Picture of Modify a Tomahawk

So I bought a mass market tomahawk the other day.  I'd always wanted one, then stumbled across a website and discovered they were really affordable.  About $30 shipped.  And several different styles to choose from.  I chose a 'Cold Steel Trail Hawk.' 

It came in the mail and I was shocked at how BORING it looked.  So I decided to make a few changes.  And this beauty was born.

(This is my first 'ible.  Hope you enjoy!)

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Step 1: Raw Materials

Picture of Raw Materials

So here is what I got in the mail.  A 'hawk with a plain handle (I ordered a spare, too).  With the axe head painted black. Like I said.... boring.

First step is to remove the axe head.  On my model there was a small hex screw on the side of the head.  I found the correct hex wrench and simply removed it entirely.  With the encourangement of a wooden mallet, I was able to slide the head _down_ the handle.

Step 2: Remove paint from the axe head

So the first thing I did was strip the paint from the axe head.  I used a gel paint remover I got from the hardware store.  I painted it on then wrapped it plastic wrap.  It was some tough stuff but it all came off with a couple of treatments. 

Careful about this stuff touching bare skin - it burns.   

Once all the paint was loose, I washed it with plain ol' soap and water.
ElChick7 days ago

Wow, that turned out VERY nice! *Off to the interwebs to order some boring tomahawks*
Have you thrown it after your finishing work? How'd your finish stand up to the use?

Rob O (author)  ElChick4 days ago
Finish held up okay but would get really slick when wet. So that it was difficult to hold on ti. The stain I used had polyurathane in it. I made a second handle with just a simple stain and that worked much better.
hawkspear2 months ago

Yeah good thing you ordered a spare handle that first was half heart and half sap wood a couple of hits would have split it easily.

Pinkly10 months ago

I did the patina with ketchup. Didn't make the house smell like vinegar; made the head smell like a burger. LOL

Orr1231 year ago
Great tutorial and love the way it turned out. Thanks so much for sharing.
Oiji2 years ago
I was wondering, did the boiling vinegar have any negative effect on the pot? Wanted to do this to an axe that i was fixing up, but didn't want to waste a pot to do it. Thanks.
Rob O (author)  Oiji2 years ago
Hi there. I couldnt tell any obvious changes to the pot. In one sense it was just boiling vinegar. BUT I have no idea what could have come off the head (ie nasty paint-stripping chemicals) and stayed with the pot. I only simply wiped down the head before the vinegar treatment. I used an old camping pot and have retired it from food service.
Personally, I wouldnt re-use but that it is out of an abundance of caution mixed with the ready availability of cheapie pots and pans. Hit a garage sale, find a junk pot and then you have a dedicated pot you can use for random stuff.
Good question!!
Another related question would be fumes. Boiling vineger didnt smell as bad as I feared. BUT i have no idea what fumes might have been produced from the residue of the paint stripper that was on the head. I did this on the kitchen stove w fan at full blast. Needless to say my wife was not at home. Next time I'd do it outside.
pixelBoy4 years ago
Nice, where'd you find the tomahawk?
Rob O (author)  pixelBoy4 years ago
It's made (or at least imported!!) by a company called 'Cold Steel.' They sell direct from their website, but there are many many online retailers that sell cheaper. And they are always on eBay. This model is the "Trail Hawk" model. I picked it bc of the hammer pol opposite the cutting edge.
Kozz4 years ago
Wow! Your tomahawk went from boring to beautiful! That's something to be proud of, and I think would draw the eye of any visitor to your workshop. Nicely done! I wonder if there's any kind of really simple clear-coat you can put over the raw metal to preserve its natural look, but simpler than parkerizing? I also wonder whether or not bluing can be performed on this kind of casted metal. In any case, what you've done is beautiful, and I can imagine creating a nice, small leather sheath, too. Nice work!
Culturespy Kozz4 years ago
I'm pretty sure all the cold steel tomahawks are drop forged.
ironsmiter Kozz4 years ago

there are two simple methods.

petroleum jelly works fairly well.
the other is beeswax, applied while the metal is warm.

the jelly just adds shine, and rust resistance.
the wax will actually soak into the pores of the metal, sealing it against all but the most inclement of weather.

if you're after a little more color, a few coats of peanut oil to the hot metal will make a wonderful finish.

* "Hot metal" = too hot to handle without gloves. not so hot as to burn THROUGH gloves. somewhere near 160F give or take a couple degrees.
should have noted...

When browning with peanut oil, you're looking to get the steel close to 400F(though it SHOULD work upto 500F+, but leave the windows open), which is just below it's smoke point. Easy to do with an oven :-)

And since you only need the surface(to about 1/8th inch) to be that temperature, most parts can be heated to that temperature in under an hour. Repeated heatings, and coatings will create a darker finish.
Culturespy4 years ago
I've never modified and existing tomahawk or hatchet but I've made quite a few. It's probably not practical in most workshops but another way to put a finish on metal like this is to quench the item in linseed oil. You need it to be "cherry" hot. No idea what that temp would be and if you do it wrong (metal too hot or unevenly heated) you'll mess up the temper and possibly warp the piece but it's another way to add a very durable finish. I know of at least one blacksmith that just uses motor oil. Seems to work fine.