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Author Topic: Tomahawk vs. Hatchet  (Read 2734 times)

seanp

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Tomahawk vs. Hatchet
« on: February 14, 2013, 03:12:05 AM »
Now, I've never owned a tomahawk, but due to recent threads have been thinking about buying one.  What I've been considering though, is offsetting the cost of buying a good 'hawk of the type that I would be happy with, as concerned with the hatchet of my Grandfather, that I already own and am happy with.

Now, for me to get the same characteristics, at least for feel and use, I'd be looking at a hammer poll Wolf Creek Forge in the region of about $100, which is what I want, or a Cold Steel Trail Hawk for about $40, which to me, doesn't stack up for s___ against the Wolf Creek, for the money.

Reason I been thinking all of this is I realized I'm not unhappy with what I got.  And I know I am anxious to buy a tomahawk because I know I would like it...

I do have Grandad's hatchet behind the stairs...  And Grandad was a man who lived in the woods more often than the house.  (Had to.  Liked his wine.  Liked his sex too.  Usually as a surprise.  After the wine.)  But he really actually used the tools he had and he lived in an era when the aboriginals still hung around, so he used them with them too.  A lot.  Grandad was known as a guy the aboriginals could hang out with and trust.  My gran painted many many pictures of them.  They didn't have a camera.  I have tons of his tools.  Not a single tomahawk.  Just one well used hatchet.

So I have to wonder, why - and he would have known the difference - a hatchet, not a tomahawk.  Or maybe he thought they were the same things, just different designs.  I'd believe that.
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super_b AK

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Re: Tomahawk vs. Hatchet
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2013, 03:52:28 PM »
If you're going to spend the coin, you might as well get the one you like more.

I think it is a difference in functionality. A tomahawk is a weapon that can work as a hatchet in a pinch and vice verse. I would think that a hatchet would make a better weapon then a tomahawk as a tool. If it was his EDC so to speak he would probably be using it as a hatchet 98% of the time. He probably didn't see a need for a dedicated weapon if I had to guess.
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only1asterisk

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Re: Tomahawk vs. Hatchet
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2013, 03:59:33 PM »
If you're going to spend the coin, you might as well get the one you like more.

I think it is a difference in functionality. A tomahawk is a weapon that can work as a hatchet in a pinch and vice verse. I would think that a hatchet would make a better weapon then a tomahawk as a tool. If it was his EDC so to speak he would probably be using it as a hatchet 98% of the time. He probably didn't see a need for a dedicated weapon if I had to guess.

I agree.

Coronach

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Re: Tomahawk vs. Hatchet
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2013, 09:58:52 PM »
I'm hardly an expert. However, let's consider something. Rogers' Rangers (IIRC) carried 'hawks, for use as weapons and as pioneering tools. They easily could have carried hatchets, either supplementing or supplanting the 'hawk. As far as I know, they did neither. Seeing as how the tomahawk was very much a secondary weapon at that point, and they certainly would have use for efficient camp tools, the fact that they carried the tomahawk and not the hatchet indicates something to me- probably that the 'hawk is a better hatchet than the hatchet is a tomahawk.

It's also possible that you get some flexibility in terms ... sometimes Rogers Rules are related as "hatchet", sometimes as "tomahawk". It's possible the two lines had not diverged as much as they have today.

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coelacanth

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Re: Tomahawk vs. Hatchet
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2013, 05:27:18 AM »
I agree that the tomahawk makes a pretty good hatchet but the hatchet is not a particularly effective tomahawk.  Tomahawks are generally a bit lighter and have a bit longer haft whereas the hatchet is generally a purpose built tool designed for applications where an axe would be unwieldy  and of little use.   The hatchet was and is a carpenters tool and the tomahawk was and is a weapon. 
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seanp

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Re: Tomahawk vs. Hatchet
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2013, 09:37:02 AM »
Another thing which I didn't think of before:  I wonder just how common tomahawks were in that time and this area.  I've never seen one outside of a museum, and you don't see many of them in pictures.  Lots of melee weapons, but no tomahawks.

Then again, I don't see many hatchets in use these days either, and in fact again, those most commonly seen are those typically sold in North American hardware stores for campers.  They typically have a head near the same size as a camping axe, usually with a 3 1/4" -3 1/2" bit:

http://www.canadiantire.ca/AST/browse/6/Tools/CuttingChopping/AxesHatchetsBowsaws/PRD~0575120P/Yardworks+Axe%2C+Hunting%2BCamping%2C+20+oz.jsp?locale=en

The hatchet I have has a smaller and lighter head with a 2 3/4" bit, more proportional to the handle:



It will very readily out perform the wider bitted but narrower profiled hatchets I most often see today.  The modern equivalent would be something like the 14" Fiskars, or traditional European styles still being produced like Husqvarna.

I'd like to buy a tomahawk just to see how the two stack up against each other, but $100 seems like a bit of an investment just for an experiment, and since I would very likely be carrying one and not the other on a given trip, it would be annoying to have one that underperformed.
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luke213(adamsholsters)

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Re: Tomahawk vs. Hatchet
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2013, 01:17:24 PM »
I will say in my little bit of hatchet/tomahawk experience which I'll admit is limited. I've thrown tomahawks allot, but that's about it. I've used hatchets since I was a kid of course splitting kindling etc. My tomahawk doesn't do nearly as well as a hatchet than a normal hatchet, part of it is weight and part of it is just design. That might be very different in something that wasn't more of a traditional throwing hawk type of design which mine are. That said I'd pick based on task if I had to based on what I've seen, no reason not to own both;)

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Desert Rat

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Re: Tomahawk vs. Hatchet
« Reply #7 on: February 16, 2013, 08:27:50 AM »
Why the hatchet? Why the tomahawk? Well, there are differences between the two that go beyond mere looks or intent.

These days the hatchet is considered a tool and the ‘hawk is considered a weapon. Mostly because the hatchet is, at first blush, a better tool since it chops so well and the ‘hawk is a much better weapon since it’s so much faster in the hand, and because the ‘hawk is sometimes sharpened on the beard and at the top of the bit, and often has spikes or blades or hammers on the polls—all weapony features.

But back in the early days of America, there wasn’t as much of a delineation of tasks between the two designs. The hatchet was a tool that could be pressed into service as a weapon if need be, and the ‘hawk was the same. So what, then, is the difference?

Well, the biggest differences between the hatchet and ‘hawk are the handles’ shapes and how they are attached to the head. 

On a hatchet, the handle is usually shaped to be hand-filling and comfortable to use for extended periods, and is curved to provide leverage for added power to the chop. The handle is “hung” like an axe, meaning that the handle is inserted up into the head from the bottom and then secured from the top with wedges. This is a time consuming task that requires other tools to get the job done. Files, rasps, saws, mallets, and vices are needed to rehang an axe or hatchet with ease. While it isn’t a problem for a guy with a work shop to hang a hatchet, it is much harder for a guy sitting around a campfire to replace the handle he just broke while chopping firewood in the middle of nowhere.



Here is where the tomahawk really comes into its own as a frontier tool. The handle, though not as comfortable as a hatchet’s, is simple. It is straight and tapered; narrow at the bottom and thicker than the ‘hawk’s eye at the top. It is inserted into the hawk from the top. Rather than being secured with wedges like a hatchet, the handle is simply secured by the thickness of the handle at the top and tapped down against a stump or something to seat it. The user can further secure the handle with rawhide strips, paracord, a leather sleeve, etc., but it isn’t necessary. In fact, securing the handle more permanently actually limits the versatility of the hawk. Cold Steel uses a screw to secure their hawk heads. I always remove them.

One of the charms of the ‘hawk is that you can easily take the head off and remove it in the field. Why would you want to do that? Well, if you break the handle in the middle of nowhere (usually by throwing it at something), you can easily make a replacement with the nearest convenient stick. You can actually use the hawk head to help you make a new handle. A ‘hawk's head can be used like a ulu knife or a scraper, and it’ll only take ten or fifteen minutes to make a new handle from whatever wood is available. I have to imagine that this is the main reason the tomahawk was preferred by the frontiersman over the hatchet. It was simple and easy to maintain when you don’t have access to a lot of tools.



The hatchet is primarily a tool. It is usually heavier than a ‘hawk (though I own a hatchet that is much lighter than any of my ‘hawks), and processes wood much easier. If the handle is short enough, you can also carve with the hatchet and make useful things like bowls and ladles with it. Also, it makes a great companion to the knife for processing game. It isn’t a great fighting tool, though, and would have made a sub-par backup for the rifle in the old days.

The tomahawk, on the other hand, was not as good at chopping, didn’t have as good a handle, and was a rougher tool. Yet it was a perfect fit for the frontiersman, the Long Hunter, and the Indian for several reasons.

It was lighter. This is important when you are running around with an axe in your belt all day long. The frontiersman had to carry a bunch of gear on their person and they needed a lightweight axe for a multitude of uses. The ‘hawk is usually very light and easy to carry.

The ‘hawk is a better weapon. Since it is lighter, it chops and slashes faster and maneuvers much better than the hatchet. Directional changes, trapping, hooking, passing—all are possible with a ‘hawk, and much harder to pull off with a hatchet. This was important in a day when you had only a single shot rifle and probably didn’t carry a pistol for backup. I read a quote once from a frontiersman who said that all he really needed in the wild was his rifle, his Bowie, and his tommyhawk to protect himself, and was quite satisfied with the arrangement.

Also, another little trick with a tomahawk that I’ve seen was a guy taking the head off his ‘hawk and securing the flat of the blade to the handle with paracord to make a field-expedient adze. I haven’t tried it yet, but I need to one day. Yet another use for the little axe.

And you can still process wood and game with the 'hawk. Not as well as with the hatchet, but what is better, the 'hawk on your belt, or the hatchet you left in camp because it was too heavy to carry?

So at the end of the day, the hatchet is a better for processing wood, and the ‘hawk is more versatile. Take your pick. I like having both. The right tool for the right job.

This has turned into a much longer diatribe than I intended. I am quite the windbag, I suppose. Hope I didn’t bore you guys too much. 

seanp

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Re: Tomahawk vs. Hatchet
« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2013, 09:40:14 AM »
What can I say in response to that?   I'm going to have to buy a tomahawk and compare them.
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Re: Tomahawk vs. Hatchet
« Reply #9 on: March 28, 2013, 10:19:04 PM »
Desert Rat's reply was perfect.  I'd like to add my $0.02 to his, though. 

While the description he gave is PERFECT for traditional hatchets/tomahawks, I feel where it is lacking is with modern "tomahawks".  With modern tomahawks, and modern materials with which they are constructed, the benefit that traditional tomahawks had with easy handle replacement is more-or-less a negated necessity.  For instance, the American Tomahawk Company guarantees their VTAC handles for life, including from head/handle separation.  Because of that, they can have a "tomahawk" shaped head, with a standard "axe"-style handle insertion (from the bottom).  Then we get into these full-tang "tomahawks", like the offerings from RMJ Tactical.  These have NO head/handle connection because they're all one piece.  Where do they fit in the scheme of things? 

My take is that modern tomahawks are intended to be updates on the tools that the longhunters of yesteryear needed on their belts, while still serving as weapons if thrust into that role.  I say tools because a tomahawk in the hands of a modern day warrior is more likely going to be used on a tire, oil drum, padlock, or chain than it is on an elk pelvis or a sapling.   :hmm :shrug
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Re: Tomahawk vs. Hatchet
« Reply #10 on: March 28, 2013, 10:27:21 PM »
A lot of modern hawks have a blade on one side and a spike on the other... as did some early hawks.  Hatches never have a spike or anything like that.  Hawks have longer handles too... most of the time...
hmmm..
Huh.  No real easy definition or giveaway features. 

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Re: Tomahawk vs. Hatchet
« Reply #11 on: March 28, 2013, 10:45:31 PM »
A lot of modern hawks have a blade on one side and a spike on the other... as did some early hawks.  Hatches never have a spike or anything like that.  Hawks have longer handles too... most of the time...
hmmm..
Huh.  No real easy definition or giveaway features. 

Hawks = Badass.  Hatchets = Camper Stuff.
:thumbup1
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