Hand Axes

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Hand Axes

For axes with a cutting edge over 6" in length see Broad Axes

Hand Axes

Small hand axes tended to just be wood-axes which were used for combat. The construction of all axes followed the same general principal. A flat strip of 'soft' iron is folded in half around a mandrel to create the socket. A slice of much harder iron that has the properties of knife steel, is then fire welded in between the two iron halves at the cutting edge end. This limits the amount of expensive steel that is needed for the business end, keeping the rest of the axe relatively cheap. The hafts of the smaller axes were between 60 - 90cm (2' - 3') long with a blade about 7.5 - 150cm (3" - 6") wide. One special type of hand axe, particularly popular in the early Viking period, was the 'skegox', or bearded axe, so called because of its elongated lower edge.

The axe as a weapon is good in attack, but fairly poor as a tool to defend yourself with. It is a weapon that quickly induces fear, as it takes little imagination to guess what it could do. The user needs to be very confident of the outcome of a clash, as he will be fighting with a weapon that is quite heavy, resulting in easily over-committed blows. This could quite easily be his undoing against a warrior using a lighter weapon such as a spear, who is aware of the axe's shortcomings. A skilled fighter can with even a spear disarm a man wielding an axe by catching the axe where is joins the shaft and sweeping it out of the hand of the wielder.

Original article by Ben Levick, 1991
Revised by Roland Williamson, 1999



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