Axes were used as both weapons and tools by Viking warriors. They were found in both richly decorated warrior graves like the magnate from Mammen as well as simple axe graves.
Axe heads can be single sided or double sided. Petersen’s axe typology, which is also used for swords, distinguishes twelve types.
Axes were brutal fighting weapons but also used for everyday tasks such as woodcutting. They were often forged with a pick-like weapon on the other side of the blade to offer multiple points of attack.
Our selection of viking axes includes various styles including battle axes, camping axes, and throwing axes. These axes are all made with high-grade steel and are functional for reenactments and other uses.
The axe head of our Viking axes is a replica of an historic Viking axe that was found at Skjoldsdal in Denmark. The axe head features an angular profile that optimized weight for manoeuvrability and a longer cutting edge. The angular design of the axe head is what gives it its infamous name the “bearded axe”.
This Viking axe has a unique shape that was created by hammering the head into a symmetrical, wedge-shaped cross section. Many axe heads were shaped like this, and they all feature the elongated beard along the bottom of the head that extends down to the shaft.
Historically, the axe was affixed to the haft using either wood glue or iron nails. Occasionally the axe would break during use, as mentioned in the sagas. One of the most common reasons for a broken axe was when it was used to parry another weapon, such as a sword or spear (see chapter 64 in Laxdaela saga). Sometimes the haft would break during defense and a sharp edge could be exposed.
Some axe hafts were wrapped with metal to reduce the risk of failure due to stress or wear, such as the example in Brennu-Njals saga (chapter 87). Hrappr Orgumleidason carried an axe with a wrapped shaft that he used several times during his battle at Stiklastadir.
Axes are still popular for chopping and woodworking today, although they no longer have the same use as they did in the Viking Age. They’re also an excellent tool for a survivalist to have on hand in case of a bug-out situation. Some axes are designed to be lightweight and compact, such as the Gransfors Bruks small forest axe, so they can be easily stored in a bug-out location.
Our axes feature a solid, durable haft of 1055 carbon steel. They are welded to the head for a secure fit. This is a labor intensive process that takes skill and time to make, but it ensures the integrity of our axes for generations to come.
In contrast to hammers and swords, viking axes have a shorter haft. This was to allow for the axe head to be hidden behind the shield as needed. The sagas tell several stories of axes being used in this way.
Axe hafts were often made of oak, and sometimes other types of wood. They were often carved and decorated. They could also be adorned with carvings or runic symbols. These decorations were meant to add beauty and power to the axes, which are certainly both.
A short haft also allows the axe to be thrown. In battle, this was frequently done as a last resort when other weapons were not available. The axe was able to penetrate much more deeply than either a spear or a sword because of its wider curved head. One example is the story told in chapter 33 of Hardar saga og Holmverja of Sigurdr throwing his axe at Thorvaldr and killing him.
The axes were often sharpened to create vicious wounds with their horns, which spread outward much more than a blade or sword point. This was especially important because axes were frequently used as stabbing weapons in addition to their slashing abilities.
Often the axe head would be wrapped with iron or other metal to reduce the possibility of it breaking as a parrying weapon when struck in defense. This was a common practice in the Viking age for all edged weapons, but especially axes.
We use a kiln to dry our axe handles to a consistent 6-8% of moisture. This is the ideal state for axes to be stored in and retrieved from, and to maintain their strength over a lifetime of use. Each axe handle is made for each head to achieve a perfect fit. To do this we start with a knot-free piece of locally harvested, and kiln dried red elm wood that is marked out for the eye dimensions. We then use a drawknife to cut the handle to the desired shape and shave it down to almost match the dimensions of the axe head eye.
Axe sheaths are a vital component of axes, as they protect the blade and help keep it secure. They also give the axe a finished, functional look. For this reason, it is important to find a sheath that fits your axe perfectly. Sheaths should fit snugly and have a clip to hold the axe securely. This ensures that it will not fall out of the sheath, as well as prevents the axe from becoming bent or warped by rubbing against clothing or other items.
Sheaths are often made of leather, which is a durable and water-resistant material. However, canvas sheaths are also available. Canvas sheaths will still protect the axe, but they are not as durable and may not look as nice as a leather sheath. If you plan on carrying your axe around, consider finding a sheath that has belt loops or clips to allow you to attach it to your belt. Also, many small backpacks have loops that are perfect for holding axes.
Another important feature of a good axe sheath is the placement of a small V-shaped notch at the back of the axe. This notch helps to disperse the force of impact away from the handle, which can make the axe easier to use and less likely to shatter in battle. This notch is most common on axe patterns with a larger eye and a smaller blade, such as Rhineland or Hudsons bay axes.
Viking axes were a brutally effective weapon in battle, but they were also very versatile weapons that could be used for other purposes. For example, the sagas mention that the warrior Ospakur often carried his axe with a wrapped shaft, which allowed him to parry edged weapons and reduce the chance of breaking the haft while striking.
Other clever axe techniques are also described in the sagas. For instance, chapter 16 of Ljosvetninga saga describes how Gudmundr used his axe to wave mosquitoes off his foster father’s head. The act was not as effective as simply waving his hand, but it still caused bad blood between the brothers.
In the Viking Age, every man had a wood axe for everyday tasks such as cutting and splitting wood. These axes were also used as weapons in battle. An axe could cut through an enemy’s shield or penetrate their body to cause serious wounds. Skilled warriors often killed their enemies with axe blows alone.
The axe heads were generally made of iron, although some were bronze. The blades of the axe heads varied in size and shape. Some were thin and had a curved edge that was excellent for attacking armor. The axe head shown in the sketch and photo on the left are examples of this type. Other axe heads had a flat profile with a pronounced horn at the toe and heel of the bit. This style of axe head is known as the Danish axe or Dane axe. The largest axe heads were often known as breid-ox (broad axes). This axe head had a crescent shaped edge 22 to 45cm (9-18in) long and was used for crushing or chopping.
Axe blades were sometimes engraved with religious or pagan motifs. For example, the axe head found in a rich grave at Mammen contained silver inlays on all of its flat surfaces. This was probably an indication that the axe belonged to a magnate.
Some axes were forged in one piece, while others were made of separate pieces that were joined together. This type of axe was usually very heavy. These axes were known as bearded axes, which gave them more strength than a smooth axe.
Although axes were primarily tools, there are many instances in the sagas where an axe was used as a weapon. Occasionally the head would break off the haft, as described in Egils saga rauda chapter 38 or Eiriks saga sbrn. Often the haft would be wrapped with iron or another metal to reduce the possibility of the axe breaking when it was used to parry edged weapons or under other stresses.
Estwing offers a wide selection of high quality American-made hand tools that are designed and built to last. They offer an assortment of viking axes including Black Eagle axes that are a step up from their classic line of axes. The Black Eagle axes are offered with either their patented vinyl shock reduction grip or traditional genuine leather grip. The Black Eagle axes are also available in a variety of handle options including left or right handed versions.