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Old 21st May 2024, 05:59 PM   #1
mgolab
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Default Axe Question

I purchased it in Southern Indiana by Vincennes where the 8th Regiment was involved during the American Revolution.

On the one side of the hatchet, there appears to be blacksmith initials and the number 4. On the other side, are more marks, not sure whether proof marks, rack numbers, 8 with a P or F? The axe appears to be 18th century, hand forged. Not sure whether I also see a faint broad arrow mark on the side with the 8.

I added the handle.


The head is slightly under 7 inches long.
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Old 22nd May 2024, 02:38 PM   #2
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I don't think that an ax would be "proofed", that is a firearm issue. Inspected more like.

Nice find.
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Old 22nd May 2024, 02:51 PM   #3
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Excellent example of the old style poll axes. These types made their way into North America with the French and the Hudson Bay Company British fur traders. Both Neumann and Hartzler's guides show similar examples. Great find, Mark!
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Old 29th May 2024, 01:44 AM   #4
A. G. Maisey
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Are we quite certain that this hatchet head can be called a "poll axe"?
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Old 1st June 2024, 02:07 PM   #5
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[[/B]
Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey View Post
Are we quite certain that this hatchet head can be called a "poll axe"?
A picture taken from above would help answer this question. Picture 1 seems to show a little thickening towards the heel of the ax. Or are you referring to size?

EDIT: On rereading the entire thread it was originally called a hatchet in the OP. My questions would be is it a belt ax? Which were to my understanding smaller than what we think of an ax today. Either way I like its profile.

Last edited by Interested Party; 1st June 2024 at 02:20 PM.
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Old 1st June 2024, 11:19 PM   #6
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I saw "poll axe", but the first thing I noticed when I looked at the pic was that eye was not round.

Then I wondered exactly what a "poll axe"was, so I asked Dr. Google, & what I found was a rather elaborate medieval shaft weapon.

However, the man who taught me smithing (Gordon Blackwell) called any type of axe that had a round eye a "poll axe", & I found that a number of other Australian smiths used the same terminology.

I have a bit of a thing for axes in general, one of my uncles was a competition axeman, when he got his final promotion I got his 5 pound racing axe, I re-dressed it & it is now my go-to axe around my property. Apart from that, I constantly look for old, nice quality axes & hatchets in garage sales & markets. I don't collect them, I don't know much about them, but I like them & I accumulate them.

I feel that this hatchet is not really a poll axe by any measure, but if anybody wants to call it this, I won't argue with them.
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Old 3rd June 2024, 10:38 AM   #7
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[QUOTE=A. G. Maisey;291371]I saw "poll axe", but the first thing I noticed when I looked at the pic was that eye was not round.


I always had a soft spot for axes as well.

I think that the poll refers to the back part of the axe head opposite the bit, not the shape of the eye. A round poll referred to the curve around the head not the eye. The axe pictured in 1 is a square poll. Square polls appeared in the early 1700's and were widely adopted because of the use that could be made of the flattened area as a hammer. Hammer polls are those where material is added to make a full hammer shape.
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Old 3rd June 2024, 01:14 PM   #8
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Yes, that is correct, an old term for the butt --- ie, the back of the axe head --- was "poll". The cutting edge is the "bit".

However somewhere along the line about 400 years ago people started to call it a "pole axe", as if it were named thus because it was an axe on a pole. Language changes over time and sometimes original understandings of words are lost.

My understanding of "poll axe" was the same as the smiths, & perhaps general understanding of the term in my own community, that is, that it was an axe that used a round eye, clearly the 400 year old meaning had been totally forgotten, understandable I guess. It was not until I did a bit of digging that I discovered that a poll axe was a very sophisticated medieval weapon. Nothing to do with ordinary axes as tools at all.

Then there is the "poll axe" that was used to kill animals in an abattoir.

The eye in the hatchet under discussion appears to me to be a teardrop eye, I've brought the contrast up a bit & it is now quite easy to see.
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Old 3rd June 2024, 02:24 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey View Post
However somewhere along the line about 400 years ago people started to call it a "pole axe", as if it were named thus because it was an axe on a pole. Language changes over time and sometimes original understandings of words are lost.

I discovered that a poll axe was a very sophisticated medieval weapon. Nothing to do with ordinary axes as tools at all.

Then there is the "poll axe" that was used to kill animals in an abattoir.
In order:

The term, and language in general, was static in the Appalachian mountains of the US. It was still used to mean an ax with a weighted butt when I was a kid.

I always understood the weapon to be a pole ax due to the length of the handle rather than the counter weighted cutting edge.

The poll of a normal ax was used to kill animals when bullets were considered too expensive. The animals were moved into a narrow enclosure. A person straddled this enclosure standing on the fence and swung downward onto the forehead of the animal. This always baffled me as a kid that the bitt wasn't used. I didn't understand how brain trauma worked at that age.


I gueess I always had a soft spot for axes as well.
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Old 3rd June 2024, 09:42 PM   #10
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It seems to be clear that the term "poll axe" or "pole axe"can mean different things to different people.

In some places it seems to mean an axe with a heavy butt, in other places it means an axe that has a head with a round eye, but the term seems to have originated some time in the 14th-15th centuries as the name of weapon with longish shaft, the head of which was a combination of a pike, a hammer, & an axe.

In any case, however we wish to understand the term, I rather doubt that it can be applied to the hatchet that began this thread.
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Old 3rd June 2024, 10:53 PM   #11
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Maybe we could call this a poll axe?

It is a ball-pein hammer head that had a chipped face & has been forged into a carpenters hatchet.

I've never put a handle on it, & never used it, but it is fit for purpose.
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Old 4th June 2024, 07:20 PM   #12
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Terminology is always interesting!

Essentially a Poll Axe is a meaningless term as all axes have them.

The Poll of an axe, as A. G. Maisey has already said, is the opposite end of the head to the blade also called the Butt. The word poll comes from an old word for head, still used in the context of voting/elections, polling - counting heads, poll tax etc. Yes, head and butt seem opposite - no idea why.

If Poll is linked with square, round, hammer, spike etc which describes the shape then, it is valid as a means of classifying a type.

I accept that terminology changes with time and locality and I have no problem with that but I think we should respect the old terminology when talking about the items of that period.

Neumann in 'Swords and Blades of the American Revolution' classifies many axes from 1600 to 1800 as round, square, hammer, or spiked polls. Kaufmann's 'American Axes' traces the development of axes from much earlier and also uses the term. This axe would be classed as a square poll axe.
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Old 4th June 2024, 10:30 PM   #13
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I cannot disagree with that, but since the way in which a word is understood changes from place to place & time to time, and in some places from person to person, if we are to classify anything with reasonable accuracy, then we must place it into context.

So, if the hatchet that started this thread is a square poll axe, then I feel that we must place that terminology into a frame of when & where it would have been named as a square poll axe. Here in Australia I believe most people would simply call it an old tomahawk, or tommyhawk, or hawk, or hatchet.

When the way in which we use & understand words arises as a subject for discussion, I cannot help but recall some of my early lessons in the English language, and the word "occupy". From the 1500's through to the early 1800's "occupy" could be understood in a very different way to our current understanding. Apparently, in Shakespeare's England, use of the word in public could get you time in the stocks.
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