Light Weight Hatchet
A DIY hatchet and instructions.

Le 28 avril 2003, par Steve

The author expertly built a very nice tomahawk, by modifying inexpensive existing parts.

The two attached files show a light hatchet I made from a heavier utility hatchet. I had always wanted a small belt hatchet which I could easily carry around, but I could never find one I liked.

Most of the so-called "tomahawks" you see for sale are not well designed or are of inferior wrapped iron or cast steel. So I made one. Some of the modern Chinese-made hatchets, of drop-forged steel, are apparently made of fairly decent material, but too heavy & bulky to carry around or else have handles which are too short. I found a utility hatchet for $6 at a hardware store, removed the original handle, and cut the head down to size.

The plan :


See the attached "plan" for details. The photo shows the finished product.

The finished tomahawk :


It has a 16.5 inch long handle so you can use it either one-handed or two-handed. The steel in this hatchet takes a good sharp edge. I would not want to cut down a large trees on a regular basis with such a light hatchet, but it works well on the small stuff. Best of all, it is light enough so you don’t hesitate to throw it in your pack or to carry it with you in a belt sheath. Incidentally, I view this as a tool, not a toy, so I do not throw my hatchet at things.

I used a mix of commonly-available power tools & hand tools from my woodshop : bench grinder, rotary hand grinder, drill press, belt sander, small electric arc welder, and assorted files & a hacksaw. As you cut & thin the head, especially when welding, you have to take your time and quench the head in cool water frequently to prevent drawing the edge temper. In reshaping the eye, I let the welded steel cool a bit so that when quenched at that temperature, the eye area retained the medium-hardness it had to start with, without getting too hard.

The edge on the finished hatchet still has the original hardness which allows it to retain an edge. I do not like the tapered handles you see on most "tomahawks". They are too easily flung away as you work with sweaty, dirty hands. That’s why I used a wedged-eye handle with a swell-end for the hand grip area.

If you carefully saw your wedge slots and use both a wooden wedge and steel cross wedges, you can force the end of the handle to expand both ways at the top of the eye, locking the handle in place, I also like to coat the wedged area well in expoxy resin so that the expanded wood really gets "fixed" in place inside the eye.

Last thing I did on mine was to "blue" the head using a bottle of cold gun bluing. That plus a coating of hard wax protects the steel well.

Ed : Steve just added this image :


Post-Scriptum :

Nb : Slightly edited by JM for presentation. You can comment this article below. To contact Steve, please email the administrator, which will forward.

par Steve



Le 29 avril 2003
Thanks again Steve for this great article and drawings, how long dit it take you to build this hatchet ?
Le 30 avril 2003
Took about 8 hours of shop work to grind it down and add the handle. Wore out a hacksaw blade and a grinder disk. Just kept grinding it down until it looked right and weighed 1 lb.
Le 1er mars 2004
could you make a double bit like that two and show us ?  :-D
Le 5 mars 2004
Converting a two-edge head to a light-weight hatchet sounds like a do-able project, providing I could find a small enough head to start with. All of the double heads I have ever seen are monster full-sized axes weighing 3.5-5 lbs. Far too big to convert into a belt hatchet. If anyone knows of a source for a smaller two-edged head, let me know. What I HAVE been considering is adding a spike or chisel-edged blade on the poll side of one my small hatchets. Something which could be used for hard work like digging, cutting roots, breaking off a hasp or lock, etc. without risking your main, sharp edge. Should be possible to drill, tap, then weld a decent spike or chisel to the poll so it will handle the rough work without breaking too easily. If I carry through with this, I will post a picture.
Le 8 novembre 2004
for a double head, couldn’t you just weld two heads together, cut halfway between the eyes ? not that you could aword such a waste of time, and materitals.

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