I’m nearly finished with a commission for a Danish Axe.  The blade is approximately 8.5″ (21,6 cm) from tip to tip.  The transition from the body to the reinforced edge is a bit of a challenge to clean up  without grinding into the forge welded area, but it is coming along nicely.  This will be a light, fast cutter.

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Spent the last few days polishing this bearded axe.  It’s now ready to be hafted.  I call this finish “file satin.”  Basically, I forge the axe as closely as I can to the shape I want.  I leave a little extra meat for the grinder.  I then give it a very course grinding to remove scale and pits.  I then draw file to the final shape I want.  This is followed by hand polishing with wet/dry paper then emery compound.  Finally, I use oil on a scotch-brite pad and satin the whole thing.  This gives a very well defined shape, but upon closer inspection small forge pits and file marks are evident to add historic character.

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I do some final shaping of the socket to ensure a nice fit with the haft, and then put a small chamfer on the edges.  While most of the examples I’ve seen are too corroded to support the idea of this small chamfer, I do it because it adds a little depth to the axe head, and protects the user from cutting his or her fingers on the hard edges.  Considering the amount of file work you see on many historic weapons, I think it is historically plausible.

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The edge is hand polished to sharpness with stones.  I am looking for a slight apple seed bevel, but because of the wedge shaped design of this axe, the apple seed bevel is very small because the wedge shape of the axe will naturally support an aggressive cutting edge without too much meat behind the edge.  This design allows for an extremely sharp edge that is well supported.  This axe could do some real damage to an opponent’s shield or person.  I do the final sharpening with a high grit diamond hone followed by a leather strop which makes a hair shaving edge.

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Specs:

  • Socket and Body: 1018
  • Edge bit: 1080
  • Blade width: 4.75″ (12,1 cm)
  • Overall length (from pole to top tip of blade): 6.375″ (16,2 cm)
  • Weight: 1.25 pounds (567 grams)

I’ll post final pictures after it has been hafted.

bearded axe husbyborg

I’m getting ready to polish a small bearded axe that is inspired by an axe that I documented with Swordsmith Peter Johnsson in Uppsala, Sweden.

We were drawn to this axe because of it’s elegant lines, and stout shape.  While it’s profile makes it look like a thin axe, when viewed from the top, it is clear that this axe is all business.  The body is nearly wedge shaped.

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The body and socket are 1018 and the bit is 1080.  Blade width is 4.75″ (12,1 cm) from tip-to-tip.  It is 6.25″ (15,9 cm) long.

Swedish Swordsmith Peter Johnsson and I were able to visit Kevin Cashen and his lovely wife Karen at their home in Michigan.  Kevin, whom I have dubbed “Dr. K. Robert Cashen,” because of his important work on metallurgy for bladesmiths, opened his lab to us and showed us numerous examples of his research.

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Peter Johnsson and Kevin Cashen discussing retained austenite with the scanning electron microscope in the background.

I believe his work is critical for bladesmiths because Kevin, as a maker, is keenly aware of the difficulties that bladesmiths run into trying to produce a quality blade with a sound heat-treat.  Kevin has a variety of microscopes (even a scanning electron microscope) which clearly shows the different steel structures.

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Kevin polishing a sample to be photographed under the microscope.

Kevin’s research allows bladesmiths to combine practical techniques with sound science to achieve a quality heat-treat.  This is very valuable because it show definitely what structures we are obtaining when we heat-treat our blades.  It further allows us to make adjustments to obtain an optimal blade.

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There is an intense discussion taking place right behind me.

I really want to thank them for opening their home to us.  They are the kindest people, and we’ve become good friends.  It is refreshing to meet people who are free of duplicity and are genuinely interested in fellowshipping with other makers.

Of course after all the intense metallurgical discussion, we retired to Kevin’s newly remodeled “man-cave” to drink some BEER!

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Beer in the man-cave!

 

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The blade is 4.5″ (11,4 cm) wide. Overall length is 7.5″ (19,5 cm). Socket and body are 1018 low carbon steel and the bit is 1080 high carbon steel.  Blade is tempered to 50-55 Rockwell.  The haft is 30.5″ long and is made of burnt hickory.

SOLD

If you are interested, contact me at ericmycue374@comcast.net

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Finished polishing and hafting the Type G/H.  I want to name this axe Neckbiter.  Not sure how you would say that in Old Norse.  Anyway, that is the feeling of this light and agile axe when you swing it.  I see a warrior with a shield in one hand and Neckbiter in the other finding a hole in an opponent’s guard and then plunging it into his neck.  I apologize for the poor pictures.  I am in the process of acquiring better photo equipment.

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In many ways, this axe was a leap forward for me.  I was able to use more authentic techniques and tools to create this axe.  Being able to forge-weld eye socket, body, and bit together, and have it turn out virtually invisible, has been a goal of mine for years.  This opens the door to many new options for making Viking axes.  I have quite a few projects planned for the near future using these new methods.

Back to Neckbiter: The blade is 4.5″ (11,4 cm) wide. Overall length is 7.5″ (19,5 cm). Socket and body are 1018 low carbon steel and the bit is 1080 high carbon steel.  I used my Rockwell files to test the edge post-heat treat and it comes out between 50 and 55 Rockwell.

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I purposely left some of the files marks in the finish.  These files marks are often seen on period originals; and I have to admit, I was not brave enough in years past to leave them on a piece.  Now a days, I decided I’m going to make something that pleases and inspires me.  Hopefully, others will find it inspiring too.  Interestingly enough, it is actually harder to do this finished than just putting a high grit belt on the grinder and removing all the marks.  I also left some of the forge pits in the piece.  After all, this axe was forged to shape.  So once I filed it to the dimension I wanted, I stopped.  If there was a pit, well the pit stayed.  I hand polished the body to a high grit then drew it back with a scotch-brite pad.  The edge was buffed to a near mirror finish to create a pleasing contrast.  The edge is hair shaving shape.

When I do a haft, I fit it through the bottom of the socket.  I know that some makers make a haft that is wider at the top and slip it through the top of the axe head and slide the head up till it wedges at the top of the haft.  I’m not saying this is wrong.  No one knows for sure how the Viking smiths did it, but there is evidence that the axe was driven onto the haft then wedged at the top.  I personally documented multiple axe heads with Peter Johnsson in Sweden that had the iron wedge with the axe head.  Here is a picture of one such wedge:

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I find that using a wooden wedge to spread the haft sideways in the socket and a metal wedge to spread it the opposite direction, creates a wider section at the top of the head that makes it nearly impossible for the axe to come off the haft.  On Neckbiter, I inserted a wooden wedge and made an iron wedge similar to the one I documented in Sweden to secure the head on the haft.

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The haft is 30.5″ long.  It is made of burnt hickory which has been sanded and polished to a smooth finish.  It has been treated with linseed oil to preserve it.  It has a subtle octagonal cross-section, and an elegant taper from the bottom to where it enters the socket.

If you want to receive email update about future projects, send an email to ericmycue374@comcast.net.

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