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This is the second axe in a series of three hand forged, single-hand war axes I’ve been finishing.  Like the single-hand, wrought iron axe, this axe is patterned after the many examples of late 10th to early 11th century single-hand war axes.  This type of axe was an agile yet brutal weapon that would have been a common choice for a soldier fighting in close quarters or in a shield wall.

edgeviewThis axe features a 1018 low-carbon steel body and eye socket and a 1080 high-carbon steel bit. The body and eye were drawn out like a “bow tie.”  The two sides were forge welded together to form the body.  The eye was further refined by forging over a steel mandrel to arrive at the desired socket shape.

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A fine rasp is used to carefully shaped the top of the haft to create a tight fit with the eye socket.

The hardwood haft is made from hand hewn oak. Careful attention is given to the grain direction. Having the grain run parallel with the head (edge to poll) helps to prevent cracking when a powerful cut is made.  I use rasps and scrapers to shape the top of the haft to a tight fit with the eye socket.  This helps to prevent the axe head from twisting or moving during use.

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The wedge is pre-fit to the top of the haft to create the correct amount of widening to secure the head to the haft.

Once the top of the haft is correctly shaped for the socket, I carefully saw a slot for the wedge.  The wedge is cut from the same section of wood as the haft so the grain direction and size will be similar to the haft.  The wedge is then pre-fitted to the slot.  This creates a mushrooming of the haft above the top of the axe head that secures the head in place.

I then give the haft its final sanding followed by multiple applications of Danish oil to seal and harden the wood. Once the Danish oil is dry, I buff the haft with ultra-fine steel wool to give it a smooth, semi-gloss finish.

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Specifications:

  • Body and Eye: 1018 low carbon steel
  • Edge Bit: 1080 high carbon steel
  • Haft wood: Oak
  • Blade Length (toe to heel of bit): 4″ (10,16 cm)
  • Axe Head Length (edge bit to poll): 5.25″ (13,34 cm)
  • Haft Length: 27.25″ (69,22 cm)
  • Overall Length: 27.75″ (74,0 cm)
  • Axe Head Weight: 0.86 pounds (392,0 grams)
  • Weight: 1.46 pounds (663,8 grams)

Price: $550 USD (plus shipping) SOLD

If you are interested in purchasing this axe, contact me at eric@crownforge.net or ericmycue374@comcast.net.

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This axe is patterned after the many examples of late 10th to early 11th century single-hand war axes.  This type of axe was an agile yet brutal weapon that would have been a common choice for a soldier fighting in close quarters or in a shield wall.

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Shaping the oak haft with rasp and scraper

 

This axe features a hand-forged, wrought iron eye socket and body.  The high carbon bit was then forge-welded to the body.  The wrought iron comes from a 19th century farm in rural Wisconsin.  It was part of the iron banding from one of the old silos that was demolished on the farm.

 

 

I etched the head to bring out the gorgeous random pattern of the iron.  I then used water stones and a leather strop to bring the bit edge to a hair shaving sharpness.  It was then buffed to a near mirror finish to show a pleasing contrast between the edge and etched wrought iron.  I hand shaped the kiln dried oak haft with rasps and scrapers and sanded it to a smooth consist finish.  I sealed it with multiple coats of Danish oil.

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Specifications:

  • Body and Eye: 19th century wrought iron
  • Edge Bit: 1080 high carbon steel
  • Haft wood: Oak
  • Blade Length (toe to heel of bit): 3.625″ (9,2 cm)
  • Axe Head Length (edge bit to poll): 5.063″ (12,9 cm)
  • Haft Length: 26.0″ (66,0 cm)
  • Overall Length: 27.75″ (70,49 cm)
  • Weight: 1.4 pounds (633,3 grams)

Price: $880 USD (plus shipping) SOLD

If you are interested in purchasing this axe, contact me at eric@crownforge.net or ericmycue374@comcast.net.

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The original axe found in the Swedish History Museum

This 10th Century Broad Axe draws its inspiration from a fine example in the Swedish History Museum. It features a hand forged eye socket and axe body made from low carbon steel.  The high carbon 1080 bit is forge welded to the body. Careful attention was given during the forging of this axe to create graceful, flowing lines and smooth transitions.  The result is a lively axe with a razor sharp edge.

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Shaping the ash haft with a steel scraper

The top of the ash wood haft is meticulously hewn to fit the eye socket in a precise manner. This detail ensures the axe head will stay secure during use.  The rest of the haft is shaped and sanded to a smooth, comfortable finish.  The entire haft is treated with linseed oil to preserve and harden the finish.

Specifications:

  • Body and Eye: 1018 low carbon steel
  • Edge Bit: 1080 high carbon steel
  • Haft wood: Ash
  • Blade Length (toe to heel of bit): 5.25″ (13,33 cm)
  • Axe Head Length (edge bit to poll): 6.25″ (15,88 cm)
  • Haft Length: 35.8″ (90,93 cm)
  • Axe Head Weight: 1.16 (524,4 grams)
  • Overall Weight: 2.33 pounds (1056 grams)

Price: $900 USD (plus shipping) SOLD

If you are interested in purchasing this axe, contact me at eric@crownforge.net or ericmycue374@comcast.net.

Comments from the owner:

I have been wanting an axe for a while now but hadn’t seen one that thrilled me until I saw this one by Eric McHugh. I’ve bought pieces from him previously so I knew the quality would be outstanding. It is! The shape of the components work perfectly together, it’s just great visually. The quality of the craftsmanship is absolutely top tier. Everything is just done beautifully. The edge is razor sharp. It feels great in hand too. One handed use is possible because of its excellent balance, but using it two handed really brings it to life. I couldn’t be more pleased with this axe and with everything about dealing with Eric. I liked the axe so much that I’m in talks with him about commissioning another piece. Nothing says you like what someone does better than return business, and Eric will have mine.

– Tim Lison

Just completed my interpretation of a late republic era Gladius Hispaniensis commission.  This sword is based on the idea that the swords of the Celts served as possible inspiration for the shape and length of some Gladius Hispaniensis.  The blade features a slight waisting and hollow-ground bevels.

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The boxwood guard and pommel are made from the same block of wood.  The beveled shape of the guard is based on a guard plate from one of the few surviving Gladius Hispaniensis blades.  The blade is inset into a bronze guard plate that is countersunk into the bottom of the pommel.  The overall shape of the guard is based on period art.

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The pommel shape is based on period art and a survey of other late-republic era swords.  The pommel is topped with a basic bronze rivet block into which the end of the tang is peened to secure the hilt furniture in place.

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The grip is made from a block of holly and features a common, segmented shape.

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Obviously, there are only hints as to what a Gladius Hispaniensis may have looked like intact.  With this piece, I am not trying to say that this is the way that it would have looked.  I am merely offering my interpretation of a possible configuration based on surviving blades, hilt pieces, and period art.  I have to give credit to Peter Johnsson for many late night alcohol infused discussions about the Gladius Hispaniensis.  I am not too proud to say that I borrowed liberally from the shape and features of a Gladius Hispaniensis that Peter made years ago.  While it is true that many surviving blades feature a leaf shape, it is my opinion that this shape is over done in many modern reproductions.  Peter’s design hints at a leaf shape without an exaggerated waisting of the blade.  In addition, the blade is reminiscent of La Tené blades that feature a similar profile.

Specifications:

  • Blade Length: 24.75″ (62,9 cm)
  • Overall Length: 31.25″ (79,4 cm)
  • Blade Width: 1.875″ (4,8 cm) features hollow-ground bevels
  • POB from bottom of guard: 6″ (15,2 cm)
  • Weight:  1.37 pounds (622.3 grams)
  • Blade Steel: 1080
  • Hilt Furniture:  Boxwood guard and pommel with bronze guard plate and bronze rivet block.  Segmented grip made from a block of holly.

Price for similar piece:

  • Similar hilt with flat bevels, $1,800 USD (plus shipping)
  • Similar hilt with hollow-ground bevels, $2,300 USD (plus shipping)

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This axe is inspired by a small Danish style axe (Petersen Type M) from Sweden.  It features a stout construction with a reinforced edge.

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Original from Uppsala, Sweden

This axe is not an exact reproduction.  The original is quite corroded, so I attempted to estimate the missing sections of the profile.  I also made a small departure from the tilt of the blade to make the axe a bit more visually pleasing.  In addition, rust swelling has made determining the original dimensions difficult.  I thinned out the thickness to allow for the rust swelling.  The resulting axe is still quite stout for its size.  This is a viciously fast cutter!

The haft is cherry wood (Prunus) treated with linseed oil, and it has an octogonal cross-section.  I tapered the haft so that there is a pleasing arc that starts out wide at the head then tapers to a thinner section before it swells gradually to the end of the haft..  The wood displays some beautiful figuring on both sides of the haft.

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Specifications:

  • Body and Eye: 1018 low carbon steel
  • Edge Bit: 1080 high carbon steel
  • Haft wood: Cherry (Prunus) treated with linseed oil
  • Blade Length (toe to heel of bit): 5.25″ (13,33 cm)
  • Axe Head Length (edge bit to poll): 6″ (15,24 cm)
  • Haft Length: 32.25″ (81,62 cm)
  • Overall length: 34.5″ (87,63 cm)
  • Weight: 1.67 pounds (757.5 grams)

Price: $765 USD (includes US CONUS shipping) SOLD

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

More Photos:

Danish Axe Inspired by Kirkkomäki Grave 37 Axe

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Description and Stats:  The edge is 8.5″ (21,6 cm) from tip-to-tip. The haft is 42.5″ (108 cm) from the bottom of the eye. The eye and body are 1018 low carbon steel, and the edge is 1080 high carbon steel. The haft is made of hickory and has a gentle taper from the top to the bottom. It has a rectangular cross-section with rounded corners. I forgot to weigh it before I shipped it, but the new owner said it is almost exactly 3 pounds (1360,8 grams)

Some background information:

I was contacted about making a Danish style axe inspired by the grave finds in Kirkkomäki – specifically grave 37. As can see from the photo, it is quite corroded, but general shape and dimensions can be drawn from the picture:

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Based on the information provided by the researchers, the customer wanted the haft length to be 42.5″ (108 cm) long. I asked the customer if I could fill in details with some research that I did with Peter Johnsson in Sweden. He agreed.

I used this axe as additional inspiration:

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I have been working hard to hone my skills and techniques for making these Danish Axes. The reinforced edge, even though there is a slight radius from the body to the edge, are very difficult to clean up and make smooth. In my frustration, I made a sen to actually scrape and plane away material to make the arc smooth and consistent. Like many of my recent projects, this axe was another step forward for me. There are always small flaws that turn up (which I think add character to the piece); but overall, I am very satisfied with this axe.

Before I did the final clean-up I took this axe out back and attacked some large piece of wood (8-12″ in diameter) on my wood pile. I do this as a matter of habit to expose any possible hidden flaws in the structure of the axe. This time, I was really trying to see if I could get the axe to fail because the customer who commissioned the axe is a serious practitioner. I had to make sure this axe would not fail when he received it. I cut about 10 large pieces of wood with it. Striking full force, the blade performed brilliantly. I consider this fairly abusive since this axe is not tapered and balanced for continual wood cutting; the shape and weight allow for speed and agility in delivery massive blows in battle followed by a quick recovery. I would not recommend cutting large pieces of wood with this axe; it is, however, nice to know that the axe will hold up to this level of use.

Photos:

If you are interested in an axe similar to this one, contact me at ericmycue374@comcast.net, and we can discuss commissioning a piece.


 

Response from Michael Ruhala:

Hi Eric,

The axe arrived in fine shape and let me say this, it is a superb weapon! The weight, shape and proportion of the head is everything I hoped for. The handle is also noteworthy, its taper, cross section and smooth finish are as pleasing to the eye as they are comfortable in the hand. Taken as a whole the weapon is very well balanced, the weight of the blade combined with the rounded rectangular cross section of the handle make indexing and edge alignment practically automatic. According to my digital scale it weighs exactly 3lbs and the point of balance is about 8 inches below the eye, equidistant between the head and where I place my left hand in most guards. This makes for an agile weapon that can recover quickly even from a fully committed swing. Strikes with the handle are really fun because the head acts as a counterweight adding speed and force to blunt attacks. I’m mostly known as a swordsman but the axe has always had a special place in my heart, this one is the new centerpiece of my collection and I look forward to really putting it through its paces over the coming months.

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I need to make this clear since I have received a number of emails  from people who are thinking that I am presenting an axe that was possibly made 1100 years ago.  I hand forged this axe last month.  This is completely my work.  I was just trying to make an interesting backstory to accompany the axe.  Pieces are often presented without any historic context, so I thought I’d supply a bit of historical fiction to help bring this axe alive.  There was no intent to deceive or try to pass off this axe as an actual antique.  I apologize for the confusion.  I will still keep the backstory since I had fun writing it, and I think it adds substance to the piece.


Here is where my fictional backstory begins:

To quote the Dude:  “I got information, man! New shit has come to light…”

I sent the axe out for analysis because quite frankly with such an amazing artifact, I wanted further information about how it was make.  I sent the axe to my friend, Dr. Alice Derleth.  Alice is the Francis Morgan Professor of Archeology at Miskatonic University in Arkham, Massachusetts.

Here is her analysis:

  • Body and eye:  Forge welded construction.  Made from a low carbon steel similar to our modern 1018 steel.
  • Edge bit:  Forge welded to body.  Made from a high carbon steel similar to modern 1080 steel.
  • Axe head finish:  The corrosion has been stabilized by boiling in clean water in which leaves with high levels of tannins have been added.  They could have possibly used Oak leaves or even black tea leaves.  The process turns the corrosion black and stabilizes the surface .  This would account for the axe’s level of preservation.
  • Haft:  Ash with a brownish dye stain applied to the wood.
  • Edge: 4.25″ (10,8 cm) from tip-to-tip
  • Axe Head Length: 7″ (17,8 cm)
  • Haft Length: 31.5″ (80 cm) from bottom of axe head
  • Overall Length: 33.25″ (84,5 cm)
  • Weight: 2.375 pounds (1077 grams)

Price: $665 (includes US domestic shipping)  SOLD


Below you will find Margaret’s original story:

I am selling a unique, late 9th Century Anglo-Saxon axe.  In Wheeler’s typology, this axe would be classified as a Type IV.  The axe is very interesting, but not as interesting as the story that was told to me by the woman who gave it to me.  The story is a bit long, but well worth it.

I met Margaret Atherton as the result of an ad I put in the local newspaper.  Work was slow, so I decided to see if I could make some extra money by sharpening people’s kitchen knives.  In the end, I didn’t make much money.  In fact, the ad cost as much as what I was making sharpening the knives.  Margaret had found my ad in an old edition of the newspaper that was sitting on a table in her hairdresser’s shop.  When she called, I explained that I’m not sharpening knives anymore.  She explained that her knives were in terrible condition and she wasn’t sure what to do about it.  She was on a fixed income, and she simply did not have money to replace her cutlery.  To be honest, it sounded like it was going to be a pain to repair and sharpen these knives, but for some reason, I felt drawn to help her with her.

She brought her knives to my little shop in an old microwave box.  It was filled halfway to the top with old kitchen knives.  I immediately thought, “what the hell did I just get myself into?”  She set the box down on my layout table, and asked me how much it would cost to sharpen her knives.  I thought, “there has got to be 40 knives in that box!”  Well, I soon found out it was 47 to be exact.  Based on my old price schedule (small knives $2 and large knives $5), this box of knives would run her about $154.  I knew that she did not have $154, so I simply said, “let me figure out the price and give you a call.”  She wrote down her phone number and address and left it on the bench.

It took me three days to sharpen all those knives!  I simply loaded them up and took them over to her house.  I quietly put them on her porch and left.  I thought that was the end of it.  The next day Margaret called me crying, “how much do I owe you for all that work?”  “Nothing,” I told her, “it was something I felt like I needed to do.”  Margaret, through her tears said, “I need to do something for you as a way to say thank you.”  Without thinking I blurted out, “I like cookies and brownies!  You can make me some cookies or brownies.”  “I can do that,” replied Margaret.  The next day, I received a huge box of cookies AND brownies.  Margaret knew how to bake!  So began a year and half long relationship with Margaret.

About every three weeks, she would bring me some item that needed to be sharpened, repaired, or polished:  lawn mower blades, silverware, shovels, hoes, etc.  Once she brought me her ancient toaster and asked me to replace the plug.  Each time she brought something for me to fix, it was accompanied by a box of cookies or brownies or both.

This last January, Margaret showed up to my shop.  I thought, “what crazy thing did she bring this time?  Is it cookies or brownies?”  This time, however, she did not have some piece in need of repair nor did she have a box of cookies or brownies.  In her arms, was a 3′ bundle of cloth.  It vaguely reminded me of a bolt of cloth that you would see at a fabric store.

“Eric,” she began, “I’m moving to California to live with my younger sister.  She is not doing very well, and she needs me to come and help her.  You have been a good friend to me, and I want to give you something.  It has been in my family for a very long time.  My sister does not care for it, and she asked me to not bring it with me, so I am giving it to you.”

Margaret carefully unwrapped the bundle to reveal an old axe.  I was shocked.  The axe had some evidence of wear and tear, but it was in excellent condition.  I immediately thought it was a 19th century fake, but I didn’t want to say that to Margaret.  “How old is this axe?”  I asked.  “It’s ancient,” she replied, and with those two words, she began to tell me the story of the axe:

This axe has been in my family since around 900 a.d.  It belonged to one of my ancestors.  You may be surprised that I know with such certainty the origin of this axe.  You have to understand that the story of this axe has been faithfully retold in my family for the last 40 or so generations!  It is almost a rite of passage for children in my family to hear the story.  My grandfather told my sister and me the story of this axe when we were little children, and he told the story every year till his death.  Upon my grandfather’s death, my father received the axe, and when my dad died, it was passed to me.

This axe belonged to Ædelwine of Atherstone.  You see my family name was originally Atherstone.  We took the name of the small village in Mercia that was near the land that was granted to Ædelwine by Alfred the Great.  My family name was shortened to Atherton when my great grandfather came to the United States from England in 1892.

Ædelwine of Atherstone distinguished himself by protecting Edward, son of Alfred the Great, at the battle of Farnham.  At one point in the battle, the Danes, seeing that they were being routed, made a last ditch effort to kill Edward.  Ten of the largest Danes took broad axes and charged the hill on which Edward was directing his forces.  Ædelwine, seeing the charging Danes, took his nimble axe and shield and charged down the hill right into the midst of the group of Danes. 

The Dane leading the charge, a big idiot of a man named Snorre Haestensson, became confused by the sight of this lone Saxon charging them.  In his confusion, he hesitated.  It was then that Ædelwine dove the edge of his small axe into the face of the lead Dane.  When the lead Dane fell so violently, it broke the nerve of the other Danes who were following him up the hill.  As they turned to run, Ædelwine slaughtered three more of them.  It ends up that Snorre was the younger son of a Danish chieftain.

Alfred, hearing of Ædelwine’s courage in protecting his son, made Ædelwine a Thegn and gave him lands and money to build a large manor house in the ancient village of Atherstone.  When Edward succeeded his father to the throne, Ædelwine who had already been known as the protector of the prince, became the  protector of the king.  Ædelwine married and raised three sons at Atherstone.  He was often called upon by Edward to join him in fighting the Danes, and quelling other uprisings.

In 924 a.d., Edward called upon Ædelwine and his two oldest sons to join him in quelling a rebellion.  The Mercians and Welsh had formed an alliance against Edward.  Ædelwine and his sons, along with his household guard, rode north and joined Edward in battle.  Ædelwine and his sons fought well, and Edward was victorious. 

Edward asked Ædelwine to join him as he rode back to Wessex.  Edward feeling overly confident, left his household guard to garrison the area and dispatch any stragglers.  Edward put his trust in Ædelwine, Ædelwine’s sons and his household guard of 50 men.  As they rode south through the parish of Farndon, they were ambushed by a large force of Welshmen.  Ædelwine and his sons stood bravely against the enemy.  At one point, it looked like Ædelwine’s men were on the verge of routing the Welsh; but the Welsh brought up a group of peasant archers.  The continuous volley of arrows proved to be too much for Ædelwine and his men. 

Edward was mortally wounded.  Ædelwine’s middle son lay dead at his feet; and Ædelwine, who was protecting his king, had taken a Welsh arrow to the chest.  With his dying breath, he instructed his eldest son to take his axe and ride south with the news of Edwards death.  As he lay there dying, Ædelwine handed his son his trusted axe and bid him farewell.

Margaret had tears in her eyes as she finished the story.  “As you can see, Eric, the axe is quite old.”  I looked at the axe carefully.  The axe was old.  I could see years of mild corrosion on the head.  It looked like the head was darkened by some process to stabilize the corrosion.  Margaret noticed that I was looking at the finish, “my grandfather said that in ancient days, iron could be preserved by allowing it to rust a bit then boiling it in oak leaves.  This process would turn the iron black.”

The edge has been polished bright.  I was amazed at how sharp the edge was after all these years.  Margaret said her grandfather, on occasion, would carefully sharpen the edge with a fine stone.  “Even though he never used the axe, he felt that the axe should be sharp and ready for use as a tribute to our ancestor,” she explained.  I asked her if I could test the edge sharpness.  She agreed.  I took a piece of paper and carefully sliced the paper into strips.  This axe is razor sharp!

The haft is made of some kind of hardwood.  I know that Ash was a often used.  In addition, it has a slight arc to it.  I could only assume that this was intentional and aided in the wielding of the axe.  What was striking about haft was not the well preserved brownish stain, it was what was underneath the stain. There are darker streaks and spots in the wood like some other stain had been applied in a random and chaotic manner.  “What are these streaks and blotches?” I asked.  “My grandfather,” she began, “said it was Ædelwine’s blood that stained the wood, but I prefer to think it is the blood of Ædelwine’s enemies.  We will never know.”

We talked a bit more about the axe.  She said that she was the last to receive the axe.  There were no more children in her family who could receive the axe and her sister did not want it.  “I could never pay you for all the work you did for me, but maybe you can sell this axe and take the money as payment,” she suggested.  I told her I would have to think about it.

I’ve been laid-off for several months now, so it is as good a time as any to part with the axe.

Here are some of the stats:

  • Construction:  After careful inspection, I can see that the body and eye are some form of iron with low carbon content.  The edge is definitely hard so, I’m assuming some form of high carbon steel.  The haft material is hardwood (most likely Ash).  It has a subtle arc to it.
  • Finish:  There is subtle corrosion on the surface except for the cutting edge which has been carefully maintain even after all these years.  The rest of the axe head has a pleasing black finish.  I have read that boiling rusted iron in leaves that contain tannin creates a stable black finish.  I can only guess that this may have been the process that was used.  The haft has been stained with a brown pigment.  There is also evidence of some other stain that has been applied in a chaotic manner.
  • Edge: 4.25″ (10,8 cm) from tip-to-tip
  • Axe Head Length: 7″ (17,8 cm)
  • Haft Length: 31.5″ (80 cm) from bottom of axe head
  • Overall Length: 33.25″ (84,5 cm)
  • Weight: 2.375 pounds (1077 grams)

Price:  $665 (includes US domestic shipping)

Photos: