What is a Pickaxe?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Pickaxes are simple hand tools that consist of a handle and a blade. The blade is usually double headed, with tapered protrusions at each end of the blade. In some cases, the pickaxe will feature a pointed end and a flat end on opposite sides of the blade, making the tool helpful in a wide range of tasks.

The blade of a pickaxe is usually double headed.
The blade of a pickaxe is usually double headed.

In most cases, the handle of the pickaxe is made of some type of hard wood. The handle will be anywhere from four to six feet in length, and will be similar to the handle used with any type of axe. In more recent times, the use of metal handles has become more common. There are also a few models of the pickaxe that make use of heavy duty fiberglass blends, although these are normally recommended for less labor intensive tasks.

Pickaxes are ideal tools for breaking up surfaces.
Pickaxes are ideal tools for breaking up surfaces.

The blade of the pickaxe is composed of some type of metal, often steel or some other hard metal. The most common design includes a two pronged body to the blade, with one of the prongs or spikes coming to a sharp point. The spike is usually constructed with a slight curve. The opposite prong may be a duplicate of the other, or may be configured with an end that is flat. In other designs, one of the prongs may resemble a common chisel.

A common pickaxe can be used for a number of common tasks. The spiked end is ideal for breaking up surfaces, such as concrete or hard ground. When equipped with a flat end on the blade, the pickaxe can also be used to slide under an object and pry it away from the surrounding area. When the chiseled prong is included in the design of the hand tool, the pickaxe becomes an ideal choice for cutting through roots as part of the removal of a tree stump.

There is evidence that the pickaxe is one of the oldest tools known to humanity. Its use is generally tracked back to prehistoric civilizations, and has over the centuries used for everything from cultivation to war. The sheer simplicity of the design along with the easy use of the tool make the pickaxe an ideal addition to just about any collection of tools.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


The article doesn't go into much detail about this, but I wonder how much of a variety of pickaxes there are. Obviously, there are the large and small kind, but I wonder I wonder if there are some that are more suitable for certain situations. I'll certainly be doing some research.


I can't believe that the pickaxe is one of humanity's oldest tools. It's a bit surprising, but then again, I should have expected it. There are a lot of items that can date back to ancient civilization. Apparently, once people knew how to use those tools, they were passed down from generation to generation. Now, here we are today, using them on a daily basis. Great article.


Does anyone know how much a pickaxe costs? I'll be doing some work on one of my trees soon, and want to make sure I don't spend too much.

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