How To Hold an Axe: Different Swinging Techniques

You must know how to hold an axe to work with one. Yes, the Axe is a relatively simple tool, but you get a more efficient result if you hold it properly while working. Also, knowing how to hold an axe properly is important for safety.

A study in the American Journal of emergency medicine shows laceration as the most common axe injury. That shouldn’t happen to you. This post will look at how to hold an axe correctly.

Let’s begin by discussing the axe blade.

Should I Sharpen My Axe Before Use?

It would take double or triple the time and effort to cut with a blunt axe compared to a sharp one. As a result, you must sharpen your Axe before use, irrespective of what you want to do.

Your Axe also must be sharp for your safety. A blunt axe will easily stick in wood as you cut, refusing to pull out. As you struggle to pull it out, the axe head may go off and cause accidents.

If you own a splitting maul, it doesn’t need to be too sharp. A splitting maul relies less on the sharpness of the blade to split wood. Instead, it uses the axe head’s broad edge and fat cheeks.

On the other hand, if you own a regular axe or hatchet, it must be moderately sharp. These axes have concave, not broad, fat shapes like splitting mauls.

What if it’s a new axe? Well, the same applies. New axes also require sharpening as some sit in stores unused for a long time.

A man wielding an axe

(A man wielding an axe)

Tips to Hold an Axe Correctly

If your Axe is sharp, here’s how to ensure you’re holding it correctly while you cut:

Clear Your Swinging/Chopping Area.

First things first, your chopping or swinging area must be clear. Clear so that there will be sufficient room for you to swing your Axe.

Traditionally, you lift the Axe – above your head, most likely — and strike. If there’s any obstruction below, above, or around you, it could affect your swing. So, even if you hold the Axe correctly and firmly, the obstruction may still cause you to miss your mark. In a worse scenario, it’ll deflect the Axe and may hit you.

Lifting Axe To Swing

(Lifting Axe To Swing)

Hold The Axe Properly

Here’s how to hold an axe the correct way:

  • Place your dominant hand around the middle of the handle.
  • Place your other hand on the handle at the knob at the upper end. With this, your palm should face you.
  • Ensure you have a firm but the not-so-tense grip on the Axe with both hands.

You can lift and swing your Axe to hit your target with this. Your hands should remain firm on the Axe as it hits the target.

Picture of holding the axe correctly

(Picture of holding the Axe correctly)

Focus on accuracy first, not power.

As mentioned, you need a firm but not tense grip on the Axe. The goal is accuracy and not power. So, as you lift your Axe, don’t swing as hard as you can every time. Doing so will make you miss your target.

With your eyes on the target, deliver each hit with carefulness and concentration. You can pick up speed as you cut, so long as your grip remains firm.

Different Techniques To Swing An Axe

How you swing your Axe will differ based on the task at hand. Here are techniques for some common tasks:

Wood Splitting Technique

To split wood, you should raise the Axe high such that it’s above your head. Maintain a posture with your feet a bit apart.

Shoulder length is ok, or you can place one foot a few inches before the other. Then, let the axe drop on the wood. Lift the Axe again and repeat.

Splitting Wood With Axe

(Splitting Wood With Axe)

Tree Felling Technique

Falling trees with an axe require a different swinging technique since your target is vertical. So, you’ll want to swing your Axe at a somewhat horizontal angle to hit a particular spot.

Your feet should be in an at-ease position, and you should target the bottom of the tree. If you’re using a small axe, feel free to place one hand on the tree for balance while you cut with the other.

Tree Limbing Technique

Here, you’re cutting off the branches of a tree trunk. It’s straightforward and fairly easy, considering most tree branches are not thick. You should swing upward, and starting with branches facing upward is best.

Cut down trees

(Cut down trees)

Tree Bucking Technique

Bucking is usually next after limbing. This swinging technique is similar to splitting wood; you want to cut the branches into small pieces. Since it’s a branch, stand on it with space between your feet and cut the area in this space.

Contact Splitting Technique

It may be the simplest splitting technique. First, hit your Axe into the middle of the wood you want to split. The Axe will wedge into the wood. Don’t pull it out. Instead, lift the Axe with the wood and hit it on the chopping block. Continue until the wood becomes two parts.

splitting technique

(splitting technique)

How To Hold Different Axe Types For Different Tasks?

How you hold an axe won’t matter if you’re using the wrong axe type for your task. As a result, it’s important to know the right Axe for different tasks. Here are some common axe types and their best applications:

  • Forest Axe: These axes are ideal for chopping wood and can double as a range axe. They are relatively long, so your dominant hand should be closest to the blade while holding. Then, your other hand should be just a few inches away from the bottom of the handle.
  • Hatchet Axe: Hatchet axes are ideal for contact splitting. They are relatively small axes you can hold with a hand. However, some hatchets have long handles. While contact splitting with a hatchet axe, hold the Axe with the dominant hand and the wood with the other hand. Ensure you avoid placing your other hand near the top of the wood.
  • Broad Axe: if you’re dealing with large logs, a broad axe is your go-to. First, you must ensure the log is in a stable position. Ideally, placing it on a stand with wedges would be best. Then place your dominant hand close to the head of the Axe and the other hand just below it. You can swing and cut the long in a horizontal or vertical position.
Axe suspended on a tree trunk

(Axe suspended on a tree trunk)

How to Care for Your Axe?

It’s important to know how to hold an axe correctly. But it’s not all that will ensure safe and efficient usage. You can do that in three simple:

  • Ensure you keep your Axe in a storage location free from moisture and cold. These elements will do serious damage to the Axe’s wooden handle. Subsequently, it may cause the head to become loose, which can be dangerous.
  • Clean and oil your Axe from time to time. Cutting wood usually results in resin and sap spreading over the Axe’s head and handle. A heavy resin or sap coating will reduce the cutting efficiency of your Axe. So, it would be best if you cleaned it. And you can do that with paint thinner or lighter fluid. Subsequently, oil your axe head to prevent rust.
  • Finally, sharpen your Axe. From time to time, sharpen your Axe.
A clean axe

(A clean axe)


Knowing how to hold an axe will ensure you use it efficiently and safely. And, as discussed in the above post, it’s not difficult.

However, knowing how to hold an axe correctly may take some practice. So, take your time and carefully apply the techniques above.