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Eric McHugh

WIP: Bearded Axe from Uppsala, Sweden

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I’m getting ready to polish a small bearded axe that is inspired by an axe that I documented with Swordsmith Peter Johnsson in Uppsala, Sweden.


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We were drawn to this axe because of it’s elegant lines, and stout shape. While it’s profile makes it look like a thin axe, when viewed from the top, it is clear that this axe is all business. The body is nearly wedge shaped.


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The body and socket are 1018 and the bit is 1080. Blade width is 4.75″ (12,1 cm) from tip-to-tip. It is 6.25″ (15,9 cm) long.

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That, is just gorgeous. Love it! Could we get a picture of it from below maybe, I'm wondering if it's sharp under as well.

Edited by John Rosendahl

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that thing is stout! It has nice lines on the planes, too. excellent stuff.

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It is a little rough still. My wife thought the different direction in the grinding was a ridge. I thought, "maybe I should have polished that a bit before posting the WIP." Anyway, I focused on making sure the planes were true. This is a nice axe to make because it is almost wedge shaped, so it's pretty each to forge to shape and then grind true.

 

@John, I'm going in the smithy now, so I don't have more pictures, but the original and my recreation is basically a wedge with that profile. I'll post more pictures when complete.

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Since I know the original and just recently saw Eric´s recreation of it, I can testify that it is really close to that individual original viking era axe.
This is one of those that can trule find use both as a weapon and a tool. This is something that is said about a lot of viking weaponry (axes and seaxes) but in reality is pretty rare. Majority of seaxes are purely weapons and axes tend to be either tools or weapons.

This one is of a size and heft that makes it useful in bot peace and war.
Beautiful and seemingly simple, it is a subtle and advanced design that combines aesthetics, craft, material and function on a high level.

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I was curious when I saw the thickness if it could actually withstand some light wood chopping. Of course, I would never actually chop wood with that beautiful thing, but a limb out of the way here and there, or some wood for my camp stove.

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Spent the last few days polishing this bearded axe. It's now ready to be hafted. I call this finish "file satin." Basically, I forge the axe as closely as I can to the shape I want. I leave a little extra meat for the grinder. I then give it a very course grinding to remove scale and pits. I then draw file to the final shape I want. This is followed by hand polishing with wet/dry paper then emery compound. Finally, I use oil on a scotch-brite pad and satin the whole thing. This gives a very well defined shape, but upon closer inspection small forge pits and file marks are evident to add historic character.

 

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I do some final shaping of the socket to ensure a nice fit with the haft, and then put a small chamfer on the edges. While most of the examples I've seen are too corroded to support the idea of this small chamfer, I do it because it adds a little depth to the axe head, and protects the user from cutting his or her fingers on the hard edges. Considering the amount of file work you see on many historic weapons, I think it is historically plausible.

 

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The edge is hand polished to sharpness with stones. I am looking for a slight apple seed bevel, but because of the wedge shaped design of this axe, the apple seed bevel is very small because the wedge shape of the axe will naturally support an aggressive cutting edge without too much meat behind the edge. This design allows for an extremely sharp edge that is well supported. This axe could do some real damage to an opponent's shield or person. I do the final sharpening with a high grit diamond hone followed by a leather strop which makes a hair shaving edge.

 

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Specs:

 

Socket and Body: 1018

Edge bit: 1080

Blade width: 4.75" (12,1 cm)

Overall length (from pole to top tip of blade): 6.375" (16,2 cm)

Weight: 1.25 pounds (567 grams)

 

I'll post final pictures after it has been hafted.

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Most excellent! I agree with you about softening the edges. I have never seen a truly sharp corner on a historic piece. They were made to be used by hands, and hands do not like sharp corners.

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This one came out great Eric. The finish is really lovingly made and brings out the shape of the axe beautifully.

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That is a very pretty axe

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good work on the finishing, too!

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I've learned that it is the little details that make the difference between an average item and something that is pleasing to the eye. I use cabinet scrapers to achieve a smooth and symmetrical shape to the haft. It is a small detail but it adds a nice touch to the overall appeal of the project.

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You have to learn to correctly develop a nice burr on the scraper so it gives you these nice thin shavings that do not remove too much material and smooth the shape at the same time.

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I'm not sure if this stuff is of interest to most folks, but I figure I'll keep posting WIP pictures until people tell me to "F" off...LOL.

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Gosh! The more you know, the less you don't ;) Pretty much anything is of interest here, knowledge is invaluable and more than less of us are hungry for more!

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Hafts also do not like sharp corners. I find a nice little hand filed chamfer around the inside of the eye helps keep the haft in much better shape during use.

 

Beautiful work here. I love the hand finished look. Excellent job!

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Almost finished. One more final coat of linseed oil. I put three coats of linseed oil on it. I use 0000 wool after each coat dries. The oil raises the grain a tiny bit, and the steel wool polishes to this nice semi-gloss look.

 

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"I'm not sure if this stuff is of interest to most folks, but I figure I'll keep posting WIP pictures until people tell me to "F" off...LOL."

 

I find that more detail about methods is preferable to less. I'm not as interested in the finished product as I am in the road one takes to get there.

So, keep it coming. This is a great WIP on axe finishing.

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I finished the axe, and I posted some text and pictures on my blog:

 

It was a chance of a lifetime. My friend, Peter Johnsson, was able to secure a whole day of research at the University of Uppsala storeroom. When we walked in, the curators made their introductions, then proceeded to walk us down to the climate controlled rooms.I could not believe my eyes: row after row of swords, spears, axes, and other assorted weapons were sitting on each shelf. It looked to me, a novice, like the jackpot of historic weapons. We quickly began the task of choosing which items we wanted to document. We pulled what seemed like dozens of weapons off the shelves and placed them on a cart to take them to a study room. One of them was this outstanding small bearded axe. It had an elegant shape, but it was also quite substantial for its size. I knew right away that someday I’d like to make an axe inspired by this one.

 

Below is Peter's drawing of the axe:

 

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My version is slightly larger than the original. The tips of the langets are a bit more narrow on my version because the corrosion added a bit of mystery as to how the ends were terminated. In addition, instead of the roundish eye socket, I opted for a kite shaped one mostly because of the mandrels I had already forged and heat-treated. Other than these minor changes, I believe this version captures the spirit of the original axe.

 

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The haft is made of hickory and is 31″ (78, 7 cm) long.

 

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Specs:

  • Socket and Body: 1018
  • Edge bit: 1080
  • Blade width: 4.75″ (12,1 cm)
  • Overall length (from pole to top tip of blade): 6.375″ (16,2 cm)
  • Weight: 2.28 pounds (1034,8 grams)
  • Haft material: hickory
  • Haft length: 31″ (78,7 cm)

If you are interested in this axe, contact me at ericmycue374@comcast.net

 

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