Researching tomahawks has led me down some interesting paths. One such path led me to an interesting site on boarding axes:
“Ships carried a large quantity of tools to meet any eventuality. These of course included axes for fire fighting –
fire being an ever present hazard on wooden ships – for general repairs, and for tree felling and wood gathering ashore.
The main uses of an axe when fire fighting, whether at sea or on land, were for breaking open doors, smashing windows or knocking holes in walls and roofs to affect a rescue, releasing smoke or creating fire breaks. The thin angle of the blade as well as the spike could also be driven into the gaps around doors and windows to lever them open. At sea during battle this would also include damage control such as clearing fallen rigging and spars by cutting and dragging them clear and to pry out embedded hot cannon balls before they set the wood alight.
Axes were therefore always part of a vessel’s equipment and it is from these that the Boarding Axe evolved to fill a niche created by the art of naval warfare at the time of the great sailing ships.
As well as being used for damage control they were also used as a combat tool in any boarding action between vessels, and it was this action that generally concluded the fight. The boarding axe was used to cut through anti-
boarder nets and lines, to cut through rigging or ropes holding gun ports open, to smash through the doors and windows of cabins to attack the opposing crew who may be defending that as a stronghold. And of course in melee an axe may not be as good as a sword or cutlass but it was still a handy personal weapon.
A boarding party would always include a complement of axe carriers to support the main body of marines and sailors armed with musket and cutlass. As the axes were generally stored in racks near each gun they were also handy for defence against enemy boarders, being quickly available to the gun crews to cut grappling lines or defend themselves.”
This nicely sums up why a tomahawk or similar tool can be so useful. Not only can it create shelter or provide fuel, it can also be used to help create escape routes, particularly in an urban environment. A Falklands veteran I know of insisted his knife should be capable of cutting through the side of a helicopter sinking in the sea, having been in such an unfortunate situation.
A kukri will make short work of a wooden door. So too will a good tomahawk or hatchet. Many other survival knives will not, even though they cost several times more.
As I detail in “Survival Weapons: Optimizing Your Arsenal” a good kukri can be acquired for very reasonable prices. The catch is you have to get them from Nepal, although postage is also quite reasonable. On the other hand, you can find reasonably priced hand axes and hatchets in any hardware or DIY store.