40 inch khukuri would easily outdo the Axe. I would venture that some of the better battle hatchets may work as well as my large knives, but not the fat, blunt store bought one. Besides most store hatchets or axes come convex ground.
Hatchets proliferate in Camp Grounds and hardware stores.

I think that they are axes for children personally. Haven't used one for much but choping kindling since I was big enough to swing an axe..

I do like the Hibben throwing hatchets, though. They just look mean. Reprofile that edge and they might actually be. Cheap steel shouldn't matter too much in that case.. it's a throwing hatchet.

I have to agree with Cliff here. My 15" Ang Khola HI khukuri will outchop any hatchet I have ever used (on wood, have not tested either on other substances). Plus, the khukuri will take a hair shaving edge again in no time on my Sharpmaker if I blunt it chopping.

My .02,

I came to this thread fairly late.....and gave up on it pretty quickly.
All the posts scroll off my screen.
Did someone post one of those bloody extra long "words" (damn...hope it does not become a form of amusement for the brain dead
)....or is it a result of the site maintenance process ? Haven't worked out all of the US time zones, yet.

Looks like an interesting thread, too.

Brian W E
ICQ #21525343

I`ve done quite a bit of firewood harvesting over the years and frankly I have no use for hatchets. I have a few including a really nice quality antique that takes a super edge ,still it won`t chop smaller stuff anywhere close to as good as my old Ontario machette and it`s not heavy enough to split well. Personally I favor an axe for big chopping jobs(barring a chainsaw),a maul for splitting,a machette for light chopping and brush clearing and a large "camp knife" for lighter chopping job and splitting jobs. If I had to choose just one I`d take the big "camp knife" for it`s versitility. In fact I`m working on a "camp knife" of my own designed for chopping and spliting to see just how far I can push the concept. Marcus
Are we talking hatchets or axes? Hatchets are handy for kindling but not much more, unless you count doing personal surgery on yourself. I find a kukri much handier (and safer) around the camp. An ax (3/4 length handle or longer) is far more versatile for chopping than any knife because of the leverage it affords, not to mention, the weight. Blade configuration also counts; a properly honed convex ax blade won't bind (usually). Machetes may be preferable in some parts of the world where people don't do a whole lot of felling of hardwoods, but even Hemingway in one of his African books wished he had a razor sharp Michigan double bit instead of "this sabering of trees." Any physics nerds out there care to comment?
Brian W E,

It wasn't my fault this time...I swear!.....And I didn't mean to do it last time.....ugh....everyone should just upgrade to decent computers.....



"No, it's a Vaquero Grande in my pocket, but I am happy to see you!"
MegaFolderians Unite!!

Ed the grind is not a big thing as you can get a knife ground whatever way you prefer your big chopper to be convex, concave, flat, sabre etc.

A decent woodcutters axe will far outperform a good chopping knife only where you can bring the full power of the axe into play. This is obvious but you have to keep in mind that this does require a *lot* of room.

For example my younger brother recently (a few years back) built a cabin for him and his friends. The wood that they cut for the rough framing and especially for burning was not clear cut. It was done by opening up crowded in growth and most often by removing trees that had been damaged by bad weather. He had to do a fair amount of cutting and he picked a decent knife (a large bolo) over an axe as he simply would not have had the room necessary for the axe to perform well.

Now of course if I had to clear out a lot or something that's a different story, but that's not something that you ever want to do in a survival/rescue/emergency/field situation, which is why axes are really not of much use there.

Let us not forget the Hudson`s Bay axe for horse and canoe.One lives in my P.U. and another in the inside wood crib.However,the HI ang khola will do the inside job as well and is more fun to use.Where reach is important, I`d just as soon not stoop that much but,the khkukri would certainly do the job.