Handle length.....

Jun 17, 2001
I've had a number of people ask me about throwing my hawks. One thing that always enters my mind is the length of the handle. I would think for a thrower the shorter the better. Can you guys shed some light on this for me????? Ray
Two Hawks has written some posts on tuning the handle length and what he finds to work best. If you trim the handle too short, I assume that you will get overly rapid rotation. I've had good luck with the handle lengths supplied by both Two Hawks and H & B Forge. The H& B handles are a bit longer but their heads are heavier, so it seems to be a satisfactory match.
Maybe if I make a hawk for just throwing it may be best to leave the handle long and let the customer shorten it as he sees fit. I just bought some more steel today so be expecting something in the next couple weeks. I've been thinking about doing some smaller broad axes in the future, I've got lots of toys I'd like to try to make.......Ray

Anything shorter than 14" in a Hawk OVER 1 lb. turns really weird in flight. That's why throwing a small hatchet with a 10 or 12" handle is like throwing a tube filled with mercury...it just goes all over the place.

Our Brend Hatchet has a 13" handle, but we vent the handle so all the weight is up top...it turns nice in the air, and is around 1 lb.

I would stick to 16-19" for a forged head...those where Harry McEvoy's faves...he like a few 21" handles too.

All other things being equal, the longer the handle, the longer it takes to turn one spin...simple formula.
I appreciate the information. Now that I think about the shorter handle I see what you mean......Ray
Dear Ray,
Always happy to help cut the learning curve for a new maker (as you already know from past tech tips to you). Spent too many years trying to re-invent the wheel, and the new breed should not have to go through that again.
Andy is right, as far as it goes. Little bitty heads and very short handles are (neither of them) a good idea for throwing. Following is a digest of info for "standard" throwers:
The "average" throwing head runs about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds, from what I have seen. Hawks intended for smaller ladies and teenagers tend to run a bit lighter; those dearly loved by some really large guys are heavier. My championship throwing hawks run toward the bottom of the 1 1/4 pound range and H&B's big stout forged hawks run to the upper end of 1 1/2 pounds or a bit more.
The length of the throwing hawk handle depends on both the weight and balance of the head and the physical dimensions of the human throwing that hawk. Your height, length of stride, length of arm (upper and lower) and arc of normal arm movement in a smooth release are all going to have an effect on the best handle length. Normally, the competition hawk is "tuned" from a base of 6 paces (plus one to step into) from the face of the hawk block, which is a one-turn distance. We'll talk about hawk handle lengths on that base.
The starting point for an "average" hawk head is a 16 to 17 inch handle. If the as-fitted handle results in over-rotation (the top of the hawk head hits the block instead of the blade) you've got a real problem, as the best solution is a new longer handle. If the fitted handle results in an under-rotation (bottom of handle hits before the blade or only the bottom edge of the blade hits the block) you have the normal "tuning" fix ..... shorten the handle by about 1/4 inch and try it again. Keep doing this until the thing hits square every time.
TO THE HAWK CUSTOMER: Just like sighting in a rifle, do NOT depend on just one throw for any decisions about the handle length. You need the equivalent of a "group" on a rifle target. Tune your hawk just like you tune your rifle. Then you can win some matches.
Hope this information helps.