Introduction: Tomahawk Survival Axe (that Opens Beers!)
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Hi fellow Makers,
This summer I went on a 5 week camping trip to the Alps with some friends. We went rock climbing and mountaineering and had lots of fun. On this trip I found out that I forgot one very important tool: an axe. We really like to build camp fires and drink beer after a long day of climbing, but without an axe to cut firewood we had to spend a lot of time finding smaller tree branches we could brake by hand to make the fire.
So when I got home I had the idea of making a survival tomahawk inspired axe, that features a pocket knife style saw blade and most important, a bottle opener to open beers!
This Instructable will show you how you can make your own!
Step 1: Design
The design of this axe consists of 3 pieces:
Axe head: The shape of the head is inspired by a tomahawk, an axe originally used by Native Americans and European colonials. Feel free to change the shape however you like, maybe add some cool spikes or a hammer shape to the other end. The axe head will be pinned and glued to the handle.
Bottle opener: I originally wanted to use a rounded hole in the head as a bottle opener. A quick test showed me that drilling a hole in the blade with standard drill bits was not possible (it's hardened), so I changed it to a different type. You can see the difference in the picture, the new type is also known as a churchkey style opener.
Sawzall blade: I wanted to add a saw to the axe and I thought it would be cool to do it pocket knife style. The blade is stored in the handle and can swing open (there is a finger notch to grab the blade). The blade is sandwiched between the two handle scales. A metal piece is shaped so that the blade can swing open and locks it in the open or closed position.
Once I was happy with the design I checked if the pieces would fit inside the saw blade, they did! just barely :)
I have included a 1:1 PDF that you can print out, make sure the square measures 50 mm.
Step 2: Materials and Tools
This axe is made from an old saw blade and some hardwood I had lying around. I only had to buy a sawzall blade for this project, so it cost me around 5 euro/dollar. The steel of the blade is already hardened so you don't need to harden it when it's done. I know this might not be the very best steel, but it's what I had and it's free!
- Old circular saw blade
- Piece of hardwood (roughly 50x40x300 mm)
- Large nails for the pins
- Sawzall blade (I used a 200 mm blade)
- Bolt, nut and washer
Step 3: Make Sparks!
I transferred the shape of the axe head and lower part onto the saw blade and cut it out using an angle grinder with a thin cut off disk. I then used the disk sander, angle grinder and files to finish the pieces. The exact shape of the lower part of the handle, can be tweaked later.
Step 4: Cutting Out the Handles
You can glue on the template and cut out the two handle pieces. I just used my CNC to cut them out (you can read about it here)!
Step 5: Drill Hardened Steel?
I don't have any carbide metal cutting drill bits, so I wasn't sure how I would drill the holes in the hardened steel of the axe head. I came across a video by John Heisz that showed that you can use sharpened masonry bits to drill in hardened steel. So that's what I did and it worked quite well!
Step 6: Adding a Bottle Opener!
This might just be the most important feature of this axe! Whenever I am camping with friends we usually drink a couple beers at the campfire. Opening beers with rocks or tree branches is not super easy, so I figured it would be a good idea to add a bottle opener to the axe head. I traced the shape of a real bottle opener on the axe head and cut it out. It works like a charm :)!
Step 7: Drill and Dryfit
Next I drilled the holes in the handle and tested if everything worked. The lower metal piece should act as a spring to keep the saw blade in place. If it's too stiff you can make the lower part a bit thinner (see pictures). First I used the metal pieces as a template to drill the holes, then I clamped the two handle pieces together and drilled all the way through. This way all the holes line up perfectly.
I used some bolts to do a dry assembly of the axe. Now you can test if the saw blade mechanism works and if all the pieces fit.
Step 8: Sharpening the Head
After tracing the bevel on the axe head, I used the angle grinder with a sanding disk to roughen in the bevel. Then I used a file and the disk sander (use water to keep the blade cool) to finish it. I did the final sharpening with a honing wheel on the bench grinder.
I'm not an expert in axe sharpening, so I would love to hear some good tips (correct bevel angle etc.)!
The axe will mainly be used to split wood into smaller pieces, so I did a quick test to see if it would work (see picture).
Step 9: Glueing and Pinning
The axe is glued together with two part epoxy and pinned with 5mm steel pins (I used some large nails). Before you glue everything together, don't forget to add some finger notches to the wooden handle pieces. It's a good idea to roughen up the surface of the metal pieces with a file, so the epoxy bonds better. Only apply glue to the head and upper part of the metal spring piece. The lower part needs to be able to move and act as spring.
Step 10: Shaping the Handle
Now that the pieces are glued together, it's time to give the handle a comfortable shape. I used a rasp, files and sandpaper. A strip of sandpaper works well to sand the edges.
Step 11: Finish and Conclusion
I finished the project by applying some oil and installing the sawzall blade. The axe only weighs 300 grams, so it's easy to take it with you in your pack. I would like to make a leather sheath for the head in the future.
I haven't had a chance to go camping again, but I did a quick test in a nearby forest. The saw works well to cut tree branches into smaller pieces and the axe was used for making kindling! The bottle opener works too, so that makes for a successful project :).
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I hoped you enjoyed reading this Instructable and would love to hear your ideas and suggestions about this project in the comments. If you you have any questions feel free to ask!