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Social climber
The Deli
Topic Author's Original Post - Jun 12, 2009 - 01:46pm PT

The Tomahawk is a hooking piton for use in thin seams. It is designed primarily as a thin-nailing piece, requiring the use of a hammer, but can also be hand-placed into “beak slots” or natural constrictions in thin cracks. The design enables easier, quicker, and more delicate cleaning to prevent the piece from becoming fixed and to limit rock/placement damage. The Tomahawk is available in three different versions – standard (straight), left, and right. The left and right versions are intended for corners. Design by Bryan Law. Production by Theron Moses/Moses Enterprises.


 1/8” 4130 cro-moly steel; laser-cut shape; heat-treated
 1 – 5/32” cable hole; 2 – 5/16” tie-off holes; all holes chamfered
 1/8” (#3) 7x19 galvanized aircraft cable; zinc-coated copper sleeve
 Color-coded sheath on sleeve for standard (black), left (red), and right (blue)
 Weight = 52g
 100% MADE IN USA!

Design Features

Larger cable hole: The cable hole allows up to 1/8” (#3) cable. Tomahawks are originally fitted with a small loop of 1/8” cable.

Curved stem: The curved stem allows for greater clearance over irregularities in the rock surface and allows the “blade” to be buried deeper in “bomber” placements; it also allows for greater hooking potential when used in clean placements.

Left version, hand-placed in a pin scar

Improved hooking action: The “hooking action” of the Tomahawk is superior to that of the Pecker and Birdbeak, due to the longer, curved stem and forward positioning of the cable hole. This greater hooking action helps the Tomahawk to stick better when hand-placed and when used as more of a hook than a piton, and especially when tipped-out. Note that weighting the Tomahawk via the cable provides greater hooking action than using webbing through the lower tie-off hole, due to the difference in position of the holes.

Hooking action

Tomahawk utilizing hooking action in a slot in a super-thin seam on an overhanging wall

Tomahawk (right version) placed above a dead-head in a right-facing corner, utilizing hooking action

Offset taper: The taper is offset, which gives the blade a very slight wedge-shape in vertical cross-section; this helps the Tomahawk to stick better, both in hammered and clean placements.

Note offset line where taper begins (just right of top hole)

Top and bottom tie-off holes: The two 5/16” tie-off holes will accept a single strand of 9/16” supertape webbing or a bight (strand doubled-over) of 1/2” tie-off webbing. The top hole can be used to tie-off the Tomahawk when it is placed in a horizontal crack. Although the Tomahawk is not designed specifically for horizontal cracks, it can be used as a last resort when all of the knifeblades and RURPs on the rack have been used, or when such pitons are too wide. For shallow, tipped-out horizontal placements, the blade of the Tomahawk can be tied-off (instead of using the hole) to reduce leverage.

Tomahawk tied-off in a horizontal crack

The top hole can also be used to assist in cleaning the Tomahawk if it is fixed or is stubborn during removal, with the gentle use of a “funkness device” and a 3/16” quick-link or loop of tie-off webbing. A funkness device should be used as a last resort, in order to minimize rock/placement damage.

3/16” quick-link and funkness biner

If the Tomahawk is hand-placed and becomes wedged when weighted, such that a simple pull with the fingers doesn’t pop it loose, a “pull-tab” made of a length of 1/2” tie-off webbing can be used to give the piece a good yank outward and slightly upward. Thread a piece of webbing through the top hole and tie an overhand knot towards the end to form a pull-tab.

Pull-tab for removing clean placements

The bottom hole can be used to tie-off the Tomahawk if it is fixed and the cable is missing, or if the original cable has been damaged/worn out/frayed and must be removed, yet cannot readily be replaced. The hooking action is reduced slightly when weighting the tie-off hole instead of the cable hole.

9/16” supertape tie-off loop

Multiple hammering surfaces: See diagram below. In addition to the primary hammering surface used to drive the Tomahawk into a crack (b.), there are four hammering surfaces that can be used to clean the piece – two for upward hammering (c. and e.), one for downward hammering (a.), and one for inward hammering (d.), which through rotation, levers the blade outward. Hammering inward on (d.) is quite effective in removing the Tomahawk, once it has been loosened. A leash should be used when hammering on (d.) to avoid dropping the Tomahawk – often times the piece will come zipping out of the crack while hammering. Beaks and Peckers are usually cleaned with the use of a funkness device, which can be damaging to a placement (the rock) because the piece is rotated outward in a different direction than the way that it originally went in. The multiple hammering surfaces on the Tomahawk allow for more delicate removal of the piece with hammer taps, in order to preserve thin placements for future ascents. Cleaning a Tomahawk should seldom require the use of a funkness device.

Diagram: Tomahawk hammering surfaces a. – e.

Left and right versions: Tomahawks are available in left and right versions, for use in corners. The upper bend enables better hammer contact with the primary hammering surface during placement (b.) and with the top and bottom surfaces of the head during cleaning (a. and c.). The lower bend provides clearance for the cable to prevent fraying/damage. The left version will fit left-facing corners with a straight-in crack and right-facing corners with a crack that is parallel to the face. The right version will fit right-facing corners with a straight-in crack and left-facing corners with a crack that is parallel to the face.

Left (red) and right (blue) versions

Right version; note upper and lower bends

Color-coded: The sleeve on the cable has a color-coded sheath. Standard = black, and for your politically incorrect nailing pleasure, left = red and right = blue.

Left (red), standard (black), and right (blue)

Additional Info

 The tip of the blade can be carefully sharpened with a hand-file for super-thin seams. DO NOT USE A GRINDER!

 Sharp edges and burrs can be removed with a hand-file after heavy use, if necessary.

 A blunt copperheading chisel can be used to place and clean a Tomahawk in tight grooves where accessibility with a hammer is difficult.

 Tomahawks should be oiled with common WD40 (or equivalent) after heavy use to prevent corrosion when stored for long periods of time, and especially when stored in humid environments. Wipe off excess oil before use.

The Tomahawk Story

From a somewhat crude mechanical drawing that I started working on back in January of 1996 to the first production batch this spring, the Tomahawk design has come a long, long way. I worked at A5 Adventures in Flagstaff in 1993 and 1994, and during part of that time, I ran the machine shop. In addition to building portaledge frames, I stamped (A5 logo) and swaged (cable) a good bunch of the total number of beaks that went through the shop at that time. When you are looking at a box of 2000 beaks and you swage and swage and swage, you get to know a beak quite well… although I must say that it is more fun to hang from a beak on a big cliff than it is to stamp and swage one!

In the spring of 1997 I took a machine shop class at the local community college, where I was able to start making rough prototypes out of scrap aluminum. We didn’t have the right size steel to make a real prototype so I eventually came up with the idea to make a larger version of the Tomahawk design, but out of 1/4” aluminum plate. These became what we called “Mud Beaks” and they were used on the first ascent of The Hazing on the King Fisher Tower, in June of 1997. We tapped Mud Beaks into slightly angled 3/8” holes and used them as bat-hook placements between rivets on blank sections of rock. They were bomber. Each one is stamped with its own name, such as “Hole Hugger”, “Dirt Hurts”, “Driller”, “Suck Sand”, “Eat Mud”, and “Mini Mud”, etc.

In April of 2005 I sent Joseph Healy a bunch of info on the Tomahawk design, after a discussion of A5 hammers and beaks came up on this forum. From that thread, Theron and I also began talking and discussing beak designs and now, after four years of phone calls and at least two-and-a-half or three years of prototyping (without ever meeting in person until just the other day…), we are able to bring you the first production batch of Tomahawks. I’m psyched!

Special thanks to John Middendorf for giving me the opportunity to work at A5, and the inspiration to keep innovating.

Special thanks to Theron for his fine craftsmanship, and his patience throughout the multiple stages of prototyping that he endured over the years.

Prototype Photos

The set of Mud Beaks

Mud Beak #6 – “Hole Hugger”

Mud Beak buried in a hole on the FA of The Hazing, King Fisher Tower, UT

Tomahawks: From initial prototype testing…

…to final prototype testing

Various prototypes

A handful, with the latest on top

1997 to 2009 – Original handmade aluminum prototype and current production model

Comparison Photos

Tomahawk and A5 Birdbeak

RURP, Birdbeak, Tomahawk, original #1 Pecker, #2 Pecker, and #3 Pecker

Please don’t hesitate to let us know what you think! Positive or negative comments, granite, sandstone, or choss, we’d like to hear it all, even if it’s not gneiss... If you have any suggestions or new ideas, please let us know. Thanks for checking out something new!

Now go out and have some fun with these things!!!

 Bryan Law

------------------------------------------June 2009 Moses Enterprises----------------------------------


Trad climber
Lake Oswego, Oregon
Jun 12, 2009 - 01:57pm PT
Morning wood...

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jun 12, 2009 - 01:57pm PT
Bryan and Theron - awesomeness.

Can't wait to try them...
goatboy smellz

groove tube hell
Jun 12, 2009 - 01:57pm PT
Where can we buy them?...
T Moses

Trad climber
Paso Robles
Jun 12, 2009 - 02:02pm PT
Tomahawks are available at:

Mountain Tools
Mountain Gear
Yosemite Mounatin Shop
Mammoth Mountaineering
Nomads in Escondido
Gearheads in Moab
Some others to follow soon. Filling orders until I run out of 'em. Then I'll have to get to work on another batch.

Jun 12, 2009 - 02:20pm PT
Right on Bryan!


Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Jun 12, 2009 - 02:21pm PT
so swanky cool

Trad climber
Butte, America
Jun 12, 2009 - 02:49pm PT
So cool that they almost make me want to take up aiding.
the Fet

Supercaliyosemistic climber
Jun 12, 2009 - 03:20pm PT
That's purty.

Trad climber
From a Quiet Place by the Lake
Jun 12, 2009 - 03:22pm PT
Cool, now I need to go to Nomads in Escondido to check them out :)

Mountain climber
Jun 12, 2009 - 03:28pm PT
they look great
Captain...or Skully

Social climber
North of the Owyhees
Jun 12, 2009 - 03:47pm PT
All Righty, then.....VERY cool, shizz, that.
Good job, boys!
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Jun 12, 2009 - 03:53pm PT
awesome! makes me want to go get scared on some hard clean aid and see how they work hand placed
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Jun 12, 2009 - 03:57pm PT
by the way, Bryan wins the award for Best Product Launch Forum Post ever! sweet photos, history and motivation to get out there

Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
Jun 12, 2009 - 04:46pm PT
Awesome looking product!

The demonstration is awesome too, really functional piece with a lot of though put into the design.

Kick Ass!

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jun 12, 2009 - 04:51pm PT
If you use the new 8.9mm Mammut single rope and a loose early 70's style hip belay, will they hold a leader fall?

Jun 12, 2009 - 05:28pm PT
You guys share two of my favorite passions , aid climbing and metal shop !

Did you have any issues of cracking or bending with the aluminum prototypes ? Were they forged ?

Hobart, Australia
Jun 12, 2009 - 05:45pm PT
Really nice evolution and innovation, Minerals and Moses. Congratulations on some excellent work!


Trad climber
Jun 12, 2009 - 05:48pm PT
Dang! Couldn't you at least have given us some idea of what they look like, and how they work??!! ;-)

Those suckers look sweet!
Double D

Jun 12, 2009 - 05:49pm PT
Wow, those look great...nice job!
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