An axe to grind…

In the “Lautenmacher” picture by Jost Amman there is an axe resting on a chopping block on the right.

We find the same tool in his pictures of the “Schreiner” (furniture maker) and the “Zimmerman” (carpenter).

An axe or hatchet with a relatively short handle and a wide blade. Although we often find one or more of them in inventories of historical woodworkers, they are rarely seen in the shops of contemporary makers.

In the past an axe was one of the main tools of every woodworker. In skilled hands it could be used for a wide variety of tasks. But since the industrial revolution its function was taken over by a broad range of power tools. The poor axe was put away in the garden shed and occasionally used to split some firewood.


In recent years the axe got some revival as a fashion item for hipsters. The axe as a symbol of regained masculinity.

Young urbanites growing a beard, chopping wood, making fire and barbecuing steaks. The newest way for the metrosexual man to regain his lost bond with nature. To feel his inner Neanderthal again. Off course in designer brand clothes and with the most luxurious tools available.

Like these examples of the “Best Made Company” where they sell $ 300,- axes with jolly painted handles…

An axe for reënacting…

But all this joking aside, I still was looking for an axe for my reënactment kit. The Swedish Gränsfors company makes great quality carpenters axes that are very suitable. But they are a bit out of my reach…

Like most woodworkers I have a box with old rusty tools somewhere in my shop. Things I picked up somewhere or were given to me by people with the message “Maybe you can find some use for this” or “Take it, otherwise it will end in the dumpster”. Every once in a while I take something out to restore or give a new purpose. Old blunt files live on as knives, sawblades become card scrappers etc. But sometimes you have so much junk that it’s easy to forget what you have.

imageAt the bottom of the box was an old axe. Rusty, blunt, abused as a hammer and with a handle that was attached with a variety of nails. Using it in this state would be a potential hazard, both for the user ad his surroundings. Probably the reason why somebody discarded it. But with a little work it would be ideal for my purpose.

After removing the rust the head was covered with a solution of boiled linseed oil. Reshaped the cutting edge to a single bevel. The handle was too far gone, so a new one had to be made. This is one of the most fun parts, because you can shape it after your own hand. Instead of sanding the handle smooth the plane marks were left on it to give more grip. I decided to put the head offcenter on the handle, this makes it suitable  to make straight cuts for carpentry.


The axe is razor sharp. I have already used it to make a little stool. It’s light enough to use for a long time, but heavy enough to gain enough force to cut.

The only thing left to do now is to make a leather sheath, cut my beard, get a lumberjack shirt, walk into starbucks, lay my axe on the counter and order a caramel macchiato…

This entry was posted in History, Re-enactment, Research, Tools, Uncategorized, Woodworking and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to An axe to grind…

  1. darinmolnar says:

    This is so cool – another job well done and quite motivating! Now, I must have an axe!!


  2. rawlingsrod says:

    You’ll like this

    Liked by 1 person

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