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Old 16th March 2021, 02:34 PM   #1
David R
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Default Help and comments on an Axe head

I bought this years ago from a dealer in oddments and antiques. Evidently of some age, hand forged in the classic wrap around construction. If it had not a makers stamp I would have judged it to be Medieval, any ideas?
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Old 16th March 2021, 11:08 PM   #2
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Hello David and good to see you on this side of the Forum! I'm no expert, but I think these are Spanish 'Biscayne'-type trade ax heads. I know they look like early Viking pieces, but I've seen the early Spanish types with this pattern. See 'Swords and Blades of the American Revolution', Neumann, pg 262, example 16A. They have what I call a 'droopy' blade. There are Iroquois axes with similar blades, but I think this is a trade blade. There was a wide time period for this, from the 1600's literally up to about 1850. Where did you find it?
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Old 17th March 2021, 12:06 AM   #3
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It being a trade axe makes a lot of sense, and explains the simple fabrication and old style shape. Thank you!.

I bought it off a stall at a reenactment fair. The vendor known as "Bodger" dealt in all sorts of stuff, broken sword blades,axes, daggers and whatever. His stock was a mix of random antiques, remounted blades and bespoke reproductions. It was always worth a trawl over his table.
This one had a literal branch stuffed in it as a handle..... and I do mean a branch, not a decent piece of branch wood as you see on ethnic items.
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Old 17th March 2021, 12:23 AM   #4
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Ha! It's always incredible where some of this stuff turns up! As it is a Spanish trade item, I'm guessing it to be around 1800 or so, assuming it was over here and not in one of the numerous other Spanish colonial trade spots. Before the Mexican Revolution, such items were still being brought over. I usually don't like seeing rough items with maker's marks, but for trade items, it's a whole different story for collectors. One can possibly research and find where the item was made, when it was smithed, etc. My Native American knife I posted recently has an illegible trade maker mark. You will note yours has a steel bit, so it was better quality. The eye being triangle-shaped and blunt on one side puts this one in the 'pole ax' category, even though it doesn't have the classic hammer-style extension. Nice find for a Renaissance Fair!!
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Old 17th March 2021, 10:52 AM   #5
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"Ha! It's always incredible where some of this stuff turns up! As it is a Spanish trade item, I'm guessing it to be around 1800 or so, assuming it was over here and not in one of the numerous other Spanish colonial trade spots. Before the Mexican Revolution, such items were still being brought over"

Well,in my case "over here" is the United Kingdom" so goodness knows how it got here, knowing Bodger he could have bought it in Spain. More likely though from a dealer or fair in one of our port cities like Bristol or Colchester......
That said he regularly went on fishing holidays in West Africa!
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Old 17th March 2021, 01:00 PM   #6
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David, can't you work out what those letters on the blade are ?
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Old 17th March 2021, 01:36 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
David, can't you work out what those letters on the blade are ?
Some but not all... it looks like, < ?ARENC> (or ?ARENG) and underneath DARIED or perhaps OARIEO.

They are somewhat obscured by oxidation, and my eyes are not what they were, even using a lense.

It is, as an aside a very sharp axe. I used it as my camp axe on a few occasions.
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Old 17th March 2021, 06:46 PM   #8
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I (sort of) discern the same. It's just that it doesn't look like Basque (Euskera) lettering to me; more French ?
But don't pay much notice to what i say .
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Old 17th March 2021, 10:57 PM   #9
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I have picked up a number of axe books along the way and I have had a browse looking for a makers name to match - no luck I'm afraid.

I also think the words look French so switching google search to France gives Arenc as a district in Marseille. But nothing for the other word. I was guessing that the digit in front of both words may be part of the decoration or an elongated '&'. It seems a wider space.

The books show many different sizes and shapes of axe heads - by trade, by country, by state and it appears that half the counties in England have their own derivative. Mark has found the closest match in Neumann but the only exact match I could find is in Kauffman's American axes. It is the same shape but no mark. It states unknown origin and function but is iron with a steel bit and they place it as 18th Century.

With the makers name I would agree with the already suggested c. 1800 but it may be later as it appears well forged - no signs of the join along the seams - which probably means water or steam driven hammers which would tie in with a manufacturer rather than a single smith.
Iron with a steel bit was the only option for a 'good' axe until the last half of the 19th century when steel started to become cheaper and more plentiful.
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Old 18th March 2021, 11:58 AM   #10
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Arenc looks to be a good match, and for some reason I have long had it in my mind that this might be French in origin... Possibly because the shape is so like a Francesca throwing axe. The large squiggles either side I take to be decorative framing of the makers stamp. What the smaller marks are, may well be lost to time.
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Old 18th March 2021, 01:58 PM   #11
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French ones (also) have triangular eyes.

~
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Old 23rd March 2021, 12:21 PM   #12
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To sum up then, French made in the first half of the 19thC or earlier,... because you don't need power hammers to get good forge welds, (trust me on this).
Next up, recommendations on cleaning, just oiling and leaving or a good scrub down?
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Old 23rd March 2021, 12:34 PM   #13
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Default An ignorant's suggestion ...

Scrubbing with a non aggressive brush could be a good idea, as it will 'brighten' it without eliminating (existing ?) patina.
Oiling is always good, even if its need is this case is not nourishing the material.
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Old 23rd March 2021, 10:58 PM   #14
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Maybe it reads :

Farenc
Bedarieux

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Old 24th March 2021, 11:20 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by asomotif
Maybe it reads :

Farenc
Bedarieux

That certainly looks possible, does that indicate/say anything about date and area of origin?
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Old 24th March 2021, 12:05 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by asomotif
Maybe it reads :

Farenc
Bedarieux

Interesting suggestion; a smith called (last name) Farenc, with a workshop in Bedarieux.
Browsing on the city, the only possible connection found is a restaurant, called La Forge, converted from a XVII century forging workshop. Possibly nothing to do with Farenc's axe.
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Old 24th March 2021, 03:44 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
Interesting suggestion; a smith called (last name) Farenc, with a workshop in Bedarieux.
Browsing on the city, the only possible connection found is a restaurant, called La Forge, converted from a XVII century forging workshop. Possibly nothing to do with Farenc's axe.
Fun though to speculate. I think I will keep this one after all.
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Old 26th March 2021, 04:45 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CutlassCollector
The books show many different sizes and shapes of axe heads - by trade, by country, by state and it appears that half the counties in England have their own derivative. Mark has found the closest match in Neumann but the only exact match I could find is in Kauffman's American axes. It is the same shape but no mark. It states unknown origin and function but is iron with a steel bit and they place it as 18th Century.

With the makers name I would agree with the already suggested c. 1800 but it may be later as it appears well forged - no signs of the join along the seams - which probably means water or steam driven hammers which would tie in with a manufacturer rather than a single smith.
Iron with a steel bit was the only option for a 'good' axe until the last half of the 19th century when steel started to become cheaper and more plentiful.
Just to add a few notes to support pretty much what others have said, I am now in agreement that it is probably French. The Basque connotation was from a fur trapper ax book I have, with an ax very closely resembling yours, but this reference has had some other flawed information that I've come across as well (halberd tobacco cutter tool heads listed as tomahawks? I don't think so!).

In another volume I recently acquired from a friend, Indian Trade Axes by Lar Hotham, there are at least 4 other examples closely resembling yours, all with indistinguishing marks or unknown origins, but all found on Native American sites. Just by deduction alone, only the French and Brits traded with the 'locals' in New England. Spanish axes are typically only found in the southern U.S. and not trade items, but tools used by the Spanish and locals as tools. Your pattern ax seems to always turn up in areas where French trade occurred...thus and QUITE redundantly (since we already know it's French by the signature!), we know it's origin by trade route as well. I bring all this up because it is still a very interesting piece and I'm glad you decided to keep it, David. Good find! Also, I agree with you on early forge welds. If it is 'trip hammer', it would still be early 1820's, but I suspect earlier. That triangular eye and blunt poll was more of a pre-1800 pattern...
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Old 26th March 2021, 01:35 PM   #19
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Blacksmiths were amazingly skilled and ingenuous in making and fixing almost anything made of metal and were forge welding successfully everyday. So no disrespect intended but what I meant was if you combine the neat finish with a makers name then it probably means it was commercially made. Trip hammers greatly increased the production rate for commercial sales. Ten axes per man per day for Collins Axes in the 1820s and at the time Europe was well ahead of the US in industrial terms.

So especially in Europe - I think water driven trip hammers were earlier than Mark's suggested date and steam was coming into its own by the end of the 18th century. The Washington Navy Yard installed its first steam engine in the blacksmiths shop in 1808 driving hammers and grinding wheels.

Yes - I would hang on to it as it still seems an unusual shape and it may well have been made around 1800.
This is the closest match I could find in a book - "unknown origin or function but probably 18th century".
The line is not a crack but a scarf weld of a steel bit to the edge probably as a repair.
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Old 26th March 2021, 01:51 PM   #20
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Wow! More information than I expected, and thank you to everyone. I am also following some sources of my own, and showing it off to collector friends, but I doubt it will stray from the direction given here.
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Old 26th March 2021, 06:28 PM   #21
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reminds me of my Gallowglass (Irish) Sparth Axe, tho it has a round scket hole.
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