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Karl G




Location: Australia
Joined: 25 Apr 2016

Posts: 38

PostPosted: Mon 24 Oct, 2016 2:55 am    Post subject: Qualities of the one handed fighting axe?         Reply with quote

Just trying to get a grasp of what makes a fighting axe, having not given them much consideration previously. I've seen plenty of pictures, and a few questions come to mind.

Is there a general length and weight most hover around?

Would they have been more or less common than two handed axes in the periods they were used?

Attacking methods? While we know swords had a range of attacks and injury types(and it was not all huge amputational chops every swing) would it be fair to say with an axe you are hitting harder most of the time with the intention of really burying the head in?

Similarly on the injury types with swords ( puncture, small to large laceration, probably evulsions, amputations) What sort of injury mechanisms do we predict the most with axes? Just the major puncturing blade egde to the body, many limb strikes/losses? Likelihood of fractures, non lethal disabling blows?( eg winded by blows to the abdomen, or were they too light to have much ablative effect through padding and mail? )

Would axe fighting require more or less arm strength and endurance than for a swordsman or no difference?

Other uses than fighting- myth or accepted? Woodworking, small foresty work( not felling large trees of course).

Duelling ability against other weapon types. An bare axe versus a sword is probably not favourable but with a shield is the field more even?

When and why did they die off as a primary arm ?
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Andrew Gill





Joined: 19 Feb 2015

Posts: 97

PostPosted: Mon 24 Oct, 2016 7:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Karl

What period are you looking at?

Assuming Viking-era - probably a high-water mark for the axe as a weapon - you should look at this site:
http://www.hurstwic.com/history/articles/manu...ng_axe.htm
Their work is based on a lot of solid academic research; I think one of their founding members has a PhD in icelandic literature (ie. the sagas).

Quick answers:

One-handed axes were usually much more common than two-handed ones for several reasons: firstly, they can be used with a shield in the other hand (especially important if you can't afford any other armour), secondly they are handier and less awkward to carry around. Two-handed axes were often the preserve of the elite professionals who had decent armour - eg the huscarls in anglo-saxon England.

Haft length is probably 60-90 cm (this is a guess, but most one-handed striking weapons I know of seem to fall within this range - much longer and they become unwieldy, much shorter and you tend to get outreached, and can't as easily go around shields, etc).

Axes made specifically as weapons would not be much good for chopping wood - the heads were thinner and lighter than tool axes. They were apparently well balanced, and the increased forward weighting compared with a sword due to the axehead would be offset to some extent by the greater versatility of the weapon - you can hook a shield or limb with it, etc. If the axe haft has metal langets or a metal wrap, you can definitely parry with it (indeed, you can probably do so with a bare wood haft as well - it isn't at all easy to cut through a stout wooden axe haft with a sword, especially if the owner of the axe is actively objecting)
Poorer Norwegian farmers apparently had one-handed axes in lieu of swords for their defensive militias until at least the late 1600s - they were required by law to have a weapon of some sort.
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Shawn Henthorn




Location: Amarillo TX
Joined: 25 May 2006
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PostPosted: Mon 24 Oct, 2016 10:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I imagine it would vary a bit for each person...Personally I have found that a smaller axe head with a medium shaft is most effective...for me weight at under 900g and around 76cm for the length works best.
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Mark Moore




Location: East backwoods-assed Texas
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PostPosted: Mon 24 Oct, 2016 12:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I personally think that Cold Steel makes some of the best fighting one-handers, especially their Norse and Spike models. Get the 22" handles if possible. Hanwei's Viking one handers are very good also, but would benefit from better quality handles. Just my two cents ...fwiw. Wink .......McM
''Life is like a box of chocolates...'' --- F. Gump
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Shawn Henthorn




Location: Amarillo TX
Joined: 25 May 2006
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Posts: 144

PostPosted: Mon 24 Oct, 2016 3:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yeah, the Norse Hawk is one heck of a good little axe though not the most historical thing...just ordered one of their new bearded axes to try it out.
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Mark Moore




Location: East backwoods-assed Texas
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PostPosted: Mon 24 Oct, 2016 4:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I hope you got their new hand axe they just introduced not long ago. I've been waiting to see what folks think of it. .....McM
''Life is like a box of chocolates...'' --- F. Gump
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Radovan Geist




Location: Slovakia
Joined: 19 Aug 2010
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PostPosted: Mon 24 Oct, 2016 10:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Iīm using one-handed axe with my 17th C. Hungarian foot haiduk outfit, and I can only second what S.Henthorn said: for me itīs best when itīs relatively small and light, with haft around 70 cm long. Here is the picture of "balta" Iīm using now, manufactured by Viktor Berbekucz (Hungary).
Itīs really lively and fast, and easy to handle. Itīs blunt, so I cannot say anything about the cutting qualities, bud when swung at speed, the head has an impact strength that would cut really deep.



 Attachment: 100.88 KB
haiduk-axe-1.jpg

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Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
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PostPosted: Tue 25 Oct, 2016 11:25 pm    Post subject: Re: Qualities of the one handed fighting axe?         Reply with quote

Karl G wrote:
Is there a general length and weight most hover around?


There's a lot of variation. For length, maybe 60-80cm is most common, but they vary from about 35cm to about 1m. For weight, maybe 600-800g is most common. Weights down to 400g are common, with some as low as 200g or even less. Above 1kg appears to be rare, but some are as heavy as 1.2-1.4kg.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Mark Moore




Location: East backwoods-assed Texas
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PostPosted: Wed 26 Oct, 2016 11:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I just received a diamond in the rough from KoA this morning. Go there and see the "Viking Throwing Axe", and my review of it. It's on the 'Axes' page close to the bottom. What a deal! Beautiful and deadly!..........McM
''Life is like a box of chocolates...'' --- F. Gump
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Mark Moore




Location: East backwoods-assed Texas
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PostPosted: Wed 26 Oct, 2016 11:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Forgot to add......It's the one with no manufacturers label, for $29.95. I think it is made for Factory X. India-made, but VERY nicely done. Happy .........McM
''Life is like a box of chocolates...'' --- F. Gump
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Karl G




Location: Australia
Joined: 25 Apr 2016

Posts: 38

PostPosted: Fri 28 Oct, 2016 7:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks gents for the replies. So they come in quite light and handy generally. That was a good resource Andrew, put quite a few gaps together for me.
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Mark Moore




Location: East backwoods-assed Texas
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PostPosted: Fri 28 Oct, 2016 4:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Now I have a question that I've often wondered about........Is there any evidence of Viking-style bearded axes ever being sharpened on the inside of the beard ? You know....sickle style....for inward pull-cuts? Just wondering if such animal ever existed....... WTF?! ......McM
''Life is like a box of chocolates...'' --- F. Gump
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Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
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PostPosted: Sat 29 Oct, 2016 3:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I haven't seen any sharpened on the inside. Nor non-Viking bearded axes (European, Indian, Japanese), with one possible Bronze Age exception:

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/325711

Easy to see why it isn't done for tool-axes, since you sometimes grip the haft behind the beard.

There are various axes sharpened on the bottom of the head, notably the Chinese ge (some of which have sickle-shaped points) and the European bronze "halberd" (basically, the European ge). For a non-ge example:

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/544815

Sickle-bladed weapons usually have a forward facing edge. Often, the point doesn't "shadow" any of the edge at all. Sometimes it "shadows" part of the edge, but there is still plenty of exposed edge facing forwards. You can strike at speed with a forward-facing edge, and even with a downward-facing edge. But not with a backward-facing edge - you'd have to hook the head over the target and slice from that position. A typical beard back edge faced too directly backward to give you sickle-like slicing.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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