Monday, July 14, 2014

Throwing 'hawk vs. non-throwing 'hawk, featuring Mike Deibert

This question came up in a forum and it gave me a good opportunity to answer a common question and show off a beautiful tomahawk made by Mike Deibert.

"Are tomahawks designed for throwing made in a different, identifiable fashion? I guess I just have the idea that tomahawk = throwing axe, ahha."

This is a throwing 'hawk made by Mike Deibert, an American Bladesmith Society Journeyman Smith who runs a missionary vocational school in Nicaragua.  They have a blacksmithing and metal fabrication program that is kind of the heart of the school.

I helped point him at Tai Goo's washtub forge back when he was setting up the school and was looking for charcoal forge designs that could be built with materials on hand, and have had the pleasure of getting to meet and visit with him in person several times when he's come to knife shows in the States.  At the 2013 Blade show I gave him a forging hammer I'd made and he gave me this 'hawk, which my 1/64th Choctaw fiancĂ© (now wife) promptly laid claim to.  :)
Here it is next to one of my 18" Wreckers, the one I busted some padlocks with a few months back.  

The overall lengths are similar, but design and construction are very different.  Mike's is a traditional wrapped eye, mild steel with a 5160 cutting bit forge welded in.  You can see the handle is widest at the top and tapers all the way down to the butt end of the handle.  That lets it slip out of the hand easily when thrown.  Mine tapers in the opposite direction and has a swell at the butt, making it not want to slip out of the hand when swung.

The handle cross section and the 'hawk eye are a teardrop shape that keeps the head from rotating around the handle.

The eye is wider at the top than at the bottom, of course, to accommodate the taper of the handle.  The head stays on with friction and centrifugal force, like a pickax or a grubbing hoe.  This is also related to throwing, which puts tremendous stress on a handle.  If it lands wrong when being thrown, the handle will break.  With the head able to pop loose if it lands handle-first, it reduces the shock in the handle and makes it less likely to break.  But pretty much any handle on a 'hawk that is thrown will break eventually.

This 'hawk also has a leather sheath that reminds me a bit of ladies' swimwear or undergarments.  :D

And a look at the back end.  You can see where the eye was hammered true around a drift.

So, there is a traditional throwing 'hawk differentiated with a modern, non-throwing 'hawk.  They're aimed at different purposes and the construction is completely different for that reason.  Many of the modern tactical 'hawks are built with retention in the hand as one of the design considerations, so they have various kinds of appropriate tapers and butt-swells to provide for that need.  The America Tomahawk Company LaGana 'hawk is a notable exception, as it is designed with combat throwing in mind.  Footage of Peter LaGana demonstrating combat tomahawk throwing in simulated contemporary (Vietnam-era) combat situations shows just how well his design and skilled hands allowed his weapon to throw.  Different design considerations, different designs. 

1 comment: