It truly is a marvel how primitive Indians are able to make such impressive dwellings without the aid of steel axes. Yet, Native American stone axes were made for centuries before steel came into production and have been used to erect massive and complex dwellings. Primitive Indians used several different techniques to produce their weapons and tools. We are going to address one technique called "pecking and ground technology". Before we can proceed with the process of manufacturing a stone axe or tomahawk, we must address an important question.
The answer is that it depends. It depends on the context of the statement. In the modern technology of today the technical answer is this, the axe is different than a tomahawk in the handle. The handle of an axe is inserted from the bottom of the axe blade and wedges onto the handle. The tomahawk handle is inserted from the top and self wedges into place. But they are often used interchangeably to describe the cutting tool used by Native American Indians.
The Native American Indians had different names for their weapons and tools. In English however, names such as a stone club, stone axe, or a stone tomahawk are all used to describe the primitive Indian tomahawks and axes (and sometimes a weapon) used mostly for cutting down trees and other camp uses.
The raw material, or blank as it is most often referred, is an important part of the manufacturing of a stone axe. The short answer to what is the best material is that it all depends on the time available for manufacturing the axe or tomahawk. You can use most any rock but the material does affect shaping time.
The following steps outline the process of making a stone axe head:
1. Find a blank that closely resembles your desired end product
The more the blank is shaped like your desired end product the faster the shaping will be. Look for a fine-grained rock that is extremely hard and free of cracks. You can tell which rocks are idea by their smooth surface and heavy weight for the size of the rock.
2. Find an even harder rock than the stone to be worked for the shaping or "pecking".
This pecking rock should be smooth and heavy for its size as well. It should also be free of cracks.
3. With a log underneath to be used as your pounding board, use the pecking rock to pound the blank into the somewhat approximate shape of the end product whether it be an axe head.
Be firm in your pounding but keep in mind that too heavy of pounding may cause breaking the stone so be softer than hard to start out just to be safe.
4. About two thirds to three fourths of the way back from the blade pound a groove haft section from top to bottom.
This section will be used and is important in tying the stone axe head to the handle using sinew or leather.
5. Once you have the basic shape of the axe head you are ready for the grinding and "sharpening" of the blade edge.
6. Find a sandstone or granite type rock with an abrasive edge on it for the grinding process.
If you cannot find an abrasive rock to grind down the axe blade to shape then add sand to a smooth edged rock to quicken the grinding process.
7. Once the final shape of the axe head is nearly reached grind only pushing away from your body in a smaller and more tedious action.
Grinding take a long time (sometimes a whole day) but to make the best axe head for chopping you want to take as much time as needed to make the axe useful for many years.
8. And once the axe head is finally to its end shape, use a small piece of smooth sandstone and hold it at an angle of about 20 degrees and rub it over the cutting edge of the stone axe.
Once you have created the sharp stone axe head you have completed the most time consuming process. The last step in the process is hafting, or putting on the handle. Here you will need some type of strong binding cord or rope. Shoe laces, small willow branches, rawhide or leather cord work great. Use whatever you have available depending on your location and situation. If using willow branches, heat the branches first to make them more pliable. If using leather, wet the leather to make it more pliable and then it will tighten when dry. Wrap the axe head securely with the cord of your choice and bind it both vertically and horizontally over and below the rock being sure to secure the rock and binding cord to the handle as well.
*Note: If you do not have any type of cord available you can cut a section out of the top side of the handle to fit the axe head into the handle where it can be wedged in for permanent use.