Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Affordability. Equipment & Tools. The Tomahawk/Axe.

I think the cost of tools and equipment are a serious consideration for many people wanting to get into 18th century living history. If you have the money, it is no problem, there are traders that cater to the living historian. Even so many people regardless of wealth prefere to make as much as they can of their own gear and family gear. Having said that though, purchasing ready made knapsacks, haversacks, snapsacks, rucksacks and market wallets here in Australia is not going to be easy.
I emailed Graeme Forbes today to see if he can supply me with some prices on guns, meanwhile though I will cover what tools I can. Tomahawks I believe can be purchased from Green River Rifle Works in S.A., guns also, but last I looked they could not be contacted via the net.
For those of you who have to make your own, or use second hand goods, this is what I have done in the past.

Tomahawk/Belt Axe.
The images below are of an ordinary second hand hatchet head purchased at a second hand store for about $4.00, which I turned into a period axe.
1) I buried the blade of the axe in the ground and lit a fire on top of it. This heated the eye area but not the blade and edge. I got it red hot, then removed it with pliers and hammered it upside down over the spike of a pickaxe which I had also driven into the ground. Don't worry about the hammer damage, it gets cut off later. This process will give you an oval to round tapered eye in the head.
2) If you are going to use a hacksaw to shape the head, then you need to heat the whole of the head to cherry red and let it cool slowly. In which case just heat it in the fire when shaping the head and don't worry about burying the blade in the ground. I have done it both ways.
I used an angle grinder to cut out the shape. I placed the head on the ground and placed a metal bar through the eye so I could stand on the bar and hold the head in place. As I cut, I occasionally picked up the head with the bar and quenched it in water to stop the edge of the blade losing its hardness.
If you soften the head to use a hacksaw, you will have to heat the cutting edge to cherry red and quench in water to re-harden after shaping and filing.
A standard shaped modern hatchet head.

Note the damage done with the hammer when driving the head down over the pick axe head spike. This though is on the part which gets removed.

Note the eye is tapered now and oval.

The finished product after making and fitting a new helve.

Video: Making A Tomahawk Helve.


Gorges Smythe said...

A lot of folks say they don't need an axe or variation of one in the wild. I think they're being very foolish. It would be my next to last tool to abandon, with a knife being last. Of course, that could be because I grew up with a double-bitted axe in my hands.

Hutch said...

Interesting. I never even thought of re-cutting an older axe head to shape like that. The hatchet I use now has a hammer's head on the other side, rather than a flat surface; I am undecided on whether or not to cut it off....

Le Loup said...

Hi Hutch. It all depends on what you mainly use your hatchet for. I have a hammer poll tomahawk too, but rarely use it. The hammer is no good for driving in trap stakes etc, it tends to split the wood. I just use the poll of my round poll tomahawk as seen in the "making camp" video.
Not sure if they were intended for driving nails in like the hammer poll on a lath hatchet, or made for hitting people on the head like a war hammer.

Hutch said...

And as of now, there aren't many people in the woods of north Texas that need to be hit in the head with a hammer. haha

Le Loup said...

I will take your word for it Hutch.