It has been several years since I made a tomahawk for which I used a tomahawk drift to establish the eye. Making tomahawks and small axes is something that really bothers my old bones. But I thought I'd give it a try and set no time limits. I'd just forge when I felt like it.
Four days ago (March 26, 2011) I started this project using simple hand-held hammers and my old stand-by, Godzilla. Later I used my drill press to make a slot for the eye and I also used it to drill out the bowl -- since I'm making a spontoon pipe tomahawk.
I've taken a bunch of photos and thought I would make a "WIP" (Work In
Progress demo) out of it. So here are a few photos I took along the way, and my
explanations of them.
Several years ago I picked up an old octagon digging bar at a local military-surplus
store. It turned out to be made of 1050 steel, and is 1 1/4" in diameter. I
wasn't sure about what length I would need, so I cut it at 5 1/2" -- which
turned out to be a good guess.
The first heat I used Godzilla to segregate a 2 1/2" piece of steel that I
will later forge into the bit or blade of this hawk.
I went ahead and added a little "corn" -- with me holding my Dollar Store find of
Old Man's Cream.
This is what I ended up with after I used Godzilla the first time. Once I have the first notch established I then start spinning the steel as I'm hammering on Godzilla. I now have segregated this piece of steel and the left end will eventually end up being the blade.
I put the steel back into Godzilla and added a couple more notches, but this time
I did not spin the steel, I just kept it flat.
The next step I do is to hammer these notches flat on the face of the anvil. The
hammer I use for most of the heaver forging is a 6-pound sledge.
Here's a picture of what I ended up with.
After repeating the previous steps three or four times I end up with the bar looking
From the rectangular shape I've started re-shaping it into a spear shape -- without
any bevels for now.
I used Godzilla to put in another notch -- to segregate the bowl from the pole.
Here's a vertical view of what I have done to this point.
Next step will be making the slot for the eye and drilling out the bowl.
After I get to this stage of the forging I'll stop and do the machining work. I could also do it before the forging but I've found out over time that things like this get accidentally hit or moved when I'm doing the first amount of forging so I usually wait before I do it.
I'm using a floor mount $300.00 drill press I got from Lowes. Not the best but it feels my needs. I'm also using a cross vise I purchased from Harbor Freight. Again not the best but they do work for what I need them for. I'm basically using this set up now like you would use a milling machine even though you've probably heard not to do this. I'll talk more about that later. (It is also the same procedure I use to rough slot my guards except I'm using smaller burrs then.)
I start out by drilling a series of 1/4" holes in line down the center of the
steel. Don't forget to slow the drill press down to about half speed. In this case
slower is better. After these holes are drilled I'll set the drill press to fast,
chuck up a 1/4" solid carbide burr and start cleaning out the web that was
left from drilling. While I'm doing that I'm adding very little pressure either
forward or backwards and at the same time I'm working the burr up and down. With
the shortness of the first bit I'll do one side and then turn it over and do the
Once I have the slot nice and clean I'll switch to a larger carbide bit and do pretty
much the same thing until the sides are nice and even. I had mentioned earlier that
I had wished I had made the slot longer. Pretty much the ideal slot size should
be around 5/16" X 1 1/2" long.
The main reason I didn't forge the bevels on the blade was I wanted it flat for
when I start drilling out the bowl. I'll first drill a smoke and pilot hole. This
hole has to end up in the slot I just made.
Once I have the pilot hole drilled, I chucked up a 7/8" drill bit and set the
speed to slow. This drill bit can be whatever size you want depending on the size
of your steel. This will be a pretty good size bowl. A manly smoke.
Once I have the machine work done I'll start forging in the bevels.
I'm going to start forging in the bevels now. What I will be doing is the same thing
that you would for a dagger or a double beveled sword. To achieve a pronounced spine
you forge only on half the blade at a time. In this first picture I am using the
cross peen part of the hammer. Its going to produce a bunch of deep marks that will
later be forged out with the flat part of the hammer in later heats. I'll go ahead
and do this half of the blade and when I'm done with that half I'll roll the blade
over 180 degrees and do the same thing on the other half.
In this photo I'm using the flat part of the hammer to smooth out the dents from
the cross peen. Once that half is done I'll roll the blade over again and do the
other side. I'll repeat this sequence several times.
In this photo I'm standing on the other side of the anvil and I'm now hammering
on the opposite side of the two halves that I started out hammering. Hope that makes
sense to you.
Here's what it looks like once I got done and the blade cooled off.
This is going to be the section on drifting the eye. I do things quite a bit differently now than when I first started making tomahawks. It use to be I would always do the eye first and then do the rest of the forging. I have since learned to wait on the eye because it tends to get in the way of the hammer and usually has to be redone so I save doing the eye till the very last.
Now remember I have got the slot for the eye already made. The only bad thing was with this hawk I went from memory and I made the slot a 1/4" shorter than I should have. For most pre-made hawk handles you want to start with a slot that is 1 3/8" X at least a 1/4" wide. Also, when working on drifting the eye you want to have the steel close to welding heat.
The first thing I will do when drifting the eye is I open up the slot so you can
get the tomahawk drift in. In this case I'm using a round, tapered drift. This usually
takes me a couple of heats; but if you make the slot the right size you should be
able to do it in one heat.
Once you have opened up the slot insert the drift. Now the drift is tear drop shaped
and it is important that the pointed end of the drift goes to the front of the hawk.
I usually start drifting from the top but at this stage it really doesn't matter
cause your going to do this a few times before you have established the finished
eye. Once you drift from the top reheat the steel and the next heat drift from the
bottom. This helps to open up the eye when you do this. Also it is a good idea to
oil the drift to prevent it from sticking. Old crank case oil will work fine.
Remember you really need to smack the drift good. Also when you start getting the
eye to its final size you want to finish by driving the drift from the top only.
You can mark the drift where you want it to stop. In my case on this hawk I had
to do the eye with three different forging sessions before I got the eye the right
size. If I had made the slot the right size from the start it chould have been done
with just one forging session.
This is just a shot of the drift showing I need to go much deeper. Another thing
I forgot to mention is its best to have some type of backer when you do the drifting.
Something with a hole in it that is just a little bit larger than the finished eye.
As far as determining how large to make the slot a good way to find out if you're
using pre-made handles is to take a wire and wrap it around the handle where you
want the eye to stop. Mark the wire and measure it and it will tell you how large
to make the slot. Just make the slot a little under that measurement.
This photo is of the head after the eye is fully formed.
I took a couple days off to head down to Placerville, California for a mini reunion and retirement celebration for a sister in law.
Time to concentrate on getting this hawk done and also get things together for the OKCA Show this weekend.
This will be the last work-in-progress bit on this hawk until I have it done.
The next thing I started working on is the bowl for the pipe part of this hawk.
First thing I did was use chainsaw files to start a groove.
After the groove was established the bulk of the shaping was done free hand on the
Here's a shot of the bowl after using the grinder.
After the bowl was roughed shaped on the grinder I used my Foredom and carbide burrs
to do the final shaping.
I got 'er done at least for now. I may add a few turks head knots eventually but for right now I'm feeling pretty burnt out. The haft measures 21" and it has stag mouth piece and also a piece of stag for the cleanout plug at the top of the haft. The head measures 10 1/2" from the tip to the end of the bowl. The blade is 6" and is 2 3/8" wide at its widest part.
Every time I had done a knife show and I had a pipe tomahawk on my table I always
got asked if I had tried smoking one. I never had but decided to give it a try with
this one. I found some dried out chewing tobacco I had misplaced and fired the hawk
up. The Surgeon General was right, but I'm sure it would have been better with right
tobacco. I did not inhale....
The origin of this style tomahawk is from the "Golden Pond Tribe" -- from "Over
I forgot ... I made a sheath for this here tomahawk today.
I entered this spontoon hawk in the hand-forged knife judging at the 2011 OKCA (Oregon
Knife Collectors Association) Show. I asked if I could entered it as a knife, and
they told me as long as it could cut I could enter it. It won the OKCA best hand-forged
knife award for 2011.
They asked me if I inhaled and I told them no ... so that was a feather in my hat.
I can now become President if I want to.