Historical Perspective

The history of the axe dates back thousands of years. The axe is one of the oldest hand tools used by man. Its uses vary from shaping or splitting wood to harvesting timber and as weapons, ceremonial purposes and status symbols. The first axes were made from stone in the Neolithic Period or around 9500 BC. These stone artifacts have been found all over the world. Stones were shaped into a wedge by grinding against another larger stone called a grinding stone. Primitive man mixed sand with water and ground against the grinding stone to further sharpen the edge. These primitive axes were used to cut wood or carve useful objects such as bowls or spears.

Around 6000 BC a handle was added to the stone head by strapping a piece of wood to the stone using a vine or fiber from a tree or a bush. This provided additional leverage and made chopping much faster and allowed land to be cleared and used for cultivation. As technology developed, axes were made from metals such as copper, bronze, iron and eventually steel. An eye added to the axe head to insert the handle made the tool more sturdy and dependable.

Worldwide, the specific patter or shape of the axe varied based on the geographic location of the axe marker and the intended use of the tool. Shapes could range from wide with a thick blade to very narrow with a thin blade. It was also found that both tool ends could be used – so developed the poll or pounding end of the axe or some added another blade on the opposite end making the double bit axe.

In the United States around 1900 there were over 400 recognized styles or patterns of axes. Most of the names associated with axes developed because of geography. Thus the Michigan or Dayton axe started in a local region. Around 1920, an early trade association of axe manufacturers developed a standard chart of axe patterns and reduced the number of patterns to less than 30.