Tomahawk vs hatchet

Discussion in 'Edged Tools' started by A K Church, Aug 2, 2012.

  1. A K Church

    A K Church Guide

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    Been doing some search engine time today, and haven't found anything which really clarifies for me the supposed advantages and disadvantages of tomahawks vs hatchets.

    This is not an attempt to get a flame war. I have no particular opinions on this.
     
  2. ljcsov

    ljcsov Scout

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    Tomahawk - throwable, can remove head for certain tasks, lightweight (varies), easier to make a handle

    Hatchet - splits better, more weight to the head yields more power, actually useful (in my opinion)
     
  3. A K Church

    A K Church Guide

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    Thank you, concise and useful.
     
  4. dRobinson

    dRobinson Supporter Supporter

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    As goes for a lot of things, it comes down to mostly preference. The advantage of a hawk is the longer handle which provides a little more leverage for chopping. On the other hand, the hatchet may be a little more portable given its shorter handle. YMMV.
     
  5. RangerJoe

    RangerJoe Bushwhacker Bushclass II

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    If it came down to it I would preffer a Hatchet.

    In my experience the hatchet is easier to use more efficiently than the hawk.
     
  6. Square_peg

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    It's not that a tomahawk can't be a good chopper, rather the way most of them are made makes them poor choppers. A hatchet with it's convex cheeks throws the chips out much more efficiently and is far less likely to stick in the wood than a hawk which is usually made with flat cheeks.

    Also, hawks generally have small polls or almost no poll which gives them poor balance and makes chopping blows less precise.

    In their favor, a hawk handle is a little easier to fabricate in the field, though a hatchet handle can easily be made.
     
  7. Square_peg

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    Also, tomahawks look much cooler than hatchets. They just don't work as well.
     
  8. mountgoat phillips

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    I carry a hawk becuase I can take the head off and use it as a hand ax.
     
  9. GKiT

    GKiT Supporter Supporter

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    A hatchet is likely a more useful tool in the woods as long as there is no one trying to kill you.
     
  10. Solphilos

    Solphilos Guide

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    I think that without any particulars (which Tomahawk compared to which hatchet?) all were going to be doing here is making over-generalizations.

    Not all Tomahawks are created equal, neither are all hatchets.

    Example, the only Tomahawk I own is the CS Trailhawk, which splits better than any hatchet I've ever used because the hatchets, though heavier, always had shorter handles than the 'hawk. The 'hawk chops better for the same reason.
    However, there are longer handled hatchets, different head profiles, etc. that would likely challenge my 'hawk on these points.

    Personally, I think it all comes down to how you use your tools, what kind of tasks you find yourself doing most often in the woods, and how much weight your willing to carry.

    I find my Trailhawk useful in the same tasks that I usually leave up to a machete; taking smaller saplings for shelters, rough chopping, splitting small kindling for hobo stove, etc.
     
  11. Draven

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    IMO with a hawk you put in a little more hard work or a little more skill to accomplish the same thing as you would with a hatchet. Using a hawk is simply not the same as using a hatchet, if you swing a hawk like a hawk you will find it cutting much better than if you swing it like an axe. Major splitting can often require the use of wedges with many hawks. The tradeoff is that a tomahawk is in the head. The hawk is lighter than many comparable axes and the head can be removed from the handle either for packing or you can just take the head and make a handle on site. Doing that is much easier with a hawk than an axe.

    That said I don't really think either is "better" for camp work. If you think things through and use the tomahawk in the most suitable way for a tomahawk, instead of trying to push it into an axe's shoes, it is quite capable, but it's still not a hatchet. I have a soft spot for hawks, but I don't regard either as better for general camp use, which is often pretty light on the axe, anyway.

    Anyway, apples vs oranges IMO, stick with what you like - and whatever you get, use it so that it works right.
     
  12. Pappy Frank

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    Much of what has been said is true. There is one thing still unmentioned and that is safety. The hawk is in my opinion much safer than the hatchet. In fact the hatchet is probably the least safe of bladed tools. Accidental cutting with a hatchet seems to draw more blood than accidental cutting with other tools.

    I do not carry a hatchet for that reason. I feel much safer with a hawk and a machete.

    Opinions are like navels, everyone has one and they are all different.
     
  13. rdec

    rdec Guide

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    The tomahwk I have carried for 50-some years is something of an oddball, I suppose. The head was made by Sheldon Wells Co., Kinzua, PA. It has a wedged handle fitted into a round hammer eye rather than the tapered removable handle or the oval axe eye common to axes and hatchets. It is light (16 oz.), well-balanced and holds a very good edge. The first one I got had the pointed diamond poll but I sold that as soon as they came out with the more practical hammer poll. I replaced the curved handle with a straight octagonal hickory handle. I cold-blued the head and flame colored the handle, then applied several coats of linseed oil. The wrapping is cod-line with several coats of spar varnish.

    The picture shows the tomahawk, a Marble's #6 Pocket Axe and a G-B Mini Hatchet. They are all fine, practical tools. The Marble's is carried in my truck and hasn't been used much. The G-B is smaller and lighter but, to be honest, I would be hard-pressed to choose between them. I usually have the tomahawk when I am canoeing and choose the G-B when weight and bulk are an issue.
     

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  14. Joe Willson

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    How many people here have ever had a hatchet handle break in the field? Of those that have, did the handle need replacing before you took it to the field? The way the ability of the hawk handle to be field replaced is thrown out you would think there were axe, hatchet and hawk heads flying everywhere in the field due to breakage. :) I personally use a saw so I don't have a dog in this race.
     
  15. Fischereco2

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  16. Draven

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    I disagree - you can just take the tomahawk head and make a handle on site, no breakage necessary :D
     
  17. bearhunter2

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    Hatchet all the way!
     
  18. WoodsJack

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    Tomahawks are thought to have evolved from "boarding axes" that colonist ships carried over and then traded. The evolution included transforming them into weapons, specifically, as well. The U.S. military still uses weapon tomahawks, for that matter, but perhaps the Viet Nam era ones gained most infamy.

    An amusing version of tomahawk also included a built-in, integrated tobacco smoking pipe, as well.

    Hatchets are small axes meant for working with wood. Period.
     
  19. demonslaer

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    hatchet because I don't have a tomahawk
     
  20. stronghorse

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    Don't have a hatchet. However, I do like them both axes and hawks. My small carving axe, My med. axe, & My RM's Hawk!!
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  21. wingnuts

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    Ok Here's a little gas for the flames! First let me preface by saying there are ALWAYS exceptions and YMMV. Now for the plain and simple fact: A hatchet is designed to chop and split wood (it does this well because of the profile of the cheeks. The hawk (yes I have a soft spot for them, threw one for many years) is NOT designed as a splitting tool, yes it can and will chop (as will a machette or large knife) it was never designed to split wood (yeah I know it can) a hawk will not perform as well (read effeciently) as a hatchet for camp chores. Hawks are more fun to carry and look cooler but are not as useful as hatchets (it's why I've yet to replace my neshanic hawk which recently cracked while throwing) Yes hawks do throw better than hatchets but throwing into live trees is a NO NO and while camping (unless really bored) there's not much call to throw tools!
     
  22. J

    J Bushwhacker Bushclass I

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    Hawk or hatchet? Which would you call it? I have a trailhawk too, and this one blows it out of the water. Ive split a bit of seasoned red oak with it, and I couldnt tell a differance between it and the 19in Wett. The haft on it is 18in. Maybe a Hybrid? I dunno, I just know I like it, and my axes, and am a firm believer that it doesnt much matter what ya carry if ya know how to use it.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  23. cooper1768

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    How do you like your GB? I've been looking at the mini, but a lot of people say its too small to be practical.
     
  24. Square_peg

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    I'd call it a carpenters hatchet and note that it's one of the handiest items one could have in camp. I think it would be nice to have a nail puller on it as well, though. Many carpenters hatchets do.
     
  25. J

    J Bushwhacker Bushclass I

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    It was a carpenters hatchet before I reshaped the head and got rid of the nail puller and shortened the hammer poll and re hafted with a long straight handle.
     
  26. Many Branches

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    I have used both, and both have advantages. The hatchet is nice for wood working when you are in a controlled situation; such as on a tall chopping block. However, it is easier to lose control of a hatchet due to it's heavier head, and the shorter handle makes it more likely to hit you when you lose control. That control issue is why a block is recommended; if you lose control, it should hit the block instead of your leg. A hawk with it's lighter head, and longer handle makes it much safer to use in the field.

    The removable head of a hawk is also advantageous. The great advantage is no longer being able to make a handle in the field, but rather being able to make modified handles. It is easy to turn a hawk into an adz, scraper, hand axe, or any number of other tools. This versatility is to the advantage of the hawk.

    The safety and versatility of the hawk give it a decided advantage over the axe for use in the brush. The weight and design of the hatchet give it a decided advantage for woodwork in controlled situations. Take your pick based on your use.
     
  27. Backcountry Patriot

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    Ever since I picked up my Cold Steel Rifleman's hawk I've carried it over my Gerber hatchet. I plan to get a pipe hawk as it better suits my interests in the future but that's not to say I won't get a better hatchet in the future and won't like that over the Tomahawk/s that I have at that time. I like hatchets a lot as well. I just like my current tomahawk better than my current hatchet. Now that I am thinking about it I don't really know if I'd take a tomahawk or a hatchet if I had to pick one. Looks like I'll be doing some thinking as to what suits my needs better!
     
  28. WILL

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    Hawks are generally lighter than hatchets. Thus hawks generally pack easier but don't chop as well. With hawks and axes, there's a direct correlation between weight and effectiveness.
     
  29. ineffableone

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    I totally agree, the easier field handle replacement is in general an over used point and if your axe handle breaks in the field you were probably abusing it heavily or ignored damage to it before heading out to the woods. However as pointed out in this post bellow, the removable head does make a hawk multi other tools.

    Hawks do tend to be poor splitters, due to head geometry and weight, however you can find some decent hawks with a good splitting head geometry like the Craig Barr hawks excellent geometry for splitting, one of the few that might give hatches a good run for their money. Weight, though tends to be hard, as the heavier hawk heads tend toward the more weapon style hawk designs vs the functional tool designs.

    While I like the idea of a good hawk, finding a good one designed for camp/bushcraft function rather than combat is more and more difficult. When you do find them they tend to be limited stock and cost a lot more. However any good quality axe tends to cost a decent price, so you should be willing to pay for quality if your wanting quality. Decent quality axe/hatchets for bushcraft seem a lot more common than the hawks, so you have a lot more variety to choice from and more ability to shop around.

    Over all I would say hatchets and small axes are the better choice, but a good tomahawk is a great tool too, and if having a hawk gets you to carry an axe in the woods, then great take that hawk and have fun. Axes of all sorts are just great tools to have out in the woods. So what ever it takes to get you to bring one is good to me.
     
  30. rdec

    rdec Guide

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    Whether the G-B Mini is too small to be practical depends entirely on what you are trying to do with it. It would not be my choice for laying in a winter's wood supply, for instance.

    It isn't a hatchet with a short handle, nor is it a smaller version of an axe. It was designed, and most are made, by Lennert Petterson, possibly the finest axsmith in Sweden and himself a camper, hunter and fisherman of wide experience, as a utilty woodsman's tool, capable of light cutting, splitting, carving and shaping wood as well as driving tent pegs and serving as a light hammer.

    I haven't used it a lot, but from what I have done it performs very well. It takes a razor edge and keeps it. It is well-balanced in use, while being light, compact and easy to carry. You can swing it as an axe and use it as a knife without a long handle getting in the way. Cliff Jacobson calls the Mini his favorite axe.

    If you look at the picture you can see that the three tools aren't really that much different in size. My tomahawk I have used for a very long time (and it became a better tool when I selected the current handle) and the Marble's Safety Axe was popular from the time it was introduced and although the weight is a bit more the dimensions of the Marble's axe are very similar to those of the Mini. A design too small to be practical does not survive for more than a century nor, in the case of the Mini, does it command top dollar while selling out very quickly.
     
  31. Wastelander7

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    Hm, not sure I can add much here, but, I do have a couple of notions. Keeping in mind where I live, I don't carry either. I carry a machete.

    First of all if you're around other people the eye construction of a hawk makes it much safer. There's almost no way for the head to fly off and injure someone. Further the head won't fly off and disappear into a river either. Second, if you did have to replace the handle for some reason, you can come up with a hawk handle in a couple of hours vs days trying to fit the shape of a hatchet handle just right into the eye. This could be very important if you're in a cold environment and need fire.

    And while I agree that the hawk isn't as efficient (generally speaking) for splitting, a lot depends on the hawk design (as it does in hatchet design)

    Another thing that hasn't been addressed is that hawks work somewhat better cutting light saplings and brush that is springy. (because of blade geometry and velocity) Where I live, (Florida, USA) that can be an important factor in choice as well.

    Lastly, I'll say that while hatchets are great tools, they're fairly late comers to the game. The basic hawk designs have been around for 1,000 years plus and still work. There is probably a reason they've endured down to the present day other than just hacking bad guys down.

    So, I guess it's all a matter of personal preference and how confident you are in your handle.
     
  32. bearhunter2

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    Axes built this country...
    If you don't believe me, well then I would suggest you folks research history.
    Tomahawks were brought here as a trade item. Not to build a country!
     
  33. Jonah L. Archer

    Jonah L. Archer Guide Bushclass II

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    Some might even argue that this design has been around for at least 5300 years, since Otzi was found with what was essentially a tomahawk. The way the handle was fitted to the blade is different from both an axe and a tomahawk, but the length of the handle (almost 2 feet) versus blade size is definitely more hawk-ish if you ask me!
     
  34. ineffableone

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    I addressed your points in red
     
  35. Square_peg

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    I've been using axes for more than 35 years and I have never seen an axe head fly off. I've seen some poorly hafted axes come loose but I've never actually seen one come flying off. I think you'd have to be negligent to have that happen during use.

    And as for shaping a new haft in the field, sure a hawk haft is a little easier but it wouldn't take an hour longer to make a hatchet haft. If it does you're not doing it right.
     
  36. Hugin

    Hugin Scout

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    I vote for saw.:4:

    I love my tomahawk, but it really kind of sucks for chopping wood efficiently. I prefer to use my Wetterlings 19" Axe over my tomahawk, my Bahco Laplander folding saw over that, and a 24" bucksaw over that.

    I prefer the handle on a hatchet or axe, the kind that gets thicker toward the end, than the tomahawk handle which becomes smaller in diameter and makes my hand cramp a bit.
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2012
  37. Wastelander7

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    Good point!
     
  38. Wastelander7

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    Well, if that's what you're comfortable with, it's cool.

    It's all personal preference. If you're confident and comfortable with what you've got, then stick with it, hawk or hatchet.
     
  39. ineffableone

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    So my new Wetterlings Forester's Fine axe is more a tomahawk than an axe because it has 23" handle and only 1 1/4 lb head?
    [​IMG]

    First, a tomahawk is an axe, just a subcategory of axes. It is one type of many types of axes. To me the big difference of what is or isn't a tomahawk is more about how the haft is hung. It is about having an eye on the head that allows it to come on and off. This to me is a key feature to be a tomahawk.

    The Otzi axe does not have the easy removable axe head, but is instead quite firmly placed. To me that would make it just an early axe, not a tomahawk.
     
  40. ineffableone

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    I totally agree with this, I had said pretty much the same thing earlier in this thread. If you like hawks and that is what gets you to take an axe into the bush then great. If you like hatchets, then great use that. If your preference is for a saw then your wrong...oops :8: no that wasn't it,... oh yeah saws are good too and if that is your preference then great. What is important is you have a tool your comfortable with, know how to use, and is functional for your area.

    All these tools and others, have their functions, there is no real better than others. They all have good and bad points for and against. A lot often has to do with personal comfort and levels of knowledge on how to use the tool. If it is a new tool to you you wont know how to use it as well as the one you have used for years.

    So hatchet or hawk? either one is good, just don't forget your saw for the stuff the axes aren't good at :54:
     
  41. WoodsJack

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    Good points.

    That's also why this is an axe:
    [​IMG]
     
  42. Jonah L. Archer

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    I agree that a hawk is just a sub-category of axes basically, but IMHO the difference lies in how the tool is to be used. Your Wetterlings Forester's Fine axe is meant to be used with two hands and made for processing wood as it's primary job. A tomahawk is usually designed to be used with one hand and it's primary job is more of a light duty / sapling cutter and weapon. It's really like comparing a mora to a machete if you ask me. You can get BASICALLY the same job done with either tool, but each has it's strong and weak areas. I mentioned the Otzi axe because it seems to be more of a single handed tool/weapon....
     
  43. Sanjuro82

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    For wood processing I will always prefer an Axe. They are much more efficient and the Tomahawk just can't keep up when chopping wood. The trade off is weight. "Most" axes will weigh significantly more and will be larger in pretty much all areas. That's not so say that the hawk is a poor chopper, because it isn't. They will get the job done, just not as efficiently as the Axe in this role.

    When I hiking I carry my Hawk. I will gladly sacrifice a bit of performance for a lighter weight and the packability (is that a word??). Also as already mentioned in this thread the hawk is a more versatile tool, whereas the axe is more singular in purpose. So the bottom line for me without anymore rambling is:

    On the trail I prefer my Hawk
    At the cabin I prefer my Axes

    :)
     
  44. MarcoMontana

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    I too, find my Tomahawk fun to use... However there is nothing the Hatchet cannot do the Tomahawk can albeit throwing ability and de-limbing higher branches! However the Hatchet can split good sized wood with one good chop that a Tomahawk would just stick into... I really don't like carrying my Hatchet because of its weight, I find a Kukri does the same tasks as a Tomahawk.

    I guess its all personal preference.
     
  45. Two Bears

    Two Bears Banned Member Banned

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    Me too for the same amount of time, its not about negligence its about missing your target and breaking the handle and not relizeing the handle was damaged. Now maybe that could be considered negeligence in your book but sometimes its hard to tell. I have seen this happen, although I was not the user at the time. We both checked the handle and couldn't tell that it was damaged, until it came off at what seemed like the speed of sound. It can and does happen. It has happened to me a couple of times.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2012
  46. Two Bears

    Two Bears Banned Member Banned

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    I love my Kukri, it doesn't have all of the potential safety problems that either the hatchet or hawk does. I have some hawks and hatchets and axe and use them. But my Kukri is always my first choice.
     
  47. Two Bears

    Two Bears Banned Member Banned

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    According to the history I have read tomahawks originated in the USA. The trade item you mentioned were made for a while in England but not for very long, the better tomahawks were made here in the US for the US market. Tomahawks came before the hatchete and axe.
     
  48. briarbrow

    briarbrow Banned Member Banned

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    the "axe" eye and pole where considered improvements over the typical style of european axe with roundish eye and no pole- seems to be true

    to me the typically longer bit of usual tomahawk makes for an odd feel, slight errors in bit alignment with the intended cut are magnified. I have put longer handles on my swedish lipped hatchets making them kinda tomahawylookin;. The mini has a really short bit so it is easy to put it right where you want so its light weight is somewhat offset by accuracy of efficient on target blows
     
  49. Dickedm

    Dickedm Tracker

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    I would imagine that the hatchet wins this comparison. Tomahawk seems like a "baby" hatchet.
     
  50. J

    J Bushwhacker Bushclass I

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    Neither wins. These types of threads are flawed. As one guy with a tomahawk could out perform another guy with a hatchet and vice versa. Neither tool is better. Its all preferance. All geometry this, and weight that, and which came first, is all good but in the end none of it matters. You get a bunch of guys who love their axe and can really use it, you get a ton of guys who love their hawks and can really use them and you get a ton of folks on both sides of the fence who never actually use either but have opinions none the less. Bottom line is I like tools, and have appriciation for anyone with skill to use them. I love using both and developing skill with all types of tools.
     

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