Tools for sale 

An Introduction to Axes

Philip Walker

Nowadays axes are generally thought of simply for felling trees or chopping firewood but they are in fact the most jundamental and versatile of all woodworking tools.

Until a century or so ago they were shaping tools in virtually every woodworking trade, sometimes just for preliminary roughing out of the workpiece, sometimes as the principal tool with which the job was accomplished. Many trades had their own characteristic axes, some of peculiar designs originally adopted as efficient for the work in hand but which may have become purely traditional or symbolic.

Since most of these trades have themselves disappeared or become altered beyond recognition, there is scope for much detective work in understanding the junction and purpose of such axes. The subject is a particularly appealing one: both because of the remarkable shapes involved (one thinks of the extraordinarily long-bitted felling axes; the short handled double-bevelled blocking axes; the Germanic Wheelwright’s Spitzbarten – now often called “goosewings”; and the French stavemakers massive “doloires”) and also because these tools were often minor masterpieces of the Tool-smith’s art. Handforged, deeply three dimensional, laminated with steel and subtly shaped, the older ones are a world apart from modern drop forgings or folded plate.

Appeared 1995 – Toolshop Auctions Catalogue

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