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Stormcrow

Throwing 'hawk vs. non-throwing 'hawk, featuring Mike Deibert

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This question came up in another forum and it gave me a good opportunity to answer a common question and show off a beautiful tomahawk made by Mike Deibert.
 
"Are tomahawks designed for throwing made in a different, identifiable fashion? I guess I just have the idea that tomahawk = throwing axe, ahha."
 
 
Here it is next to one of my 18" Wreckers, the one I busted some padlocks with a few months back.  
 
deibert1_zps74567183.jpg
 
The overall lengths are similar, but design and construction are very different.  Mike's is a traditional wrapped eye, mild steel with a 5160 cutting bit forge welded in.  You can see the handle is widest at the top and tapers all the way down to the butt end of the handle.  That lets it slip out of the hand easily when thrown.  Mine tapers in the opposite direction and has a swell at the butt, making it not want to slip out of the hand when swung.
 
deibert3_zps89e1c79f.jpg
 
The handle cross section and the 'hawk eye are a teardrop shape that keeps the head from rotating around the handle.
 
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The eye is wider at the top than at the bottom, of course, to accommodate the taper of the handle.  The head stays on with friction and centrifugal force, like a pickax or a grubbing hoe.  This is also related to throwing, which puts tremendous stress on a handle.  If it lands wrong when being thrown, the handle will break.  With the head able to pop loose if it lands handle-first, it reduces the shock in the handle and makes it less likely to break.  But pretty much any handle on a 'hawk that is thrown will break eventually.
 
This 'hawk also has a leather sheath that reminds me a bit of ladies' swimwear or undergarments.  :D
 
deibert4_zps501911ba.jpg
 
And a look at the back end.  You can see where the eye was hammered true around a drift.
 
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So, there is a traditional throwing 'hawk differentiated with a modern, non-throwing 'hawk.  They're aimed at different purposes and the construction is completely different for that reason.  Many of the modern tactical 'hawks are built with retention in the hand as one of the design considerations, so they have various kinds of appropriate tapers and butt-swells to provide for that need.  The America Tomahawk Company LaGana 'hawk is a notable exception, as it is designed with combat throwing in mind.  Footage of Peter LaGana demonstrating combat tomahawk throwing in simulated contemporary (Vietnam-era) combat situations shows just how well his design and skilled hands allowed his weapon to throw.  Different design considerations, different designs.

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Sometimes form follows function, i.e., a rolled and welded eye lends itself to straight tapered handle because an end swell won't fit through the axe head. When poll ends started getting split and wedged, then the familiar sheep's foot could be used for a better grip when the handle was wet with sweat or blood.

The Frankish axe was a war weapon and designed to be thrown - and every picture I've ever seen had a straight handle - but it also had a wrapped eye. It's pretty clear that a straight handle will slip out of the hand easier so it's something of a "chicken or the egg" question.

If required by circumstances, your axe design ought to throw just fine if someone holds loosely above the swell and releases smoothly. The Japanese say, when practicing shuriken-jutsu, one should release as though a bird has slipped from your hand. The same might apply to axe tossing.

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The couple of Frankish axes the found in Irland had wedges holding the haft on  just like a normal   hammer or axe no handle left

just what was in the eye  so could have been tapered same as Storm crows  haft .

that being said they had curved hafts to increase throwing  power like this one i finnished  .

used osage orange for haft  all i had at the time  grain is runing wrong way so i will have to change .later on .

ChrisP1010381_zpsace728c5.jpg

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Excellent explanation! I think this would be an interesting topic for Ryan Johnson to touch on, too. I've seen pictures of people throwing their hawks. 

I want to make a Frankish ax. 

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Osage is mighty tough so I bet it would hold up pretty well under hard use - even with the grain pattern.

 

That's a heckuva chopper you posted - I would not want to meet some 6'6" dude carrying that in a dark alley...

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Nice looking hawks,   I wouldnt throw either of them.      I have a huge pile ( 20 plus) of mild steel hawks forged just for throwing,  No sense in damaging a $200 tool by hucking it at a log with other bits of metal stuck in it.

 

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