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Old 20th March 2017, 07:58 PM   #1
drac2k
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Default Napoleonic Sapper's Ax, Boarding Ax or just a Fireman's Ax ?

Once again I ask the eternal question of which of the 3 above-named possibilities is this item? I just purchased this in Baltimore and I was told that it was a Napoleonic Sapper's Ax.It certainly could be as it is the heaviest ax that I have ever held.It feels more like a maul as I would guess the weight of the head to be 12 to 14 lbs.The head is approx. 14" long and the haft is approximately 35" long.
Could it be a boarding ax? I saw an almost identically shaped one, only much smaller, with a belt hook that was identified as such.The problem with this one is that it is so heavy, that it would be impossible to fight with it over a prolonged period.
Could it be a fire ax; it could, but once again, it is very heavy, and under the strain of fighting a fire, combined with the heat, it would be quite taxing.
I do think that it may be French.
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Old 20th March 2017, 10:00 PM   #2
CutlassCollector
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It's always hard to determine which as they are all so closely related. I think it looks way too modern to be Napoleonic, but I don't know much about sapper axes.

Boarding axes needed to be fairly light as they were often used one handed whether as tool or weapon and carried aloft or while boarding other vessels. Even the big long handled Scandinavian axes are relatively light and still 'fast' enough to be used as a weapon.
Remember that boarding axes were falling out of use by the 1860s with the advent of steam and steel ships. Navys were still outfitting ships with them but they tended to get lighter.
My best guess is that this axe is an early 20th century fire axe used for smashing down doors or knocking holes in walls or roofs to let smoke out, (before breathing apparatus). It would not be used for long periods so the weight would not be so important.
German or French at a guess.
Regards, CC.
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Old 21st March 2017, 12:45 AM   #3
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Thanks for your input; sounds reasonable to me.
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Old 21st March 2017, 08:55 AM   #4
ulfberth
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hello,

In the first picture is a French Napoleonic Sapeur axe , the second picture is a French boarding axe model 1833.
Although not identical the last one looks most like yours.

kind regards

Ulfberth
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Old 21st March 2017, 11:55 AM   #5
CutlassCollector
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The dimensions of an 1833 French boarding axe are approx: overall length 21", blade to point of spike 9.5", weight 2.5 pounds. Lots of variations of course but that gives the general idea.
My biggest boarding axe is a Swedish 1780 model. Length 37", blade to point 11", weight 3.5 pounds.
Boarding axes are light for fast work whether chopping through burning rigging or breaking heads.

Your axe is a major work horse. Google Large French Fire axe and you'll find similar. One like yours dated 1800s - but I think date is wrong.

Regards CC
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Old 21st March 2017, 12:09 PM   #6
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I agree; I actually saw that type of boarding ax in Baltimore and it did look similar to mine, however, it was much smaller and only weighed 2 or 3 lbs.Maybe, the ax that I own is a later nautical fire ax.
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Old 25th March 2017, 10:21 PM   #7
broadaxe
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Please try to weigh your axe. Heavy as full-sized fire axes are, 12-14 pounds sounds excessive. The long haft and heavy head were crucial for smashing into doors, or directly into wooden walls, and roofs. I agree with CutlassCollector with both identification and date, the shape of the head is somewhat different than the mid-19th century Paris fire department axe I have. I will try to weigh it as well, for comparison.
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Old 27th March 2017, 06:51 PM   #8
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Sorry, I just saw your post.The difference between the ax and myself, and myself without the ax is about 9.5 lbs.; I know that this is a poor measurement, but at this time it is the best I can do.
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