Tomahawk Survival Axe (that Opens Beers!)




Introduction: Tomahawk Survival Axe (that Opens Beers!)

About: Mechanical Engineering student that likes robots, CNC, 3D printing and more.

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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)
  • Epoxy
  • 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 :).

Benne is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon(.com,, .ca etc) and any other website that may be affiliated with Amazon Service LLC Associates Program.

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!

Outside Contest 2016

Grand Prize in the
Outside Contest 2016

Summer Fun Contest 2016

Second Prize in the
Summer Fun Contest 2016

Metal Contest 2016

Second Prize in the
Metal Contest 2016

2 People Made This Project!


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59 Discussions

Nice 'ible, it started my thinking... :)

Got some questions, thoughts:

1. What is the thickness of the circular saw blade?

2. What is the thickness of the sawzall blade?

3. How did you fixed the pins in their places? Simply gluing them?

4. What force is needed to open/close the blade?

5. I think the pin at the end of the handle - which the sawzall blade revolves around - is the weakest spot, maybe that should be made from some hardened steel, or have some bearing/bushing. The hardened steel of the sawzall blade is pressed to the pin, so it will eat itself trough it really fast.

6. Doesn't the sawzall blade "eat" the inner edges of the handle when it gets closed? (this depends on the thickness difference between the two blades)

7. Finally could you post some video about opening/closing/using the axe/saw?

1 reply

Hi Benne!

Could you answer my questions?

Sorry for bringing up so many of them - this is the downside of the "engineer mind", I at once started to think about possible pitfalls.

This project is still on my list of ToDoProjects - awaiting it's time patiently...;-)


1 year ago

Nice project! When I want to drill hardened steel I always "dequench" it by heating it to red hot with my torch

1 reply

Yep. It does work. Softening just the handle part by wrapping the head in wet rags while you heat the part you want to drill through works better than heating the whole thing.

Of course, buying a 3 euro carbide metal drill bit, which is specifically designed to eat hardened steel for lunch, works even better :-)

amazing! I'm gonna make this! thanks for the idea!

Well done though I would recommend a different brand of beer.

Leffe is a well known commercial (and industrial) beer that contains a lot of sugar and no specific taste. Go for small traditional breweries. The taste makes it worthfull carring to the top.

1 reply

just started on this! Turns out my saw blade is smaller than the one you used (mine was 7.5 inches) so I'm making a scaled down version, perfect for my daughter to bring camping (so maybe I'll leave out the bottle opener). Pics of the progress so far...done using a Dremel with a cut off disc, well, 2 and a half of them!

1 reply

1 year ago

So good & Wonderful idea

quite Well thought out WELLDone sir !

ha - love this. Using tools you've made for a specific need is so satisfying - good stuff.

Wonderful idea & great build. The finish is professional. Hats off.

That is a real purty axe! I'm making something similar with similar materials. Hopefully, it will turn out as nicely!

Nice axe. Saw blades are not hardened steel though, they are typically mild steel or a low carbon alloy. If you are able to file 'hardened' steel its not hardened.

4 replies

Hi, thank you for the info. Depending on the type of saw blade you use, the steel is definitely hardened. Standard HSS blades (not carbide tipped) can be as hard as 64 HRC, the blade I used was carbide tipped and around 43 HRC. Not super hard but definitely 'hardened' (heat treated). Most files range from 40 - 65 HRC, so that's why I was able to file the steel a little bit (I mainly used the angle grinder).

We will see how well the edge holds up, but during the tests I did it stayed pretty sharp :). Do you know the best method to give the blade an extra heat treat? Heat with a torch and oil quench maybe?

I have heard of people using pine straw to introduce carbon into the blade. I cannot confirm if it works or not. if you go to midway usa's youtube channel he does a full thing on color case hardening. I would think you could find a comfortable mid ground with it.

Water would probably be better, you wont likely crack that steel with it. The higher carbon steels will though.

You can also use a propane torch to do it with steel this thin but I'm not sure if you will be able to temper it because you already put on the wood handle