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Etienne Hamel




Location: Acton Vale (QC) canada
Joined: 09 Sep 2006

Posts: 424

PostPosted: Sat 02 May, 2009 6:36 pm    Post subject: Matter of axes         Reply with quote

Hi, i know this maybe have been discussed already but i wanted to know more about viking axes. how does the head is sticked on the haft historically, what kind of haft would have been effective in this time (curved haft, straight haft how accurate ?) and what would be the measurements of the axe head if the haft is 3 feet long?

looking forward to discuss about it Big Grin .
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George Hill




Location: Atlanta Ga
Joined: 16 May 2005

Posts: 614

PostPosted: Sat 02 May, 2009 6:57 pm    Post subject: Re: Matter of axes         Reply with quote

Etienne Hamel wrote:
Hi, i know this maybe have been discussed already but i wanted to know more about viking axes. how does the head is sticked on the haft historically, what kind of haft would have been effective in this time (curved haft, straight haft how accurate ?) and what would be the measurements of the axe head if the haft is 3 feet long?

looking forward to discuss about it Big Grin .


Oakeshott, in "A Knight and His Weapons" discusses the axe, and maintains that a half with an S-Curve is vital to maintaining proper handling.

To abandon your shield is the basest of crimes. - --Tacitus on Germania
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Jeff Marlin




Location: Illinois
Joined: 01 May 2009

Posts: 14

PostPosted: Sun 03 May, 2009 11:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think Oakeshott was a bit off-base on this one.
I can think of no contemporary pictorial source (Bayeux tapestry, manuscript illustration) that shows a Dane axe with an S-curved haft. They all seem to be straight.
As far as attachment, just like any other axe, good tight fit with a wedge if needed seems to do the trick.
I doubt the size of the head was standardized in relation to the haft length.

"With love and action shall a man live in memory and in song."

"Farmer, those are hideous weapons!"
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Etienne Hamel




Location: Acton Vale (QC) canada
Joined: 09 Sep 2006

Posts: 424

PostPosted: Sun 03 May, 2009 6:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Anyone have any opinion or facts on bearded axes? They're my favorite among all but don't know much about them historicaly...
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D. Austin
Industry Professional



Location: Melbourne, Australia
Joined: 20 Sep 2007

Posts: 208

PostPosted: Sun 03 May, 2009 7:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I believe that the bearded axe was originally a wood working tool. The purpose of the beard was to allow the user to grip the handle behind the blade, giving better control for more precise work.
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Artis Aboltins




PostPosted: Mon 04 May, 2009 2:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

D. Austin wrote:
I believe that the bearded axe was originally a wood working tool. The purpose of the beard was to allow the user to grip the handle behind the blade, giving better control for more precise work.


Erm, not really - we have plenty of "bearded-axe" or "wide-bladed axes" finds in what are without doubt, graves of "upper-layer" of society here in Latvia for the period of 10-12th centuries - often accompanied with double-edged swords, richly decorated belts and jewelry, quite often such axe is, aparently, a primary weapon in the grave, accompanied by some spearheads and seax. The idea behind such axeheads seems to be that it keeps the axehead relatively light and yet offers larger "active area". Also, many of the axeheads are decorated which means they are important and prized possessions. In fact one can clearly see the theme of how such axeheads replace earlier versions of axes that did not had any "beard".



 Attachment: 53.9 KB
cirvji.jpg
From Arnis Radnis "Burial fields of the 10th-13th century in Latgallian territory", Riga, 1999.
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Etienne Hamel




Location: Acton Vale (QC) canada
Joined: 09 Sep 2006

Posts: 424

PostPosted: Mon 04 May, 2009 6:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

i thought of something that i think would worth it but its for you to judge.
the thing is, the shields of the viking could have been covered by leather right? then i remembered about a website i came across maybe a year or two ago http://member.melbpc.org.au/~kja/shieldblank.html and there is this thing the guy was using to cover the wood (calico, leather, canvas but used calico) so i was wondering if it would worth the time to cover the haft of an axe with maybe 2 or 3 layers of canvas of something else to solidify the haft for training purpose.

by the way, nice picture Artis looks like i'm up to have a pretty good beard axe one day Laughing Out Loud .
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Artis Aboltins




PostPosted: Mon 04 May, 2009 6:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, for training purposes I would say - go right ahead, as long as modifications to the haft do not affect handling of the weapon. As far as history goes - we have evidence that Latgallians used bronze strips to wrap the hafts of smaller axes in the 10th century, supposedly, to increase the longlivity of the hafts in the combat. However, we have no evidence of such practice in later times.
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David Huggins




Location: UK
Joined: 25 Jul 2007

Posts: 490

PostPosted: Mon 04 May, 2009 7:03 am    Post subject: Axe         Reply with quote

The axes from the late roman iron age bog deposits in Scandinavia have straight hafts. Interstingly some of the Dane axe heads have small sockets indicating quite narrow hafts. I have to agree that the bearded axe is also very 'needfull' and my favourite weapon. My own bearded axe that I use for re-enactment purposes has a haft the length of my arm from axilla to wrist. I tend to use the hammer projection on the axe head to open up the opponants shields, striking to the shield at the right hand lower quarter to and use the blade edge on the reverse swing to the oppanant's toso. Another method is to use the the axe head thrust into the opponants upper half of his shield and then use the 'beard' to open the shield exposing his torso. And of course the beard can also be used to snag an oppanant behind the knee! Simple but quite effective.

best
Dave

and he who stands and sheds blood with us, shall be as a brother.
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Etienne Hamel




Location: Acton Vale (QC) canada
Joined: 09 Sep 2006

Posts: 424

PostPosted: Mon 04 May, 2009 9:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Do you have a picture of your axe i'm pretty curious about it! Big Grin And before i forget is there evidence that there was bearded axes that has a 3 feet long or more haft?
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Artis Aboltins




PostPosted: Mon 04 May, 2009 9:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Etienne Hamel wrote:
Do you have a picture of your axe i'm pretty curious about it! Big Grin And before i forget is there evidence that there was bearded axes that has a 3 feet long or more haft?


As far as I am aware, there is very little remaining of the hafts - so usually people determine the length of the haft by the size of the axehead and whatever would be comfortable length to use it. Only surviving hafts of any length I have seen are those that have been covered by bronze and those were not found with "bearded axes" and were rather short - certainly intended for single-hand use.
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James Hayden




Location: West Virginia
Joined: 14 Apr 2009

Posts: 3

PostPosted: Mon 04 May, 2009 9:42 am    Post subject: Re: Axe         Reply with quote

David Huggins wrote:
The axes from the late roman iron age bog deposits in Scandinavia have straight hafts. Interstingly some of the Dane axe heads have small sockets indicating quite narrow hafts. I have to agree that the bearded axe is also very 'needfull' and my favourite weapon. My own bearded axe that I use for re-enactment purposes has a haft the length of my arm from axilla to wrist. I tend to use the hammer projection on the axe head to open up the opponants shields, striking to the shield at the right hand lower quarter to and use the blade edge on the reverse swing to the oppanant's toso. Another method is to use the the axe head thrust into the opponants upper half of his shield and then use the 'beard' to open the shield exposing his torso. And of course the beard can also be used to snag an oppanant behind the knee! Simple but quite effective.

best
Dave




Like Dave said (above quote) - I'd imagine the "beard" would serve as an excellent "hook" to grab your opponents arm/leg/shield/etc. and pull either out of the way or into the kill-zone.
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David Huggins




Location: UK
Joined: 25 Jul 2007

Posts: 490

PostPosted: Mon 04 May, 2009 11:06 am    Post subject: Axes         Reply with quote

Hello Etienne ,

As I stand at just over six five my own bearded axe haft is just under three foot, but I would say that may be exceptional. Most folk appear to be comfortable with the ratio that I gave though.I tend to hold the haft in various positions along the haft depending on the blow to be delivered but allow the axe to slide through my grip holding the haft just above it's base when delivering the return swing, the haft has leather 'thonging' tied to the base of the haft to about five inches in depth allowing a good grip in the hand.

What I do see amongst many mainland european re-enactment groups is small axe heads mounted on very long shafts, more like what I would expect on say a Dane Axe. I am not convinced though that this would have been the correct length.

If you check out www.daspodol.de you will see a good selection of axe heads available for re-enactors that I would consider good ones, but most good smiths should be able to produce one.

There may a picture of my bearded axe on our myspace profile page on one of the two slide shows www.myspace.com/jorvik-vikingr
best
wishes
Dave

and he who stands and sheds blood with us, shall be as a brother.
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Bjorn Hagstrom




Location: Höör, Skane
Joined: 25 Oct 2007
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PostPosted: Tue 05 May, 2009 1:18 am    Post subject: Re: Axe         Reply with quote

James Hayden wrote:

Like Dave said (above quote) - I'd imagine the "beard" would serve as an excellent "hook" to grab your opponents arm/leg/shield/etc. and pull either out of the way or into the kill-zone.


In my experience the beard on an axe is not needed for it to be excellent (or annoyingly) for hooking shields, knees and elbows. That works just as well with any type of axe-head. The value of the beard must be to give a longer edge for slicing cuts. Against soft targets that would be a good thing.

The use of the bearded axe away from the battlefield is to shape beams and planks out of logs. Here is where the long cutting edge gets useful! The hafts of those axes are generally quite short as you usually have the log placed on the ground, then standing with the log between your legs and carefully walking backwards shaving the side of the log (tried to find a good image of this, but failed..)

This is however the civilian use of the bearded axe. Although I find it quite likley that the distinction between a tool of war and a tool for ship maintenance would not be that great for sea-faring scandinavians.






[/img]

There is nothing quite as sad as a one man conga-line...
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David Huggins




Location: UK
Joined: 25 Jul 2007

Posts: 490

PostPosted: Tue 05 May, 2009 2:41 am    Post subject: Axes         Reply with quote

Hi Bjorn,

No doubt the bearded axe has multiple uses, there are other axes which may have been more appropiate to the task of shapeing large lengths of timber such as beams, planking etc, after the splitting of the timber with wedges, the often found 'T' shaped axe comes to mind, and of course for finer work, adzes in various blade lengths.

best
Dave

and he who stands and sheds blood with us, shall be as a brother.
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Bjorn Hagstrom




Location: Höör, Skane
Joined: 25 Oct 2007
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PostPosted: Tue 05 May, 2009 3:31 am    Post subject: Re: Axes         Reply with quote

David Huggins wrote:
Hi Bjorn,

No doubt the bearded axe has multiple uses, there are other axes which may have been more appropiate to the task of shapeing large lengths of timber such as beams, planking etc, after the splitting of the timber with wedges, the often found 'T' shaped axe comes to mind, and of course for finer work, adzes in various blade lengths.

best
Dave


Yes, I did not mean to imply that the bearded axe is the exclusive tool for shaping beams and planks, just that it is a rationale in having a longer edge (compared to other jobs like felling a tree where you want more force distributed over a smaller edge) Happy

Out of curiosity I just had to do a quick search on axe-finds at the Swedish National History Museum (they have an excellent online catalogue of finds, many with pictures and quite usable search function) And I found some 500+ listed finds of axes from migration to viking period alone. I really recommend having a look for a nice overview of period axe-head types.

Interesting, and of interest to the topic starter maybe is a find with the wedge remaining



And here is a nice bearded one:



And I like the design of this one:



The link to the searchfunction is
http://mis.historiska.se/mis/sok/sok.asp?qtype=f
Unfortnutlay the page does not seem to be translated to english, but for those who are willing to give it a try I include it anyway!

There is nothing quite as sad as a one man conga-line...
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Etienne Hamel




Location: Acton Vale (QC) canada
Joined: 09 Sep 2006

Posts: 424

PostPosted: Tue 05 May, 2009 7:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

its an awesome website but i didn't understand anything until i translate them by computer very usefull indeed!

is there another museum website that would have other axe head pictures of the viking era?
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Elling Polden




Location: Bergen, Norway
Joined: 19 Feb 2004
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PostPosted: Tue 05 May, 2009 7:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Keep in mind that the viking age spans 300 years. Bearded axes in their pure form where only popular for about 100 years (from the 750s to 850s), according to Pettersen. The types E and F, wich has remains of a beard, but are not bearded axes as such, is in use for another 100 years.
But over all the trend is toward beardless types.
The other main type in use throughout the viking era are wedge axes; these have solid, wedge formed heads and a short cutting edge.
The bearded axe was replaced by the broad axe; Unlike bearded axes, which where quite massive, the broad axe have a very thin profile, and a large cutting edge, probably for speed and effeciency against the soft targets of the time.
(For example, my blunt figthing daneaxe on a 2m ash shaft weighs 1,6kg (a little over 3 pounds))

All the axe shafts I've seen in period images where straight. The also frequently appear to be quite long.
Personally I belive they would be about a meter or more. The tradition of using axes as walking stricks remained in norway until the 18th(!) century, and viking/medevial axes would probably be used in the same way.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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