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How to use a mattock?

How to use a mattock?

Mattocks are commonly used tools in gardening and landscaping. Read our full guide on how to use a mattock before you get started!

What are the different sides of a Mattock head used for?

The axe (vertical blade) on a cutter mattock is used to chop through roots in the ground.


The adze (large horizontal blade) is used to dig trenches and move earth and soil.


The pick on a pick mattock is used to break up hard earth as well as stones and rocks in the ground.


The claw on a claw mattock is used for cultivating and digging out weeds.

What is the correct technique for using a mattock?

Grasp the handle about halfway up with your dominant hand and place the other at the base.


Bend at the waist, keeping your back straight, knees flexed, and feet shoulder-width apart with one foot slightly forward. 

Raise the head of the mattock up to just above waist height and let the weight of the tool bring the head falling onto the ground in an arc.


Using short chops under the tool’s own weight will help save energy. Then to break up the soil and make a trench, use the handle as a lever and pull with your arms not your back to move the soil.

The vertical axe blade of a cutter mattock should be used to cut through roots and the adze to remove earth.


To break up or dislodge objects such as rocks in the ground where you are working then the pick section on a pick mattock should be used.

Are there any types of ground you can’t use a mattock on?

There is a mattock for all types of ground, however, it is important that you select the correct type of mattock and use the correct part of the head for the type of ground you are working on.

The adze should never be used on hard ground, rocks or for chopping roots. Instead, use a pick mattock pick for hard ground and rocks.

A cutter mattock axe should be used to cut roots in the ground.

Why use a mattock instead of another tool?

The combination of the adze and an axe or pick make the mattock two tools in one. The momentum of a heavy mattock axe will be more effective at cutting through tree and plant roots than a spade whilst the adze allows earth to be moved using the same tool.

Other uses for mattocks?

A pick mattock is also useful for breaking and levering up slabs and paving.


Mattocks can be useful tools in building demolition as well.

With the mattock blade between two pieces of wood that are nailed together and prying on the handle, a very large separating pressure can be achieved with the leverage. This is due to the length of the handle and the distance the leverage force is applied from the tip of the pick. This can be even more than some crowbars will achieve.

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