Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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CutlassCollector 1st September 2017 11:29 AM

Pirate's Axe
 
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Hi,

I have previously posted this in the ethnographic section thinking the blade, or blade shape may have come from India, but not much luck. So am re-posting here as a couple of members suggest European is more likely.

This axe lives in a museum and is marked as a boarding axe of unknown origin which is fair enough considering the langets, a lanyard ring and a belt hook. But the lack of a spike suggests more weapon than tool and because of this and the marine fittings I am thinking that it is a one of a kind pirate's personal weapon rather than a boarding axe.

It is 29.5 inches (75cm) long and the blade is 12 inches (30cm) and very sharp.

Any comment appreciated especially about the origin of the blade shape or the studded handle decoration?

Roland_M 1st September 2017 12:29 PM

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I would say it is a large Medieval double bearded axe. The shaft is younger than the head.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bearded_axe

I found this example on Pinterest:"European battle axe, ca.1100-1300".

https://www.pinterest.de/siresasa/h...300-on/?lp=true


Regards,
Roland

Roland_M 1st September 2017 02:09 PM

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More axes from Haithabu, Viking Axes.

Richard G 1st September 2017 06:32 PM

Possibly a continental hunting accoutrement?
Best wishes
Richard

David R 1st September 2017 08:11 PM

The belt hook and general style has me thinking Eastern Europe, Poland, possibly Russia.

M ELEY 1st September 2017 09:01 PM

Gorgeous piece, but I would agree with the others that this isn't a boarding ax per say. Of course, in the early periods of sail, ANY ax that went to sea could be contrived as a 'boarding ax'. The era of the classic boarding pieces started in the 1600's and were indeed patterned after the spiked, double bearded battle axes. The next 'pattern' to be seen were the fur trade axes coming over to the Americas in the 18th c. This piece being so early probably excludes it from maritime use. Still, the lanyard ring and belt hook throw me, as I've never seen early hunting axes with them. :shrug:

CutlassCollector 2nd September 2017 11:12 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roland_M
I would say it is a large Medieval double bearded axe. The shaft is younger than the head.

I found this example on Pinterest:"European battle axe, ca.1100-1300".

https://www.pinterest.de/siresasa/h...300-on/?lp=true

Regards,
Roland


Hi Roland,
Thanks for the links and the Viking axe shapes. The long handle goes well with the Scandinavian heritage, so could be a possibility.

CC

CutlassCollector 2nd September 2017 11:14 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by David R
The belt hook and general style has me thinking Eastern Europe, Poland, possibly Russia.


Thanks David, I had not thought of that area of the world. I'll have a look in that direction. CC

CutlassCollector 2nd September 2017 11:27 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by M ELEY
Gorgeous piece, but I would agree with the others that this isn't a boarding ax per say. Of course, in the early periods of sail, ANY ax that went to sea could be contrived as a 'boarding ax'. The era of the classic boarding pieces started in the 1600's and were indeed patterned after the spiked, double bearded battle axes. The next 'pattern' to be seen were the fur trade axes coming over to the Americas in the 18th c. This piece being so early probably excludes it from maritime use. Still, the lanyard ring and belt hook throw me, as I've never seen early hunting axes with them. :shrug:



Hi Mark,
Yes it confused me as well, with what we regard as marine fittings when it is obviously not much use as a working boarding axe. But it would still make a handy weapon.
I'm inclined to stick with marine for now, but I guess it will remain a bit of a mystery.
CC

Victrix 3rd September 2017 10:45 AM

It could originally have been a goosewing axe used to hew timber into beams and planks (useful at sea), and then adapted into a fighting axe? It's unlikely so much effort would have been used to decorate a common tool. The metal studs would have been intended to deflect cuts. The shaft looks later and could have been a fantasy afterthought to enhance supposed martial qualities of the axe head? I have not seen examples of medieval side clips before so could be more recent. The style of decoration look E.European, possibly Polish?

kronckew 3rd September 2017 11:08 AM

goosewings or axes made for planking had offset eyes, as in 9, 14, and 17 above view are terrible for weapons.

anecdote:

one of the UK 'executioners axes' was an offset carpenter's plank finishing axe, the executioner chosen for a particularly high status execution used it. while he was very experienced, the execution went badly, took him several blows. he was ridiculed and even had vegetables thrown at him in the street. he had a pamphlet printed and distributed to plead his case that the axe they'd foisted on him, not he himself was to blame as he could not strike straight with it.

it's designed for shaving wood, not chopping. a straight down blow puts a torque moment on the haft, twisting it in your hands. anyway, the pamphlet didn't help him much.

Victrix 3rd September 2017 10:19 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
goosewings or axes made for planking had offset eyes, as in 9, 14, and 17 above view are terrible for weapons.

anecdote:

one of the UK 'executioners axes' was an offset carpenter's plank finishing axe, the executioner chosen for a particularly high status execution used it. while he was very experienced, the execution went badly, took him several blows. he was ridiculed and even had vegetables thrown at him in the street. he had a pamphlet printed and distributed to plead his case that the axe they'd foisted on him, not he himself was to blame as he could not strike straight with it.

it's designed for shaving wood, not chopping. a straight down blow puts a torque moment on the haft, twisting it in your hands. anyway, the pamphlet didn't help him much.


I wouldn't be surprised if the executioners took one "stiffener," or two before the job, to make the task easier and perhaps not always fair to blame the tool used?

CutlassCollector 4th September 2017 11:53 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Victrix
It could originally have been a goosewing axe used to hew timber into beams and planks (useful at sea), and then adapted into a fighting axe? It's unlikely so much effort would have been used to decorate a common tool. The metal studs would have been intended to deflect cuts. The shaft looks later and could have been a fantasy afterthought to enhance supposed martial qualities of the axe head? I have not seen examples of medieval side clips before so could be more recent. The style of decoration look E.European, possibly Polish?


Hi Victrix,
Thanks for your comments and yes a lot of work went into carving each diamond groove and inserting all those studs in very precise order. I have been searching Russian and Polish weapons without much success. Although studs do appear it is usually only a few not a dense pattern.

And thanks Wayne for the interesting story. It's always good to spice (garlic!) up a thread!

Regards CC

kronckew 8th September 2017 08:03 AM

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thought i'd seen similar shaped ones before....when in doubt, search the site. while these look a bit lighter looking, they are the only similar shaped axes i've found. bullova axes, as posted by our esteemed vanadoo, sadly gone over the bridge. a progenitor?

p.s. - he probably ate garlic to make his breath smell better ;)

broadaxe 8th September 2017 10:49 AM

To my eye it looks like an old Scandinavian hewing axe (not a 'goosewing' which is different form) - something with the shadows in the photo tells me it is single-beveled , mounted on a later haft. The elaborated work looks almost 'too good' , so it may be a Victorian-era put-together piece.

kronckew 8th September 2017 11:27 AM

cutlass, can we get a photo of the eye from above?

CutlassCollector 8th September 2017 02:15 PM

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Quote:
Originally Posted by broadaxe
To my eye it looks like an old Scandinavian hewing axe (not a 'goosewing' which is different form) - something with the shadows in the photo tells me it is single-beveled , mounted on a later haft. The elaborated work looks almost 'too good' , so it may be a Victorian-era put-together piece.


Hi Broadaxe,
Thanks for your input, I suspect your knowledge of axes is much broader than mine!

A Victorian piece is a possibility - plenty of battle axe examples - but the belt hook and langets argue against it. Also - and I realise that where/when an item was purchased is of only limited use - this axe was purchased in 1935 in NE United States and has been in the museum ever since. I'm assuming that there was much less cross Atlantic collector traffic back then.

Scandinavian keeps cropping up. I have a photo of the other side and the back - see what you think.

I still favour the notion that this was someone's personal weapon, put together and decorated with loving care! Could be wrong though.

CC

CutlassCollector 8th September 2017 02:29 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
cutlass, can we get a photo of the eye from above?


That is a good idea and may give a bit more information. I don't know if they can get a shot of the top without taking it out of the case again. They have been really good at sending me photos of their boarding axe collection so I don't want to annoy them.

Thanks for the straight edge bullova as well. That was my initial thought but there are so many different styles and not many straight edge ones at that. The shape of the head where it passes through the handle seems unlike most bullova fittings.

The shape of the eye may help with that. I'll ask politely.

kronckew 8th September 2017 05:50 PM

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Quote:
Originally Posted by CutlassCollector
That is a good idea and may give a bit more information. I don't know if they can get a shot of the top without taking it out of the case again. They have been really good at sending me photos of their boarding axe collection so I don't want to annoy them.

Thanks for the straight edge bullova as well. That was my initial thought but there are so many different styles and not many straight edge ones at that. The shape of the head where it passes through the handle seems unlike most bullova fittings.

The shape of the eye may help with that. I'll ask politely.


that rear view looks like the blade is centred rather than offset as would have been for a carpenters plank trimming broad axe. indeed is NOT a bullova, and better for it as they are a rather light axe (except for my sikh nihang one)

CNK1 8th September 2017 06:58 PM

Hello everyone,

I'm clearly not an expert and this not in my (little) knowledge area but to me this axe looks to be german like the first of this page:

https://fr.pinterest.com/pin/68046644344684758/

So maybe this assumption could be a way to explore?

Best regards,
Clement

kronckew 8th September 2017 07:07 PM

i guess if you cut or broke the pointy ends off it you could make one like the subject axe, but that would hold for a lot of axe variants. german, scandi, russian is of course likely sources, but that covers a lot of ground too. i'm starting with an assumption the head was made like that and not salvaged from a broken head.

Victrix 8th September 2017 09:59 PM

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I still think it looks E.European with some Germanic influence. Polish, Styrian (S.Austria), Saxon (perhaps used by settlers in Transylvania?). What's odd with it is the combination of decoration with martial style. Most war axes with wooden handles which I've seen have been undecorated tools intended strictly for business. They were probably not prestigeous and not carried by the wealthier warriors so there was little need to decorate the shaft.

kronckew 9th September 2017 09:48 AM

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yes, who in their right minds would decorate a battle axe haft or blade?

your 'undecorated' ones prove your point nicely. ;) just like these below:

(sailors especially have lots of time on their hands and can decorate the undecoratable. or noblemen, and officers who had underlings to do it for them)

Victrix 9th September 2017 04:59 PM

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Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
yes, who in their right minds would decorate a battle axe haft or blade?

your 'undecorated' ones prove your point nicely. ;) just like these below:

(sailors especially have lots of time on their hands and can decorate the undecoratable. or noblemen, and officers who had underlings to do it for them)


I must confess to have no idea where the axe comes from. I was just pointing out that it's a fairly crude weapon akin to the bardiche. These were typically not very decorated and were presumably used by the less wealthy warriors. It seems to me that more Western European war axes/hammers had metal hafts whereas in E.Europe wooden hafts seemed more common, although of course it's difficult to generalize. The E.European wooden war axes/hammers that I saw often have undecorated hafts, although they are usually probably later replacements so difficult to know what the originals looked like! I'm not sure the axe in the post above is comparable to the Norwegian farmers's axes, although the bardiche as a weapon allegedly had Scandinavian origins. The decoration of the axe haft posted above does not seem particularly Scandinavian to me and, if anything, looks more Gothic in style. True, sailors seem to have a penchant for decoration so possible the axe was decorated by a bored one!

Victrix 13th October 2017 10:56 PM

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I know this is a long shot but here we have a 17/18thC Hungarian flail. The wooden haft is decorated, and it has an interesting clip attached. Vague similarities with the “pirate’s axe.”

CutlassCollector 15th October 2017 07:24 PM

Hi Victrix,

Thanks for your input. Interesting flail and I'm not sure either what that hook is for. It does not seem to work well as a belt hook.
As for the axe blade - I think that will remain a mystery. Scandinavian or E. European are just as likely as each other. I favour the Scandinavian, only because of the greater sea going heritage.

Regards, CC

kronckew 15th October 2017 07:34 PM

it may be to hang the weight from to keep it from flailing about (da debble made me say that ;)) while you hang it from a proper belt hook on your belt thru the steel ring. or maybe it got turned around the wrong way.

thinreadline 17th October 2017 08:02 PM

I like this weapon very much however I tend to agree with those who suggest that the shaft was added much later . To me it is inconceivable that the axe head could become so pitted and the shaft remain so perfect .

kronckew 17th October 2017 09:53 PM

i tell people i have a bronze age axe that is so old, the haft has been replaced five times and the head three.

thinreadline 17th October 2017 11:53 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
i tell people i have a bronze age axe that is so old, the haft has been replaced five times and the head three.


very good ! that is a great variant on the old broom joke :)


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