Mattock vs Pulaski: Which Gardening Tool is Best?

Tending your garden should be fun, that is; if you choose to do it yourself, instead of hiring help. Should you use a Mattock or Pulaski?

In the past 7 months, I have been using the Pretul Truper Pick Mattock. It’s quite cheap, check the price on Amazon here.

Choosing the appropriate tool for your garden is the first step in converting the backyard into the garden of your dreams, for growing vegetables or flowers.

What’s the difference between Mattock and Pulaski and which is better?

The difference is that the Mattock is an old gardening tool, made up of a two-ended head and a shaft. Mattock has a sharp Axe useful for cutting roots, the adze is like a chisel for digging the hard ground, while the Pulaski is used for clear bushes, digging, and landscaping.


Gardening is a sport, just like taking a jog or visiting the gymnasium, you can also get that tan from enjoying the sunlight while gardening.

For centuries man have evolved from using crude equipment like sticks, stones and bare hands to more complex tools made of iron.

The discovery of iron ore was the milestone for the development of more complex tools because it could be easily molded into the shape and weight one required.

Early iron tools were heavy, hard to sharpen, and often got rusty, but with later advances and developments, lighter, sharper, and more effective tools were developed.

Gardening isn’t for the fainthearted as it involves digging and breaking new grounds, removing stumps and roots, digging through stones and wet ground.

Choosing the right gardening tool

A tool that is flexible, multiuse, light, and effective is the one you should choose for gardening.

Debates have evolved on the best tool to use between the traditional mattock and the Pulaski of which, both are effective depending on the task assigned.

Life is made up of choices, when you have the option of choosing between a mattock and a Pulaski, both tools perform nearly the same tasks, but choosing the perfect tool that will provide a mix of the two equipment is the lingering question.

For insight let’s look at the tools individually:



A mattock is made up of a two-ended head and a shaft.

On the end of the head positioned opposite to each other are an axe and adze, while some are equipped with a pick and adze.

The axe is sharp and is used for cutting roots, hard ground, ice, and digging, while the adze resembles a chisel and is used for digging hard ground especially making holes where minimum tillage is done.

The adz is perpendicular to the handle and contrasts the axe in that the axes edge is parallel to the handle.

Primarily, the mattock is a hand tool used for digging, prying, and chopping.

Similar to the pickaxe, it has a long handle and a stout head which combines either vertical axe blade with a horizontal adze (cutter mattock) or a pick and an adze mattock.

A cutter mattock is similar to a Pulaski.

Pulaski Axe

Mattocks are the most versatile of hand planting tools.

They can be used to chop into the ground with the adze and pulling the soil towards the user, opening a slit to plant into.

They can also be used to dig holes for planting into and are particularly useful where there is a thick layer of ice or matted sod.

The adze of a mattock is useful in digging or for hoeing especially in hard soil.


As a simple but effective tool, mattocks have a long history. Their shape was already established by the bronze age in Asia Minor and ancient Greece.

According to Sumerian mythology, the mattock was invented by the god Enlil. Mattocks are the most commonly depicted tool in Byzantine manuscripts of Hesiod’s Works and Days.

Mattocks made from antlers first appear in the British Isles in the Late Mesolithic.

They were probably used chiefly for digging and may have been related to the rise of agriculture.

Mattocks made of whale bone were used for tasks including flensing stripping blubber from the carcass of a whale by the broch people of Scotland and by the Inuit.

Mattock weight

A mattock head weighs about 1.5- 3 kgs and the shaft is 0.9- 1.2 meters long.

The heavy end of the mattock makes it effective as it uses its weight to wedge into the ground.

Mattock handle

The handle is made of wood which is about 3-4ft or 0.9-1.2m long.

There are two types of mattocks, the cutter mattock, and the pick mattock.

Cutter mattock, equipped with an axe and an adze. The axe-shaped edge is used to cut stumps and roots. The cutter mattock resembles a Pulaski.

Pick mattock, equipped with a pick and an adze. The pick is spike-shaped and is used to dig through rocks, hard soil and digging trenches. The pick mattock is called a pickaxe.

Uses of a mattock

A mattock is used for digging through roots, digging trenches, leveling rocks, breaking hard soil, chopping roots, cutting through asphalt and old concrete, and removing old tree stumps


The edges of a mattock are slightly sharp; as it is suited for digging through the ground and not heavy cutting or tree felling.

A disadvantage of using a mattock

Using a mattock is a daunting task as it involves a lot of stooping and bending, it is also heavy to lift and drive into the ground.


The Pulaski, on the other hand, resembles a cutter mattock with an axe on one side and an adze on the other.

The handle is made of fiberglass, wood, or plastic that is rigidly fixed into the head.

The Pulaski was initially used to clear bushes and prepare paths for forest fire fighting.

The tool was developed by Edward Pulaski — a Forest Ranger in the early 20th century, it incorporated the idea of the axe and the traditional mattock into a lighter and more effective tool.

The idea of the Pulaski came in hardy as firefighters could comfortably use one tool in between tasks instead of carrying an axe and a mattock.

This is a special hand tool used in fighting wildfires that combines an axe and an adze in one head.

Similar to a cutter mattock, it has a rigid handle of wood, plastic or fiberglass.

Uses of a Pulaski

  • The Pulaski has evolved to being used as gardening, digging and landscaping tool nearly similar to the tasks performed by a mattock.
  • The Pulaski is used for constructing fire breaks able to dig soil and chop wood.
  • It is also well adapted for trail construction and can be used for gardening and other outdoor work for general excavation and digging holes in root bound in hard soil.

The material of Pulaski’s head

To ensure durability and sharpness a Pulaski is made up of strong materials like steel, iron, and carbon steel.

The carbon steel head is more preferred because it is durable and does not rust or break easily considering the heavy task it performs.

Pulaski handle

For work efficiency, the handle of the Pulaski is made of strong, smooth and sturdy material; either wood, fiberglass or plastic.

The handle comes in a variety of lengths while choosing the best handle length it is good to consider your arm length and your height to minimize bending and stooping.

Pulaski weight

The type of material and size of the Pulaski will determine the overall weight of the Pulaski.

A heavy Pulaski is suited for cutting, although it might not be easy to work with whereas a light Pulaski is easier to work with but not suitable for cutting. They come in different varieties and the choice will depend on the end-use.


The axe and adze part of the Pulaski should be sharp to ease cutting and minimize the force used to cut through objects or soil.

A blunt tool will not be effective and might even injure the user when it bounces back instead of slicing through as intended.

A disadvantage of using a Pulaski

Raising the tool above the user’s head while swinging may according to one author waste energy and create a safety hazard. It will also drain your energy faster leaving you exhausted if you handle the tool poorly.

Mattock or Pulaski: Which is the best?

Between a mattock and a Pulaski, I recommend the Pulaski because it’s an improvement of the mattock. Its versatility: meaning, its ability to multitask without having to carry a whole toolbox to the garden.

Just imagine in the place of a hoe, axe, a rake, an auger bit and other tools you need only to carry one tool, a Pulaski.

It makes work easier and faster as you carry only one tool. This does not mean that you cannot have other complementary tools as per your needs.

A Pulaski will take care of your pockets as it does not equal purchasing a whole toolset.

How to Care for a Pulaski

All tools require care for them to function properly, here are some tips on how to reap the maximum from your tools

  • Clean the tools after work, gardening tools are always in contact with the soil, the Pulaski is not an exception, clean it after work to remove soil and plant debris around the edges. For long storage, you can wipe it with an oil-soaked cloth to exempt rusting.
  • Sharpen, ensure that the cutting edge is always sharp when carrying out a task, to minimize the effort used. You should sharpen whenever necessary to minimize wearing the blade, this will ensure a longer lifespan. 
  • Replace the handle, wooden handles tend to break or get burnt, replace the handle whenever the need arises.
  • Secure the head, ensure that the head is firmly fixed to the handle to avoid injury, a firm tool will also work effectively.
  • Sheath it up, a Pulaski comes with a leather casing for protecting the head during transportation or storage. The sheath should always be put in place to minimize transportation injuries.

How to use a Pulaski

  • Hold the handle firmly, with the dominant hand in the middle and the other at the edge.
  • Place one foot slightly forward for support, flex the knees, bend a little at the waist and keep the back straight.
  • Lift the tool to the waist and let it to the ground, the weight of the mattock will drive it to the cutting surface.
  • When digging rocks, ice, hard ground and over ice always use the pick side of the tool. Push forward to dislodge rocks, soil, and roots.

The Pulaski is awesome

We appreciate everything that nature has to offer because it is offered equally to anyone who ventures outside, and it’s no surprise to us that we have found the same appreciation for the Pulaski axe.

It offers itself to any man or woman who is willing to accept the challenge of chopping wood, clearing branches from logs, digging ditches or even cutting through stubborn vegetation.

The Pulaski axe is so named after Ed Pulaski who volunteered as a firefighter.

Ed Pulaski’s experience on the frontline of a forest fire helped him to realize the need for a hand axe that could chop wood as well as dig up root-bound soil – the Pulaski axe or cutter mattock, a tool with a single head combining an axe blade on one side and for chopping and an adze on the other side for digging or scrapping bark from trees.


Working in your yard with barebones axe means you can chop through roots and clear ground for flower beds or vegetable gardens with ease.

The adze side of the tool has a sharp, curved mattock blade that simultaneously slices roots as it scoops through the dirt.

Quickly and efficiently dig spaces for your seedlings, then head to your woodpile and split logs with the same multipurpose axe in hand.

The Pulaski axe barebones have a weighted head that breaks through logs and roots with short, quick chops and the compact design makes it a great axe for women and men who want to head outside and clear brush or split logs for campfires.

The wood handle is strengthened with a full steel core, so the weight of the axe head is balanced for a smooth chop with each swing.

Weighing just over 5lbs, the barebones axe is portable enough to be carried into the backcountry without weighing down your pack so you can keep a wood splitting axe on hand however far you plan to go.


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