The New International Encyclopædia/Axe

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Edition of 1905.  See also Axe on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

AXE (Ger. Ax, Axt, Lat. ascia, Gk. ἀξίνη, axinē). An instrument used for felling trees and chopping wood. The axe is one of the earliest tools used by man, being found among the relics of the Stone, Bronze, and Iron ages. It was fashioned sometimes of syenite or black sandstone, as by the lake dwellers of Europe; of jade, as by ancient peoples of Asia and Asia Minor and by the modern Maoris; of flint or bone, as by the American Indians; of mixed copper and tin, as by the Romans, ancient Mexicans, and South Americans; of copper, as by the Druids. To this day stone axes are used in some of the South Sea Islands. The American axe, the best of modern make, usually consists of a head or butt of wrought iron, heated to a white heat, cut to the desired length, and then, after the eye for the handle is punched through, reheated and pressed between concave dies into proper shape. Again heated, it is grooved on the edge; with borax as a flux, the arched edge-piece of steel is inserted, projecting an inch or more; the iron and steel are then welded at white heat, and after it is hammered, ground to a fine edge, tempered and polished, the head is varnished to prevent rust. Forms and weights vary according to the use to which the tool is to be put. For very hard timber, the edge is narrow and the whole axe heavy. Common forest axes weigh from 3 to 7 pounds. The handle is generally made of hickory, which is not only strong, but elastic. The pickaxe, used for breaking up hard ground, is not an axe in any sense, but rather a hammer. The hatchet (Fr. hachette, a little axe) is for use with one hand only. The ‘francisca,’ at one time the national weapon of the Franks, was a hatchet for throwing, and the tomahawk (q.v.) of the North American Indians was, as is well known, used in a similar manner and in hand-to-hand combat. The adze, a tool used for the chipping or rough planing of horizontal surfaces by carpenters, has its blade at right angles to the handle, and so curved that the plane of the cutting edge, as the instrument is swung into contact, is horizontal. Broad axes, formerly much used for hewing logs into square timbers, are axes with very broad blades, and the cutting edge much less curved than the edge of the regular axe for chopping.