Axe Vs. Chainsaw (What Is Better To Cut And Shape Wood?)

Last Updated on October 9, 2022 by Barry Gray

Have you ever been tasked with cutting down a tree and needed to decide whether to use an Axe or a Chainsaw?  They have been weighed up against each other, and the results are very interesting! Let’s find out more in Axe vs. Chainsaw!

The Axe and Chainsaw are closely matched in their ability to cut and shape wood. The Chainsaw is the more versatile tool as it can switch between tasks without adjusting the chain. An Axe is made to be job-specific; therefore, there are many designs on the market. 

Weighing the Axe and the Chainsaw up against each other reflects so much more than just tools that cut wood. There is an Axe and a Chainsaw for all your needs. Read on to find out more!

axe vs chainsaw

How Versatile Is An Axe And A Chainsaw  

Axes and Chainsaws are much more versatile than they appear. Although these two types of tools can perform similar tasks, the chainsaw is a tool that is quicker and easier to use. The chainsaw can fell a tree, split logs, and cut through the ice without changing settings or adjusting the chain.  

The Axe’s strength lies in its precision and simple design, but this is its shortfall as it is designed for only one or two tasks. An example of this is that a Tree Felling Axe will not be suited to split wood logs, as it will get stuck in the wood due to its sharp blade, but the Splitting Axe, with a duller wedge-shaped blade, will push the wood apart. 

Can An Axe And Chainsaw Be Used To Fell Trees? 

Felling Axes are used to cut down trees and have two main variants, the single and double bit (axe head).  The Axe’s weight, shape, and handle will vary depending on the type of wood being cut.  Felling axes need to be very sharp to be able to cut the fibers in the wood.

Chainsaws are used in tree felling and require minimal effort to cut through most trees. The Chainsaw can cut, buck, and do limbing of tree trunks without changing any settings. A 10amp electric or a 3.5bhp gas-powered Chainsaw will be able to cut through logs up to 18-inches.

Which Is Better For Splitting Wood, An Axe Or A Chainsaw?

splitting wood

Splitting logs for the fireplace has always been a time-consuming task, but with the right tools, you could do it quickly. The Splitting Axe is the perfect tool for splitting wood, and the blade does not need to be as sharp as the Felling Axe. The head of the Axe is wedge-shaped to allow the wood to split apart at the grain rather than cut.

Splitting wood with a Chainsaw may be easier than using an Axe, but it is much messier, as the Chainsaw’s teeth create sawdust. A chainsaw will be able to saw through larger diameter logs and cut the wood to the required size.  It would be advisable not to cut into the ground as this will dull the teeth on the chain.

Do Carpenters Use Axes And Chainsaws? 

If you love woodwork, an Axe and a Chainsaw should be in your shed, ready and waiting. A carpenter would have a Carpenters axe on hand as it is an ideal tool for woodwork.  The axe head and handle are perfectly shaped for gripping close to the blade for precision work, and the edge is sharp to allow shaving.

A Carpenter would have a Chainsaw on hand for larger tasks such as cutting 4 x 4 lengths or larger diameter woods and cutting out rough cuts for furniture. A Chainsaw can achieve precision cuts, but this will take practice. 

Axes And Chainsaws For Gardening 

axe and chainsaw

A Pruning Axe is small with a sharp broad blade and is used one-handed to cut thin branches, roots, and foliage. The Pruning Axe is similar to a hatchet but with a more delicate, sharper blade capable of slicing and chopping.

Smaller cordless and gas pruning Chainsaws are ideal for hedges and tree branches. Telescopic handles are available for the hard-to-reach or high-up areas that might require pruning. These smaller chainsaws will be able to cut through branches and roots up to 4 inches in diameter or can be used to trim hedges.

Which Cuts Through Ice Easier, An Axe Or A Chainsaw?

Whether used for ice fishing or just to cut blocks, most axes will chop through the ice.  The Mattock Dual Purpose Axe is the most common Axe used to chop ice. The Mattock Axe has an adze (perpendicular blade) on the head to assist with digging and removing ice chips. Cutting into ice will rapidly dull the axe blade and will require regular sharpening.

Chainsaws will easily cut through up to 12 inches of ice without breaking a sweat but be wary of the cold water and ice that will kick up as it cuts, so take care not to slip.  The oil from the Chainsaw blade can pollute ice fishing waters and is not allowed at some fishing spots, so please check the rules at the local fishing areas.

Axes And Chainsaws Used By Emergency Services

chainsaw emergency services

The Fireman’s Axe, Pulaski Axe, and Crash Axe have been synonymous with rescues since their introduction to emergency services.  The Fireman’s Axe is a combination axe with a blade and a pick that can break down doors and windows.  The Pulaski Axe is used for fighting wildfires and has a Felling Axe blade with an adze for digging fire breaks. 

The Crash Axe is a lightweight chopping axe equipped with a quarter circle semi-serrated blade with a pick on its butt.  It can cut through cupboards, sheet metal and has an electrically insulated handle.  Crash Axes are mandatory in aircraft with more than 19 seats.

The high-power gas Rescue Chainsaw has an 18-20 inch guide bar and can cut through roofs, ventilation hatches, car doors, and even bulletproof glass.  Rescue Chainsaws are in most rescue vehicles, such as Fire trucks, as they are essential in rescue operations.

Axes And Chainsaws For Survival

Similar to a hatchet, a Survival Axe is a common Axe used for camping and praised by survivalists. The Axe is lightweight and can be used one-handed, and often features a nail claw integrated into the blade with a hammer on the butt. Some Survival Axes can have several other features: para-cord wrapped handles or removable handles with storage areas for Ferro rods and other survival gear.

The odds of finding yourself in a survival situation with a powered Chainsaw are going to be rare. The solution is to carry a pocket Chainsaw. This manual Chainsaw has an abrasive wire/chain connected between two handles and can be used to saw through small trees and branches. It uses an abrasive cutting technique, so the cut is often smooth and precise. 


An Axe is a simple tool that is straightforward and reliable but is designed for specific tasks.  The mechanical Chainsaw requires more maintenance but will complete the tasks with little fuss. 

Although the Axe and the Chainsaw each have their place in the toolshed, the mighty Chainsaw is more versatile and is the best cutting tool.

Photo of author

Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.

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