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( Pick-axe.png
Name pick-axe
Appearance pick-axe
Damage vs. small 1d6
Damage vs. large 1d3
To-hit bonus +0
Weapon skill pick-axe
Size one-handed
Base price 50 zm
Weight 100
Material iron

A pick-axe is a very useful tool that can be used as a weapon. A similar item is the dwarvish mattock.

The pick-axe is classified as a tool in the inventory, while the dwarvish mattock is classified as a weapon.


Main article: Digging

A pick-axe can be (a)pplied to dig into walls or through the floor, or to smash doors, boulders and statues. If you apply it upward, a rock will fall from the ceiling and bonk you on the head. If you have the autodig option enabled and are currently wielding a pick-axe or mattock, you can dig into walls or the ground by simply walking into them (or pressing >). This does not work for boulders, statues, or doors.

Pick-axe skill

Max Role

In the #enhance screen, the pick-axe skill applies to both the pick-axe and the two-handed dwarvish mattock (unidentified appearance of which is "broad pick"). There are no artifact pick-axes.


Pick-axes make up about 0.5% of randomly generated tools (on the floor, as death drops and in shops). Archeologists start with a +0 pick-axe.[1]

Dwarves are often generated with pick-axes (or dwarvish mattocks) in their inventory. The probability is about 33% for a pick-axe and 12.5% for a mattock.[2] A dwarf with a pick-axe will automatically dig through the walls of its dungeon level and will pick up any gems it happens across. If you spend a lot of time on this level, the dwarf will eventually tear up a good portion of it.

Elvenkings are also eligible to be generated with pick-axes; the guaranteed Elvenking on the Plane of Earth has a 66% chance of carrying a pick-axe.[3]


Pick-axes (and mattocks) have many uses that make them valuable tools to carry around:

  • You can smash boulders. This is useful if they are in your way, or if you want to create some rocks to throw or sling. (Breaking boulders in Sokoban causes a -1 Luck penalty, unless you are on a level you have already solved in version 3.6.0.)
  • You can smash statues to find the spellbooks that might be inside.
  • You can search for vaults and loot them.
  • If a particular dungeon level has a very long or circuitous path between staircases, you can cut a shorter path to ease your future travels through the level. This is particularly useful in maze levels in Gehennom.
  • Most levels have gems and gold embedded in the walls, and you can mine for them. This is generally a waste of time, but it might be useful if you're an archeologist attempting the protection racket.
  • You can steal from a shop with the help of a pick-axe: Pick up all the shop's merchandise, then escape from the shop by digging downward through the floor. Be cautious when using this technique, however, as shopkeepers are capable of stealing everything you are not wearing or wielding as you fall through the floor. (You can help to prevent this by digging a series of pits around the shopkeeper to prevent him from reaching you.) This will also result in an angry shopkeeper and a horde of Keystone Kops on the level of the shop, so be careful when you come back through. Shopkeepers will preempt this theft by blocking you from entering their shop with a pick-axe or mattock in your main inventory, although you may still sneak it inside in a container or throw it through the door diagonally.

Killing dwarves is an easy way to find a pick-axe. (If your character is dwarven, make sure not to eat or sacrifice their corpses!) Players often head towards the Gnomish Mines, where many dwarves are auto-generated, with the specific purpose of obtaining a pick-axe. Like most tools, pick-axes are always generated uncursed, so it is safe to wield one that you find as long as you are not on a bones level; this does not extend to mattocks, which are considered weapons and not tools.

The main issue with pick-axes is that they are quite heavy (100 units, or 1/10 of maximum carrying capacity); players at the beginning of the game may not be able to carry one in addition to their other items and remain unburdened. This problem is reduced somewhat once you have a bag of holding, although players who are digging frequently (for instance, to move around in mazes in Gehennom more easily) will probably not want to put their pick-axe in a bag and necessitate removing it every few turns. If you choose not to carry a pick-axe, wands of digging and wands of striking together will accomplish everything a pick-axe does, although they have limited charges, which makes some uses like mining impractical.

It is possible to increase the speed at which you dig with a pick-axe by various means.


Players who are aiming for the weaponless conduct must be very careful when using pick-axes: bumping into a monster while digging or forgetting to unwield the pickaxe before fighting again will break the conduct. This is so easy to do that some players recommend not using a pick-axe at all if attempting weaponless.


Shopkeepers will not allow you into their shops if you have a pick-axe in your inventory. You can either drop it at the entrance to the shop (the doorway will not work) or place it into a container.


In SLASH'EM, pick-axes weigh just 75 units.


The mine is full of holes;
With the wound of pickaxes.
But look at the goldsmith's store.
There, there is gold everywhere.

[ Divan-i Kebir Meter 2, by Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi ]

See also


This page may need to be updated for the current version of NetHack.

It may contain text specific to NetHack 3.6.0. Information on this page may be out of date.

Editors: After reviewing this page and making necessary edits, please change the {{nethack-360}} tag to the current version's tag or {{noversion}} as appropriate.