Tuesday, November 1, 2011

WARRIOR REVIEW: PinoyApache's Tomahawk

MY LITTLE AXE, which I fondly called as my tomahawk, have been with me since the year 1999. It is one of the items that I have collected or acquired during my “warrior pilgrimage” years. It is very light and it is forged of highly-carbonized steel.

I presumed, it may have been made from a leaf-spring of a European or American-made automobile suspension system of long ago and the “eye” have been arched gracefully whereby the blunt edge kissed the main head at the middle section and securely welded giving it the shape of a teardrop which is good enough to fit a well-sized wooden shaft - about 1.2” x 0.75” thick.

The cutting edge is sharp and very narrow. “Lantip” as we Visayans called it, I have seen it cut through the diameter of an old-school six-inch nail, accidentally dismembering the top from the rest in a cataclysm of one bright spark as fine steel clashed against fine steel! Such power held in my hands is something worth respecting and possessing.

I remember the axe when it was yet in the hands of the original owner. It was just treated as an ordinary tool and used mainly in chopping wood for the earthen hearth then laid on the ground or thrown aside when not used. I noticed the teardrop-shaped “eye” and I immediately concluded that this simple axe is different from the axes that I have seen or held before.

On the spot, I offered to buy the axe for two hundred pesos plus another axe as replacement to save the man the trouble of looking for one. For the woodcutter, it is just like a great bargain which gave him advantage and saved him from wangling a better price. For me, it is like I just found a rare pearl.

Immediately, I set to work on the first wooden shaft. The wood is an exotic kind which I find hard to identify, but I carved it with my own hands. The shaft I designed is not straight, but is gracefully curved imitating the style of early Filipino weapons art. What made it more different is that the axehead is secured in an American Indian fashion.

The shaft is seventeen inches long. The axehead could not hurtle itself out from the top of the shaft and could not slid down the handle for a chord is tightly wound around the foreshaft reinforcing the latter from breakage. Two hawk feathers are tied at one end of the chord to aid its flight when thrown.

The shaft protruded three-fourths of an inch above the axehead and is much thicker than the rest and that already ensured my axehead that it will not dismember itself from the shaft like most axes do when under the pressure of hard use and so is safe to use. I don't either need small iron spikes that are inserted above the shaft so wood and steel would clasp in an unstable Western-style fusion.

The good thing with this axe is that its “eye” is wide as it is long. Meaning, the wooden shaft that held the steel head is thick enough and could withstand the pressures of the strength that drove it or the weight of both hand and steel head that strike wood. Even so, the first shaft broke during a day of cutting felled trees and debris after a typhoon later of that year. It was not a good wood.

I then began to experiment on different types of wood after that and I made carvings on the shaft for aesthetic feel and for secure gripping. Woods used were guava, star apple (sp. Chrysophillium cainito), golden mahogany (sp. Shorea laevis or yakal) and rosewood (narra). All did not stood the hard work I used during the chopping and splitting of wood and during the time when the tomahawk is set free to whirl its way into space and find true target.

The pleasure of steering my tomahawk and make a blood-curdling thud on a wooden target is very exhilarating. It had become my past time then and it came to a point where I experimented on different shaft designs and on different distances. I found a design that enabled the axehead to embed deeply on its target when thrown and another design that could withstand the rigors of hard work.

The shafts are both made from a yellow mahogany wood (sp. Vitex parviflora or tugas). The first design came from a wooden relic. A survivor of a great conflagration in 1989. A wood that had been acquired by my late grandfather forty years earlier of that disaster. It is carved with Zuni patterns and tapered off at the end. The word “Cherokee” is etched on the wood and is named after a great and noble people of the “trail of tears” with which my second son is proudly named after.

The second design is very familiar. I bring it all the time during my bushcrafting sorties on the mountains. It is short – about 11 inches – and curves in one stroke giving me optimum leverage to cut into whatever I chop. The part of the shaft that held the head is angled abruptly from the rest to project an “upright” position and optimize its cutting power. It is also carved with Zuni patterns with an American Indian and headdress to graphically symbolize my woodworking trademark under the name “Cherokee”.

The American Indian image from my tomahawk shafts and on anything that touched wood would become a symbol of remembrance for one noble race that have been obliterated almost into extinction by the perverted values of a different culture that turn a lustful eye upon its land and its resources. I am part of that kind and I harbor solidarity with my brothers across the watery divide.

From that image was born the first bushcraft and survival guild in the Philippine Islands south of Subic Bay – Camp Red! Traditional crafts have been taught by this writer to his brother Filipinos and many have embraced this skill which, after all, are really embedded in the subconscious of every indigenous people, mixed blood or not, and all it does need is just a little “fire” to inflame it.

So, back to my tomahawk, I kept and cared for it like a baby. I sharpen it all the time and apply a thin coat of oil or marrow to keep out rust. I refused to have my tomahawk lay and touch ground. When I finish my work, I embed and kept it erect on wood. When not used, I separate steel and shaft and kept the former in a special case.

Sadly, during the height of my enthusiasm for the throwing 'hawk, there were no ideas yet of what is a YouTube. All my activities with my tomahawk (and those flying blades-mosquito coil stands-machetes-crowbars-heavy axes-Gillette blades-pseudo police badges-and every pointed/sharp objects) were unrecorded.

Not until one day in 2010 did I muster the time to record myself, with the help of Manwel Roble, at the foothills of the Babag Mountain Range in Cebu City throwing my dearly beloved tomahawk and showed to everyone in the Internet that what I write here is really true. I don't know yet of anyone here doing this thing in a “live” video but I welcome their camaraderie if ever one shows up. I waited for this long.


Sad to say, this skill is not for everyone. You have to find your “vision quest” and, once done, you will have the “book of life” at your disposal. It is a path less travelled and very narrow and without the comforts and pleasures that sedentary living could provide.

I have journeyed far, high and wide across the archipelago and I found my true path. My tomahawk is one of the things that I have come to understand as something akin to being a companion. As one esteemed bushman have commented to me in Facebook: it is a bond that is hard to break.

Document done in Libre Office 3 Writer

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