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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Sun 15 Aug, 2010 2:48 pm    Post subject: Seeking accurate Danish axe.         Reply with quote

Hi everybody

Can anyone think of a craftsman making super nice axes like those formerly made by Eric McHugh, but using wrought instead of mild steel in the construction? I also understand that the period pieces also seem to have been made of 3 or even 4 sections. Eric used 2- the head and the edge. His pieces are exquisite in terms of line and proportion but I am in love with the appearance of wrought versus mild steel. Different metal finishes have become a real focal point of the pinnacle pieces in my collection.

Any ideas?


Last edited by Jeremy V. Krause on Sun 15 Aug, 2010 6:42 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Tim Lison




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PostPosted: Sun 15 Aug, 2010 2:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Try contacting Michael Pikula. He has made some great pattern welded pieces so he works in different metals. I'm sure he could do an accurate axe for you. He's very skilled and great to work with.
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Sun 15 Aug, 2010 3:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I second the recommendation for Michael Pikula.
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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Sun 15 Aug, 2010 6:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I hear that Barta has done an axe. Does anyone have any pics of this?

And darn it! I just realized I wrote "norman" when I meant "Danish" axe. Having a baby can reduce your brain to mush!! There I edited it. . .

WTF?!
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Carl W.




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PostPosted: Sun 15 Aug, 2010 10:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeremy - this mentions using wrought for axes, & shows some dane types...

http://www.knivesbynick.co.uk/weapons_axes.htm

I have no experience with, just ran across & saved that link a year or so ago as I like the looks of some. Not an axe expert, maybe I can learn something from your quest.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Aug, 2010 12:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan Robinson wrote:
I second the recommendation for Michael Pikula.


And I would " Third " that recommendation because of the quality of the work, how easy Michael is to work out a design with, and how reliable he is in estimating his delivery time.

Oh, and for full high end custom work his prices and wait times are both very low. ( almost a steal for great steel .... couldn't resist a really bad pun. Razz Laughing Out Loud But seriously, eventually his prices will have to go up as demand for his work increases and his time become loaded up with custom orders. Wink ).

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Ron Reimer




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Aug, 2010 12:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'd suggest taking a close look at Manning Imperial .They have a nice variety of axes and other gear.I've used their axes in tourney's and melees and they are lovely pieces of kit.
Ron
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David Huggins




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Aug, 2010 2:23 am    Post subject: axes         Reply with quote

Hi

Try here
http://www.gransfors.com/htm_eng/index.html

best
Dave

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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Aug, 2010 6:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There's something I am trying to wrap my head around regarding wrought iron and the black finish I see on ases especially.

Why do so many folks either blacken their iron or just leave it with that "from the forge" look? I postulate that this is a modern artistic choice. As silly as it may sound I think they are trying to ensure that said iron looks like what people think iron looks like. We even see this on some sword folks.

Thing is iron isn't black when it's polished. It's shiny like steel- just with some structural grain. If arms-makers in the past polished steel why wouldn't they have done the same to the iron. "I question whether the just out of the forge" look is historical.

I think this is a weird habit of your contemporary craftsman. Even Patrick Barta, who has a sound knowledge of historical specimen does this- blackens some of the wrought he uses.

Isn't iron pretty enough on it's own when polished? There is no historical precedent for blackening in the early middle ages, though of course, given the state of corrosion this would be hard to tell.

Too many of reproduction axis do this black head- shiny edge and I don't tend to think it's historical. I guess that's my main point.
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Tim Lison




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Aug, 2010 9:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeremy-

I couldn't agree more about blackened iron, especially having a few pieces that have polised iron in them. The grain of iron is really nice. I have a new sword (that I will post pics of when I get a new camera) that has a soft iron core with steel edges welded onto it and some silver inlay. The pattern of the polished iron in the core is amazing, especially against the dull white silver. I think an axe done with iron would be amazing. I know there have been a lot of suggestions for makers but I will repeat my suggestion of Michael Pikula. His work is excellent and he is great to work with. He is also here in the USA which will make your shipping and tariffs cheaper for sure! I know that he prefers to make viking pieces so this would be right up his alley. Not sure if he's made axes before but I do know that he's a perfectionist so I'm sure he'll work until it's right.
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Carl W.




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Aug, 2010 7:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeremy V. Krause wrote:
There is no historical precedent for blackening in the early middle ages, though of course, given the state of corrosion this would be hard to tell.

Too many of reproduction axis do this black head- shiny edge and I don't tend to think it's historical. I guess that's my main point.


With corrosion is there much historical precedent during that early a time period for polished? Stating preference is fine but unclear to me we can say blackened is not (or is) historical. I just skimmed William Short's book but didn't notice anything one way or other, fwiw. Happy if scholar(s) chime in to show either way. I'm a lazy searcher, found only...

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...mp;start=0

If we all agree we just don't know, fwiw I can think of at least 2 things possibly a bit in blackened's favor back then - cost & stealth. Well, & some (wierd :-) folks might have liked the look better (on some axes at least).
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Aug, 2010 11:51 pm    Post subject: Re: Seeking accurate Danish axe.         Reply with quote

Jeremy V. Krause wrote:

Can anyone think of a craftsman making super nice axes like those formerly made by Eric McHugh, but using wrought instead of mild steel in the construction? I also understand that the period pieces also seem to have been made of 3 or even 4 sections. .... Different metal finishes have become a real focal point of the pinnacle pieces in my collection.

Any ideas?


I only remember one exceptionally nice axe example by Eric McHugh being reviewed. There are only a few of examples of "functional war axes" that I might call "Danish" exclusively based on finds. I don't have them precisely cataloged for that purpose. (A pattern welded or inlaied axe is next on my wish list of blacksmith projects. I have been studying photos of the more popular archeological artifacts.) We could argue many forms of common tool axes and battle axes as both; generic Germanic, or possibly ceremonial "Danish" in the case of larger spiked or hammer headed ones as these seldom show up in graves with obvious warrior class gear, or something else besides just "Danish." There is no real convention, but a more generic term such as "bearded war axe" might help us all to better focus on what you really want.

I am wondering why you have specific interest in the carbon level of the steel? You can fire blue or finish "mild steel" in a variety of ways, difficult to distinguish from wrought iron. If inlaying, the wrought iron makes the most sense to me. (The axe geometry gives it a lot of its toughness even with mild steel. Arguably, easier the re-sharpen and replicate inlay that way.) Otherwise, why the specifics?

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Peter Johnsson
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PostPosted: Tue 17 Aug, 2010 1:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have documented a number of viking age axes, both big and small. Some of them belong to the group popularly known as Danish axes, although they were used in other parts of scandinavia as well. They date to the very late viking age and the period right after.
Some are crumbly with rust, but still show enough of original shape so you can get a very good idea of what they originally were. Some are very well preserved.

None of the axes I have seen (many more than the ones I have taken time to document) have showed any evidence of having marks left from the hammer. Axes were finished by filing/grinding. There is a great difference between axes for war and axes intended as craft tools. War axes have long edges for their weight, meaning they have been thinned down or cut out wherever possible, but may have a strongly defined edge that is often welded on and worked into a seeming seamless unit with the body of the axe. The edge on the "danish" axe is as a rule "reinforced": it has a ridge where it meets the body of the blade. The edge is some 5-8 mm thick at the ridge, while the body can be around 2-3 millimeter right behind the ridge. When the body is made from low carbon material, it is reasonable to think it was cold worked to increase stiffness. I know of one reconstruction made from wrought iron with a welded on edge that needed extensive cold hammering of the thin blade to avoid it folding or bending during a cut.

The surface *may* have shown some subtle grain from the wrought iron, as may also the edge. I do not think grain or structure showing in the iron was a strong visual feature however. It may not have been something that was visible at all in many cases. The most visible contrast may have been a slight color contrast between carbon rich steel of the edge and the lower carbon material in the body of the axe.

My impression is that good material was used for these axes (=material that had been thoroughly folded and reforged to remove slag and to make it more homogenous, less grainy or flaky). This opinion I base on the fact that the dimensions are so very fine and expertly drawn out: you cannot have coarse iron with much slag left in it, if an axe blade of this form is to stand up to use. The ones I have seen that has their original surface preserved (they were put in fire burials and have a resistant and uniform thin layer of black oxide that inhibits further rusting), does not show any obvious grain or inclusions in the iron.

I am also not sure the original finish was so very high or of a type that the grain would become obviously visible (possibly only as a very subtle effect, if at all). These axes were not etched, but were ground and filed to an exact and expertly designed shape. They did not use pattern welded material in the body or edge and they were only very rarely inlayed. If they were brought up to a high shiny gloss, it is perhaps reasonable to think that burnishing rather than abrasive fine grit polish was used. Burnishing "compacts" the surface, smearing and closing the grain. This would make any visible traces from the grain of the material be limited to the occasional slag inclusion or cold shut from welding. I think such flaws were rare to find in these axes. They are very well made. There are no simple farmers broad axes. These are weapons for the elite made by very skilled and specialized smiths.
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Keith L. Rogers




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PostPosted: Tue 17 Aug, 2010 8:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

So if I follow Peter's comments:

a) The axes would have been shiny from grinding and filing? (And they weren't etched and probably not burnished.)

b) The best preserved axes, such as this one at the Kulturhistorisk Museum in Oslo (link only since it's copyrighted), are similar to being black from the forge because they went through a fire burial?

-klr
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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Tue 17 Aug, 2010 8:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Carl W. wrote:
Jeremy V. Krause wrote:
There is no historical precedent for blackening in the early middle ages, though of course, given the state of corrosion this would be hard to tell.

Too many of reproduction axis do this black head- shiny edge and I don't tend to think it's historical. I guess that's my main point.


With corrosion is there much historical precedent during that early a time period for polished? Stating preference is fine but unclear to me we can say blackened is not (or is) historical. I just skimmed William Short's book but didn't notice anything one way or other, fwiw. Happy if scholar(s) chime in to show either way. I'm a lazy searcher, found only...

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...mp;start=0

If we all agree we just don't know, fwiw I can think of at least 2 things possibly a bit in blackened's favor back then - cost & stealth. Well, & some (wierd :-) folks might have liked the look better (on some axes at least).


Respectfully, I must disagree that cost or stealth would have been considerations to the medieval craftsman related to the war axe. First, axes of war were high status weapons and I don't think "stealth" was a consideration in medieval combat-- at least the kind of stealth you seem to be alluding to.

During the period 900-1100 iron and steel were prized materials and craftsman of weapons made the utmost use of these materials- this included time spent on "finishing" the piece. It seems to me the rough forged look or the blackened look are conventions of a modern aesthetic. There is really no evidence of any blackening used during the high medieval period on anything including swords and armor. THere are a few pieces, certainly swords, where a blackened finish could be detected if it existed. This blackening, browning, bluing does indeed come up later but not in in the period up to at least 1250, and maybe a century later than that.


Last edited by Jeremy V. Krause on Tue 17 Aug, 2010 9:23 am; edited 1 time in total
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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Tue 17 Aug, 2010 9:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter Johnsson wrote:
I have documented a number of viking age axes, both big and small. Some of them belong to the group popularly known as Danish axes, although they were used in other parts of scandinavia as well. They date to the very late viking age and the period right after.
Some are crumbly with rust, but still show enough of original shape so you can get a very good idea of what they originally were. Some are very well preserved.

None of the axes I have seen (many more than the ones I have taken time to document) have showed any evidence of having marks left from the hammer. Axes were finished by filing/grinding. There is a great difference between axes for war and axes intended as craft tools. War axes have long edges for their weight, meaning they have been thinned down or cut out wherever possible, but may have a strongly defined edge that is often welded on and worked into a seeming seamless unit with the body of the axe. The edge on the "danish" axe is as a rule "reinforced": it has a ridge where it meets the body of the blade. The edge is some 5-8 mm thick at the ridge, while the body can be around 2-3 millimeter right behind the ridge. When the body is made from low carbon material, it is reasonable to think it was cold worked to increase stiffness. I know of one reconstruction made from wrought iron with a welded on edge that needed extensive cold hammering of the thin blade to avoid it folding or bending during a cut.

.


Thanks Peter, for sharing your thoughts on my post/thread,

That is great for me to learn about the seamless or non-reinforced edges of other viking or (high medieval?) axes. I assumed, and we see where assumptions get us Wink that the reinforced edge proportion was a more consistent feature of the period. I wasn't aware it was more of a Danish Axe feature specifically. I was certainly aware of the non-reinforced edges of later period axes, pole arms etc. but now I can consider this as part of the Viking or early medieval axe heritage.

Regarding the finish of the iron, I was aware that etching wasn't really done so much and that folks did fold and seek homogeneity in the irons' structure. Is it possible that slight (cracks- sorry I don't know the term) or subtle structure could have been seen on finishes? I ask this in thinking about my seax made be Owen Bush where the iron is certainly not "rough" but is certainly grey and does have a few "cracks-fissures-whatever and other small anomalies"? I know this is a seax and not an axe but seeing the finish may give some impression as to what I am musing about.

If you need to see the seax in question it is the one currently reviewed here on the main page. Does this make any sense?

Please keep in mind that my questions and musings come from a huge lack of knowledge of metalurgy and the forging process on a more detailed level, hence my odd nomenclature. Happy

Thanks again Peter.
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David Huggins




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PostPosted: Tue 17 Aug, 2010 9:30 am    Post subject: Axes         Reply with quote

Hi Jeremy.

Sorry I misunderstood your original request, and yes I do agree with your opinion on a modern aesthetic perhaps influencing axe making,much the same as our modern love of reproduced timber artifacts leaving exposed wood surfaces. I'm of the opinion that many of these items would also have been painted to enhance their appeal..

I have a nice dane axe produced by Ivor Lawton, produced some 12 years ago and unfortunetly after been loaned to a friend who left it in his garage after use WTF?! displaying rusting stains to the original polish. It is however much as Peter explains, with a v shaped steel edge of 8 1/2inches and with a hand of 38 inches, suprisingly light enough to enable use with one hand but obviously probably even more deadly weilded two handed.

Unfortunetly like so many of my own weapons, no photo to show!

best wishes
Dave

ps you could contatc Paul Binns who also makes very good dane axes, he has made a couple of nicely inlaid dane axes.

and he who stands and sheds blood with us, shall be as a brother.
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David Huggins




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PostPosted: Tue 17 Aug, 2010 9:36 am    Post subject: Axe         Reply with quote

Sorry that should read 'a haft of thirty eight inches',

The axe head also has the 'fissures' as you describe them Jeremy.

best
Dave

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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Tue 17 Aug, 2010 9:42 am    Post subject: Re: Axes         Reply with quote

David Huggins wrote:
Hi Jeremy.

Sorry I misunderstood your original request, and yes I do agree with your opinion on a modern aesthetic perhaps influencing axe making,much the same as our modern love of reproduced timber artifacts leaving exposed wood surfaces. I'm of the opinion that many of these items would also have been painted to enhance their appeal..

I have a nice dane axe produced by Ivor Lawton, produced some 12 years ago and unfortunetly after been loaned to a friend who left it in his garage after use WTF?! displaying rusting stains to the original polish. It is however much as Peter explains, with a v shaped steel edge of 8 1/2inches and with a hand of 38 inches, suprisingly light enough to enable use with one hand but obviously probably even more deadly weilded two handed.

Unfortunetly like so many of my own weapons, no photo to show!

best wishes
Dave

ps you could contatc Paul Binns who also makes very good dane axes, he has made a couple of nicely inlaid dane axes.


Hey David,

That's a pain about your axe! I have a few stains on my albion's. I mean I oil them. I really kind of pisses me off. I figure it is either the humidity or I am just not doing enough. Can't these stains be removed with significant effort though? I hope so but if not then cie la vie I guess.

Yes, we love our historical accuracy don't we. I have found that when it comes to painting. That's where we seperate the men from the boys! Big Grin

I actually don't have any helms but if I had a really nice one I don't know if I could bring myself to give it a nice fire-engine red/yellow combo or something!! Eek!
Now, maybe a green and red Christmas motif. . . Hmmm. . . .
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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Tue 17 Aug, 2010 9:50 am    Post subject: Re: Seeking accurate Danish axe.         Reply with quote

Jared Smith wrote:

I am wondering why you have specific interest in the carbon level of the steel? You can fire blue or finish "mild steel" in a variety of ways, difficult to distinguish from wrought iron. If inlaying, the wrought iron makes the most sense to me. (The axe geometry gives it a lot of its toughness even with mild steel. Arguably, easier the re-sharpen and replicate inlay that way.) Otherwise, why the specifics?


Well, for me even if could be made to look like iron and behave like iron- which I don't really think we can, BUT even IF we could; if it ain't iron, then, well, it ain't iron.

Cubic zirconia may look like diamond and behave like diamond but I don't think I would like my wife's response if I were to purchase a cubic zirconium ring for her. (ducks head from oncoming spousal blow)

That's just how I see it. Good thing we have so many fine craftsman out there to work with us to give us just what we want to spend our clams on.

As an example I am going to spend 400 dollars on a teeny weenie eating knife made by Tod and Owen Bush. Why is this tiny thing 400 dollars you ask, because Owen is using authentic shear steel instead of the normal homogenous stuff which Tod would normally use. Well the appearance be drastically different- likely no, but for me just knowing that my little knife has a more accurately forged blade with a complex structure is enough to justify the cost.

Well anyone I show this to care. Nope. Well they want me to stop talking about my eating knife. . . Probably yes. . . . Cry Wink Happy
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