Tomahawks are among some of the most known and easily identifiable items of Native American culture.
They appear very basic in terms of the make-up of the tool, but it might not be as simple to make as you think!
In today’s article, we’re going to examine how you can make a tomahawk, what exactly a tomahawk is and other helpful tomahawk facts for you.
What Exactly Is A Tomahawk?
A tomahawk is a type of axe and combined hatchet that is held in one hand. It is a traditional tool used by Native Americans and other indigenous groups that were often primarily used as a building, chopping and all other purpose tool.
It was likely first invented by the Algonquian Native Americans and instead of the axe being made from steel or other metal, they used sharpened stones and rocks.
Later, it became used as a deadly weapon – more so after the Europeans colonized various areas of North America. This is when the original stone axe was replaced by steel which the Europeans had plenty of.
It became clear that stone was too easily broken and steel was a far better alternative. Nowadays, the use of the tomahawk is as helpful as it always was. It’s commonly used for people fond of outdoor activities like bushcraft.
However, it was used as a weapon during the US conflict in the Vietnam War too by certain units of the US military.
Other than these uses, it has some sporting use in the tomahawk throwing competitions and some branches of law enforcement may use its tool usage to open doors during a breach.
The linguistic roots of the word tomahawk are derived from Native American languages. The Powhatan word tamahaac for example which meant “to cut by tool” and various other derivatives of words by tribes which all meant “axe”.
How To Make A Tomahawk: What You Will Need
Making a modern tomahawk requires some basic supplies and little prior knowledge. You’ll need to have the following things before you start trying to make your tomahawk:
- A steel plate of about a quarter inch
- A metal pipe. Ensure it’s heavy gage and around three quarters of an inch or choose wood
- Tools and equipment to weld
- A strong file or a wheel for grinding
- A steel cutting torch
- A workbench with clamps/vice
If you do not know where to source these items, you can either look online or visit a local blacksmith and hardware store.
Welding equipment can often be found in hardware stores, but if you struggle to find that – you can often purchase the correct things at an auto shop.
Once you’ve got your equipment, ensure you’re taking the right safety precautions. You’ll need to be somewhere well ventilated, away from children and animals. You should wear protective clothing such as gloves and an apron.
When you’re welding or using the torch, ensure you are wearing goggles and heat-resistant gloves. Now that you’re ready to go, here’s what you need to do:
How To Make A Tomahawk
Take your steel plate and place it onto a strong surface. You’ll need to outline the shape of your tomahawk ready for the cutting process. Traditionally and much more helpfully is to design the blade in an “R” shape.
It is of course up to you, but the “R” shaped tomahawk is easier to move around as opposed to a flat square blade, and is much lighter. Once you’ve drawn your design onto the steel, you need to clamp it onto your workbench.
The steel must be away from the rest of the bench and clamped tightly. You cannot use the cutting torch if the steel is on top of the bench, as it will cut right through the steel and burn the workbench. Also ensure you have nothing explosive or flammable in the near area.
Once you have cut your desired blade, you’ll now need to sharpen it. You’ll use your grinding wheel or strong file for this step.
Due to the blunt finish of the steel after cutting, sharpening the blade is important because otherwise the tomahawk will fail to penetrate the target.
Once you’ve sharpened the blade to around a 300 edge, you can move onto the handle.
A tomahawk isn’t a tomahawk without a handle. You can either have a wooden handle or a metal one. There are pros and cons for both. Wood tends to be more brittle and is likely to rot over time if left in poor conditions. It’s also possible to burn accidentally if left near a fire.
It’s also more difficult to connect the head to the handle, so it may not be as sturdy.
Whereas a metal pipe can rust over time and can be difficult to hold in some extreme conditions like heavy rain or very hot sun.
If you choose to use metal, cut the pipe to the length of your forearm using your steel cutting tools. Remember, it’s easier to cut it further down if it is too long. If you decide to use wood, cut the wood using a different tool and smooth it off using a file and varnish.
You’ll now need to weld the bottom of your blade to the handle. If you selected a wooden handle, you’ll likely be using a strong glue or rope instead.
It’s time to start the finishing touches. Personalization is a great area of fun here.
It’s a good idea to cover the handle in a material that makes it easier and more comfortable to hold and grip. Rubber is a great material for this, but you can use rope or straw if you choose to.
Ensure that you’ve removed any burrs from the previous step and do the final sharpening if necessary.
If you pick to, color the handle and create some patterns to make it more aesthetically to your taste.
Making your own tomahawk can be a lot of fun and handy if you do a lot of outdoor activities. Making a modern tomahawk is much more complicated than making a “copy” of the original Native American version.
In fact, a very basic way to do that is carving stone and placing stone into a fashioned plank of wood with some strong glue. But, much like the Native Americans did, we’ve adapted to newer materials on offer and guided you through the best tomahawk making process.
We hope this has been helpful for you!