What is a Hatchet?

In the past a hatchet was used to process deer after hunting.
Hatchets are small axes with handles about half the length of their larger counterparts.
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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 October 2014
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Hatchets are often described as a small ax that can be utilized with the use of one hand rather than two. Featuring a handle that is often half the length of the standard ax handle, the hatchet is a handy tool that can be used for a number of smaller jobs, such as cutting through thick shrubs or small limbs. Along with use in woodcutting, the hatchet has historically been used for other tasks around the home, as well as a weapon.

Hatchets were often used in frontier settings as a tool that could be used for a number of chores around the home. A hatchet is ideal for splitting sections of kindling into smaller sections, as well as cutting through small sections of wood, such as a young tree. In a time when many people hunted and killed game for use at the dinner table, the hatchet was also a great tool to use in cutting through the bone or cartilage of a deer carcass. Even with domestic animals, the hatchet would be just the right size to use in severing the heads from chickens, or as part of the tools that would be used to butcher a hog.


Along with use around the home, a hatchet has also been used as a weapon. Because the tool can be wielded with one hand, it is possible to use the hatchet with the same dexterity of a knife. The hatchet is common part of camping gear, simply because it is compact, and it provides both uses that are utilitarian in nature and also provides an element of protection in the wild.

The hatchet has also achieved a certain amount of prominence in the genre of horror films as well. Over the years, many movies would use hatchets as the weapon of choice that murderers would use for violent means. To a degree, this trend helped to obscure the more common uses of the hatchet. The result is that many people think of the hatchet in terms of being a weapon of destruction, rather than a useful tool.


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