In throwing terms, the main difference between and axe and a ‘hawk (as they are known) is that, for an axe, the top of the head is closed, so that the shaft disappears into the head, while for a ‘hawk, the shaft passes all the way through the head and appears out of the top. This allows the head to slide along the shaft which makes the ‘hawk more durable when it strikes the target shaft-first, as there is more freedom of movement. In short, you have to buy fewer replacements shafts.
At SKATTA, we use Cold Steel Norse ‘Hawks, which are widely favoured for throwing because of the way the top of the blade curves up to a point; when the ‘hawk strikes at the ideal 45-degree angle, this makes a good point to stick into the target.
For a throwing axe or ‘hawk, there are specific requirements for weight and length, within EuroThrower or IKTHOF competition rules, but for a beginner, the main requirement are that:
- The shaft is sufficiently durable to withstand repeated impacts against the target or other ‘hawks.
- The shaft has a smooth end, to allow it to leave your hand cleanly; many hand-axes sold for the usual purpose of chopping have a contoured or flared grip to prevent it flying out of your hand while you chop, because that’s not normally a desired consequence of using an axe…
A little history
Historically speaking, the Native American tomahawk has its origins in the wooden plant stem with a bulbous root that the Native Americans used as a war club and general hammer, since they didn’t have the technology to work in metal. When European settlers turned up to trade, the indigenous population immediately saw the advantages of the newcomer’s axes, and adopted them, while keeping the same name for the new version of the tool, and that name, when Anglicised, is “tomahawk”.
Thanks to Steve Huff of Iron Shield Arms for this historical context. Any errors are my own.