Gathering Old-fashioned Axes

Edge tools are among the earliest tool forms, with surviving primitive axes dated to 8000 B.C.. Early axes were made 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 at the front end and hammered into an edge. The medial side opposite the bit was later extended into a poll, for better balance and to offer a hammering surface.

The handles took on a number of shapes, some indicative or origin, others relating to function. Along the handle had more related to the arc of the swing that was required. Viking axe for sale  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 stay static in place by locking in to the taper of a person’s eye, for 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 because the handle was split or broken off. Generally they can be bought at a fraction of these value and, with another handle, may be restored with their original condition. Most axe collectors have an investment of older flea-market handles they use with this restoration. Like plane blades, axe handles could have been replaced 2 or 3 times through the life of the tool. Provided that the handle is “proper,” meaning, the best shape and length because of its function, it won’t detract very much from its value.

Pricing of antique axes runs the whole gamut from a couple of dollars to several hundred. Types of well-made axes would include the Plumb, White, Kelly, Miller and numerous others. Beyond they certainly were axes of sometimes lesser quality, but developed 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 forms of axes on the market such as:


This axe is recognized as the workhorse of the axe family. It is really a simple design, varying from a 2 ½ lb. head utilized by campers to the 4 ½ to 7 lb. head useful for forest work. There are heads found in lumbermen’s competition that are around 12lbs.. With the advent of the two-man crosscut saw, and later the ability chain saw, tree no more are taken down by axes. The axe is more an energy tool for clearing branches off the downed tree, and splitting firewood.


Double bit axes also have straight handles, unlike any other modern axe. Virtually all axe handles are hickory. Hickory has both strength and spring, and was found very early to be the very best for axe handles. Starting in the late 1800’s a number of axe manufactures adopted intricate logos that have been embossed or etched on the pinnacle of the axe. Almost 200 different styles have now been identified currently and these also have become an interesting collectible.


The broad axe is never as common since 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 is the chisel edge, that allowed the trunk side of the axe to be dead flat. Because of that, it posed an issue of clearance for the hands. To keep the hands from being scraped, the handle was canted or swayed away from the flat plane of the axe. This is actually the feature that should often be looked for when buying a wide axe. If the edge is chisel-sharpened, then the handle must certanly be swayed. As with the felling axe, the broad axe heads have a number of patterns, mostly a consequence of geographical preference.


The goose wing axe is one of the very artistic looking tools on the market, and it requires it’s name from its resemblance to the wing of a goose in flight. It functions exactly since the chisel-edged broad axe, except that the American version has got 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 considerably more valuable. Also worth focusing on is the difference in value between American and European axes, the American ones being worth considerably more. A few 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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