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09.01.2020

Dane axe

The Dane axe is an early type of battle axe, primarily used during the transition between the European Viking Age and early Middle Ages. Other names for the weapon include English long axe, Danish axe, and hafted axe.

Construction

Most axes, both in period illustrations and extant artifact, that fall under the description of Danish axe possess type L or type M heads according to the Petersen axe typology. Both types consist of a wide, thin blade, with pronounced "horns" at both the toe and heel of the bit. Cutting surfaces vary, but is generally between 20 and 30 cm (8 and 12 in). Type L blades tend to be smaller, with the toe of the bit swept forward for superior shearing capability. Later type M blades are typically larger overall, with a more symmetrical toe and heel.

The blade itself was reasonably light and forged very thin, making it superb for cutting. The thickness of the body on top the edge is as thin as 2 mm. Many of these axes were constructed with a reinforced bit, typically of a higher carbon steel to facilitate a harder, sharper edge. Average weight of an axe this size is between 1 and 2 kg (2.2 and 4.4 lb). Proportionally, the long axe has more in common with a modern meat cleaver than a wood axe. This complex construction results in a lively and quick weapon with devastating cutting ability.

Based on period depictions, the haft of a longaxe for combat was usually between approx. 0.9 and 1.2 m (3.0 and 3.9 ft) long, although Dane axes used as status symbols might be as long as 1.5 to 1.7 m (5 to 5½ ft). Such axes might also feature inlaid silver and frequently do not have the flared steel edge of a weapon designed for war. Some surviving examples also feature a brass haft cap, often richly decorated, which presumably served to keep the head of the weapon secure on the haft, as well as protecting the end of the haft from the rigours of battle. Ash and oak are the most likely materials for the haft, as they have always been the primary materials used for polearms in Europe.

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