Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Tomahawks & Hatchets, which is best?

Tomahawks & Hatchets.

There have been some posts on the same theme as this one on a couple of other blogs, and I would just like to add some info to this discussion.

As to tomahawks being better than hatchets for carrying in the woods, I have to agree. If for no other reason than the fact that the tomahawk is lighter than a hatchet. However, the so called “trade axe” (the term “trade” in regard to the axe was not used in the 18th century as far as I know) is the same item as a tomahawk, and not all tomahawks had a round or oval eye.

It was mentioned that a tomahawk of the same weight as a hatchet would not perform as well as a hatchet. For a tomahawk head to be of the same weight as a hatchet head it would have to be larger, and then is more likely to fall into the “half-axe” category. Whether or not it would be as affective as the hatchet is more than likely going to depend on the use and the person using it.

In regards to the ease of making the helves, and the fixing of the head to the helve, then I personally still prefer the round or oval eye where the helve simply drops into the eye from the top and does not require a wedge.

I think the main consideration when trying to choose between a hatchet & a tomahawk/axe is the use to which it will be put. If you intend to be cutting a lot of wood and that is the only consideration, then the hatchet would be a good choice. The extra weight of the hatchet head will make it easier to cut wood. But if weight is a consideration then you should consider using the lighter tomahawk/axe.

Mostly what it comes down to is personal choice. I have been living in the woods for over 30 years, and the rest of the years I have been a frequent visitor to the forests. I started off using a hatchet and felling axe, but once I discovered the earlier pattern tomahawk/axe and began using it I soon realised its advantages for my kind of forest living skills. My tomahawks have a longer helve than the average hatchet. Even large hatchet heads use a short helve by tomahawk standards. The longer helve enables me to give more momentum to the tomahawk, and therefore it is able to match the cutting power of the hatchet but still weighs less.

As I said, it is simply a personal choice. Try them both out & choose the one that best suits your needs.

My round poll tomahawk or (trade) axe.

My square poll tomahawk or (trade) axe.

My half-axe which has a larger head and a longer helve.

My light felling axe.

A comparison of sizes L to R, tomahawk, half-axe & felling axe.

A modern hatchet.


Gorges Smythe said...

How old is the felling axe?

Ichabob Crane said...

I like that round poll hawk, do you recall where you acquired it?

Le Loup said...

Gorges. It is an 18th century pattern, but has no markings that I can recall.

Le Loup said...

Ichabob Crane. I purchased that tomahawk from Glen Mitchell of Pioneer Forge in Victoria many years ago. However, I reshaped the cutting edge because it swept up too high for an 18th century pattern.

buzzard said...

Very interesting post, thankyou.

Jenny said...

Interesting - and thank you.

Next question - do we know to what extent - if any - the terms may have been used interchangeably in the 18th c?

Le Loup said...

Jenny. From what I have read so far it seems that axe, hatchet & tomahawk were all used at that time for the same item. The term "large axe" onr would assume to be a felling axe.
In 1835 John Batman purchased land here in Australia from the natives, and among the items in payment were "150 tomahawks".

Lilah said...

As a woman I definitely prefer the tomahawk to the axe because it's lighter to carry but still gets the job done. :)