Hand Tools Archive

Broad hatchets

Bill Houghton, Sebastopol, CA
I've got a right-handed broad hatchet, which I've used some, in spite of being left-handed, and found useful for things like removing an inch from the edge of a board. I'm reluctant to cut off the perfectly good handle to change hands, and was pleased when, a while back, I picked up another one, a Plumb that weighs about 2-3/4 pounds, with a stub handle. I've been too busy to put a new handle on it as a left-handed tool, though.

In a recent garage cleanout, I scored yet another broad hatchet, this one set up left-handed and with a decent (not great, but decent) handle. It's noticeably thinner, smaller, and lighter, though, than either of the other two. It's also noticeably scruffier, so I haven't found the maker's name. It would require major work; it appears to have been used to trim concrete posts or elephant bones, and I'd have to regrind back 3/4" or so and establish a new bevel before I could begin to sharpen it.

My question today: what are the tradeoffs of weight in a broad hatchet? Is lighter or heavier better? If the heavier Plumb is what I should have, I won't waste time with the new one but will let some future buyer at the Habitat ReStore have that joy; but, obviously, if a lighter one has some virtues, it stays.

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