Ask any novice or professional wood chopper what is a hatchet used for, and the answer would probably be chopping down wood.
Even though this is the primary use of a hatchet, there are myriad other situations where this tool could prove handy.
Before revealing the many uses of a hatchet, it is wise to educate yourself on what is a hatchet, so that you can put the best hatchet to the test in the right situation.
- 1 What is a Hatchet?
- 2 What Is a Hatchet Used For?
- 3 Top 5 Hatchet Uses
- 4 Parts of a Wood Splitting Hatchet
- 5 Sharpening A Hatchet
- 6 How to Care for a Hatchet?
- 7 How to Use a Hatchet?
- 8 Hatchet Throwing is the New Bowling
- 9 Conclusion
What is a Hatchet?
A hatchet is defined as a single-handed striking tool that is equipped with a sharp blade on one side and hammerhead on the other side. This type of hand axe is designed to be used by one hand and offers a variety of uses, most of them for tasks that require the use of a pocket knife when it is not present.
But why use a hatchet and not an axe? The fact is that an axe is a broad tool and one that is also heavy, but a hatchet is a scaled-down version of an axe, and is lighter and compact, and can be carried around easily.
What Is a Hatchet Used For?
If you are wondering what is a hatchet used for, You can still do most of the same stuff that you would with an axe, but the tasks will take a bit longer to complete, and may require extra effort. When shopping for the best backpacking hatchet, you will be spoilt for choice given the plethora of options to choose from, some made with a poor heat treat, and others with a solid wooden handle.
Top 5 Hatchet Uses
Apart from chopping, splitting and carving wood, there are several other hatchet uses, most notably:
1. Snapping off dry branches
You can, of course, use your hand to snap off dry branches, but why do that when you have a hatchet handy. The fact is that a massive tree doesn’t make the best firewood because you have to put in a fair bit of effort to get it down to sizable wood. Dead, dry branches are ideal sources of firewood and can be knocked down easily with the hammer of your hatchet, and usually with just a couple blows.
2. Sharpening it with a stick
Even though you can use a sharpening stone to sharpen your hatchet, you can also do it with a nice, green branch from a tree. Grab a branch, trim it to a couple of feet long and then skin its bark with your hatchet. Next step is to dip it in water, apply pressure and rub it in the sand and then sharpen your hatchet.
3. Process game
If you’ve just finished hunting and have killed a big animal, you can separate its joints and quarters with your hatchet rather than using a little skinning knife.
4. Build a shelter
You can use your hatchet to quickly gather a whole bunch of material needed to construct a temporary shelter when you need one. A hatchet can accelerate the process compared to gathering dead, fallen material with your hands, which is why it makes sense to carry the best backpacking hatchet when you head outdoors.
5. Snow and ice tool
Shoveling snow in itself can be a daunting task, especially hard ice that’s accumulated over several days. A hatchet can be used to break the snow down into smaller pieces, and then scoop it up with a shovel. You can also use your hatchet to make a hole through a layer of ice to access water but makes sure you only chop through the ice when you’re ready to access the water because you will get soaking wet.
Parts of a Wood Splitting Hatchet
A hatchet is not a complex tool, but generally consists of two primary sections – hatchet head or blade and handle. However, there are several facets of these two primary parts, such as the heel of bit, belly, shoulder, and grip. The best hatchet is one that comes with a high-quality head because it needs to cut and cut well.
The quality of the head is defined not only by its sharpness but also its thickness, and this is because if the area right behind the blade edge widens quickly, the hatchet will not penetrate well regardless of how sharp the blade happens to be.
Adding to this, it will in most cases also glance off a tree when swinging at a sharp angle rather than biting into the wood. The head of the hatchet should also be nice and smooth because any abrasions or dings on its head could affect its penetration efficiency.
The two critical aspects of a hatchet handle are its overall length and material, where the longer it is, the easier it will be to generate swing speed and force. However, long hatchet handles may not be great for everyone as they are a bit heavier and consequently add to the overall weight of the tool.
Hatchet handles can be made from several different materials, but are most commonly crafted with wood, metal or fiberglass. Wood handles are a rugged choice, while most fiberglass handles come with a rubber grip. Metal hatchet handles, although strong and durable, are also the heaviest out of the three options.
Hatchets, just like most other tools do require periodic maintenance for them to continue to deliver top-notch performance. Sharpening a hatchet is one of the many ways to care for a hatchet, and can be done in several different ways and tools. If you have a grinder, you can use it to get rid of extensive nicks or to reprofile the blade.
The downside, however, to using a grinder for sharpening a hatchet is that the metal can quickly get overheated and lose its temper as a result. A hand file is the most commonly used tool to sharpen both hatchets and axes, and although it does take a bit longer and a little more effort, it does not damage the head of the hatchet.
If you can’t get your hands on a file, a sharpening stone is your next best solution to sharpening your hatchet. Sharpening stones have two sides to them – fine and coarse, and using one is easy, where you start by wetting the stone with a bit of oil or lubricant, then run it in both directions along the sides of the hatchet blade with even pressure.
When the edge of the blade is clean with the coarse side of the sharpening stone, flip it over to the fine side and repeat the same process until its good and sharp. If you still aren’t satisfied with the sharpness of your hatchet blade after using the solutions mentioned above, you can strop the edge of the hatchet on a pure leather belt.
There are several ways to test hatchet sharpness, most commonly yet a bit risky is by running it don your forearm to see if it cuts your hair. If you feel this technique is too dangerous, grab a piece of paper and cut it in half with the hatchet. Apart from keeping your sharp at all times, you can also coat it with beeswax or a little WD40 to protect its head from the harsh elements.
How to Care for a Hatchet?
Since the handles of most of the best hatchets are made from premium hickory wood or similar material, they will need a slightly different treatment to enhance their longevity. Most hatchet users occasionally wipe down the handle with linseed oil and remove any excess that may have been left behind.
It is also a good idea to cover your hatchet blade with a sheath, which is generally made from leather and should be oiled or pampered with a leather treatment. Moreover, if the head of the hatchet does become loose, do not soak it in water, but rather take it into your local hardware store to be fixed by professionals if you aren’t sure on how to fix it.
How to Use a Hatchet?
Chopping wood or cutting down trees is one of the most common uses of a hatchet, and requires the use of the proper technique to get the job done efficiently and quickly. Start by selecting the area that you’d like to cut, and then imagine a wide V shape with a point ending at least in the middle of the tree trunk.
Now start to cut from the top and the bottom, and should notice the material between the two ends of the V fall off or can be removed easily with a slight twist of the hatchet when a cut is made.
Continue the cutting process until you reach the end of the V, and then repeat this process on the other side of the tree trunk. When you notice the V get wider, the faster you will be able to remove the wood from the tree, and the further your cut will go.
Splitting wood is generally done with an axe, but you can use a hatchet as well for the job. Start by taking the log and placing it on a tree stump, and then hit it spot on with the hatchet. Since the hatchet is a small tool, it is best to split wood with it in the kneeling position, because it may hit your leg if you’re standing.
Another tip when splitting wood with a hatchet is to not perform this task directly on the ground as you may damage the edge of the hatchet if the wood splits and it goes into the ground.
If you’d like to split a small log with a hatchet, you can hold the log with one of its ends, set the blade of the hatchet on the other end of the log, lift both together, and then apply pressure and bring them both down on another piece of wood or hard flat surface.
Carving wood with a hatchet is one of the most underutilized aspects of the tool. Once you learn how to carve wood with a hatchet, you will be able to easily and quickly complete your carving projects, because you can use more force with a hatchet than you can with a carving knife.
Hatchet Throwing is the New Bowling
Combining alcohol and throwing a hatchet may not seem like a good idea, but believe it or not, it is an incredibly safe and fun sport when played in a controlled environment.
This sport isn’t new, but it is just taking flight in the western world, especially in Canada where hatchet throwing is on the rise, where participants have already thrown roughly 20 million axes to date according to the National Axe Federation (NATF).
One of the best things about hatchet throwing facilities is even they are bit low key, they are easily accessible for young and old. A hatchet throwing facility typically looks like a warehouse, one with massive duty walls and high ceilings.
A wooden target is placed on the wall in a similar way as a dartboard and features three different size and colored circles. Throwers take aim and throw their hatchets at the target and earn points depending on where it lands. Generally, hitting the bull’s eye will get you five points, three for the circle surrounding it, and one of the hatchets lands in the outer circle.
A hatchet may seem like a tool that’s just designed for cutting and splitting wood, but it can come handy in a variety of situations. Regardless of what purpose you use the hatchet, it is highly essential to take precautionary measures when using this tool, such as wearing safety glasses and hand gloves.
It is essential to sharpen to your hatchet so that it is ready for action when you need it and to increase its longevity. If you’ve never used a hatchet before, it is a good idea to read and watch videos on how to use a hatchet properly to use it the right way and prevent any injury to yourself and others.