For centuries, the axe industry has been dominated by European-style axes, especially nordic countries. We’re familiar with the contoured, sleek look of bearded Viking axes, throwing axes, and products from brands like Fiskars, Collins, Helko, and Husqvarna.
But one of the most iconic types of axes actually comes from the Americas. The tomahawk was the Native American tool of choice, ideal as a combat axe, bushcraft axe, chopping tool, and woodworking tool.
The primary distinction of a tomahawk is the straight handle and the offset, dual sided head. While most axes have thick, contoured handles and a single sided or balanced double sided bit, tomahawks look similar but feel different.
In this Estwing Tomahawk review, we look at a modern take on this ancient, traditional tool. By using sleek, elegant craftsmanship, Estwing has successfully made a powerful rendition of the classic tomahawk.
A Quick Look
This tomahawk is a multi-use tool geared towards axe enthusiasts and outdoorsmen. While it isn’t designed for chopping down trees and spitting logs, it’s great as a camping, hunting, or backpacking utility.
The unbelievably light weight is probably the primary feature here. It weighs just over half a pound, which is incredible for a steel axe that’s over 16 inches long. The big tradeoff here is durability. While it’s unbelievably easy to transport, it’s thin, and can easily bend or even break under too much stress.
The price makes up for any shortcomings. It’s under $40, making this utility tool a steal for the use you can get out of it. Its blade is sharp, and the handle is comfortable. You can even use it as a knife out in the woods.
The biggest claim to fame for Estwing is their patented shock reduction grip. It’s a sturdy material that they can fix to any steel handle to absorb the shock of the impact, making this tool usable, comfortable, and durable.
- Total Weight: 7 ounces
- Length with handle: 16.25 Inches
- Handle: Forged Steel, Shock Reduction Grip
- Steel: Forged Steel
- Country of origin:
- Price: $35-45 (Check current price here)
Estwing is not the first name you think of when you picture heavy duty foresting equipment. That’s because this brand has made its name in the affordable segment of this industry. With powerful engineering and smart construction choices, they’ve managed to keep their costs down while delivering a sturdy product.
This company was founded in Rockford, Illinois, and ever since then they’ve been delivering all-American products with a stamp of quality. They’re a home-owned business, making your relationship with them intimate and personal as they strive to deliver top-quality products for their price range.
Their biggest innovation was the introduction of their shock-reducing material that they implemented on all of their handles. This lets them streamline the manufacturing process to keep costs low while making sure that their tools have a sturdy, comfortable grip.
The head of the traditional tomahawk is slightly different from that of a regular axe. You typically have one side with a blade, and another side with another tool. This can be a pickaxe, a hammerhead, or other tools, making it more versatile than other hatchets and axes you see in this size.
The Estwing Tomahawk is a great example of modern design combining with traditional tools. The head is very thin, which is great for the blade. The back side is more like a pickaxe, which can be great for tilling soil, pulling up rocks and roots, or breaking through glass in an emergency.
This axe is made of forged steel. Forged steel is the standard for axes, and it’s better quality than tempered or moulded steel. This material is sturdy, durable, and, perhaps most importantly, affordable.
Estwing’s choice to go with stainless steel is impressive, considering how light the whole axe is. It weighs only 7 ounces total, and it’s hard to measure the head. The whole tool is one piece, so there’s no real defined part of the axe that is the head.
The stainless steel is coated in a weather resistant black finish that both improves the tool’s durability while also giving it a sleek look. Though many finer craftsman, like Gransfors Bruks, claim that finishes like this are only necessary to cover up mistakes and imperfections.
The head has a blade side and a pick side. The blade is pretty small and very thin compared to other options. This makes it lightweight and easy to cary, but can have a pretty negative impact on the durability and usability.
With a tool this light, you won’t be getting any additional force out of your swing. Especially once you consider the lack of any real weight distribution. It’s great for cutting, slicing, and other jobs requiring a sharp edge, but won’t do any major chopping work.
As we mentioned already, the head of this axe is multi-purpose. The blade is great for cutting, and the pick side is a great breaking tool. Whether you’re trying to loosen up some dirt to dig a hole, or you need the extra force in an emergency situation, this extra side of the head adds a ton of usability to this lightweight tool.
The handle of a tomahawk is also fundamentally different than it is on other tools. While most axes have curved handles or some amount of contouring, tomahawks usually have perfectly straight handles. This changes up the weight distribution of the whole tool, making them more viable as combat weapons in addition to chopping.
Estwing has taken the cost-effective approach with the handle, but it doesn’t hurt the tool’s usability. The handle is straight and thin, but the addition of the shock resistant grip is an excellent way to make this tool feel and swing comfortably.
The whole axe is one piece of stainless steel. This includes the handle, which would normally be uncomfortable, and makes the tool prone to slipping out of your hand. But the use of the special shock absorbing grip fixes this issue.
Stainless steel is durable, but the incredibly thin build can make this axe prone to bending and breaking. Plus, if it didn’t have a grip, the energy from your swing would transfer into your hands, making for painful, uncomfortable use.
The shock reducing grip is the main feature here. It absorbs over 60% of the shock, according to Estwing, which is perfect for increasing comfort. It also makes it easier to grip the tool without it sliding out of your hands. Because of this, Estwing can streamline the handle to be more affordable, and then compensate with the grip.
The handle is 16.25 inches long, which is pretty standard for any tomahawk or hatchet. What’s impressive about this is the total weight of the axe. Even the lightest options from a standard hatchet of this length weigh over 2 pounds.
Estwing accomplishes this by making the handle very thin. While this makes the tool less durable, and limits its capacity for larger cutting jobs, it keeps the weight and the cost down. They can then add the light grip to maximize comfort and usability.
The length does help make up for some of the lack of weight, though. Since the head is so light, you won’t get as much force out of each swing. But the 16.25 inch handle does help magnify your own force. It’s ideal for one-handed use, and reduces the risk of injuring yourself with an improper swing.
What the Estwing Tomahawk Is Best For
Tomahawks are used a lot like hatchets. They’re utility tools, but not professional equipment. You can use them for self defense and combat, cutting brush, preparing firewood, skinning animals, and other recreational outdoor use.
You won’t want to use this axe for any serious chopping or splitting. You’ll find yourself hacking away for a sloppy cut, while a standard splitting or felling axe will do the job much more gracefully and efficiently.
You also want to be careful with sinking this thing into larger pieces of wood like a tree. It’s thin and light, and if you get it stuck, it may bend or even break when you try to pull it out. That’s the biggest drawback to a tool this small.
But for any recreational, utilitarian, and outdoor use, this axe will do a great job. From clearing brush on the trail to digging up rocks while you set up camp, this nifty multi-use tool will prove itself more than useful.
- Small, compact, and lightweight
- Highly affordable
- Multi-purpose use
- Comfortable to use under most circumstances
- Limited use for bigger jobs
- Easy to bend and break due to thin construction
How Does it Compare?
This axe is a pretty versatile tool for recreational use, but how does it compare to the competition? If you’re looking for something a little more sturdy, or for something with real chopping power, this axe may not be the way to go. Fortunately, you have quite a few options to choose from.
If you’re looking for a similarly priced tool that has a little more usability, check out the Estwing Camper’s axe. You can actually get it in 2 variations, one at 16 inches, and one at 26 inches, letting you do a huge range of foresting tasks. For a slight price bump but a massive increase in quality, check out the Husqvarna Carpenter’s Axe.
If you want a premium hatchet, you have a couple of options from Gransfors Bruks. This fine axe brand hand makes every tool from start to finish for unrivalled quality. You can check out either their Small Forest Axe or their Wildlife Hatchet. Both options are some of the best on the market, but come with a price.
Should You Get the Estwing Tomahawk?
Tomahawks are sort of a niche tool in the woodworking world, and they’re often more for sport and looks than for practicality. But you’d be surprised at how many people this axe is perfect for. Unless you’re a career lumberjack, odds are this tool is great for your needs.
It’s inexpensive, sharp, lightweight, and does almost every task you need it to do on a camping or backpacking trip. So unless you’re really looking for professional gear, this axe is a fantastic choice for the casual woodworker.
Estwing has been innovating the budget market of the axe industry for decades. Their dedication for bringing reliable crafting tools to everyone has led to their current place as one of the best places to get affordable gear.
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