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C Craft

Viking Axe & long handles / why?

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I am not sure this is the place to put this so if not moderators feel free to move it!

 

I have begun to get intrigued with the Viking Axe and have been trying to do some research as to why the long handle? I know there are many different types of Viking axes but the axes I am speaking of are something similar to these in these pics I found online! They almost always seem to have a long handle. So my question is why the long handle???

 

2390114-viking_waxe_zps2ca88eea.jpg

Looking at this drawing, if the guy is six foot tall, the axe is handle in that pic is in the neighborhood of four foot plus. The average axe handle today is three foot or slightly shorter but, you are talking of an axe used for cutting wood! The three foot handle gives greater control on the swing!

 

Chased_DragonAxe_01_04_1800-1024x391_zps

 

CS89VA_zps19e4cf3b.jpg

 

 

Some of these axes appear to be wrapped similar to a tomahawk in construction, with a bit inserted for the cutting edge. Most of them have a blade resembling a broad axe!

 

So back to the question why the long handle?

 

IMO They were definitely for battle primarily! The long handle does not lend itself to much other use. However in battle it allows you to keep yourself out of range of a sword to be used on you. Also the handle would be of great use in hand to hand combat, after all a staff can be a very formidable weapon in itself.

I haven't been able to find specific references as to the length of the handle in the research I have been doing so the above comments are just deductions on my part. So has anyone got any input on the handle length? Any reference material would be appreciated! Also on the center pic it shows some engraving on the head of the axe. Would that have been common and what would the have carved into the steel from the time period!
I hope this thread will open up some good dialogue on the subject of Viking axes!
Edited by C Craft

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My guess is that much like the knife that was multi purpose tool and hard to come by, the axe must have more than one use. Probably not the best for chopping wood, but I'm sure it did the job. IDK maybe all the better to reach your enemy with

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Quote:

"IMO They were definitely for battle primarily!"

 

Having said that I don't think any weapon/tool would have been for one use only, especially back in that time! I kind of figured that battle may have been it's primary use. Some of the other axes that they had seem to be better suited for wood work.

 

I was trying to find some documentation on why the long handle on that particular style of axe. So far I haven't found a lot in print documenting the reason behind the longer handle. Pretty much my comments on what I thought the reason for the long handle was based on observation of hand to hand combat, or close quarters combat depending on how you want to term it!

 

Here is a site I Goggled up some of the axes are shorter handled and would IMO lend themselves to better at woodwork

 

.https://www.google.com/search?q=viking+axe&client=firefox-a&hs=xxX&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=fflb&tbm=isch&imgil=IE39bf44dCVWPM%253A%253Bhttps%253A%252F%252Fencrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com%252Fimages%253Fq%253Dtbn%253AANd9GcTyiY02a6rUz5L5vHNG7QhitswFQAV3_RphZpov72_cVx4ui1Iv%253B350%253B350%253B1EKR55YIqwd5qM%253Bhttp%25253A%25252F%25252Fclass102012.anchorsholmeblogs.net%25252F2013%25252F01%25252F07%25252Fall-about-the-vikings%25252F&source=iu&usg=__k_NhUvMBLo0ydNNCMOR2RajS6_Q%3D&sa=X&ei=WXANU8jICbHeyQG7voDADA&ved=0CEsQ9QEwAQ&biw=1440&bih=754&dpr=1#facrc=_&imgdii=_&imgrc=IE39bf44dCVWPM%253A%3B1EKR55YIqwd5qM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252F4.bp.blogspot.com%252F-Ryy8QANcPZY%252FTabi5hwBl2I%252FAAAAAAAABFc%252Fn-RIIfPapE0%252Fs1600%252Fdenix_viking_axe_628G.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fclass102012.anchorsholmeblogs.net%252F2013%252F01%252F07%252Fall-about-the-vikings%252F%3B350%3B350

 

There is also a pic about halfway down of two in battle one with the long handled axe and one with a short handled axe. Short of throwing the short axe and the speed of maneuvering the short handled axe the man with long handled axe has a definite advantage!

 

 

images_zpsced37bb2.jpg

 

So still would like to learn more about the long handled axe!

Edited by C Craft

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Hustwic has a pretty good overview here:

 

http://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/manufacturing/text/viking_axe.htm

 

but Dr. Short pretty much admits that there's little period documentation on the subject apart from pictures, and after that it's up to experimental archaeologists to reconstruct the most desirable form for its use.

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My take on it.... the handles were changed out. While the heads were expensive, the handles were cheap and easy to replace, so a Viking would take his wood-cutter and put a longer handle on it when it came time to war. The longer handle, if historically accurate, would give more reach, increase the momentum of the head, and act as a parrying staff.

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This is all from historical fiction writing so take it with a grain of salt, but It makes sense to me, the longer handle would come in handy in the shieldwall. Being a two handed weapon you could still be behind the shields and cleaving limbs and necks. Outside of a shield wall, who would want to stand in the way of that much steel with that much speed...not I! A time machine is required in my opinion...

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Mr.Craft,i'd venture an opinion that the length of the haft in the above pictures is entirely fanciful...

 

It is such a controversial subject that i almost hate saying anything at all,as these so-called "Dane" axes have been commonly hafted thusly in the collectors' milleu for a long time now,and the idea seems to strengthen itself with time(and the lack of dissenting opinion as well-nobody likes to express an unwelcome idea,especially since any solid evidence is utterly lacking either way...And why,really,disappoint someone who takes great pleasure and comfort in this particular "cool factor"?)

 

(Alan?Anyone?IS there ANY surviving haft of any length at all?I don't believe that i've ever heard of one...).

 

In my,admittedly very poorly informed opinion(based on reading a handful of Sagas,a bit(all that i can find) on the archaeology of axes,and many conversations with the smiths from a number of parts of the world and varying experience),no definitive stance can be taken on the Systematic use of an axe as a weapon.

Whereas the use of a sword is quite systematically gone into in the period literature,that of axes seems more coincidental(someone's personal preference,grabbing whatever comes to hand,and the like).

 

Another parallel to swords i'd like to point out is that(on this site in particular :) people go into a great detail as to the functioning of the tool:Points of Percussion,Balance,are most carefully calculated.The Nodes of Vibration are projected,and most carefully taken into consideration.And that's just a tip of that iceberg...

 

If one was to apply any part of the above approach to the "Dane" axe,i think that it'll immediately become obvious that such a tool could not function.(There IS a way to calculate the physics of an axe mathematically,including the optimum haft length,(of course),but it's not simple,and i'll not bore you with it here(i'd have to look it up anyway!:)

 

As a woodworker,log-builder,et c.,i'd say that the blade-shape of a "Dane" axe is that of a hewing tool,a type of a broad-axe.

It's great blade area,slender cross-section,and the characteristic thickened edge all point to it.Axes similar to it are produced and sold in Scandinavia to this day.

The Norsemen liked their wood hewn...All the boat timbers,every house log/beam/plank were very carefully hewn.(The smoothness of the surface of a wooden member is essential for it's longevity,at the least,if not just plain nice and handy in use).

 

The Scandinavians,from before the viking age,till today( :),did vastly more farming,building,boat-building,and other un-romantic pedestrian chores than they ever did of fighting!:)AND,they were very good at it,too!Look at the boats,the farm buildings,the objects of every-day use...They're all crafted with great care.The Stave-churches alone...All the innovation in wood joinery...

 

So,in short,i think that the cracking of heads by axes is kinda magnified by our romantic vision severely out of proportion...

 

Or so i've come to believe anyway,all of the above with utmost respect,and will be happy to hear any factual evidence to the contrary(not that i've mentioned anything awfully factual...:)

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Hustwic has a pretty good overview here:

 

http://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/manufacturing/text/viking_axe.htm

 

but Dr. Short pretty much admits that there's little period documentation on the subject apart from pictures, and after that it's up to experimental archaeologists to reconstruct the most desirable form for its use.

 

SOURCES - check your SOURCES

 

Primary - an actual artifact

Handles are wood - there are * none * in existance

 

Secondary One - actual period rendered illustrations.

There there are a few, but be careful how much detail you attempt to read into the 'cartoon' like illustration style used during the Viking Age itself.

Secondary Two - actual period writings

Remember just * who * might have generated that text. Is it actually an eye witness? Was it recorded any time close to the actual event? Is it someone with a very specific point of view to enforce?

 

Tertiary One - Someone who has actually undertook some depth of study into your topic

What is the depth of research? What sources have they used (did you check?) Is the 'expert' actually one recognized as such? ((Dr Bill Short would fall here, he is well respected in all aspects. Note that he also has backed up artifact examination, studies into the written Saga records with considerable experimental archaeology work.)

The use of the illustration from the 'Man at Arms' series might fall here as well. Generally they do take some trouble to make sure their illustrations are fairly accurate.

Tertiary Two - Various replicas

Significant here will be if the producer has any kind of background knowledge or skill at all. Check the body of work, what actual study they themselves have undertook. What is the intent of the replica? (Check the work and commentaries provided by Jim Austin, here on the Bladesmith's Forum. Depth of research, extensive experimentation, full body of work, excellent skills.)

Tertiary Three - Illustrations of modern replicas

" We are just trying to sell you something " OR " Its all a fantasy "

 

Honestly, most 'replicas' seen on the internet are nothing of the sort. They resemble the actual artifacts about as closely as a paint ball gun 'resembles' an actual M-16.

There are a very few of us who are interested enough in historic objects and historic methods to produce detailed replicas of artifact pieces. You can usually tell by how much we attempt to communicate that extensive research and acquired skill. (And a good indicator will be price point - expect something from $300 - $ 700 for a correctly made, detailed reproduction / replica.)

 

 

Point Two - A recommendation:

 

Try to find some photographs (or detailed drawings from artifacts) that show the TOP view - the actual thickness profile of the

axe head.

 

post-24638-128611158913.jpg

 

What you clearly see from that view is an indication of the intended purpose of the axe itself. (Remember there are no existent handles - right?)

Thick wedges for splitting

Medium tapers for felling

Thin knife edges for trimming.

 

You will find that the axe heads generally thought to be equipped with long, two handed shafts will be extremely narrow in cross section. The blades are * all * in the range of 8 inches wide at the cutting edge. This keeps the weights greatly reduced over what most casual observers believe - all down in the 3 - 5 lb range (maximum).

 

 

Point Three - a View from the Battle line

 

A two handed weapon gives you

a) serious impact force

B) considerable advantage in reach

But the cost of that impact effect is

Massively reduced * defensive * capability.

 

In the photo of Bill Short (and I think his long time sparing partner Matt), you can see that the long shaft axe might have one good chance at a blow - before the shield man runs up close. At that point the long axe is effectively useless.

In a 'one on one' situation, I personally would rather have the shield.

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Jake, I have to defer to Darrell on this one. I can however say that having played with some of Jim Austin's long-handled axes, they are not that slow. If you used a baseball bat grip down at the end of the haft, then yes, it would be slow, but held with a well-spaced grip they're as fast as a quarterstaff. Hook the shield and pull just enough to distract the owner (hoping he's not swinging his sword at you meanwhile), then shove the pointy tip in his face. It's a natural move, no need for a full roundhouse swing.

 

That is of course all conjecture on my part, but the sagas do mention axes being used effectively against spears and swords. I am constantly amazed by just how thin these are. 2mm behind the edge is not unusual... :ph34r:

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Alan,with the greatest respect for Darryl as a researcher,historian,smith,and a gentleman!:),i'm still very puzzled...(maybe a sleepless night is at fault here).

 

Anyhoo,here're some photos(taken by a friend at the Gransfors Museum,none all that very old).

 

These are some of the examples(seems to me,at least)of the blade geometry at least reminiscent of the "Dane" in principle...(all hafted for very close work...).

 

But,again,maybe i'm just dense.If so,beg pardon.

IMG_8273.JPG

SE27.jpg

SE34.jpg

SEM02.jpg

SEM03.jpg

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I agree that when used as a broadaxe a short handle would be perfect. I also have a reference to an Austrian broadaxe that was normally hafted short, but could be put on a long haft for fighting. Perhaps they did both? As Ben said. we need a time machine! Or a good bog find with an intact haft...

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I would think that in the initial clash, you would want as much force as possible. Thanks to physics, I know the longer distance the force is applied, the greater the output force. In the initial clash, you extend and strike with as much force as possible, then slide the hand further up the shaft to use as a hatchet.

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This has turned into a great thread. This is exactly the type of discussion I was hoping too generate!

 

I once started learning a form of karate when my son was little. He went on to master his black belt, sadly a car wreck kept me from going too far in the ranks.

 

Anyway to the point I was trying to make! My son learned "how to fight and defend " with a staff. I often worked with him and the things that he learned to do with just a staff were amazing.

 

That is one thing that made me feel the length if it is true example would have made it an ideal fighting weapon. There are different examples of the broad head axe type even in the Viking culture. The ones with the thinner heads and eyes, IMO would have been more for battle. They would have been quick to handle and chopping at a human isn't nearly as hard on an axe and its handles as using it for splitting and chopping wood would have been. However remember Vikings were warrior's but as well they built some magnificent ships . The Viking axes you see with the heavier eyes and blades would have been more for wood work, again IMO!

 

I guess it is like everyone says, since we don't have a "way back" machine to actually see more into the Viking culture a lot is left up to interpretation! Great discussion everyone!

Edited by C Craft

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I have no doubt in my mind that the vikings used axes in combat, and I don't think it's entirely out of the realm of possibility that they would put a long handle on their axes when they knew they were going to be fighting. An experienced ax-man is going to be far more capable with an axe that he uses daily compared to a sword that he might play with every once in a while.

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My 2 cents is that I just read Njal's Saga last month and am about to finish Grettir's Saga. They definitely refer to warriors who had axes as their preferred weapons. When Thjostolf goes to kill Throvald in Njal's Saga, he takes "with him an axe he owned, a massive weapon with an iron-bound shaft." I don't have the ambition to look up the other cases I remember (I think Kari the Singed had an axe that was his preferred weapon), but you get the idea. Grettir preferred a short sword, Gunnar preferred his halberd, but axes were definitely used.

 

As Darryl pointed out this is a secondary source (written down 300 years after the events), but the ongoing research into the accuracy of the Icelandic sagas indicates that they seem to be real histories and not just stories. This analysis of the social networks described in the sagas is one of the latest.

 

As far as the length goes I know there are some secondary sources in terms of pictures - there is a carving on an 10-11th century casket (Schnutgen Museum, Cologne Germany) of a Varangian guardsman holding an axe as tall as he is in one hand and a sheathed sword in the other. There are other mosaics, etc that have similar depictions.

 

So yeah, it's pretty much certain they used axes for weapons, and that very likely some of them were on really long handles.

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I don't really feel there is much question that a lot of battle ready axes had long handles.

 

The Bayeux tapestry is a great source, of Norman, and late AS weapon. Most, of the axes you see in these sources are long handles. The period pictured above!

 

From behind a shield wall, a long axe is by far the best weapon, after a spear. On a short handle, it would be all but useless.

In fact, in most all combat situations, a short axe of any size, is pretty out-gunned by every other weapon likely to be out there.

It gives you range! In real combat, range is life. If someone has a weapon that can reach you, and you can't reach him, your screwed most of the time.

A long hafted axe, can be used to parry most any attack, allowing you to close on a spear, or other long axe.

A long haft, gives you a LOT of leverage, and cutting energy.

These are all obvious reason for the long axe. There is very little question.

 

Mark

Edited by Mark Green

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If you read the accounts of the Battle of Hastings there are some descriptions of how the two handed axes were used (and could cut down horses and men in one blow). Here is a video of a reencator warming up with his axe

Does anyone want to try and take him on with a sword?

Imagine a line of fighters like this approarching your shield wall...

 

As to the existence of extant handles, I will refer to my post in this thread (showing pictures of extant handles).

http://www.bladesmithsforum.com/index.php?showtopic=28629&hl=

But just to be clear, here is one example of a surviving handle

http://sciencenordic...he/440x/axe.jpg

And here is the story behind the find

http://sciencenordic...-sacrificed-bog

And another two from the Oseberg ship

http://home.online.n...oseberg_axe.jpg

Close up of the front axe

http://www.myarmoury.../oseaxe_181.jpg

and here are two from the national museum of Ireland

http://www.docbrown....12/P9060500.jpg

 

On the matter of impack of a blow (and I speak here not only as a physicist but also from my own experience from splitting firewood)

it is better to have a light axe head that you can move at hight speed than a heavy and slow axe head. The energy for any object is 1/2*mass*velocity_squared.

The easiest way to increase velocity is to extend the handle.

 

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Jeppe:

 

Thanks for those image references. My only defense is that I had been to the National Musuem in Ireland a fair while back - and not much of the Woods Quay materials were on display. ( And to make matters worse, back in 1989 they would not let you take any photos inside!)

 

Or it might be 'the more you learn, the more you forget'??

 

I think the image from Ireland is the best reference to the discussion at hand. Although the remains do show shorter handles, in the range of the sword length. Best reason is simple destruction with time. Others have certainly commented on the details from Sagas and the Bayeux Tapestry (two sources I had in mind).

 

One thing that we as blacksmiths have to remember - a very important modern bias that several commenting here are well aware of ( through their own activites ! ) As moderns, we are used to cheap, consitent, plentiful steel alloys.

Iron was extremely 'expensive' in pre Industrial cultures.

I have seen several references that quote the 'average iron load per individual' during the Viking Age as something in the range of 2 - 3 kg each. Spread over a household grouping, this covers domestic objects, all tools, personal knives, things like ship rivets - and includes available weapons load out.

 

A sword consumes about 2 - 3 kg of iron / 'steel'. It is quite difficult to forge (skill and consumed fuel). Most importantly, it is a single purpose tool - for killing alone.

An axe, reguardless of the profile, will again use 2 - 3 kg, but primarily simpler iron. It is moderately skilled in terms of forging, consumes less fuel. Significantly, its primary purpose is as an esencial working tool.

 

axeclose.0.jpg

 

One of my own replicas - Norse 'fine tool' axe, shape close to 800 - 850 samples

Head weight is about 1.5 kg, blade width about 7 cm, eye is punched.

This axe, with a roughly 70 cm handle, also would wonderfully double as a single handed fighting axe.

 

As was stated, the primary Norse wood working methods all centre around the use of the axe : felling, spliting, trimming. In this, a base level of skill, if not 'expert' level, would be common to all males.

 

There is no doubt that some of the artifact axes are intended and designed quite specifically as long handled fighting tools. I disagree (personally) that the shape needed for timber squaring (a broad axe) is also the same as these fighting profiles. Squaring timber is a method related more to the intial preparation for using saws to cut planks, not a Norse method of timber working. The base method empolyed in the Viking Age is to radially split out thin pie shapes to create planks. (Critical to the flexibility required for longship hulls.)

 

This might be drifting a bit from the original question from CC. (By the way, thank you for being such a gentleman about what some might take as personal criticsim!)

 

Truth is, in the Viking Age, the 'average' Norseman is most like to own an axe. Very unlikely to own a sword.

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I quit taking things personal a long time ago, you will live much longer, and in the end you drag yourself down to their level when you get into a pi$$ing match! LOL I often do my research before I ask questions and when I can't find the answer that I am really looking for I ask. I was once told the only stupid question is the one you didn't ask.

 

Look I really like all the discussion on this subject. When you stop to look at the Viking Axe no matter how it was hafted it would have been a formidable weapon, the heads were light and thin and I for one would not want to go up against someone bent on having my head and coming at me swinging one!

 

As to the comment about the thin axe for spitting I some what agree. I personally prefer a sharp double-bitted axe. I started using it on some particularly twisted grained oak on year and found it got stuck less often and when I kept the edge honed up it would often pop the less grained in one blow.

 

One reason I felt the long handle might have been more for battle is along the lines already mentioned. I am not sure it would have held up under constant use as a felling axe or a splitting axe. The force that is transferred at the head when a axe blade strikes is somewhere right behind the head. After all if you have ever broken an axe handle is always close behind the head give or take 2"-3"!

 

I really enjoy talking about a subject like this in depth, when it doesn't degrade to "I know everything" mentality. Those that do have a better knowledge share with the others and we all get to voice are opinions! 2thumbs.gif Alan I am still waiting for the better smilies! help.gif

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My apologies. I come to this party late, but I wanted to add my two cents to the discussion. I am the fellow wielding the two-handed axe in the Viking combat picture shown earlier in this thread. On the right with a one-handed axe is my long-time colleague Matt Marino.

We're part of Hurstwic, a group that researches and practices the fighting moves of the Vikings. Rather than respond individually to the points made in this thread, I'd like to be brief and respond more generally. Most of the specifics are in the Hurstwic website, in our Hurstwic® Viking Combat Training DVDs, and in my books.

There are several sources we use in our research.

The Sagas of Icelanders. We believe the sagas are perhaps our most important source to learn how Viking-age people fought and used their weapons. Our research into medieval Icelandic literature suggests: that the saga authors were skilled and experienced with combat; that the audience was likewise skilled and experienced with combat; and that the authors were well aware of the difference in weapons and moves from their own time (when the sagas were written) and the Viking age (when the sagas were set). While the sagas have errors, anachronisms, and fantasy, we have many reasons to accept that, generally speaking, the fights in the sagas represent realistic Viking-age fights.

Archaeology. We examine historical weapons extensively, which helps teach us how they were used. This aspect is so important that we have brought historical Viking-age weapons in to our training room, where Hurstwic students can examine them, pick them up, and swing them. Many photos of historical axes are shown in the Hurstwic web article on axes.


Forensics. We look at the skeletal remains of Viking-age people with battle injuries. They teach us about targets, injuries, weapons use, weapon damage, among others.

Experimental forensics. We make test cuts to animal carcasses using sharp replica weapons and examine the results. Do our attacks have the same effect as that described in the sagas? Do our attacks leave the same marks on the bones that we see in Viking-age skeletal remains? Do defenses (such as mail) provide the kind of protection we expect? A video summary of some of this work is on

.

Training room research. We try these moves in our training room to see if they are effective in combative situations, and to see if they make sense. More information about our approach to research and training is on the Hurstwic website.


There are other sources we use, but these are the important ones.

If I may, a few brief responses to some of the points raised in the thread. I think it is a near certainty that axes were used in Viking-age fights. It seems likely that axes for battle were distinct from axes used as tools (although it also seems likely that in a pinch, a Viking-age fighter would pick up whatever was handy in a fight, regardless of its intended use). Not only is the archaeological evidence good on this point, the language itself has different words for axes used as tools My replica axe haft shown in the photo above is the length it is because if it were different, it wouldn't work as well. Viking-age fighters used every part of the weapon, and not only is the edge of the axe a useful tool in combat, so is the hammer, the horns, the haft, and the butt.

I've been brief here out of expediency. I sincerely wish that there was more communication and sharing of knowledge between the people who make these replica weapons and those who use them in their research. I am no smith, and so I am grateful to the smiths who have shared their knowledge with me. I am eager to pass on what we have learned, and I welcome further discussion. Our research is far from being completed.

Best regards,
William Short

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Thanks, William, I was hoping you'd chime in. I love that video showing what a long-handled axe (one of Jim Austin's!) can do to a pig's head... :blink::ph34r:

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Just got a chance to read Williams post and it was very informative! Thanks!

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Gentlemen,i'm afraid that i've failed to express an important point,if i may i'd like to give it one more shot...(the last!i promise! :)

 

 

No one can contend that an axe was never used as a weapon!:)It was(and is...one doesn' t even have to grow up in Eastern Europe to be well aware of that... :).

 

I do believe implicitly in the close veracity of the Sagas,as well.

(I may,however,read a slightly different interpretation into it-that the mention of the use of an axe as a weapon is fairly rare,AND,can be an indication of it being special,not quite a common skill,et c.But i'm not certain about it,and it really don't matter.).

 

 

Throughout history many a household tool was used in anger against the fellow human being,entire armies were at one point armed with straightened-out scythes...Battle-Scythes!

In every Russian village cabin there was a fearsome-looking,huge "knife",known as "soven'".It had a spine like a seax,a good 3/8",and an all-steel rolled handle.It was for splitting stove-wood,by women(the nature of a masonry stove),but i can only imagine the violence accomplished with it on many an occasion...

 

For a century and more now some(many) prefer to use a bicycle chain...A fearsome "weapon",alas...

 

My point in all this is that the Genesis,the Design,of an axe stems from a much more complicated function than fighting,that people are also quite capable of,namely Woodworking.

 

With all due respect for those interested in the martial use of an axe,i'm afraid that the utilitarian use can be substantiated WAY more directly,using PRIMARY sources of information such as the:

 

1.Tool-marks left on the period timbers(the study of which is rapidly becoming a fairly exact science).

 

2.The mathematical computations of an efficiency of a given extant axe-head.(and it's role in determining the shape).

 

I know that we've touched on woodworking above,but i'd like to do so again with a larger fraction of exactitude:

 

There're two principal processes in working with wood,Chopping,and Hewing.

 

Chopping means working AGAINST the grain,severing it abruptly.

It is a complex process dependent on a number of factors,one of the big ones being chip removal(a vitally important function of blade geometry,allowing one to keep going for an extended period of time,and to maintain a rythm,and a few other things besides that even...).

 

Hewing is a companion technique that means working at a much sharper angle to the grain of the wood,a VITALLY important process that not only shapes,but among other factors determines the final finish of a structural member,very often dictating it's longevity,and other functioning(the shingles protecting many of the period buildings were all hewn,creating a water-resistant surface,lasting as much as 300-400 years(aspen)).

The ship's timbers in particular were hewn very VERY carefully and deliberately.

 

I know that this is a METAL-working resource,and i apologise for this naggy hectoring,but this is also a very serious,thoughtful,insightful resource,and out of deep respect for the fellow forum members,as well as for the subject,i'm going out on this limb.

 

"Splitting" is commonly used only as applies to firewood,i.e.,very short lenghs.

 

When a log is sectioned by splitting for structural needs it is known as RIVING.

 

The main classifications of historic axes are largely obsolete.With them the oversimplification that all axes fall into three categories as to the angle/and/or area of their blade,"splitting"(large),"felling"(medium),Hewing(battle! :),narrow angle/large surface.

Things are just more complex than that.And,they're also Quantifiable in their complexity,the angle and other parameters corresponding to a specific woodworking chore.

 

Again,none of this means that these tools were not used to hack at people,but only that it was not where their design stemmed from(this is conjectural,as i don't posess either a time-machine,or even any exact comparative,dated data...There are folks working on it,however,in several countries,primarily in the context of conservation of architectural monuments).

 

My object here is simply to speak up for the side that seems to be often disregarded,the complexity and the finesse of woodworking technologies of a 1000 years ago.The level of which was (almost unbelievably) high.

 

Here's a decent video on Riving,

 

(Darrell,i'm sorry,but the term "broadaxe" is in NO way associated with sawing timbers.It refers to any of the many different kinds of a Hewing axes,for rougher or finer finishes,et c.,primarily to those on a larger side(longer cutting edge).

 

The "Dane" axe(the old original)posted above by Mr.Short,as well as the museum photo that Darrell has kindly provided,all (almost! :) look like they're a single-bevel SIDE-axes...(that'd solidly class them in the broadaxe family),but it could be wishful thinking on my part!

 

(I'll be honest,i see no shame in an artifact turning out to be a woodworking tool vs a weapon.As a matter of fact,those fantastically elegant reproductions by J.Austin just have to be a superlative tool!But,that's just me! :).I AM trying to be objective here,it's just hard! :).

 

In as far as the "iron-bound" et c.,here i'm frankly puzzled.The type of an axe that usually is used to exemplify that is familiar to me,and is a fairly current tool(well,late 19th century,anyway).

I'll post a photo of a French version that seems very close(with a fair lengh haft,too).It's the one on the very bottom.

 

What puzzles me about this specific type is that sounds like,during a training,Havard Bergland has given Tom Latane the historical background of these as something that the Swedish subjects had to forge,and to keep handy,in case of war...

But,here we're talking 15th century...

 

Haches.jpg

 

Utmost respect to all.

 

88c98a2592ca1ef3ff24009b374a59a6.jpg

:)

 

 

 

 

 

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The only museum dane axe that I have taken measurements of weighed in at 1 1/4 lb and a tad over 2mm thick behind the thickned edge. my estimates are that it would be slightly heavier than 1.5lb in its virgin state.

I have made axes of this weight and they are fast .

An axe constructed as light as this would not survive long as a wood working tool if it were primerily made of wrought iron.

From my through glass observations sub 3lb weights are pretty standard for these kinds of axes (there are some bigger).

the pole axe and halberd has been a standard of warfare , why does the viking pole axe not seem akin to these popular and longeved war specific blades.

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OK since everyone is wanting one more shot, I will try also. When I asked why the long handle I pretty much had an idea in my mind as too why the long handle. IMO the long handle would have made the axe a great fighting weapon!

 

My opinion was not entirely based on supposition, but somewhat on observation. Not necessarily of Viking history but, of personal experience!

 

I fancy myself as a pretty good woodsman and I worked at construction since the age of 14! So some of that opinion is base on my personal experience.

 

I remember as a kid a bunch of us youngins got a hold of an old axe head from somewhere and we carried it with us on a camping trip. When we arrived at our destination in the woods we decided we had to have a fire to keep us from starving. As you all know warm pork and beans tastes much better, than it does cold from the can.

 

However I am not sure what we were thinking when we brought the axe head. Without a handle it was pretty much useless for felling or splitting wood.

 

Well the job of re-handling the axe fell to another in our merry troop and his fancy was a long handled axe. I remember when he came back with his stick and begun whittling on it we all had thoughts that somehow when finished he would cut the length of the handle.

Not him though when finished he had done a fairly good job but the handle was about 4 1/2' long! I remember trying to use it for splitting and it was as the old saying goes about as "useless as teats on a boar hog"!

 

Swinging the axe for felling was awkward at best and close to impossible at the least! Before the first night had passed the handle had been broken. So a new handle was commissioned the next morning, a shorter handle and we used it all weekend to supply our fire!

 

That was my first observation of an axe using a long handle for woodworking. The handle of a long axe would have been much different as used as a weapon. I observed my son while in Karate class and working on his Black Belt, using only a staff how effective a weapon that would have been. That was my second observation!

 

The leap of faith from axe with a long handle becoming a very effective weapon is not too hard in this case! While there is not much in written documentation their are drawings and actual carvings depicting the long handled axe do exist! Also a few examples have turned up as mentioned during this thread.

 

So as first stated I am not an expert in this field. My intentions when I asked this question was to induce a intelligent conversation as too others opinions on the subject and find some actual references to the history of the Viking Axe which I had not seen already.

 

However gentlemen this thread seems to continue to induce a war of words. NOT MY INTENTION!

When folks don't let your feelings get into the discussion and all of us benefit, however no one benefits from StirPot.gif:(

Please remember even if you are knowledgeable on the subject, getting into a pi$$ing contest benefits no one!

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