I thought it might be interesting to compare the thickness of the blades of some different kinds of tomahawks. You can click on the picture above for a larger image. Throwing ‘hawks come in as many sizes as there are makers. Basically they will be close in the overall dimensions mostly to conform to established rules for throwing competitions which specify a blade that gives no more than a 4 inch cut. Other than that though anything goes. The biggest difference is the thickness of the blades which affects the weight of the ‘hawk. You can see from the picture above that there is a wide variety. Since, I am concerned only with throwing and sticking a ‘hawk I much prefer the thinner models. These just plain stick better! No way around it. They are also lighter which means throwing for distance with less fatigue in my shoulder. The TomahawkGuys have stuck ‘hawks at 7 or 8 rotations from 96 feet and 98 feet and all our long throws have been done with a Beaver Bill Thin Line model. If you want your ‘hawk to be a little more versatile and need to be able to do some chopping with it then a thicker model would be a better choice. I have used my Beaver Bill Premium model to chop large wild grape vines in the woods. If you are planning on doing any chopping then you would also want to make sure the ‘hawk has a heat treated or hardened blade. Many of the less expensive import models are softer steel. Even though the blades may be twice as thick the edge tends to not hold the sharpness as long or may even curl if you get it too sharp.
I am very appreciative to Chris Watkins, President of HatchetsandAxes.com for sending me a couple throwing tomahawks to test drive and review. The units I received are the “Best” Competition Throwing Tomahawk and the 16″ Mouse Throwing Tomahawk. I believe that these are also the same ‘hawks that are sold from the wholesale division of H&A called “Throwersupply”. Both ‘hawks are heavy and sturdy and feature a unique “tumble-waxed” coating on the handle. I would highly recommend picking up an extra handle anytime you buy a tomahawk but especially for this “Mouse” “hawk. The handle is one of the thinnest I have seen on a mouse hawk, making it particularly susceptible to breaking from an errant throw.
This review might get a little long winded so I will start by giving you my “quick review” right up front and then go into some more explanation later.
Pro – These hawks are very adequate and a great value for the money
Pro – Nice tumble wax finish on the handles
Con – Weird black coating on head
Con – Very loose fitting handle
Con – Blunt edge
Good News – After a few mods these ‘hawks can be very nice throwers
As to the “Good News” point above, that may or may not be a big deal depending on your ability or desire to make the modifications.
The target audience for these tomahawks would be those who are interested in getting into tomahawk throwing for the least amount of cash outlay. They’re also suited for those who are looking to have several hawks on hand for group events with folks who might be new to ‘hawk throwing, such as scouting events or summer camps where ‘hawk throwing will be featured. For instance, I was recently contacted by someone at a history museum who is having a summer camp for kids and was looking for a decent quality ‘hawk that wasn’t going to break their budget. He explained that last year they bought the least expensive ‘hawks they could find and that was a big mistake. He was also disappointed in the quality and usability of their purchase and said he learned a lesson that cheapest is not always the wisest purchase decision. I did point him to these ‘hawks as being a better choice for his purpose and still within his budget. For maximum enjoyment though I highly recommended the modifications described below.
The heads of these ‘hawks are hand forged in India and are coated with a strange thick black substance to prevent rusting during shipment. The main problem I had with that is the black stuff easily came off on my hands and on the nicely waxed handles. If you look at the two pictures above you will notice some black spots on the handles that came from the coating on these heads. The first order of the day was to remove this coating. I did talk to Chris at Hatchets and Axes about this and he said that they’ve changed the coating on the blades so this shouldn’t be an issue any more. I hope so. Anyway, I still had to figure out how to get this stuff off and decided that the wire wheel on my grinder should do the job.
Amazingly, my wire wheel just ended up giving me highly polished black stuff. Even though the wire wheel wouldn’t dent it, I could still wipe it off with my fingers!! I then decided to try a solvent to see if that would loosen it. I had some 3 in 1 oil on my workbench that I use on my ‘hawks to keep them from rusting. It also does a decent job cleaning. I put some on a paper-towel and what-do-you-know, it fairly easily removes most of the black stuff.
There was some off the black coating remaining down in the crevices that actually gave it a very nice patina. This also helped to emphasize the forge marks. So far so good.
The next problem to fix is ONE of the MAIN issues that I have with these ‘hawks and most other ‘hawks like them. That would be the configuration of the blade edge. These tomahawks are of the type I call “massive” which means the heads are very thick and heavy. The reason I call them “massive” is that most of the throwing ‘hawks that I have are Beaver Bill’s Thin Line or Premium models. These are unique in that like the name says they are very thin, maybe one third the thickness of the “massive” ‘hawks. Even Beaver Bill’s Premium model and the Pioneer Arms Throwing ‘Hawk are much thinner than these. That leads to the issue of having to taper down that massive thick blade to a nice edge that will stick. Let’s face it. The most important thing that a throwing ‘hawk can do is STICK! Well, the edge that came on these ‘hawks were much too blunt to stick effectively. They were bouncing off the target way too much. If you are new to this sport and you start with a ‘hawk like this, it can lead to some frustration as the ratio of sticks to bounce offs will be high, maybe more than 50%. That is no fun. A good throwing ‘hawk should be able to stick close to 100% of the time once you have acquired a nice consistent release. The type of wood block you are throwing at makes a big difference too but that is a topic for another post. The first throwing tomahawk that I owned was an H&B Pierced Lady’s ‘Hawk. It is also of the massive type. I remember being very frustrated with it as it would bounce off my target as much as it would stick. It took me the longest time to figure out that the problem was the edge was too blunt. I eventually took that H&B ‘hawk to Beaver Bill (he only lives about 20 miles from me) and had him grind down the edge of the blade to give it more of a taper. Since then it sticks very well. I want to make sure that I am not confusing anyone here and emphasize that the taper of the blade is not the same as sharpness. You do not really need that sharp of a blade to stick but you do need the correct taper. So, same deal with these ‘hawks. I got out my grinder and roughly tapered the edges back a bit, then took a hand file and smoothed them out some more and was able to see some immediate improvement in their ability to stick.
I could’ve spent a lot more time with the hand file to work the taper back some more but I decided that another trip to see Beaver Bill was in my future. It helps that he has industrial strength belt grinders and can do the work on the edges in a matter of minutes that would take me an hour or more. Well, I made the trip and Beaver Bill indeed gave them a nice gradual taper, only problem was that they were lethally sharp. The edge was very fine in fact way too fine. Since the steel used for these ‘hawks is not very hard this fine of an edge did not take long before it started to curl over after a few throws. I fixed this by using my hand file and flattened the edge. Not a whole lot but just enough so that it wasn’t so sharp and had enough thickness to hold the new edge. Now back to the stick test and they are sticking very nicely.
Now on to the other MAIN issue of these tomahawks. The handles are too loose. In fact it looks like the drift that the forger used to form the eye and the actual handle come from a different planet! It is not even close. Some ‘hawk builders including this one claim that they are intentionally loose for safety reasons and to keep from breaking the handle. Well, that is in theory a true statement, but from my personal experience I do not like a loose handle. Any and all tomahawk handles will break loose from the head if you hit it hard enough with a serious under rotation, but I like to try and minimize the occurrence. Of course, if you always throw a perfect rotation and stick it every time, the handles rarely come loose. Since these ‘hawks are perfect for beginners and less experienced throwers, a handle coming loose is more than an inconvenience. It can also drastically shorten the life of a handle by putting a whole series of gouges all the way down the handle. I have extended the life of so many of my handles by using my “head-lock” method to tighten the head on the handle. Many times I can use a handle well beyond the point of where I would have had to replace it by doing this. These ‘hawks also benefited greatly by using “head-lock” on them. I also made sure that I drove the head onto the handle as far as I could using a rubber mallet. The “head-lock” won’t prevent the head from ever loosening, but it will minimize the movement and keep the handles from getting gouged from the head sliding down. See my previous post about “head-lock” here.
There was still something else I needed to do. Unfortunately, the nice “tumble waxed” finish that comes on the handles got very dirty from the mystery black finish on the head and the handles also suffered from a few gouges from some test throws. Time to give the handles the standard TomahawkGuys finish that I give all the handles for all my ‘hawks. I start by going over the handle with sandpaper and smoothing out any rough spots and then apply some Danish Oil with a pad of steel wool. A few layers of this and it gives me the grip and feel that I prefer for my ‘hawks.
So there you have it. Modified to the extreme. Every hand forged ‘hawk is unique and different and yours may need some, none or all of the mods described above, it’s up to you. Now go have some fun with your new ‘hawks!
Not only do we like to throw tomahawks here at TomahawkGuys.com but we appreciate the artistry and beauty that many fine pipe hawks exhibit. The same craftsmen that build our favorite throwing hawks often times build pipe hawks and other edge weapons too. I happen to have a very fine pipe hawk that was crafted by Beaver Bill. I had been keeping it in a gun case but I wanted a way to display it. I was inspired one day when noticed a chunk of a sassafras tree glowing in the sunlight. I had previously cut down this tree as it was dead and now noticed that the grain exhibited some nice “figuring” when the sun shone on it. It was “curly” sassafras! I thought I would slice off a piece of the log and sand it a bit to see if I could bring out the grain. It wasn’t the most “figured” piece of wood I have ever seen but still nice looking. I also had some deer antlers that we found in the woods and one was shaped like a hand with three fingers. The antlers could hold the pipe hawk nicely without fear of it slipping out if positioned at the right angle. I drilled a couple holes through the wood and into the antlers and screwed them together. Here are some pics of the finished Deer-Antler stand with my 1760 French Pipe Hawk. You can pick up a ‘hawk like this over on Beaver Bill’s website. For the stand, well, you’re on your own.