Taking Inventory: Axe

In for the chop

Here’s a question for you – what’s the first tool you make when starting a new world? Is it a shovel, so you can dig out some dirt and make a rudimentary hut as quickly as possible? Is it a pickaxe so you can mine stone and get high-end tools fast? Or is it our item of the week – the axe – so that you can gather wood to make other tools fast?

Axes were first added to Minecraft in January 2010, in version 0.31. They were double-headed to begin with, then one of the heads was removed, then it was put back and the other removed to get the tool that we have today. They’ve stayed much the same over the years – with the biggest changes in the combat update, tweaking damage and attack speed.

To make one, you’ll need two sticks and then three planks, iron or gold ingots, cobblestone blocks or diamonds – arranged in the top left corner of the crafting grid.

The main point of axes is to chop wooden items faster, though they’re also pretty nifty as a weapon. A wooden axe will break a wood block twice as fast as by hand, a stone axe twice as fast again, and iron one another 30% or so faster. 

A diamond axe isn’t actually that much of an upgrade from iron in terms of speed – but it will chop more than six times as many items before breaking. Golden axes will only chop a handful of items before breaking, but they cut faster than any other material.

Damage-wise, there’s not much difference between the ranks. Wooden and golden axes do three and a half hearts worth of damage, the other types do four. Stone and wood axes attack fastest, which diamond and gold have the lowest recovery time. 

Balancing it up, if your attacking technique is perfect then you’ll do most damage per second with a diamond axe. But if you don’t attack again the very moment that the recovery meter fills, then you can do almost as much damage with a stone axe.

Axes are a pretty handy weapon if your opponent has a shield. Attacking a shield with an axe has a chance to disable it for five seconds – opening its holder up to much more damage. If you attack while sprinting, you boost that chance significantly. So if you’re facing a foe with a shield, then channel your inner viking and run in screaming with your axe held aloft.

Axes have been used by real-world humans for more than a million years. The stone-age hand axe, without a handle, is the longest-used tool in human history - we were using it about 1.5 million years ago to butcher dead animals, dig for food and water, chop wood and remove bark from trees. They were also sometimes thrown at prey.

The first axes with handles were in use about 6,000 years ago – usually by wedging a hand axe into a wooden stick. Sometimes rawhide lashings or birch tar were also used to hold it in place. 

Interestingly, we’ve found loads of elaborately-made ancient axes that don’t show any trace of having been used. That suggests they probably had some sort of religious or cultural significance – a theory backed up by the fact that they feature in superstition in many cultures.

There’s loads to say about axes, but we have to stop somewhere so let’s stop here. If you want to know more, all you need to do is axe.

Duncan Geere
Written By
Duncan Geere