Obtaining Traditional Axes

Edge tools are among the first tool forms, with surviving primitive axes dated to 8000 B.C.. Early axes were produced by “wrapping” the red hot iron around a form, yielding the attention of the axe. The steel bit, introduced in the 18th century, was laid in to the fold at the front end and hammered into an edge. The side opposite the bit was later extended in to a poll, for better balance and to supply a hammering surface.

The handles took on a variety of shapes, some indicative or origin, others relating to function. The size of the handle had more to do with the arc of the swing which was required. Felling axes took a full swing and therefore needed the longest handles. Early axes have their handles fitted through the attention from the utmost effective down and the handles remain in place by locking in to the taper of the attention, for them to be removed for sharpening.

Later axes, however, have their handles fit through the attention from the bottom up, and have a wedge driven in from the top. This permanently locks the handle to the axe and was much preferred by American woodsmen. Many axes found today had been discarded since the handle was split or broken off. In most cases they can be bought at a portion of these value and, with another handle, could be restored with their original condition. Most axe collectors have an investment of older flea-market handles that they use for this restoration. Like plane blades, axe handles could have been replaced two or three times through the entire life of the tool. Provided that the handle is “proper,” meaning, the right shape and length for the function, it won’t detract very much from its value.

Pricing of antique axes runs the entire gamut from several dollars a number of hundred. Types of well-made axes would range from the Plumb, White, Kelly, Miller and numerous others. Beyond we were holding axes of sometimes lesser quality, but built to a price, and sold by the thousands. Exceptional examples might include handmade axes, possibly from the neighborhood blacksmith, or from a manufacturer that specialized in the handmade article, regardless of price.

There are numerous kinds of axes available such as for example:


This axe is considered the workhorse of the axe family. It is just a simple design, varying from the 2 ½ lb. head used by campers to the 4 ½ to 7 lb. head employed for forest work. You will find heads used in lumbermen’s competition which can be around 12lbs.. With the advent of the two-man crosscut saw, and later the power chain saw, tree no further are taken down by axes. The axe is more an application tool for clearing branches off the downed tree, and splitting firewood.


Double bit axes also have straight handles, unlike any other modern axe. Almost all axe handles are hickory. Hickory has both strength and spring, and was found very early to be the most effective for axe handles. Starting in the late 1800’s numerous axe manufactures adopted intricate logos which were embossed or etched on the top of the axe. Viking axe  Almost 200 different styles have now been identified currently and these have become an appealing collectible.


The broad axe is not as common while the felling axe, and is larger. It’s purpose was to square up logs into beams. It used a much shorter swing that the felling axe, therefore required a much shorter handle. The identifying feature of many of these axes could be the chisel edge, that allowed the back side of the axe to be dead flat. Because of that, it posed an issue of clearance for the hands. To help keep the hands from being scraped, the handle was canted or swayed away from the flat plane of the axe. This is the feature that should always be looked for when buying a broad axe. If the edge is chisel-sharpened, then the handle must be swayed. As with the felling axe, the broad axe heads have a variety of patterns, mostly a results of geographical preference.


The goose wing axe is one of the very most artistic looking tools available, and it will take it’s name from its resemblance to the wing of a goose in flight. It functions exactly while the chisel-edged broad axe, except that the American version has the handle socket more heavily bent or canted up from the plane of the blade. These axes are large and difficult to forge. Many show cracks and repairs and a genuine handle is rare. Signed pieces, particularly by American makers, mostly Pennsylvania Dutch, are significantly more valuable. Also worth focusing on could be the difference in value between American and European axes, the American ones being worth considerably more. Several well-known 19th century American makers whose names appear imprinted on axes are Stohler, Stahler, Sener, Rohrbach, Addams, and L.& I.J. White.

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