Learning the ways of the Viking axe

Discussion in 'MP Knives' started by 556mp, Mar 6, 2013.

  1. 556mp

    556mp Bushmaster Vendor Bushclass I

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    This thread will follow along as I attempt to learn the construction methods used by Viking age smiths to forge axe heads. These axes will primarily be wood working tools for both carving and for wood processing. Thankfully, Jim Austin and Jeff Pringle have accomplished some wonderful work researching and recreating these beautiful Viking era pieces. Mr. Austin has been kind enough to share his research and forgings with the blacksmith community. Jim gives seminars and instructional classes through out the country and has released a DVD covering the methods that he uses, and on several forums showing the processes in detail. Their research includes museum pieces as well as personal collections. There have been x-rays done and visual inspections through an experienced smiths and historians eyes to reveal exactly how these axe heads were produced. So, Thank you Jim Austin and Jeff Pringle for allowing folks like myself to be able to learn and experience the ways of the the Viking axe.

    This posting will be updated on a regular basis as I progress, moving from one piece of the axe to another - Practicing each detail - until finally I combine all of the different parts of the axe head into a working prototype. From there I will test several designs both in shop and in the field to determine what sizes and shapes would best suit our Bushcrafting and carving needs.

    I have been studying every piece of literature and posting that I can lay my eyes on, in order to learn every possible thing that I can about these axes -- A bit of an obsession you could say. As of yesterday, I produced my first successful asymmetrically wrapped eye with a poll. Next, I will attempt a Baltic eye with the reinforcing tines on the poll.

    I need to create some specific tooling to recreate these axes, and started on that last night. So far, my first successful asymmetrical wrapped eye. In this method the stock is reduced in size, and wrapped back onto itself, forge welded into place, and shaped to form the eye. This is similar to how wrapped eye tomahawks are produced, except the eye, ears, and poll, are forged to shape prior to the wrap. Also, the forge weld is at the transition from eye to bit. Compered to the wrapped eye hawk where the whole wrap forms the bit, eye, etc.

    The following posts will show updates.

    Thanks for following along!

    -Matthew Paul


    EDIT: Some friend I am. I forgot to mention that Alex (Adahy) has been helping me do research and will be involved in this project as well, both working as a striker and helping to design the bit geometry.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2013
  2. 556mp

    556mp Bushmaster Vendor Bushclass I

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    Forging the Hardy Block

    The hardy block is useful when working the flats on the eye and bit, It seems. So I forged one from a tractor trailer leaf spring last night. Here are some photos.

    The starting steel
    [​IMG]

    Cut and ready to forge
    [​IMG]

    Forging the taper to fit the hardy hole.
    [​IMG]

    Finished. I was so involved in forging this down that I forgot to take pictures for a while.
    [​IMG]
     
  3. 556mp

    556mp Bushmaster Vendor Bushclass I

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    First Practice Eye

    Here is the first practice eye. It was a useful trial run and I learned quite a bit about shaping the ears and poll, both prior to wrapping and forge welding, and after. Now, I know that this does not look like much, but here are some shots of it still hot on the anvil. The last two photos will give you an idea of how it would look on a completed head.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    This is a photo of the eye section laid on top of a drawing.
    [​IMG]

    And here is a cheep and quick photoshop rendering of what it may look like complete.
    [​IMG]
     
  4. brian7498

    brian7498 Guide

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    great thread..will be following intently :)
     
  5. Leif

    Leif Staff Staff Member Super Moderator Vendor Bushclass I Bushclass Instructor

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    Awesome!
     
  6. NJWHN95

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    I am really excited to watch this project unfold. I have been a little bit obsessed with carving lately and through my research I have read quite a bit about the viking carving tools and such. I will be eagerly awaiting updates. Thank you for posting this Matt!
     
  7. Paul Foreman

    Paul Foreman Bushmaster

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    very nice of you to let us follow along. i have a bit of danish in me ... :)
     
  8. Crco

    Crco Scout

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    You got this Danish Viking paying very close attention, Matt. Thank you for sharing your smithing ventures with us. Your presentation is very cogent and very informative.

    I gather that the assymetrical wrapping of the eye doesn't have any structural integrity issues with stress threshholds?
     
  9. Code Red

    Code Red Supporter Supporter

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    I am absolutely fascinated. Thanks for the post, I'll be following along.
     
  10. HardBall

    HardBall Basket of Deplorable Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass I

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    Yep, this Dane will be watching also. Very cool!

    I assume you guys are watching the History Channel series...
     
  11. clanmaki

    clanmaki Guide

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    Fascinating Thread!!! Thank You!
     
  12. cobra

    cobra Scout

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    Cool - I always thought the Viking axe styles were the neatest.
     
  13. SoloSurvivalist

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  14. 556mp

    556mp Bushmaster Vendor Bushclass I

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    Not as far as I understand. There was one example that was found where the forge weld had failed, but that was likely due to a faulty weld. I dont see why it would be any less structural that the trade axes and hawks of early America.
     
  15. Longbeard

    Longbeard on the PCT Bushclass III

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    Nice to see how a real craftsman researches a project. The vikings would be proud. I could be wrong, but I'm guessing you have gotten some photography tips from Mr. Y, 'cause they sell the story quite well bro.
     
  16. Mudman

    Mudman Guide Vendor

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    Ohh can't wait to see it finished!
     
  17. rikinwyoming

    rikinwyoming Tracker

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    subscribed,,, very interesting indeed!!
     
  18. DBX

    DBX Guide

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    OK, I want one!

    Sent from over here
     
  19. Morlog

    Morlog Scout

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    Bearded Axe

    I know that historically it would be more likely to see a viking wielding a bearded axe like the one being forged, or a spear in battle. It was a simple matter of resources. Steel was a valuable resource. Making swords used a large quantity of that valuable resource. Making axe heads and spear heads that could be fastened to an abundant resource (wooden handles) made a lot more sense for the common folks. I love the viking bearded axe. They are an awesome thing to have.
     
  20. Niflreika

    Niflreika Guide

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    There's a couple other factors as well.

    First, is that in most tribes, only the Jarl, and those awarded one by the Jarl could use swords.
    Then there's the fact that swords are useful for one thing. Axes were a tool that got used pretty much every day (you would use the short summer to gather wood for the long winter.

    The bearded axe certainly has some combat advantages, such as a long edge with less weigth that a full axe head. But also, in a time when nearly everything was made of wood, the lower weight and long edge of the axe made for much better hewing characteristics.

    It's interesting to see the progression of axe design from the bronze age onward, and how new materials, like iron and steel madeso mething like a bearded axe even possible.

    Kudos to 556mp and Adahy for this project.
     
  21. jloden

    jloden Guide Bushclass I

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    *subscribed*

    Matt, projects like this make me wish I could hang out in your shop all the time while you're experimenting and learning cool stuff like this that blends the historical and modern. Something about crafting things in the way they were done hundreds or thousands of years ago connects you to another time and place... very cool.
     
  22. BushandCraft

    BushandCraft Tracker

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    Thanks for this dedication. I am subscribing.
     
  23. Zzerru

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    Very cool. Subscribed
     
  24. Ulfgrim

    Ulfgrim Guide

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    Definitely keeping a close eye on this thread.
     
  25. Sequoia Kid

    Sequoia Kid Guide

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    I'll be all over this thread, looks like it will be amazing. Man Matt, you and Alex seem to have the whole forum waiting to see what you two will come up with next. I for one am at the edge of my seat.
     
  26. MtnNomad

    MtnNomad Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    Nice work. You are making me want one:dblthumb:
     
  27. Bully

    Bully Scout

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    You do amazing work! This will interesting and educational to follow for sure... I have one of Jim's viking axes and his video... he's also an amazing craftsman!... Thanks for sharing! :0)
     
  28. 556mp

    556mp Bushmaster Vendor Bushclass I

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    Detailed Shots of forging an Asymmetrically Wrapped Eye, with poll.

    In this next series of photos I will show some detailed photos of forging an asymmetrically wrapped eye with a poll.

    To start off the stock is measured and marked with a center punch to locate the individual portions of the eye.
    [​IMG]

    The end of the bar is scarfed to allow a more seamless forge weld and the boundaries of each section of the eye is fullered to begin the shaping.
    [​IMG]

    The inner of the eye and the poll are beginning to take shape.
    [​IMG]

    The ears are poll are more defined - an outside view.
    [​IMG]

    An inside view.
    [​IMG]
     
  29. 556mp

    556mp Bushmaster Vendor Bushclass I

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    Continued..

    A top view
    [​IMG]

    The eye is wrapped. You can now see it starting to take shape.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The eye is now closed and prepared for the forge weld. I may scarf the steel differently next time.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  30. 556mp

    556mp Bushmaster Vendor Bushclass I

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    Continued..

    The eye is forge welded and still needs to have its final shape forged. As it sits now, It is a little wide. Also, the ears would be sharpened and redefined with a rounding hammer on the horn.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  31. 556mp

    556mp Bushmaster Vendor Bushclass I

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    Thank you all for the support and kind words

    Thank you for sharing the information. The wrapped eye design can also be more easily shaped with smaller tools than can be made with a large chunk of steel or iron, I have found. Im not saying that it takes less time, as It actually takes more, but the physical efforts involved are less. For me anyway.
     
  32. Crco

    Crco Scout

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    Well, since I'm the Jarl of my household, I guess I'll be needing one of these damn MP bearded axes to deal with those jackass Saxons & Franks who live next door.

    Besides, it'll match up nicely with my MP seax coming down the pike shortly. ;-)
     
  33. 556mp

    556mp Bushmaster Vendor Bushclass I

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    haha yeah soon enough I'll be offering them. A nice viking axe would go well with the seax!
     
  34. 556mp

    556mp Bushmaster Vendor Bushclass I

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    Forging Eye Tongs

    I needed a set of tongs that I could securely hold the axe head from the eye with. So, I forged up a set tonight.

    This shows the starting stock and the blanks forged.
    [​IMG]

    I forged the edges off of the reigns.
    [​IMG]

    The jaws are riveted and fit.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    All set. I may adjust them some still, but this eye will not be the actual size of the finished products, so I left them this way for now.
    [​IMG]
     
  35. Mudman

    Mudman Guide Vendor

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    Killer Matt! Did you get my PM btw?
     
  36. Steven Long

    Steven Long Guide Vendor

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    I am loving this thread Matt!

    You have skills that are out of this world and I can't imagine what you will create within a few years from now, let alone tomorrow.

    Thanks for taking the time to share this with us.
     
  37. Adahy

    Adahy Kuksaholic

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    Viking Tongs
     
  38. 556mp

    556mp Bushmaster Vendor Bushclass I

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    First go at a complete head.

    This is the first try at a complete head. The stock was not really the size that I wanted, but I'm tired of waiting for the shipment. I'll be using 3/4" x 2" x 4" blocks for the actual heads, but I have 1"x1/2" stock here. So, I came up with some measurements and a plan to go ahead and forge an axe head with what I have. A picture of that follows.

    [​IMG]


    In the forge it goes.

    [​IMG]



    And two hours later I had forged the stock into this - An axe blank.

    [​IMG]

    Now, for part two: Forging and welding the eye without screwing up ;)
     
  39. 556mp

    556mp Bushmaster Vendor Bushclass I

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    Part Two!

    Ok. So, I started on the eye of the axe head. A big sigh of relief. Everything is working out as planned. Ive never been so scared to screw up, or so proud in a very long time - if not ever.

    Here we go.




    In this photo you can see the stock is center punched to designate where the poll will be, and where i will need to fuller.

    [​IMG]


    Here you can see where the stock was center punched to mark where the front of the eye socket will be.

    [​IMG]


    In the following two photos you'll be able to see that the stock has been fullered and is ready to have the ears of the eye forged.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  40. 556mp

    556mp Bushmaster Vendor Bushclass I

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    The inner edges of the fullerings are beveled to avoid cold shuts while forging out the eye.

    [​IMG]


    After a whole lot of cross pien work and a flat faced hammer, we almost have an eye. you can see the defined poll.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  41. Adahy

    Adahy Kuksaholic

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    pretty much an axe after that next weld!
     
  42. jloden

    jloden Guide Bushclass I

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    Lookin' great so far man!
     
  43. Crco

    Crco Scout

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    Must be a real thrill to tap into that historical vibe of knowing you are recreating a near exact replica process that a viking weaponsmith was doing around 1,200 years ago.

    Very cool stuff, Matt.
     
  44. 556mp

    556mp Bushmaster Vendor Bushclass I

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    All finished minus welding in some 10xx for the bit

    All I have to say, is that this was extremely stressful but the most rewarding.


    All cleaned up ready for forge welding.

    [​IMG]


    Forge welded.

    [​IMG]


    Anvil is hot after all that welding!

    [​IMG]


    My first viking axe head!!!
    (After the bit is welded in it should be somewhere around the white chalk line)

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2013
  45. Ulfgrim

    Ulfgrim Guide

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    Clearly I'll need to properly dispose of it for you Matt.

    Seriously though, that thing is killer. While I prefer more beard, that will end up a chopping machine for sure. Keep it up, as I'm impatiently waiting to see it finished and doing its job.

     
  46. Sequoia Kid

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    Looks great Matt, and to think this is your first go. This is going to be good.
     
  47. familytracker

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    You now have this Viking from Kansas attention gret work just the thing for my belt.
     
  48. Steven Long

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    That head is killer, Matt!

    I can't wait to see it bite into some wood...

    Seems like you have been making these for years. Great job!
     
  49. Crco

    Crco Scout

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    Matt, you may already know this ... but I believe Viking smiths would imprint a number of Futhark runes on each weapon they made. At least the important ones, that is. The smiths did so with the intent to further empower the weapons. And for visual effect for both allies (weal) and enemies (woe).

    I wish I could give you more information on that but I'm currently away from my information resources. There's tons of Googleable "Viking Runes" info out there if you don't have literary references nearby.

    Just sayin' in case you wished to purse this angle with your new axe ...
     
  50. 556mp

    556mp Bushmaster Vendor Bushclass I

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    Thanks guys, this has been a lot of fun so far.

    Yes Sir. I saw a couple examples of the rune markings. I think that would look good one some of them. I'll have to research that aspect some
     

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