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Hatchet vs Tomahawk?

Discussion in 'Wilderness & Survival Skills' started by Stormstaff, Nov 8, 2009.

  1. Stormstaff


    Dec 14, 2007
    I have a Fiskars hatchet I was going to convex but I was curious after seeing some tomahawks what your folks think.

    Please discuss
  2. SpookyPistolero


    Dec 13, 2005
    Tomahawks are weapons first, that are sometimes pushed into woods duty. They can do certain jobs, but certainly not as many or as well as a hatchet will do. The hawk has a thin face meant only for penetration, not for splitting or chopping. They also usually don't have very broad edges (yes, I know of several examples that do). I put what is basically a scandi edge with convex microbevel on a trail hawk, and it's quite sharp. It'll bite very deep into wood, but then you have to yank it out, and it still doesn't cause the wood to 'chip out' like you want a chopper to do. The thin face also makes it more dangerous in the case of a miss. Lastly, the handles aren't meant to sustain such heavy and frequent blows. They just don't have the right angles and thicknesses there.

    Just my two cents, I know lots of folks here have them and prefer them. Whatever works for you!
  3. Shotgun


    Feb 3, 2006
    I think it boils down to how much chopping you're going to do. I have the Gerber that you have and a Cold Steel trail hawk. If you're going to do a lot of chopping you're better off using a blade designed for it like that on a hatchet but if you just want something to split kindling and emergency/survival situations I think a hawk is just fine.

    Also, I don't carry a pistol anymore so it IS nice to have a weapon like a hawk hanging off your belt.;) I also like the historic value of the tomahawk. It's like the kukri of the US.
  4. pitdog


    Apr 13, 2007
  5. Shotgun


    Feb 3, 2006
    No, coal creek forge Pit. Don't you know anything?:D
  6. Cpl Punishment

    Cpl Punishment

    Jan 28, 2006
    Well either this:

    or this (middle one):

    do pretty well. They don't split as well as an axe profile, but they do surprisingly well. Part of it it what hatchets do with mass and geometry, hawks do with speed. With the long (24" and 27") hafts, the speed of the bit is very high, and I had no trouble splitting 4" rounds of birch and pine with either. In fact, the faces slid right into the wood, and when the wood hit the cheeks, it just blew out. However, a weak swing would result in the 'hawk sticking.

    So, if you go with a hawk, you have to understand what to get and how to use it. Most hawks seem to have too short a haft. On a light head like the trail hawk the two I posted are based on, 20" is enough, 24 is better. On a heavier head like, say a Fort Turner Iroquois, a 24-28" would be best. For splitting, swing hard and hit fast. For bucking, the first strike will stick, the next should be aimed to sever the wedge of wood, not drive as deep as you can. 'Hawks work more by pecking than by deep chops.

    If you don't like how a hawk needs to be handled (they aren't for everyone) then a hatchet (I like the Snow & Neally Penobscot Bay) is the right idea.

    OR. . .head over to Himalayan Imports and learn of the deliciousness of the kukri. . .
  7. XMP


    Feb 9, 2007
    I have a Ft. Turner hawk and it is a highly functional piece of art.

    As far as the OP question: I think hawks are a lot of fun, but in many states they are regarded as a weapon, whereas a hatchet/axe is considered a tool. That often influences what I bring along.
  8. DWK2


    Nov 3, 2003
    For camping I often use a hammer poll hawk made by our late BF member, Two Hawks. While it's true that any of my couple dozen axes and hatchets might outperform it in certain regards, I really enjoy using the hawk and don't figure that the small amount of extra effort is seriously hurting me. In a true survival situation, I suppose a contrary argument could be made. But for camping, I think it's fine and I have fun with it. Lastly, I like to honor our late member by using it.

  9. Dannyboy Leather

    Dannyboy Leather

    Nov 7, 2004
    Post expired.
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2010
  10. mitchshrader


    Oct 8, 2005
    And with due respect for those who've passed, I take exception in my particular case. My skills were developed in order, double bit axe, cruiser-weight double bit axe, half-axe, hatchet..and all my skills and muscle memory have very particular opinions. I'm not the fella likely to have a hawk or knife that's a hatchet substitute. I've got a firestone half-axe that's my age, about, and as fine a tool as a guy could winter camp with. It doesn't replace a bow saw.
  11. matthewdanger


    Jan 29, 2003
    I love tomahawks (especially the hawks made by Equinox Coronado) and I love to use them in the woods but I will also be the first to say that they give up a lot to a good hatchet. Tomahawks can be decent choppers with a well designed, lightweight head and a long enough haft (22 inches plus). However, due to the large round eye that tomahawks have they will never split wood as well as a hatchet and splitting wood is a large part of what I need a hatchet to do (if I am carrying one).

    So basically, the biggest deficiency with tomahawks is that they don't split wood as well.
  12. Bushman5


    Oct 31, 2007
    i'm an axe man first, but do use the hawk for woods duty. Mostly though its an animal and human defense weapon, and a great way to have fun (throwing) while woods bumming.
  13. Stormstaff


    Dec 14, 2007
    Great responses, thanks! Anyone else care to chime in?
  14. wildmike


    Nov 17, 2007
    I have one of the jackhammer bit poll hawks from Steve at Coal Creek Forge. It is a great hawk.

    I also have several hatchets and they all perform well too.

    I much prefer my M-43 kukri from H.I. due to greatly improved performance and versatility.
  15. Calebklyne


    Aug 5, 2009
    ill take my hawks over a cheap axe any day, they chop and split better than my fiskars ever did plus they offer defense against animals if needed and they are a ton of fun to throw when bored. however when i get my gb sfa ill probably take that most of the time
  16. shecky


    May 3, 2006
    I think the line between hawks and hatchets can be pretty blurry. Either can make a good weapon and/or tool. They come in so many different shapes and sizes, it's silly to make blanket statements about the suitability of either.
  17. savagesicslayer


    May 24, 2005
    I use both in the woods but I carry a tomahawk with me everywhere I go hiking.I haven't found myself wishing I had an axe when using my tomahawk.On long hikes 4+ days I prefer the tomahawk for it's lighter weight and smaller size.
  18. DeltaCypher0


    Jun 5, 2012
    Hey Shotgun, I love your Nessmuk avatar!
  19. Big Mike

    Big Mike

    Aug 30, 2006
    The longer handle on a hawk gives it some advantages over a hatchet,

    ...but most hatchets have a better geometry for chopping wood.

    Personally, I favor a half-axe over a hawk or a hatchet.



    Big Mike
  20. neeman

    neeman Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 5, 2007
    I have a hawk from Lisa of Wolf Creek Forge
    It is a superb tool
    And I have a GB Wild Life hatchet

    Both have lighter heads than a 20" axes, so are easier to control
    Both razor sharp convexed edges
    Both are excellent tools, and I would say equal in use

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