How to Make a Tomahawk in 5 Steps
The tomahawk is a tool and weapon created by Native American tribes before the European colonization. It consists of a stone attached to a wooden handle with strips of rawhide. Native Americans used the tomahawk for everyday activities like chopping, cutting and hunting.
After the Europeans arrived, they introduced metal blades to the Native Americans which were well-received since metal does not shatter as easily as stone and could be adapted for other uses. Other variants, like the pipe tomahawk, were created by the European artisans and were given to the natives as diplomatic gifts.
Till this day, the tomahawk remains a very simple but effective tool and weapon. It is still used by the U.S. Army rangers while tactical survivors use it to chop trees and hunt for food.
Standard Requirements for Tomahawk Competitions
Tomahawks should meet certain regulations for competitive events, according to the World Axe Throwing League rules. Some of the most important rules include:
- The head should not weigh more than 2 pounds.
- The length of the handle should be 12 inches minimum
- The handle of the tool can only be made of wood, steel or plastic
Materials for Making Tomahawk
These days, the modern versions of the tomahawk can be made from several different materials to ensure proper weight and improve versatility. For tactical survivors, tomahawks should be made of high-quality durable materials that can hold up against the shock of a blow or general wear and tear. Tactical tomahawks should also be honed so that the blade remains sharp even after continuous use.
Usually, tomahawks are made of high-quality steels so that they do stay protected from rust and last a long time, no matter what use you put to it. Steel can also be easily sharpened and can be honed to a thin edge that you can use to cut several different types of material. This makes it convenient and easy to use.
These tomahawks mimic the style of the early Native Americans and are made out of stone which can be whittled to create the traditional look. Stone tomahawks are more difficult to make and cost extra effort. No two stone tomahawks are ever exactly the same because they are designed individually. This means the stones may retain a natural defect or they can be prone to chipping. The more you sharpen and thin out the blade, the more chances are of the stone chipping. Tactical survivors need to be careful and cautious when using these types of tomahawks.
Technique #1: How to Make a Tomahawk [Steel]
Although tomahawk is a simple tool, you will need the right kind of tools to make sure it turns out properly. Here are some basic tools that you will need to make a properly-functioning steel tomahawk.
- A quarter-inch thick steel plate
- A three-quarter inch heavy metal pipe coupling
- A 20-inch hardwood or metal rod
- Welding equipment
- Drill and drill bits
- File or a grinding wheel
- Vice or handsaw
Step 1: Making the Head
For this, you will need your steel plate. Alternatively, other metals like iron, copper and brass can also be used. Draw lines on the metal plate, which are three and a half inches in height and about 5 inches in length. You should then mark the curves of the blade. Even though the exact shape of your DIY steel tomahawk blade will differ slightly from one ax to another, the edge of the blade should be slightly round. The most popular form is the half-moon shaped edge.
To cut the metal plate you can use a handsaw or even better, a vice, which will prevent the steel plate from shifting when you are cutting it and give it a more precise shape. The rule of the thumb is that the longer the blade surface, the more easily a throw will stick.
Finally, the blade needs to have a keen edge. Most tactical tomahawk blades are sharpened to a 300 edge and are beveled on both sides.
Step 2: Welding the Blade to the Pipe Coupling
Leave the sharpened blade where it is and position the three-quarter-inch pipe coupling so that it is flushed with the butt of the blade and weld it into place. Make sure that the blade is completely straight or your tactical tomahawk will not work well.
Step 3: Making the Handle
Take your hardwood or metal pipe and cut it to the length of your forearm, from your elbow to the top of your closed fist. The length of the best tactical tomahawks is usually between 17 to 21 inches; however, you can chop it shorter if you think the handle is too long for you.
The length of the handle should be estimated carefully as it determines the rotational speed of the ax when it is thrown. The shorter the ax, the quicker it will spin.
Step 4: Attaching the Handle to the Blade
The next step is to weld the butt of the blade to the top of the handle. If you are using a vice, you should keep the clamp the blade head into place and then screw the handle to the pipe coupling.
Step 5: Removing the Burrs
Your tomahawk is now almost completely done. All you need to do is to remove any burrs created from cutting metals or wood. If you skip this task, your hand may become snagged in the burrs on the handle and become cut. Luckily, this part only takes a few short moments.
Technique #2: How to Make a Stone Tomahawk
Stone tomahawks were invented centuries before Europeans created the steel version and were used to create complex and massive dwellings for Native Americans. One technique they used was called the “pecking and grounding.”
The basic raw materials to make a stone tomahawk include:
- Hardwood from oak, birch, maple or ash
- An oval and flat rock about the size of a grapefruit. The rock should be without cracks and hard but not so much that you cannot shape it.
- An even harder stone for pecking and pounding
- A granite or quartz rock, sand or tiny pebbles for grinding
All these types of stones can be found easily near river beds and creeks. The best of tomahawk-making rocks are dense and fine-grained. The heavier it is in proportion to its size, the more effective will be your tool.
Step 1: Making the Head
The first step requires pounding the head blank into shape. For this, you will need to use the grapefruit-sized oval stone. Place the stone on a log and use the denser rock to pound the head blank into the shape of an ax head.
Be firm in your pounding but do not pound so hard on the stone that it cracks. Start out slow and soft and then pound it harder.
Step 3: Pounding a Groove Heft Section
Around three-fourth to two-thirds of the way down the head closer to the butt, pound a notch in the top and bottom of your stone head. This will allow you a place to string in the sinew and rawhide cords which will prevent the stone head from slipping.
Step 4: Honing the Blade Edge
Once you are satisfied with the shape of your stone head, it is time to grind and sharpen its edges so that it can cut and chop whatever you want.
You can do it by taking an abrasive stone, holding it at a 20 degrees angle and rubbing it back and forth along the edge where you want the edge to be shaped.
If you are using sand to abrade the stone, place the sand on a boulder with a flat or slightly rounded surface. Cover the stone head in water and grind it against the sand until it becomes sharp enough to chop wood.
Step 5: Fitting the Handle
The final step involves attaching the handle to the stone head. For this, you will need some strong leather cord, rawhide, or rope. If you use leather, wet it so that it become more flexible and tightens when it dries. Wrap the stone head tightly with the cords and bind it both horizontally and vertically to the wooden handle so that there is low risk of it slipping.
Things to Consider When Buying a Tomahawk
If you would rather buy a tactile tomahawk rather than make one from scratch, you need to make sure you consider the right aspects that will work for you in specific situations. Don’t give in to pressure and assess the quality of the tomahawk yourself.
Material of the Blade
The best tactile tomahawks sold in the markets are usually made of high-grade steel. However, you should make sure of that before you buy it. Don’t select something that looks flashy but will break or bend under pressure. You can also buy a traditional stone tomahawk though make sure it is durable.
Whatever you choose to buy, test it for yourself beforehand and see how well it works for you in specific situations. Your life may depend on it.
Material of the Handle
The handle or haft of the tomahawk needs to be made of high-quality and break-proof material as well. This means it should be made of a hard and sturdy material that can handle the weight of the blade and won’t shatter with the force of a blow.
You will find many tomahawks made from steel and iron handles though old-fashioned styles also come with wooden hafts. Make sure the wood is dense and sturdy with a fine grain, high rigidity and low susceptibility to rot.
Some synthetic options for study handles include polymers as well.
The weight of your tomahawk can determine whether you can use it effectively. Make sure the tool is not so heavy that you have a hard time picking it up and swinging it, nor so light that you cannot control your throw.
Make sure the handle and the blade strike a balance with each other so that you can throw or cut with the tomahawk easily. To ensure this, you will need to try out the tool beforehand.
Make sure the connection between the blade and handle is very secure as you do not want the blade to come off when you are swinging it down or throwing it. This can be extremely dangerous and can result in injury for you or whoever else might be with you.
The blade should be deeply built-in or welded to the handle from the back or the bottom so that the two pieces won’t come apart. A connector should be used to keep the parts solidly attached.
Your tactile tomahawk should not take too much room with your survival gear. This way you can easily stow it with the rest of your gear and quickly take it out to chop wood or hunt.
A tomahawk that is too large will be unwieldy and difficult to carry while a tomahawk that is too small won’t be very useful.
An old-fashioned tomahawk has a wooden grip which allows for ergonomic handling but a tactical tomahawk is generally made from metal, plastic or some other material. This means the grip will be different from wood. No matter what material the handle is made from, make sure it fits comfortably in your hand and allow you a solid grip.
Your tomahawk slipping from your hand because of water, snow, sweat, or blood can be disastrous for you.
These days, the market is stock filled with a variety of tactile tomahawks that come with added features. Some contain a flat, straight blade edge like a hatchet, while others have a pointed end that can serve as an ice pick. These extra features can help you in different combat and hunting situations and weather conditions.
Regardless of whether you make a tomahawk or buy one, you should choose something that you can easily and conveniently use. When you are in the middle of nowhere with no humans in sight, the right tools can save your life.