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R&D,18th c.American axe

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by jake pogg, Apr 21, 2019.

  1. jake pogg

    jake pogg

    Dec 20, 2015
    What excellent discussion,gents,this is a most valuable,constructive discourse.
    All this info from all points of the compass really goes far in furthering one's understanding of woodworking tools and the work they do.
    I think what i infer from all this so far is that both ways have their own merits as well as their place in historic styles and technological evolution in woodworking.

    The auger has a definite advantage in providing that oh-so-critical chip-parting room/space,which of course helps a great deal,really makes a world of difference.
    Incidentally,an auger(in it's earliest form a type of a spoon-bit that progressed gradually into twisting into gimlet variants)is one of the most ancient tools.It's finds date right back to the very dawn of ironworking...A augered hole is the most ancient form of mortise,oldest wooden ships in history were tied together with string rove through holes in planks...

    And conversely Striking tools always have a bit of an advantage in their use of acceleration;even the two-part combo like chisel+mallet loose a bit compared to a clean swing of a single sharp unit...
    As already been pointed out above by clearer/more articulate minds what they loose in precision and effectiveness used to be balanced by the user's skill and the period history/tradition of certain joinery...

    As a dumb smith i love them All for their sexy lines,many of these tools are a quintessence of forging arts...These Penn mortising axes are gorgeous,totally elegant in their balance,and of course so are the old,long,uber-sexy kreuzaxt type tools...And augers as well;an auger is a purely forged form,it's ridiculous what precision in an auger can be achieved by controlled hand-forging alone...
    (sorry...one-track mind:)
    Trailsawyer, Fmont and Yankee Josh like this.
  2. Ernest DuBois

    Ernest DuBois

    Mar 2, 2013
    Here is a story about auger, mortising axe and mortise and the economy of chopping joints. In fact the last time I used the axe to make this joint, the mortise and tenon, was just a few weeks back now. It was a simple matter, I had time and material on my hands and decided to do it on the spur-of-the-moment. Problem was I had no auger with me, otherwise I'd have used it. Let's face it there is some comfort in the security if doing it that way and with the mortise axe it is just the opposite, "workmanship of risk" and all that wherein this technique is the ultimate example, anyway for me it can be a moment of anxiety to begin. Once I got started though it went smoothly and even when I was a bit rusty, taking my time, I was also pleased that the feel for the work was still there after some years not having used this method. In about an hours time the entire joint, tenon, mortise, prep, lay-out, chopping, pairing, fitting was complete using only that one single tool. Imagine had it been the other way 'round and I was out standing there in that field with only my auger thinking about making that joint. (Let me just lay it out in case: of course it's not a question comparing equivalencies it's a matter of particular conditions).

    Getting back to the other style mortising axe, the one similar to the small axe of the video but then from USA. Whether it is for mortising fence posts, ( was there ever really such a need for so many mortises in so many fences that it even spawned the adaptation and creation of this specialized tool? Where is the evidence of all these fences with their axe-cut mortises?) or fashioning temporary constructions with a purely functional purpose, is a valid, even appropriate question but here and now it can lead to so much speculation you wouldn't believe it and at the end of that what are you left with? I say, we have the axe on our screen before us and I for one take it as it is presented, that is to say, a mortising axe, who am I to say otherwise? If I were to be given that axe and told to go and chop the appropriate mortise here's what I'd do. We assume a proper set-up, not like the version I once saw of a guy going at it with the work piece on the ground, while he was kneeling next to it a chopping away. Set up like that I would chop across the grain within the dimensions of the laid-out mortise in a series of shallow cuts one after the other, back and forth. Maybe now and then I would change angles 90 degrees to clear chips in the parallel direction but primarily I would work by shortening the fibers and clearing the waste till finally switching to holding the axe by the head and using is as a pairing tool. This is where I see a big problem in the configuration of most of these axes we see. The edges will make them useless as a pairing tool. The explanation must be that once the particular axe was no longer being used for mortise work the edge was maintained similar to an ordinary axe, but as originally intended the edge would have been close to straight and with prominent heel and toe sections.
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2019
  3. Old Axeman

    Old Axeman Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 10, 2015
    phantom- I want to comment on that latest video you put up. First, I want to say that the axeman is very skilled with using an axe. Take note of how many breaks there are in the footage, so this does not tell us how long the mortise took to fabricate. At the end, where he puts the mortise and tenon together you get a brief look at the gaps on the fit. This is about as tight as you can get with this technique. I found where his stated purpose for the structure was to build a medieval style house. This also would fit with his choice of tools. Again, the same "accuracy and speed" can not be attained as with the auger/chisel/mallet technique. Although many medieval timber frame structures were built with mortise axes there is a very good reason to use a more precise method. In timber frame structures, not so much in horizontal log structures, you want tight mortise and tenon joints. Most of the load bearing on timber frame construction is on these mortise and tenon joints.
  4. Ernest DuBois

    Ernest DuBois

    Mar 2, 2013
    Well Weisburger you do have a way of twisting things to suit your own (mis)conceptions, the most immediate one being that there was at any point a comparison between chopping a mortice with an axe and any other method. Maybe re-reading some of the actual text that seems to have bugged you might help you to calm down and then you can answer where it is you got this notion that there ever was a claim like this one
    If there was it never came from me, you see my formal schooling was in furniture making in Amsterdam, my teacher making furniture for the royal family and furniture making has been my trade since over twenty years, I think I understand one thing and maybe even two about joinery. While you are explaining yourself you might also want to go more into just how vital this precision fit is in timber framing. Campangnions I know in France, carpenters who have been through intensive theoretical training for three to four years and then a 10 journeyman period, who make a pretty loose fitting mortice and tenon and are perfectly happy doing it that way and wouldn't think of wasting time on superfluous precision where it was not needed, would love to be told. I guess we could go into these medieval structures and how they suffer from poor craftsmanship, those Gothic slackers, as you imply and actually find something to be grateful for in the fire that destroyed the timber structure at Notre Dame because now there is an opportunity to really do it right, to pass the Rizzla test as I once overheard an American timber frame carpenter put it. Carpenters here I know, they admire this approach that North American framers tend to employ, they don't emulate it though. And maybe when it's not too much to ask , you could answer this; What is the distinction between roughing out the mortice with an auger and pairing back to the lay-out lines with a chisel, and roughing out with the mortise axe and pairing to the lay-out lines with the chisel bit on that axe? In terms of a good tight fit I mean. It puzzles me because in both cases we end up.... at the lay-out lines, right?
    Do your curmudgeonly thing then if you must, I guess that even includes misconstruing statements, it goes perfectly well with all the misconceptions.
  5. jake pogg

    jake pogg

    Dec 20, 2015
    Square_peg, Agent_H, Fmont and 2 others like this.
  6. Old Axeman

    Old Axeman Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 10, 2015
    Well Donald Wagstaff, I was plenty calm and not directing my comments at you. Reading your last post, I think you might need to calm down and re- read what you posted. My comments were to calmly give a different perspective on tool use.

    You might try to get my name right when addressing me, Bernie Weisgerber. Since you brought names into this discussion why haven't you told this forum that you are not some European axe/tool guru named Ernest DuBois but an expat American. When I look you up under your real name I find that just a few years ago you posted on the internet and wrote in a style like any other American would write. Now that you have become Ernest DuBois you post like some European struggling for English. My problem with you is simple-I dont like frauds!

    For the rest of you readers, I have claimed, openly, that I am a curmudgeon. Now it is also true that no matter how much the Nuns tried, I never got the hang of that turn the other cheek thing.
    garry3 likes this.
  7. Yankee Josh

    Yankee Josh Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 31, 2018
    Looks to me like a pawl perhaps? I would expect the pivot end to have a hole for a bushing but maybe it was captured in some other way?
    Do you know what it is yourself?
    Meek1 and Fmont like this.
  8. Fmont

    Fmont Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 20, 2017
    This type of thing always gets me. I believe I spot some sort of eye in it. Could this be a mortising axe that you have crafted yourself some time ago? I believe there is precedent for log curved mortising axes sans poll.

    It's going to kill me until I know!
    Yankee Josh likes this.
  9. jake pogg

    jake pogg

    Dec 20, 2015
    Sorry,Josh,i posted a lousy side-view only,i'm still looking for decent photos of this odd creature.

    Yessir,it's an axe-like tool,here's a better view of the eye(sorry about photo quality And size,i'll find some better ones,they're around).

    And NO,it's an object out of some +/- 1000-year old burial,i didn't make it.

    Here's the money-question:

    Nor does anyone.Not for certain.
    It is an archaeological find,sometimes from a set of grave goods, associated with Moksha and some other Central European cultures(there're dozens and i can't believe anyone can keep them straight,in any case i know i can't).
    It's not that rare,and it's certainly a tool,and it must've been used for Something.
    Just that no one knows` what exactly...The best guess soviet-era archaeologists had was that it was a mortising axe used by apiarists!:)
    (hives back then were large poplar(and the like) stumps hollowed out;what little i know about That-burned out).

    I've read a Very curious piece of Polish archaeology that claimed that it was Money!:)
    I'll never find that scientific article,but it did have a quite convincing set of illustrations...It Was a bit different you might say,not so...finished,not Such an obvious eye in it...

    But it did have an eye,asymmetrically welded,as a demonstration of quality of iron,and was drawn out for same reason,and was indeed the currency of the time/place.

    And that's all i know....

    edit:I lie,a also know this:That is a fairly legit compression eye on that thing,about 1"+ I.D.,and assorted scientists and yahoos not unlike us have stuck sticks in it,and it's perfectly handleable.
    However,a straight stick gives it a very closed hang,and the resulting tool is ridiculously awkward.
    I've never had to hollow out a stump for my beehive:),but i can think of many better ways than this tool for sure!:)...Moreover,plenty of beekeepers in different places still use those kinds of hives and their tradition knows nothing of weird awkward specialized handled mortising tools...
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2019
  10. jake pogg

    jake pogg

    Dec 20, 2015
    Here is the same one:https://imgur.com/hauFW57
    Fairly well worked up eye,probably asymmetrically welded,oval in shape with shorter dimention close to 25mm/1".
    Very much a standard eye for many poll-less handled tools of around-about first millenium A.D.
    Fmont, Meek1 and Yankee Josh like this.
  11. Ernest DuBois

    Ernest DuBois

    Mar 2, 2013
    This is classic all-round, shows you did your sleuthing out work, a rough assignment given I've always announced the nature of the Don Wagstaff/ErnestduBois connection. (That must have been your visit I registered on my web pages.) A fraud? On the level of Old Axeman I guess it's so. Also a classic dodge to hide a lack of knowledge by turning the discussion to a personal attack. "Look over here, Don Wagstaff is a fraud" to distract from the chance your imaginary claims about the function and working of the mortise and tenon in a timber construction will be exposed as ignorance. I can't say I'd enjoy it, continuing to push your buttons until you announce in great drama queen fashion once again you quit the forum only to reappear, it's not something I revel in or wish to waste time on though the fruit always hangs so low in your case.
  12. Yankee Josh

    Yankee Josh Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 31, 2018
    Well I hope, selfishly, for the benefit of our little community that you guys can let bygones be bygones. I have benefited to a large degree from both of your input and experience. There's info in both your heads that I, or we, can't get without your presence and continued involvement here.
    For the love of axes, brotherhood, the lost trades and whatever else you care about let's move on!!! We need you guys! BOTH of you!
  13. Ernest DuBois

    Ernest DuBois

    Mar 2, 2013
    Of course it's the only way YJ. No winners can come of it and anyway I do think that at times I waver on the edge of another expulsion.
    Oh good, so we can play around convincing ourselves.
    Here is the image this small-axe brought to my mind as a possible use[​IMG]
    A deep reach through difficult terrain to accomplish some light work.
    Agent_H and Fmont like this.
  14. Agent_H

    Agent_H Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 21, 2013
    That is definitely an old looking thing for sure - Jake, thank you for sharing!


    So it possibly was used to make something like this hive under production?

    These were described as his basic tools.

    Interesting as I would not have thought of bee keeping/hive making (I rarely do I realized while catching up with this thread this morning)

    "Hornets nest" maybe more so.
    Square_peg, A17, jake pogg and 4 others like this.
  15. Miller '72

    Miller '72 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 25, 2017
    Great use of a baseball bat for a handle!

    Great pictures of what possibly is or could be @Agent_H :thumbsup:
    A17, jake pogg, Agent_H and 2 others like this.
  16. jake pogg

    jake pogg

    Dec 20, 2015
    Yep.And here's another photo of It:), makes it a bit easier to envisage,seeing next to some other axes:
    Yankee Josh, Fmont and Miller '72 like this.
  17. Miller '72

    Miller '72 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 25, 2017

    Thank you @jake pogg
    These axes all appear similar even the bearded fellow. Would they all be of the same era and found in same area? I hate to assume but that appears plausible.
    All in the same craftsmans cache for different aspects of the same project?
    Really great to see them all together. Now...what did they do? :D:eek:
    I like and am inclined ti go with the beehives...and as I walked the yard today my curiosity was piqued as i noticed a few trees that could maybe oneday be a hive candidate :cool:
    Agent_H and Yankee Josh like this.
  18. Fmont

    Fmont Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 20, 2017
    I keep looking at the shape. I can't help but wonder if the intended use was not wood at all. I can't help but wonder if it's intended use was for chopping ice holes. The general arc reminds me of ice axes, of the type for climbing rather than for harvesting. The swing is shorter and more abrupt, and I could see that being used on a relatively short haft on one's knees to penetrate ice. Eventually this will leave my head, but this enigma has piqued my interest.
    Yankee Josh and Miller '72 like this.
  19. Miller '72

    Miller '72 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 25, 2017
    Great perspective, i didnt see that. What if for ice fishing?
    I could play this game for days and never tire...loving the who really knows aspect!
    ...until someone does really know, then in to the van and onto the next mystery gang :D
    Yankee Josh and Fmont like this.
  20. jake pogg

    jake pogg

    Dec 20, 2015
    You're absolutely right,these axes are all very closely related as far as their place of origin and time-period as well.
    (Probably, i'd guess, they're to do with Finno-Ugric cultures east and south of Finland).

    These are all looted artefacts.It is technically illegal in Mordor to pilfer artefacts,but the economy of most regions there is so thoroughly destroyed that it's hard to blame the people themselves for doing this.
    Education and science are in ruins,museums unfunded and looted,archaeologists unemployed and confused.
    For a few years i took part in discussions on this peculiar internet site where the scientists and the looters all got together for mutual benefit,in a truce of a sort.
    Scientists at least got to see(thus these photos)what comes out of the ground,where,et c.
    Looters in exchange got a reasonably plausible attribution of objects,which raised their value and helped the "diggers" themselves to be exploited less by dealers and collectors(people doing this for a living are referred to as "black diggers",in a "black market" sense).

    The reason i say all this is normally in a civilised world we're used to seeing historic objects that are totally legit.They've been excavated responsibly,everything recorded,collecting done in a scrupulous methodical manner.
    Many of these however come from a technically speaking "disturbed","looted",et c., sites,where all the surrounding information has been lost.
    The chance of any reliable attribution,dating,tons of other things is irretrievably Gone.

    One can almost say your guess is as good as any!:)

    Ice chipping is a neat idea:)
    Although personally every time i had to use an axe on river ice it sprayed back right in my eyes most annoyingly...Like a 28" boy's ax handle wasn't long enough to get away from spraying chips...But this isn't a standard felling/chopping kind of profile bade neither,so...?

    I couldn't say for certain,but suspect that a dedicated ice-chisel is quite widespread for those regions and period that those axes date from.They were commonly a tapered square spike,socket-chisel-like.And long handled,like 4' to 8' or even 10'(they were slung like a rifle and trailed behind a guy tramping through the woods).

    It is,allegedly,represented in grave goods.That kinda-sorta goes along with the beekeeping ideas,as honey was a high status trade...But grave finds are a wild and confusing scene;i remember reading about these anvils among the grave goods of a female Norse burials...
    Fmont, Miller '72 and Square_peg like this.

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