The pickaxe: different shapes for different uses

The pickaxe is probably one of the oldest known tools. Its use probably dates back to the time when iron began to be worked. The pickaxe is mainly used in masonry for earthworks, in mines and especially in gardens. Its shape is slightly different for one or the other of the activities.

What is a pickaxe?

A pickaxe is a simple tool that includes a metal head with a point at one end and often a blade at the other, mounted on a long wooden or fiberglass handle. The piece of metal forms an angle of almost 90 degrees with the handle. The metal head has a pointed peak, which curves slightly, and nowadays often features a counterweight which is most often a blade or other peak. The weight of the head of the pickaxe is thus balanced and this improves its use.

A pickaxe is mainly used to break up hard ground or stone. Its pointed end is mainly used to break up hard surfaces such as concrete, stone or dry hardened earth. Its other end is mainly used for lifting open cracks in the ground or in stone.

The story of the pickaxe

As said earlier, the pickaxe is considered to be one of the oldest tools used by mankind. Its use dates back to prehistoric civilizations and has been associated over the centuries with different fields that range from the cultivation of agricultural land to mining and warfare. On some reliefs from antiquity, soldiers are seen storming a city and depicted using pickaxes to destroy and loot the city. We find the tool used by warriors in the Middle Ages. They are riders who use it like a hammer. The main use of the pickaxe was during battle to knock riders off their mounts or to pierce their thick armor which could not be pierced by a simple sword. Its heavy weight, however, made it unwieldy and was easily avoided by the enemy.

The pickaxes were then used for the railway construction of the 19th century. Then they were exploited in the coal mines. It is still a mining method used in some countries today, such as Colombia, Peru and parts of Africa.

Finally, pickaxes served their purpose in the First World War. Sometimes whole, sometimes just their sleeves which allowed the creation of other weapons.

What is the difference between a pickaxe and a towel?

A serfouette has a wide horizontal blade, usually with a pointed peak at the other end of the head, while a pickaxe has a sharp peak at one end of the head and a narrow blade at the other. Today, the terms pickaxe and hoes may be used to mean the same thing, but they are actually different tools.

What are the different types of pickaxes?

The digger’s pickaxe

Digger pickaxes get their name from their use in masonry and construction. These are the most common type of pickaxe used today. They can also be used by archaeologists.

Miner’s pickaxe

The miner’s pickaxe was used in coal mines. It has a shorter handle than the previous one to facilitate its use in the confined spaces of a mine. Mining picks are still available today although they are much less common than digging picks.

The gardening pickaxe

It is undoubtedly the instrument that we know best. A garden pickaxe is used for a variety of tasks like digging holes or trenches and breaking up hard or rocky ground.

How do you best store your pickaxe?


Pickaxes are no exception and like most tools should always be cleaned before being put away. Any mud or dirt should be brushed off either the headstock or the handle. And if the tool is wet, it must be dried.

Rust prevention

If your pickaxe is to be stored in wet conditions, the head should be lightly coated in oil or wrapped in an oily rag to prevent it from rusting.

Maintenance of the wooden handle

You can coat your wooden handle with linseed oil to prevent it from warping. This will help preserve it and prevent it from rotting.

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