Just about any outdoorsman worth their salt has a knife of some sort on them when they hit the woods, and that’s probably the primary tool that most of us use on a day in and day out basis. Depending on the size and type of knife you carry you can often make it “work up” and pinch hit for bigger tools when it comes to fire prep and shelter building. Sometimes though, you just need a little more oomph for chopping wood, but that extra chopping power comes at the cost of size and weight of the tool.
An axe is a fabulous tool for woodcutting but when you want to travel light and fast it may not always be the best fit for your kit. A good solution to this problem can be found with the frontiersman who founded our nation and spent a lot of time wandering afield, and that would be the classic American tomahawk.
The tomahawk is synonymous with folks serious about the woods whether they’re Native Americans, frontiersmen and trappers, or soldiers during the early days of the nation. Hawks still see a lot of use today and there are a lot of models on the market to choose from. When it came to picking one for the Pathfinder School Store, Dave Canterbury made sure to find one of the very best. The hawk Dave selected is a hand forged model made by Devin Price of Two Hawks forge in Seymour, MO. Devin has been at this for a long time and his skill and knowledge truly come through when you look at his work. Fit and finish on his pieces is superb and the balance is just right for a lightweight chopping tool. It makes a darn good thrower as well.
The Pathfinder Scout Tomahawk is made from 6150 spring steel which is oil hardened and then tempered to a Rockwell of 57. That’s a pretty high Rockwell compared to a lot of throwing hawks and ensures that it keeps a good edge during use, while still being tough enough to handle throwing. The heads are of Devin’s own design and patented under the Polaris Trading Co. name. The hawks are finished in a deep gun bluing and fitted to flame grained hickory handles. All in all they make for an extremely attractive and classic piece of kit. The hawk blade is adorned with the Pathfinder School logo stamped into one side of the blade and the Two Hawks and Polaris Trading Co. stamps on the other. The Pathfinder Scout hawk also comes with a very sturdy, but simple, leather blade cover and a belt carrier that allows you to either slip the hawk in and out the top or unsnap it and pull away from the belt. The latter might be handy if you have a pack on that would make it awkward to draw the hawk upwards out of the loop.
The Pathfinder hawk has an 18.5 inch long handle affixed to the head. The head itself is 6 inches long from axe edge to hammer poll, and the blade has a 3 inch cutting surface. The hawk weighs in at a relatively light 17.3 ounces on my scale, and adding the blade cover and belt carrier brings that up to 20.3 ounces. That’s still pretty light compared with many axes and hatchets that you might find yourself lugging around the woods. Price at the Pathfinder Store is $109.00, which I think is a pretty good deal for a hand forged axe of this quality, especially with a blade cover and carrier.
I used the Scout hawk for a number of months from spring through late summer. During that time it performed a myriad of camp chores from cutting and making tent stakes, chopping firewood, clearing out brush around my tent, and cutting poles for a shelter frame. The hammer poll worked well for hammering in stakes. I much preferred that to the rounded eyelets found on other hawks. It definitely adds some versatility to the tool. I wouldn’t use it to hammer in nails, but it worked great for stakes, and also for hammering on a wooden wedge when I was trying to split a larger log apart. The long 18 inch handle provided plenty of leverage when chopping and the edge of the hawk bit deep. Even when working on larger logs I found it pretty easy to throw chips at a steady pace and work my way through the aged logs with relative ease. The edge on the Scout hawk was excellent and seemed to hold up well under use. When choking up on the handle I was able to use the hawk head to do some basic carving and even some rough fuzz sticks.
Now, while the utility of throwing a tomahawk can certainly be argued, the history and the style of the piece pretty much demands that you at least give it a try. If nothing else, it’s an entertaining way to while away the time around a campsite by tossing a hawk around. If you saw Dave’s Youtube video when the hawk was first announced you’ll see that he didn’t have any problems getting steady and consistent sticks with the Scout hawk. Well, it’s been a while since I spent much time throwing a hawk so I didn’t initially do as well as Dave, but once I got back into the groove I found that the Pathfinder Scout threw and stuck quite well. It has an excellent balance to it and once you get your range it’s easy to stick with monotonous regularity.
Whether you’re looking for a light weight chopper to add to your kit, or you simply prefer a traditional American style tool to take with you when you hit the trails, the Pathfinder Scout Tomahawk easily fits the bill. It’s a quality made piece with classic lines mixed with solid functionality. If you’re on the fence about getting a good hawk, this is definitely one worth considering. Check out the Pathfinder School Store and snag one before you next hit the woods!
As seen in Issue #6 of Self Reliance Illustrated!
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