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The hatchet ( Old High German  bīhal , Old English bil , ' Hiebschwert '), anciently also beard , is the smaller, one-handed form of the ax . The cutting edge of the hatchet sometimes becomes wider when it is intended for specific tasks, e.g. B. as a hatchet in the carpentry trade or as an executioner's ax. Axes that are used as weapons can vary greatly in the width of the cutting edge depending on the age and cultural origin. The cutting edge can have almost no curvature if it is intended for precise woodwork (carpenter's ax).


This short-handled device is used both as a weapon and as a tool . The ax is used for striking and cutting. That is why house and head are always forged when it comes to quality tools. The hatchet is lighter and the handle about half as long as an ax and can therefore be used with one hand.

Axes as a tool

Compared to the ax, the range of application is limited to more precise and finer work due to the shorter handle, the lighter head and the resulting lower impact. So the hatchet z. B. used for wood production in smaller quantities, often due to the weight on the go, and for dressing medium-sized pieces of wood, but it is also used as a kitchen tool .

  1. In some versions, the sculptor's ax has a long, curved edge with a wide and straight cutting bevel, which makes it easier to sculpt wood. The handle is curved in order to achieve sufficient force in a small space with little effort and at the same time to be able to carry out controlled work with the hand close to the head of the ax.
  2. The carpenter's ax has a straight, long and thin cutting edge, which creates an even cutting surface. Thanks to the forged recess in the head of the hatchet, the hand can be held almost immediately behind the cutting edge, which increases stability and accuracy. The handle is straight. The flat and straight shape of the hatchet is ideal for working on dry wood and was therefore important for the carpentry trade .
  3. In the fire brigades of many countries, a fire brigade ax, in its function as a multi-purpose tool, is part of the personal protective equipment of every individual firefighter .
  4. Restored meadow ax
    The meadow hatchet was an important tool for the meadow farmer . It was used to create irrigation or drainage ditches in meadows. For this purpose, two lines in the intended width of the trench were cut into the meadow with the ax, cutting through the sward. The middle section was cut into turf and removed. It was also used to maintain the existing ditches or to drain rainwater from roads and roadsides. The stream was dammed with these pieces of sod to irrigate the meadows . Koehler also used the meadow hatchet to remove rectangular sods (pieces of wasen) from meadows to cover their kilns . Other names were also: grave ax, moat, hoopoe, double long-blade hoe . These were combination devices of the meadow ax. The material was lifted from the trench with the pick attached to the grave ax. At the end of the property, the grass was bevelled when it had grown into the furrow.
  5. The camping hatchet is a multifunctional tool for campers. It is a very small and light hatchet that has a hammer head with a flat face on the back. On the side of the leaflet there can be recesses for nails and bottle opening etc. The handle has a hole for a hanging loop at the end. Special variants can also have a flat screwdriver blade in the end of the handle, which can also be used for scraping or nipping. There are also modern recordings for bit inserts.
    Camping ax in front of the measuring grid for size information. It is probably a hatchet from a 1950s GDR production
  6. A cleaver (also cleaver ) is used in butchery for separating joints and chopping of bone. The cleaver usually has a cutting edge that is up to 30 cm long, mostly straight and has a convex cut . This makes it robust enough to break bones. In contrast to other axes, this version usually has a flat tang like a knife and is not set on. There are large, ambidextrous versions that were previously used in slaughterhouses.
  7. The hand ax is preferably used by carpenters and has a long, slightly curved blade about 20 cm long and a handle 40 to 45 cm long. The eye is rounded and has a steel heel part that is used as a hammer and is often roughened like a file. The German hand ax has a 15 cm long cutting edge and is strongly curved. The English hand ax has a 17 cm long cutting edge that is almost straight. Both are axes of the kind used in the cooperage trade .
  8. The claw ax is usually provided with two parallel, curved prongs on the back of the blade head, which make it possible to pull nails.
  9. A spout ax is a special shape of the ax head. The handle is not picked up by an "eye" in the so-called ax house, but by a spout. Cast socket axes were a key form of the Late Bronze Age urn field culture in Central Europe.
  10. The widest and heaviest tool ax is the broad ax . It is wielded with two hands and is used to cut logs to beams in carpentry . Hence it is also called a hardware ax.
    Hardware axes are basically available in three versions. The most common is the one-sided (right) sharpened ax for right-handers . The spout head is above the level of the blade, the mostly oval handle is flared to the right and is relatively short to make it easier to work along the wood without injuring your knuckles. The trunk to be worked lies on the carpenter's right , if he is not kneeling on it. In this working position, possible injury to the right leg is avoided.
    In the straight version, the ax is in the middle, is sharpened on both sides and can be used for a variety of jobs. A rarer form are hardware axes for left-handers . Basically comparable to right-handed axes, these are also beveled on one side, with the cut on the left and the handle on the left. The carpenter stands to the right of the beam and works with his left. In this bent position, working with both hands is extremely strenuous and can only be sustained for a short time.
    Due to the long cutting edge, flat surfaces can be created with hatchets and rough connections between pieces of wood can be worked out nicely. Up to three kilograms in weight is not uncommon, a normal hatchet has a maximum of approx. 800 g.
  11. The Daxgrai provides a non-in Southern Germany and the Alps, specialized form of an ax for limbing of conifers and for crushing the branches are (similar to a sickle or a chopping blade), wherein the blade is fixedly connected to the handle and the elongated cutter for knocking the branches of the tree or chopping branches on a chopping block is extended to the front opposite the handle.

Axes as a device in the penal system

The executioner's ax was used by executioners to carry out sentences.

Axes as a weapon

The little ax from the Hallstatt period was made of iron and about 20 cm long. It was probably used as a weapon of war in hand-to-hand combat and for throwing. The tomahawk , the hatchet of the Indians , or the Franziska of the Franks is very well known . A hatchet attached to a long pole was called a 'Danish ax' in the Viking Age, and much later, in a different form, was called a halberd ( Helle 'stem' or 'handle' and beard 'hatchet').


In addition to ceramics, the large flint axes are among the most important typochronological key forms of the Nordic Neolithic. The shapes are essentially differentiated by the shape of the ax body, the design of the neck and the type of cut. The devices are divided into pointed, thin and thick-naped devices, which are assigned to the various temporal stages of the Early to Middle Neolithic.

The thin-nosed flint axes represent one of the leading forms within the Nordic funnel cup culture (TBK). The device group has been extensively investigated over the past 50 years. With the help of a statistical analysis of almost 2000 devices from northern Schleswig-Holstein, new knowledge was gained. The focus of interest was the comparison of the length and thickness dimensions of differently processed devices. The investigations expand the knowledge of the daily use of the axes.


Blade of a copper flat ax from the End Neolithic or the Early Bronze Age from Hungary

In the different usage of archeology, axes have a shaft hole, hatchets have none. The classification is independent of material (stone, copper, bronze, iron), handling (one or two hands) and use. However, there are also small stone axes with a drilled handle eye.

This terminology has historically grown with the term battle ax and differs from the term used in craftsmanship: Here, hatchets are short-handled, one-handed axes (military: beard , etymologically the beard of the key, see also the heraldic technical term beard ), always with a lengthwise standing Leaf, while transverse blades are called adze or hoe . The Franziska , in archaeological terms a “battle ax”, is referred to as a “throwing ax” in today's nomenclature of edged weapons .

Stone ax

Stone Age Flint Ax ( TBK ); Length 31 cm

Stone axes have been known since the Mesolithic ( core and disc axes made of felled flint). Mesolithic cut axes from Ireland ( Ferriter's Cove ) and Scandinavia are also documented. A cut flat ax made of black hornblende slate was also found in the Mesolithic burial in Bad Dürrenberg .

Cut axes made of rock are typical of the Neolithic . Already in the oldest peasant culture of Central Europe, the Pottery was amphibolite as raw material for the then usual adze (also called " shoe lasts wedges " called) negotiated. Other materials used in the Neolithic are basalt , diabase , jadeite and dolerite . Such raw materials were sometimes traded over long distances, for example the western alpine jadeite, which reached as far as Great Britain (sweet-track jade) and Brittany. In some Neolithic cultures such as the funnel beaker culture and the spherical amphora culture , axes made of flint were slammed shut and then more or less completely ground. The jadeite splendid axes from the Neolithic Age that can be found across Europe come from Monte Viso and Monte Beigua . Stone axes were used until the late Bronze Age .

Copper and bronze axes

Medium rag ax (above) and spout ax (below) from the middle and late Bronze Age from the Wels City Museum (Upper Austria)

The first evidence so far obtained by smelting copper axes comes from the 6th millennium BC in today's Serbia ( Pločnik ). Their blades have already been cold forged and thus hardened on the surface .

Heel ax, location: Pösing, Cordonhaus Cham

Flat axes made of copper are v. a. known from the Michelsberg culture and the funnel beaker culture . They were made of pure copper or copper with natural impurities. For example, the ax of the Similaun mummy is made of almost pure copper. Later on it was alloyed with arsenic, antimony, lead and tin. The first hatchet shapes of the Bronze Age are the flat hatchet , followed by the ridge hatchet . Heel axes , rag axes and socket axes (mostly with an eyelet) followed from the Middle Bronze Age. Heel axes have a shoulder between the blade and the base of the shaft, which should prevent the wooden shaft from splitting due to the impact. They are therefore considered a further development of the marginal ridge ax. Grommet axes can be placed on straight or naturally curved handles (so-called knee wood). They run until the early Iron Age.

See also

  • Broad ax , carpenter's tool for cutting round wood to beams.
  • Adze , cross hatchet for woodworking, in which the adze sheet is worked across the handle.
  • Lifting hoe (Reuthaue), a heavy hoe for clearing trees and bushes, in which the leaf is shanked across the stem.
  • Bartenhauer , armourer who also makes beards (= medieval name for 'axes').
  • Ax / hatchet in heraldry: beard (see halberd ).

Web links

Wiktionary: Beil  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Beil  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Köhlertage ( Memento from September 15, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  2. Exhibition of historical products ( Memento from September 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  3. Günther Heine: The carpenter's and turner's tool . Schäfer, Hannover 1990, ISBN 3-88746-228-9 .
  4. ^ A b Gustav Klemm: Handbook of Germanic antiquity. Walther, Dresden 1836 ( read online in the Google book search).
  5. ^ Gerhard Seifert: Specialized dictionary of edged weapons. German ABC of European defensive weapons . Self-published, Haiger 1981, 46 pp.
  6. ^ Judith M. Grünberg: Mesolithic burials in Europe. A contribution to comparative gravesite. International Archeology, Volume 40, Rahden, Leidorf 2000
  7. Winiger, J .: A contribution to the history of the hatchet. In: Helvetia Archaeologica 45/48, 1981, pp. 161-188
  8. A.-M. Christensen, PM Holm, U. Schuessler and Jörg Petrasch: Indications of a major Neolithic trade route? An archaeometric geochemical and Sr, Pb isotope study on amphibolitic raw material from present day Europe. Applied Geochemistry 21/10, 2006, pp. 1635-1655
  9. Pierre Pétrequin, M. Errera, AM Pétrequin, P. Allard: The neolithic quarries of Mont Viso (Piedmont, Italy). Initial radiocarbon dates. European Journal of Archeology 9/1, 2006, pp. 7-30
  10. 7500 year old tools. ( Memento from October 5, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Message on n-tv , September 22, 2009 (accessed October 2, 2013)
  11. Angelika Franz: Archaeologists are puzzling over 7000 year old copper finds ( Memento from May 12, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) . In: Spiegel Online from December 27, 2010 (accessed October 2, 2013)