Edge tools are among the first tool forms, with surviving primitive axes dated to 8000 B.C.. Early axes were made by “wrapping” the red hot iron around an application, yielding the attention of the axe. The steel bit, introduced in the 18th century, was laid into the fold in front and hammered into an edge. The side opposite the bit was later extended right into a poll, for better balance and to supply a hammering surface.
The handles took on a number of shapes, some indicative or origin, others associated with function. The length of the handle had more related to the arc of the swing which was required. Felling axes took a complete swing and therefore needed the longest handles. Early axes have their handles fitted through the attention from the very best down and the handles stay static in place by locking into the taper of the attention, so they can be removed for sharpening.
Later axes, however, have their handles fit through the attention 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 had been discarded since the handle was split or broken off. Typically they are available at a fraction of their value and, with another handle, could be restored to their original condition. Most axe collectors have an inventory of older flea-market handles that they use with this restoration. Like plane blades, axe handles might have been replaced several times throughout the life of the tool. Provided that the handle is “proper,” meaning, the proper shape and length because of its function, it won’t detract that much from its value.
Pricing of antique axes runs the entire gamut from a few dollars to several hundred. Types of well-made axes would include the Plumb, White, Kelly, Miller and numerous others. Beyond they were axes of sometimes lesser quality, but built to an amount, and sold by the thousands. Exceptional examples might include handmade axes, possibly from the neighborhood blacksmith, or from a factory that specialized in the handmade article, no matter price.
There are numerous kinds of axes available such as for instance:
SINGLE BIT FELLING AXE:
This axe is considered the workhorse of the axe family. It is a simple design, varying from the 2 ½ lb. head employed by campers to the 4 ½ to 7 lb. head used Viking axe for forest work. You will find heads used in lumbermen’s competition that are around 12lbs.. With the advent of the two-man crosscut saw, and later the energy 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 FELLING AXE:
Double bit axes always have straight handles, unlike any other modern axe. Nearly 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 which were embossed or etched on the head of the axe. Almost 200 different styles have now been identified to date and these have also become an appealing collectible.
The broad axe is never as common as 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 trunk side of the axe to be dead flat. Because of the, it posed a problem 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 will always be looked for when buying a broad axe. If the edge is chisel-sharpened, then your handle must be swayed. Just like 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 available, and it takes it’s name from its resemblance to the wing of a goose in flight. It functions exactly as 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 an authentic handle is rare. Signed pieces, particularly by American makers, mostly Pennsylvania Dutch, are considerably more valuable. Also worth addressing could be 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.