Traditional wood used for axe handle used in europe ?

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by Titaniumlord430, Jul 4, 2017.

  1. littleknife


    Nov 29, 2000
    Good suggestion, 300Six!
    European hornbeam/ White beam (Carpinus betulus) was indeed used historically as an axe handle wood.
  2. littleknife


    Nov 29, 2000
    Ivan, "дрян" is a European dogwood, Cornel Cherry (Cornus mas). Very hard and quite tough wood.
    ipt likes this.
  3. Titaniumlord430


    Jun 12, 2017
    Guys fighting about this helps no one , please stop
    littleknife likes this.
  4. littleknife


    Nov 29, 2000
    Titaniumlord430, sorry for hijacking your thread.

    I would like to add the following links, not to continue fighting with Kevin, but to show to you, that:
    - peasants in the North produced for markets, i.e. traded intensively;
    - Dutch were at one time the biggest timber traders and imported literally tons of timber to process it;
    - wind-powered sawmills (a Dutch invention) made lumber production cheaper than ever, and
    - in-country transport on the canals made local trade of timber and lumber easy as well.

    What all this means regarding your original question is, that hafting your Friesian pattern axe with woods other than those native to Friesland should still count as traditional.

    Anyway, that is my interpretation, and I am sticking to it. :D
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2017
    garry3 likes this.
  5. Square_peg

    Square_peg Basic Member Basic Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    It's well documented that in stone age cultures most tool production was done by a few highly skilled individuals in specific places. Archeologists commonly find these old tool factories. It's hard to conceive people in medieval Europe being 'on their own' in tool production rather than trading for tools as even those stone age cultures did. While it's true that anyone can make a clay forge (I lined my first forge with local clay) they still need the iron. Production of iron and iron tools took place close to the mines. Shipping raw ore wasn't cost effective.
    littleknife likes this.
  6. Kevin Houtzager

    Kevin Houtzager

    Jun 25, 2017
    Last edited: May 13, 2019
    littleknife likes this.
  7. littleknife


    Nov 29, 2000
    Kevin, you are likely right about that.

    I also don't suggest that Friesians or other Dutch people were a throw-away society.
    They were known to be frugal, but also inventive and business savvy. Meaning that if making a handle from a branch would have cost much more time and effort than making it from cheap traded lumber, I doubt they would have gone with the branch version.
    The branch had to be cut, dried, shaped, fitted, and there was still no guarantee it would have been as strong and long lasting as a handle made from lumber (and we don't have think about huge pieces of lumber here either, could have been ends, scraps etc.). What's the point of working on a branch if the handle breaks in a few days use.
    People might not have known the Latin name of the trees, but they had extensive knowledge of the properties and uses of different woods, both local and traded ones.
    They might not have used the best wood in existence, but they would have used the best among the most economical choices for sure.

    Also, the Netherlands - like other countries - experienced various economic fortunes over the last 500 years. After the Golden era of the 17th Century, the decline was not precipitous. Only in the period of cca 1880 to 1910 has the agricultural sector experienced such a drastic crisis that it prompted a mass emigration (mostly to the USA).
    Interestingly this is the same are when there was a mass emigration of farmers and peasants to the US from Scandinavian and Eastern-European countries too, and also coinciding with some serious famines in those places.
    I do believe that at that time Friesland was very likely VERY poor compared to other Dutch provinces. It could be that even after that they have never recovered.
    But what I caution is to extrapolate those conditions back to 200, 300 or 400 years and think that the situation and discrepancies were all the same at those times too.
  8. I'mSoSharp


    Mar 8, 2011
    Let's lighten it up a bit....:)

    Imagine if you will a Monty Python like scene, some few hundred years ago, a camera slowly pans in towards a small scruffy peasant country dwelling, a man aproches carrying a heavy load-

    Knock knock.......
    "Who's that?" A voice comes from inside as the door opens
    "Hello fine Sir", says the travelling salesman " I wonder if I can interest you in some wood?"
    "Wood.....wood....replies the peasant, why would I want to buy some wood?
    "Because this is a special wood Sir"
    "Did you notice that I live in the middle of a forest" replied the peasant
    "Well yes Sir, but...but this wood is special wood"
    "How's that then, I've plenty of firewood" said the peasant
    "It's Dickory Sir, anything but firewood"
    "Dckory, dickory, what's bleeping heck is dickory?"
    "It's exotic" said the travelling salesman
    "Exotic, exotic? What the heck is exotic?"
    "Well, its erm...sort's imported.....yes that's what it's imported & that's what makes it special" replied the salesman thinking the questioning was over
    "What's imported mean? Why do I need imported wood" asked the peasant who's beggining to loose patience
    "Imported means it's travelled a long way, so that at least three quarters of what Dickory costs is purely for the transportation cost alone, as I say a very special wood indeed Sir, the best wood in the kingdom & beyond, superior for hatchet handles"
    "But I have a handle on my hatchet" replied the peasant
    "Yes Sir but it isn't Dickory is it?
    " No, so what" replied the peasant in an agitated voice
    "You know how its such a bind having to replace the handle when it breaks every couple of years eating into your valuable time, messing up your schedule....well use Dickory & those days are over, Dickory, the handle garanteed not to break...never....never ever Sir" Said the salesman
    " Eating into my time... eating, eating, I wish.....I've a wife & sevens chidren inside...we haven't eaten since last Tuesday.... well unless you count grass that is...." replied the peasant
    "But sir, not only do you get an everlasting handle but when you've fashioned it using your broken hatchet head you can proudly write " Jenyouwine Dicoreie" on it in black script down the side, even both sides if you want"
    "Why on this flat earth would I want to do that" replied the peasant
    "Because all the other peasants will then know you are a man of taste who only settles for the best, no second best for you Sir, no only the best will do" said the salesman
    "But second best is fine for me.....third or forth as far as that goes, remember internet forums haven't been invented yet so it doesn't matter, now kindly go away in a very polite manner"
    "But Sir" said the salesman as the door was closing "Wood as fine as this doesn't grow on trees you know" a hurried voice as the door slamed shut "special offer this week I'll throw in a bag of dry leaves...... even some soil.............

    Last edited: Jul 8, 2017
  9. garry3


    Sep 11, 2012
    All white, second growth dickory?
    littleknife, quinton and I'mSoSharp like this.
  10. I'mSoSharp


    Mar 8, 2011
    And in mediaeval times it would appear just because there was no internet or even computers, life still had it's problems...?

    Sorry, very off topic...... :)
  11. Agent_H


    Aug 21, 2013
    Good stuff right there :thumbsup:

    "Converting the scrolls to book must have taken a long time" lol
    Kevin Houtzager and I'mSoSharp like this.
  12. Titaniumlord430


    Jun 12, 2017
    I think this very funny, thanks
  13. littleknife


    Nov 29, 2000
    Funny story I’mSoSharp!:thumbsup:

    It’s relevance is still questionable regarding what I have said above though.
    Time and locale do matter, and when you read something, you interpret it through the lenses of your own culture, traditions and familiarity with the matter it discusses.
    The family stories about how did Grandpa Jim survived during The Great Depression in Kansas, or what Great-Great Grandpa Coen lived through on his Friesian farm when all his neighbors sold their lands and emigrated to America 120 years ago, for sure influence how we think about things.

    They way we react to each other posts represents only what we actually take & make from other people’s posts, not necessarily what was said.
    In the discussion, it does matter how much attention one pays to what others have said. Nuances and contexts do count.

    For example if Kevin jumps onto the word “cherry” in the term Cornel cherry as if it were a true cherry and responds accordingly, that does not help much the discussion. If he states in one post that he found hornbeam wood to be brittle, then in a few posts later says that he never used the wood, so he would not comment about it, that puzzles you a bit. It was likely unintentional, due to lack of attention, but ‘cherry picking’ for sure gained a whole new notion in this thread.
    Makes me wonder how much did he misunderstood from the rest of my posts…
    Which may or may not explain why did he get too emotional, but not necessarily justifies it.

    If I mentioned peddlers in a post and then it is presented as if that is the main and sole type of ‘trade’ I talked repeatedly, then it is a misunderstanding at least, despite the truly funny way it is presented.
    Sure, peddlers would not have made a living by trying to sell billets or handles directly to peasants. :D
    But peasants could have acquired billets as leftovers from lumber they had traded for to build or make something. Or what their relatives or neighbors traded. The wind-powered sawmills would have provided cheaper lumber than that a peasant could have produced cutting down, splitting up & hewing, carving with hand tools its own oak tree, if he had one. If he hadn’t, first he would have had to buy the timber. Just because the trees were close to one’s garden, that did not mean one necessarily owned them too.:eek:

    So trading for some lumber would have been frugal and smart. Using branches are not the only way to be frugal. ;)

    Also, in the 19th and early 20th century (the likely age of the OP’s Friesian pattern axe), buying hafted axes or even buying replacement handles would not have been a luxury, given that that is already the age of big industries.
    Billets or handles were sold to smithies, factories. In the 19th century catalogs you have both hafted and unhafted axes shown.
    Which means that it is very likely the OP’s axe started out with a handle made of non-local wood. Very likely made of non-Dutch wood too.
    As for the OP’s axe being a Friesian pattern axe, that does not necessarily mean it was definitely made in Friesland (or for that matter in the Netherlands), so after that debating what is ’traditional’ in that regard quickly becomes an exercise in fantasy and imagination. ;)

    We all like good stories. We can learn a lot from them, even when they are “just” stories.
    We can comment, disagree, but at the end of the day, it won’t be much a fun place to visit, if we only want to reinforce our own views, and nothing else.

    By the way, Mr. Peasant, do you know that it is not really frugal to own that hatchet and knife you have right there, the ones you said you bought during the last country fare?
    You should be forging your own hatchet in your own clay forge from the scrap iron of the worn plough you have in the corner of that shed. For its handle you should take a branch and carve it with a really folksy friction folder you can make from another branch and the broken part of your scythe.
    It’s your lucky day, by the way, I have a great offer for you… I’ll take your ugly, soulless hatchet and knife and save you from the embarrassment you will face for sure when your neighbors find out you have actually spent money buying a hatchet and a knife?!? :eek:
    In return I’ll give you this special, super-strong and super folksy-looking tree branch I happen to have with me and am willing to trade…You know what, I’ll give you a special discount…I’ll throw in this super-smooth river rock, a great whetstone with a grand tradition harking back to the Great Stone Ages, the Archetype of All That’s Truly Frugal…Just think about all the money you will be saving…The pride of making all what you need…You will be a Role Model, Mr. Frugality himself…All your friends and neighbors will be green with envy…
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2017
  14. Square_peg

    Square_peg Basic Member Basic Member

    Feb 1, 2012

    I enjoyed your post up to the last 2 paragraphs.
    littleknife likes this.
  15. littleknife


    Nov 29, 2000
    Sorry, I have my bad days too. :(

    By the way, recycling scythe blades as friction folder blades was very common and documented practice for example in Hungary, up until the end of the 19th Century. Most commonly it was done by herdsmen (typically the shepherds). I don’t know if it was simply due to frugality, or because the steel in the scythes was of better quality than used in the relatively cheap alternative, the penny knife. Shepherds were among the best paid agricultural workers, so they could easily afford to buy penny knives. The typical peasants, most of whom did not own any land at the time and worked as share croppers after serfdom was abolished, were dirt-poor. And these dirt-poor peasants were usually buying penny knives.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2017
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  16. Peter Dragon

    Peter Dragon

    Feb 24, 2019
    Your previous statement was half true!! Honey Locust however, is an acacia!!!
  17. garry3


    Sep 11, 2012
    Is the black Locust not related?
    As a side note I had some very good honey last spring from a local producer that was heavy with black locust if the honey locust produces better I could see how it got it's name.
    Square_peg likes this.
  18. Ernest DuBois

    Ernest DuBois

    Mar 2, 2013
    Yes, it is not related. Black Locus is pseudo acacia, the one with the deep golden-brown heart wood and white sap wood. Honey Locus is Gledista or something, I think I'm close on that and somewhat resembles ash in color. In European parts the Honey Locus is known as a handeling material and it's better for that than Black Locus being not so stiff.
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2019

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