A classic of the mid 1700’s American frontier the Tomahawk is a hatchet and utility axe. Season 7, Episode 32 “Tomahawk and Bowie” is one of the many Forged in Fire episodes featuring an axe. The design of the Tomahawk is of European origin, specifically France, and was used to trade with the pre-Columbian persons residing in present day North America.

According to etymonline.com the name tomahawk dates back to 1610 from the Virginian Algonquian word tamahaac from the word tamaham meaning “he cuts”.

Season 7, Episode 32: “Tomahawk and Bowie” (S07 EP32)

The first two rounds of this Forged in Fire Episode are key themed. In order to get the steel to forge, they must create a key to unlock a chest containing the metal they need to forge their knife. In round two they must have a key hole guard and handle. It’s seems a bit gimmicky to me. Complexity for the sake of complexity with little to do with bladesmithing.

One of the Smith’s is particularly thrown by this handle requirement, which prevented her from finishing her handle. It’s a shame because she had a very nice tanto-esque blade profile from the first round. The knife was ultimately not tested.

Finale Weapon: Tomahawk and Bowie

The finale weapon is actually two weapons: the smith’s must forge a tomahawk and a bowie knife set.

The example tomahawk is beautiful damascus. It might be a pipe tomahawk. I don’t like how the handle tapers and it looks too narrow.

Both finalist’s home forges are in Mississippi. Neither had made tomahawk’s before. Both smith’s forge a bowie first. While damascus is more flash and style than function and substance, I would like to have seen one of the smith’s create both weapons out of a matching damascus billet.


A Tomahawk

Doc’s Tomahawk and Bowie Set

I do like how Doc does a traditional axe technique with a wrought iron body and high carbon steel (5160) bit. This is a more difficult technique as it requires forge welding so credit to him for taking this approach, particuarly on his first tomahawk. Unfortunately it doesn’t work for him the first time and he has to start over. But his second ‘hawk looks great. The poll and bit look fanstatic and I really like the contrast between the hard steel bit and the iron.

Unfortunately his fitment on the tomahawk was not spot on and Doug Marcaida points out there is some rattle to it.

I don’t like burned handles in general but he was light on the char and it looked great. The use of the same wood (tiger maple) for both the bowie and tomahawk and the matching brass pins made it feel more like a set. I also like the up and down swept guard on the bowie.

Brian’s Tomahawk and Bowie Set

Brian created a quality set. He used matching black walnut for both tomahawk and bowie handle. His tomahawk is made out of a single piece of 5160 steel. The tomahawk is more rustic and simple.

The traditinal way tomahawk are fit is that the top of the handle is wider than the bottom and the head is seated via friction. The tomhawk head Brian forges slides off the top of the handle. He chooses to weld more material into the inside of the eye rather than redo the handle.

It seems to work well because Doug makes no mention of the fit. Although he does comment it is very light.

There isn’t much of a poll on his tomahawk, which is certainly within the realm of traditional tomahawk design. However, I personally prefer to have more of a poll that can be used as a hammer and offset the weight of the bit to provide some balance.

It’s always fun to see David Baker throw an axe and the strength test involves a throw and chop of both weapons in the set.

David also comments the head is a bit loose on Doc’s ‘hawk, but it did not fly off the handle. Unfortunately it does slide off the handle after the sharpness test. It seems as though the eye was not forged properly to maximize the effectiveness of a traditional friction fit.

David complimented the throwability of Brian’s tomahawk, but also mentioned the handle was not straight.

Axes in the episode: one half of the finale weapon: Tomahawk