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Brent Theobald

Plasma Cut Tomahawk?

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Hello,

I am considering a lazy man's tomahawk. I would cut the profile on the CNC plasma cutter. The profile would include the handle. (Full tang tomahawk?) Then grind away what I don't want and temper it.

Any pointers? Steel selection? I figure 1/8" would be thick enough. 1/4" would be too much.

Thank you,

ß!

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Sure, it's a very common way of making both knife blades and tomahawks.  Some of the most successful bladesmiths and tomahawks makers use this method.  On thickness, I would think 1/8 is too thin, better to go with the 1/4. 

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Look at Ryan Johnson's tactical hawks, they're done that way (well, waterjet, but still).  And James Helm here on the forum.  I'd consider 1/4" to be the absolute minimum for this, and might even go 3/8."

On the steel, 4140 at Rc50.  Practically indestructible.  Or L6.  

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I think he used a press on the relieved ones, those are a recent addition to his line.  Might be milled, though; he's a machinist by training.  

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1 hour ago, Brent Theobald said:

OK, good intel. I can do it from 3/8" 4140.

If you're just looking for a "For pretty" or as a throwing tomahawk, then 4140 is a good choice.  However, if you're looking for something you can actually use as a cutting tool, you will be disappointed, there just isn't enough carbon in 4140 to give you a good performance edge.   4140 is often used for several reasons: It's cheap, it's easy to heat treat(or rather, it's tolerant of poor heat treatment), it take a lot of abuse, and most importantly, you can get it in plate, which makes good sense if you using a CNC cutter.  As a reference, Gransfors Bruks axes are made with steel containing 55 points of carbon.

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What dimensions are we dealing with, and do you plan to heat treat it yourself?  That will make a lot of difference in suggested steels. 

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I am using the Winkler Compact Axe as my inspiration.

The dimensions are:

Head length 5 1/2"

Overall length: 10 7/8"

I notice the blade thickness is 3/8"

https://winklerknives.com/collections/axes/products/wk-rnd-compact-axe?variant=4219610562583

I am happy to let someone else treat it for me at this point. I don't have the equipment yet. We will have ceramic kilns online soon. Those should reach heat treating temps, but they are unavailable at this time.

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3 hours ago, Brent Theobald said:

The goal is for it to be a conceal carry tomahawk.

:huh: I guess if it's legal in your neck of the woods . . . I really would not carry around an axe (I'd like to). . . unless your on a job site (where a tool axe is appropriate) personal property, or out camping.   Axes are a little tough to hide. 

 

Your idea of making basically a blank nothing wrong with that.  As for steel, D2 in the process you are thinking about is possible, but from all that I've read and talked over with other smiths - D2 is tough to work with.  It's an air hardening steel, and from what I understand of it, it's a stock removal process to work with it.  As even when it's at forging temps it's still like hitting granite. My best pocket knife is made of D2, it's very ware resistant holds an edge better than anything I've ever used, but will eat sharpening stones. 

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I see that Daniel is using 80CrV2, which is a good steel.  None of the steels from that supplier are particularly user friendly except 4140, and for the stated purpose (sharp jewelry) it will be fine.  If you plan on using it to whittle with you will want something with better edge retention, but let's face it, it's just going to get shown off and never see actual use.  And pottery kilns are not ideal for heat treating.  

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What Alan said, for your intended purpose, 4140 will work fine. Unless of course, you intend to use it to dispose of the body, and then you're back to needing something with a better edge retention.  As to which steel then to use, that is outside my ken, all my axes have be laminated with the body out of mild and the edge being whatever I have handy in the shop.  You might take a look at 5160, I've read it's the most commonly used steel for successful ABS performance tests. 

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33 minutes ago, Alan Longmire said:

I see that Daniel is using 80CrV2, which is a good steel. 

I havn't hit the stuff yet Alan but my steel supply guy teased me with a few chunks of D2 just yesterday when I went to pick up some mild.  I may try my hand at it one day just to give my experience with it rather than just what the other smithys tell me.  

 

 

When I think about axe making processes, its very hard to get around making a tool axe without either welding a good bit in, or making an entire body of tool steel.  Either way it's going to be a challenge.  When I broke down a recent job, making a symmetrical wrap, punch and drift with welded bit, or entire body of tool steel, to do this by hand all came out to take relative the same amount of time.

I've never messed with all steel axes, personally I don't care for steel handles.  But with doing an all steel axe, you can cut out one of the biggest parts of the process, forming the eye. 

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22 minutes ago, Daniel W said:

entire body of tool steel,

Now that I think upon it, you could make the body out of mild (much less money) and weld on the edge.  You wouldn't even need the forge, just mig weld.


 

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I've seen that done on the youtube, and wondered how durable that it in comparisons to forge welding it in.  I'm guessing it would be relatively the same as long as you have a good solid weld.  It's something I've never seen in person nor heard any of my smithy friends around I know suggested it. 

Could be worth a shot thought.  For an axe that I think on, punch and drift the eye, bevel the welding surfaces, run a few beads, forge out a little then blend.  I got some junk steel around. I always got junk steel around. 

Edited by Daniel W

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I know of at least one well known axe/tomahawk maker that uses that method.  Water-jet the shape and mig weld the edge.

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Ok,

I spent the evening ripping off the Winkler Compact Axe. I added more finger grooves. But other than that I think it is pretty close. I will cut it out of AR400 this weekend because it is what I have handy. I will see how it feels.

The finished product will have a higher carbon content. I'm looking into welding D2 for the cutting edge. I will add black walnut scales for the grip.

About welding the cutting edge. I could just do a straight line. However, I am considering cutting the two pieces like puzzle pieces so they are locked before the weld. It probably only means more work for me. I like the idea of the pieces being locked and a longer weld.

This is the flat pattern. Opinions?

 

Axe01.JPG

Axe02.jpg

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Lose the finger grooves! They are hard on your hands and limit what you can do comfortably. 

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