Last week Ryan Johnson was here at the blacksmith shop to teach tomahawk making. The class was full, as expected, with all sorts of people and all skill levels. I got to see some really neat stuff come out of there and not just tomahawks either, but also a really big broad ax that required some heavy forging, lots of forge welding, and some nice teamwork striking. Julie Merrill was pretty proud of it in the end I think.
It was good to have Ryan here again this year. He is passionate about tomahawks, both historical and modern as well, and always has some great stories to share. He has been a fixture here for years. It is hard to imagine today, with modern axes and saws, how a tomahawk could be very useful to us, but on the frontier, they were highly prized and traded. I like the “pipe hawks” the best. They were a combination tomahawk and smoking pipe and were often made out of a piece of broken rifle barrel. I made one in this way a few years ago, and still like to show it off.
A lot of “hawks” were pretty plain, but some were highly decorated, filed, inlaid with all sorts of precious metals, with fancy handles, and Ryan brought along some examples of each that he had done over the years. This is a great class for all kinds of smiths that are looking for something different to test their skills at, and the results are fun to play with. I took one that I made on a canoe trip in Ontario, Canada along part of the old Hudson Bay trade route. It was neat to think about how two or three hundred years ago, tomahawks like mine helped traders keep the routes open through the dense forest there.