Obtaining Traditional Axes

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

The handles took on many different shapes, some indicative or origin, others associated with function. The length of the handle had more to do with the arc of the swing that has been required. Felling axes took a complete swing and therefore needed the longest handles. Early axes have their handles fitted through a person’s eye from the top down and the handles remain in place by locking in to the taper of a person’s eye, to allow them to be removed for sharpening.

Later axes, however, have their handles fit through a person’s eye from the underside 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 have been discarded since the handle was split or broken off. Generally they can be bought at a portion of these value and, with another handle, can be restored with their original condition. Most axe collectors have a share of older flea-market handles that they use for this restoration. Like plane blades, axe handles might have been replaced several times through the life of the tool. Provided that the handle is “proper,” meaning, the proper shape and length for the function, it won’t detract that much from its value.

Pricing of antique axes runs the entire gamut from a couple of dollars to several hundred. Samples of well-made axes would are the Plumb, White, Kelly, Miller and numerous others. Beyond these were axes of sometimes lesser quality, but built to a price, and sold by the thousands. Exceptional examples might include handmade axes, possibly from the local blacksmith, or from a factory that specialized in the handmade article, regardless of price.

There are several kinds of axes on the market such as for example:


This axe is known as 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 Viking axes . head employed for forest work. You will find heads utilized in lumbermen’s competition which can be as much as 12lbs.. With the advent of the two-man crosscut saw, and later the power chain saw, tree no longer 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 modern axe. Virtually all axe handles are hickory. Hickory has both strength and spring, and was found very early to be the best for axe handles. Starting in the late 1800’s a number of axe manufactures adopted intricate logos that were embossed or etched on the top of the axe. Almost 200 different styles have already been identified up to now and these also have become an interesting collectible.


The broad axe is much less common while the felling axe, and will be a lot 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 a number of these axes is the chisel edge, that allowed the rear side of the axe to be dead flat. Because of the, it posed a challenge 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. Here is the feature which should often be looked for when buying a wide axe. If the edge is chisel-sharpened, then your handle should really be swayed. As with the felling axe, the broad axe heads have many different patterns, mostly a result of geographical preference.


The goose wing axe is one of the very most artistic looking tools on the market, and it takes 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 an original handle is rare. Signed pieces, particularly by American makers, mostly Pennsylvania Dutch, are considerably more valuable. Also worth focusing on is 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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