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Michael Matthys




Location: England
Joined: 21 Jun 2009
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PostPosted: Sat 09 Jan, 2010 2:07 pm    Post subject: Tomahawks - hatchets, small axes         Reply with quote

So, maybe I'm sticking my neck out here but I have been looking recently at tomahawks. I mean the colonial period axes not the stone ones (interesting in their own right but not what I have in mind just now.
Now to me they are nice old fashioned hatchets made in Birmingham (where I was born) and shipped to the colonies by the gross.
But I am surprised and pleased to find that in the States you still have a living martial arts place for them. There seem to be people giving training and there seems to be a use for them in the US Military. (Maybe it exists in Canada too.) This is surely very interesting. It looks like not all Western Martial Arts (pre-gunpowder) are dead! I think that is great!
Does anyone know how similar these tomahawks (viz. 17th & 18th century hatchets) are to smaller mediaeval/viking axes?
So - I'm English (don't hold it against me) and I've often thought that older forms of some aspects of English/European culture have been preserved in North America where they have died out on this side of the ocean. Maybe tomahawk fighting is a survival of a much older martial art system.
If anyone has any ideas on this subject I would be very glad to hear them.
And yes - I plan to get myself a tomahawk.

Michael.
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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Sat 09 Jan, 2010 3:31 pm    Post subject: Axe use         Reply with quote

Hello MIchael

I would expect there was quite a bit of use of small axes in the western European area but I fear I can not point to a source that would be definitive at the moment. The war type axes are often slightly different then the working axes but there are almost certainly examples that would equate to the axes seen in some of the colonial contexts. The most likely direct connection over time would be the hand to hand naval combat as boarding axes would have been issued well into the 18th C.

Of course if we look to the nordic cultures you see a richer group of material on the research of the surviving examples of small axe.

If you are interested in some of the material that has been researched on its use I would recommend the work of Dwight C. McLemore's Book I believe there are DVD's in the future, his protege Steve Huff and HMCA for tomahawk. Bill Short and the Hurstic group for the Viking axes.

Best
Craig
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Clayton S




Location: Tampa
Joined: 05 Jan 2010

Posts: 7

PostPosted: Sat 09 Jan, 2010 7:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Michael,
I am new here but this question really is up my alley. The following is generally a generalization Laughing Out Loud , listed by size, and exceptions exist.

A bearded axe is usually smallest, lightest in weight. The blade may be long, but the socket is small. I have never seen one that was truly a shield buster. Sometimes they are sold as a 'hunter's or small hatchet' or a mini- hawk. These would be the "smaller mediaeval/viking axes" you mention.

A tomahawk is next. A $20 version must be avoided. Many are about the size called a 'camp hatchet'. These would be the "17th & 18th century hatchets" you refer to. A tomahawk usually has a tapered socket.

The hatchet, as you refer to them, are really middle sized. This is the size we Americans could find in a hardware store, similar to a 16 oz hammer.

Boarding axes are usually larger than a hatchet. These are about the largest for single-handed fighting, similar in size to a 24 oz "framing hammer". They can be quite an area of collecting in themselves. I would bring a boarding axe to an axe fight any day...

An axe is an axe, still larger. These are what you use to attack a tree with. When you get into the 2 handed fighting or bouble bit-style war axes, they get bigger.

A two-handed axe, or poleaxe is the limit for an axe.

Check here for some dimensions and nice images. http://www.gransfors.com/htm_eng/index.html

You really must be careful when shopping for any of these. Many are "visually" lower in quality and is generally seen in the price. Rivets between the socket and the blade usually mean the blade is very thin, riveted to a thin socket. I hope all agree, rivets on axes are baaad...

Sword? No, I am merely a peasant...
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,306

PostPosted: Sat 09 Jan, 2010 8:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That's odd, I've only seen the term "bearded" in reference to Viking-era axes, and usually larger ones, or at least larger than the average 18th century tomahawk. But Rev War era axes are not a particular specialty of mine, so maybe I missed something. The boarding axes I've seen are identical to most 'hawks, though some have a larger head with a semi-circular edge, the distinctive feature being a back spike.

Here's the tomahawk I got for doing Rev War over 20 years ago, shown here with a Roman-style edge sheath:

http://www.larp.com/legioxx/dolabra2.jpg

The larger implement is a Roman dolabra! But the 'hawk is nearly identical to Roman styles, and it's the same $20 hand-forged one most suttlers carry. Nothing historically wrong with it that I've ever heard, and I've used it for cutting kindling over a 2000-year span of time! I've got another one with a blunted edge for steel-weapon reenactment fighting.

Now, I have heard that Viking axes typically had points (upwards and downwards) at the socket area (kinda like vestigial langets, not sure how else to describe them). Ah, just Google search "Mammen axe" and you'll see what I mean. I don't know if some had straight sockets like a tomahawk or not. Certainly hatchets and axes in every era varied a great deal in size! Those meant only for war tended to have fairly thin blades, while those meant strictly for woodworking often had heavier wedge-section blades. Military-issue tomahawks from the Rev War can be kind of in between, and British ones were supposed to have a short squarish hammer-head on the back. Many Indian tomahawks were actually made by Europeans as trade items.

For "martial arts", tomahawk throwing is indeed quite a common sport, and I believe they were thrown for sport in the past as well, but I don't think throwing was a very practical or common battle tactic. And I'm not sure I've seen any 18th century reenactment units that include any combat training or sparring with axes! They tend to be rather paranoid about bladed weapons in general, so "hatchet fights" (as they call them) are mostly left to medieval groups.

Edit: Ah, this helps!!

http://www.larp.com/midgard/axes1.jpg

Left to right:

--My el-cheapo cast steel Viking axe, showing the socket points
--my blunted 18th century hawk;
--what I would call a "bearded" Viking axe, from Albion
--a wooden-headed axe for loaning out to medieval fighters not certified to use steel weapons
--18th century French trade axe which also makes a good boarding axe, or a medieval battle axe

Matthew
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Eric Root




Location: Floyd, Virginia
Joined: 13 Sep 2009
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PostPosted: Sun 10 Jan, 2010 5:18 am    Post subject: Re: Tomahawks - hatchets, small axes         Reply with quote

Michael Matthys wrote:
So, maybe I'm sticking my neck out here but I have been looking recently at tomahawks. I mean the colonial period axes not the stone ones (interesting in their own right but not what I have in mind just now.
Now to me they are nice old fashioned hatchets made in Birmingham (where I was born) and shipped to the colonies by the gross.
But I am surprised and pleased to find that in the States you still have a living martial arts place for them. There seem to be people giving training and there seems to be a use for them in the US Military. (Maybe it exists in Canada too.) This is surely very interesting. It looks like not all Western Martial Arts (pre-gunpowder) are dead! I think that is great!
Does anyone know how similar these tomahawks (viz. 17th & 18th century hatchets) are to smaller mediaeval/viking axes?
So - I'm English (don't hold it against me) and I've often thought that older forms of some aspects of English/European culture have been preserved in North America where they have died out on this side of the ocean. Maybe tomahawk fighting is a survival of a much older martial art system.
If anyone has any ideas on this subject I would be very glad to hear them.
And yes - I plan to get myself a tomahawk.

Michael.


Definitely a matter of style rather than equipment, but when i was in the U.S. Army I saw a film of Russian Spetznaz troopers throwing their entrenching tools (small folding shovels that are sharpened on one edge to double as hatchets.) They were able to embed the entrenching tools surprisingly (and disconcertingly) deep into plywood man-shaped targets.
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Josh Maxwell




Location: Michigan
Joined: 01 Jul 2009
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Posts: 55

PostPosted: Sun 10 Jan, 2010 8:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Clayton S wrote:
Hi Michael,
Rivets between the socket and the blade usually mean the blade is very thin, riveted to a thin socket. I hope all agree, rivets on axes are baaad...


Rivets on axes don't necessarily point towards an inferior product. For example, take a look sparth axes. Rivets are just another method of attaching an axe head to a haft.

As for thin blades on axes, look at danish war axes. Having a thin profile on your blade makes for an easier cut against lightly armored opponents. Thin cutting axes have their place on the battlefield, just as thicker axe blades have their place in the forest. It's an example of how different blade profiles are intended for different purposes.
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Jack W. Englund




Location: WA State
Joined: 17 Sep 2007
Reading list: 6 books

Posts: 186

PostPosted: Sun 10 Jan, 2010 12:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I do "historical research" on the "fur trade" in the PNW (1800-1850s.) The Major "players" were the NW Co (NWC ) & the Hudson bay Co. ( HBC) One of the MAJOR items they shipped out here ( both for trade & use) were AXES. These were shipped w/o handles & in bulk. To stay on topic, I will add my 2 cents, concerning "hatches & Tomahawks".
Tomahawks, although shipped, the #s were not in comparison to "hatchets" The major reason was,IMHO, that a "tomahawk"was "somewhat limited in use" where as a "hatchet" was a "multi-tool. (weapon,&/or work) Very few tomahawks were carried out here.

The 2 major "head" styles were the "Biscay" ( both NWC & HBC) & the "HBC pattern" ( note- the Native Amer.s in the PNW, "coveted the ""broad head"pattern..
Here is a picture of the "custom hatchet" I carry ( note it is a reproduction a a "late style" ( mid 1800s)


Jack
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L. Hughes




Location: WInter Park Florida
Joined: 29 Jun 2010

Posts: 2

PostPosted: Tue 29 Jun, 2010 6:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I know this is a really old post but I have to agree with Josh that rivet's on Tomahawks and Axes do not necessarily mean an inferior product as some are added just for decoration and do not always penetrate into the wood. I think we can all agree that there were many styles of Tomahawks, Axes, Boarding Axes and so on. Boarding Axes varied from region to region some with thick and wide blades and some thiner. Reference the work of kingsforgeandmuzzleloading.com. they warrantee their tomahawk heads for life and the craftsmanship is awesome. This is one of the hawks


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DSCN1475.JPG
War Axe/Tomahawk
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Tue 29 Jun, 2010 7:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey, I'm from Birmingham, too! Wait a minute... Big Grin I've written about this just a bit in my "Swords in the Virginia Muster of 1624/25" on the Features area of this site. I speculate that those early colonists were already abandoning swords in favor of the more versatile hatchets as sidearms, and continued that until the organized army required socket bayonets and muskets (and long after, in civilian use). So, there's at least a few hundred years of martial use among Anglo-Europeans here, not to mention native use. But you mentioned modern army training. Have you read about the use of `hawks in the Vietnam war? Some Army special forces (the "Green Berets") favored the tomahawk, and that version has been available off-and-on for years. Search for "Vietnam Tomahawk" or "Special Forces Tomahawk" and see what turns up. So, `hawk use here does seem to be a living martial tradition rather than purely nostalgic or the stuff of "Rendezvous".

Personally, I'm a fan of those gorgeous 18th c. imported hawk heads, which were surprisingly small. I think this is the rare case in which I like them whether completely plain and utilitarian or carefully mounted and decorated. I wish I could find a quality head. If anybody knows a source, let me know.

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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L. Hughes




Location: WInter Park Florida
Joined: 29 Jun 2010

Posts: 2

PostPosted: Tue 29 Jun, 2010 8:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The best I know of is at kingsforgeandmuzzleoading.com and each one is made by hand.
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Julian Reynolds




Location: United Kingdom
Joined: 30 Mar 2008

Posts: 271

PostPosted: Wed 30 Jun, 2010 12:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael,

'Hawk fighting, as a martial art, is alive and well here in the UK - below are a few (wooden) training 'hawks and boarders I made for a school up in Edinburgh.

Also, my original 19thC poll-axe.



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Axe.JPG

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Dave Leppo




Location: Dover, PA, USA
Joined: 24 Feb 2010

Posts: 38

PostPosted: Wed 30 Jun, 2010 5:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

in the states, for a custom hawk, axe, hatchet, etc. (including pipe-hawk) you want to find Alan Longmire in Tennessee
check this out: http://forums.dfoggknives.com/index.php?showtopic=17126

-Dave
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Dave Leppo




Location: Dover, PA, USA
Joined: 24 Feb 2010

Posts: 38

PostPosted: Wed 30 Jun, 2010 5:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

heres a pic, for bait! This example is from the "Seven Years War" Alan has done much reaserch in this area, and really knows his stuff.


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-Dave
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Jack W. Englund




Location: WA State
Joined: 17 Sep 2007
Reading list: 6 books

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PostPosted: Wed 30 Jun, 2010 7:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Flynt wrote:
So, `hawk use here does seem to be a living martial tradition rather than purely nostalgic or the stuff of "Rendezvous".



Just a side note, I agree that in the "Rendezvous", much is "nostalgic" when it comes to the "non Natives using as weapons, esp. in the far west after 1800.

1. But Axes were carried & use by all & some times as weapons.
2. BTW SWORDS were Carried & USED, as Weapons, by the fur traders in the PNW until the mid 1800s. ( The "load out" for NWC/HBC "clerks" included a Sword. Additionally they were "issued" to other others from the "post" Armory

Jack.
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Bryce Felperin




Location: San Jose, CA
Joined: 16 Feb 2006

Posts: 552

PostPosted: Wed 30 Jun, 2010 10:00 am    Post subject: Re: Axe use         Reply with quote

Craig Johnson wrote:
Hello MIchael

I would expect there was quite a bit of use of small axes in the western European area but I fear I can not point to a source that would be definitive at the moment. The war type axes are often slightly different then the working axes but there are almost certainly examples that would equate to the axes seen in some of the colonial contexts. The most likely direct connection over time would be the hand to hand naval combat as boarding axes would have been issued well into the 18th C.

Of course if we look to the nordic cultures you see a richer group of material on the research of the surviving examples of small axe.

If you are interested in some of the material that has been researched on its use I would recommend the work of Dwight C. McLemore's Book I believe there are DVD's in the future, his protege Steve Huff and HMCA for tomahawk. Bill Short and the Hurstic group for the Viking axes.

Best
Craig


I've taken classes from Steve Huff and I highly recommend training for 'hawks' to anyone interested. It is a very fearsome weapon with a lot of speed. It's also easy to use and learn compared to a lot of other weapons I've studied. My preference for kit would be a basic hawk with a flat pall for hammering in the back. From my experience the back spikes on some hawks get in the way at times when moving it around fast, and make the hawk more of a weapon than a tool (which I admit matters more when carrying it around than in historical recreation settings). I really like hawks!
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