Making a Viking / Barbarian War Hammer




I Exclusively Work The Renaissance Faires . Quality Of Life Not Quantity Is What 's Important.

 This instructable will show you how to make a leather Wrapped Viking / Barbarian  war hammer. The one I have the most pictures of is the prototype. I make these 3 at a time and all are unique  so if the colors of the leather or the handles don't match from picture to picture the techniques are still the same.

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Step 1: Tools and Materials

   The base I currently use for the war hammer is called a commander, a large mallet used in timber framing. These are available at The Japan Woodworker in Alameda CA (

    5 to 7 oz. Tooling leather (Vegetable Tanned) or  latigo

    Leather dyes in the color of your choice

    Antique Brass Upholstery tacks

    Heavy thread or artificial sinew and needles

    2" brass ring or antler crown for end cap

    40' of sisal rope

    Snap Clip

    2   3" Screws

    30 or so 3/4" carpet tacks


    Band, Jig Or Coping Saw

    Razor Knife


    Propane or Mapp gas torch

    Wire Brush

    Drill and Drill Bits





Step 2: Burning , Brushing and Assembly

 The head is coated in paraffin and metal bands bind the head  to keep it from cracking during the climate change  from japan to here. I remove the metal bands prior to burning the wax off the head. The top of the handle is shaped with a saw and then it is also burned. When both are cool enough to handle I brush them with a wire brush going along grain of the wood.  Slide the head on to the handle. The handle is slightly wedge shaped at the top so the head only fits one way properly. Pressure fit the head by repeatedly dropping  the top of the handle vertically on the ground. This will force the head to wedge itself securely to the handle. Pre drill and drive screws to secure head.

Step 3: Leather; Cutting and Dyeing

 Cut out the head Wrap and Handle Wrap out of the 5 to 7 ounce latigo or tooling leather. Distress and dye them if you you wish. I use a large pear shader to produce a tortoise shell like effect on the tooling leather prior to dyeing. The Braiding piece is a strap 3/4" wide by 60" long this I usually dye a contrasting color. The Bottom Wrap is a 6" long by 5 3/4" wide piece.

Step 4: Wrapping and Stitching the Top

 Wrap the head and secure the leather with stitching and  upholstery tacks.  Saddle stitch handle wrap on.

Step 5: Braiding the Handle

 I used a simple over one under one braid for this handle and secured each row with a carpet tack.

Step 6: Finishing the Handle

 The braiding is finished 6 " from the bottom, secured with carpet tacks then cut off 3/4" from the end of the handle. The bottom wrap is saddle stitched on over the braid ends. For this hammer I stitched an antler crown button onto a piece of leather as an end cap.

Step 7: Alternate Ends

 Here are two other finished end alternatives. The most requested end is the ring and rope end. The rope is braided in a round 4 braid around a snaplink to attach to the ring. The ring is secured to the handle with a strip of leather screwed in to the handle prior to finishing.

Step 8: Finished

 Here is one style finished without the rope. The antler end is the opening picture.

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    96 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Just finished mine. I couldn't bring myself to pay $70 for a Commander, so I built mine out of an old fence post I had used as a caber tossing trainer. Some old gun straps I got from the discount bin at work, and a few hours of work, and I ended up with this - not quite the same, but it should work.

    2012-05-17 22.30.32.jpg
    1 reply

    1 year ago

    What is the provenance of this as an Old Norse artifact? I'm almost utterly certain no one from the Old Norse cultures EVER used anything like this.

    Tactical man220

    3 years ago

    this is awesome it's just that I am a kid and don't have the money and my dad won't do it he will screw everything up in other words he is terrible with wood


    4 years ago on Introduction

    what size of commander would you recommend? on Japan woodworker, there is a 120 mm and a 135 mm


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I wood like to contact the person who makes the viking/barbarian war hammer. I would like to make one for my self. I did not know if you had more details on how to make it or even a video. Where do I get the materials. It seems it will be difficult and I do not want to mess it up. If you have a phone # or e-mail address it would be great. If you can contact me (Brent) at rbyrd16@nc I would very much appreciate it. Thank You Brent


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    That's different. I would of never thought of putting that on a war hammer. How did you attach it to the hammer and made it stay on?


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    After burning out 4 HSS bits.....
    I sanded the handle to a tight fit, took a " V " groove chisel and grooved the handle like a dowel pin, then used a 2 part knife makers epoxy generously in the grooves and pounded the whole thing together.
    If you have a source for these please let me know, I found this one at an antique store and have been looking for more ever since.



    7 years ago on Introduction

    Ever thought about plaiting the leather handle like a whip? Just a thought...
    BTW, Fantastic Instructable... Can't wait to get my hands on a Commander...


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I'm confused about the whole burning thing... do you actually set them on fire? because that doesn't make sense to me.... maybe i'm missing something. I've had my commander for a loooong time and never gotten around to doing anything with it.... is it too late to burn the wax off or whatever? or will it still be fine? thanks

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    The mapp gas torch is used to char the wood it is only meant to penetrate the surface about 1/16". this is a wood distressing technique. The packing wax melts off and also into the wood. It is hard to stain over wax and this darkens the wood well. Your commander will be fine the age doesn't matter. If you are unsure about the burning try it on a 2 x4 . Burn it till it's black and then brush it out with the grain with a wire brush. Should feel like driftwood when you are done. Cheers Ronin.


    9 years ago on Step 8

    That is the best fantasy toy I have seen in a long time :-)  Do you make replicas of real weapons or just fantasy weapons like this one?

    3 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

     Thanks For The Comment . This is an actual functioning weapon based on a timber framing mallet .  Enemies Crushed To Date 3 Watermelons and 5 Ketchup Injected Cantaloupes.  We Tried Using It To Cut A Wedding Cake But Soon Found It Was The Wrong Tool.  This is the only Style Weapon To Date Others In Process. Cheers.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    This is one I made a few years back, a bit rough, but I've gotten better since. I enjoy pattern welding better than straight steel these days.


    I have a question. Since quite obviously you know the difference between pattern welding and Damascus steel, do you know if anyone has perfected the process again? All of the ads claiming "Damascus Steel" are starting to get on my nerves and I'm wondering if any of them have any truth, since I can't very well buy them all and test them myself.