News from Stark Raven Studios: Dan and Saga's blog about blacksmithing, art, and daily life and  work on their tiny Wisconsin Northwoods homestead.

Santa's Beard

by Dan Roesinger

All in the family: (l to r) bearded axes with 27" & 19" handles, early viking belt axe, tomahawk, Scandinavian carving hatchet.


I wrote recently about a pair of tongs I'd made for handling the stock I use for some of my axes. Here's one of the axes I make with that stock: the bearded axe.

Click image for product information

Click image for product information

This axe as I make it now has a 2 lb head about 7" long with a 5" cutting edge. It is mounted on a 19" handle in the pictures here. It could be mounted on a handle of any length, really. My own bearded axe (the shiny one in the pics here), an earlier version of this model, is on a 27" handle and weighs less, just under 1-1/2 lbs. It's my favorite axe for limbing. Its keen edge means usually one stroke will remove limbs a bit over an inch diameter, in fairly well seasoned maple. The two-pound axe that is now my standard for this design will do a little better.

Light bearded axe

I like the look of the original design as much as that of the current version, and it performs nearly as well. The lighter weight does allow for an easier and faster swing, so it still does a lot of work, more than I'd have expected. 

But the extra weight of the bearded axe as I've developed it since does give it more power. More important, it has a deeper eye, making for a much more firm attachment to the handle. I did struggle a bit with getting the first, lighter bearded axe set really well so that it doesn't loosen in use. I could certainly still market the light bearded axe, but the price would be very similar, so I suspect most folks would opt for the new 2 lb version anyway.

Now that the holiday season is looming (somehow it doesn't seem like a thing that should loom, does it?) I have a couple more of these bearded axes to make, one with a slightly modified bit for splitting; this means a thicker cross-section in the center of the cutting edge than at the top and bottom. Kind of like this () if that makes any sense.

So I'll be doing my part to keep Santa busy, though I do have room in my schedule to be able to complete a few more new orders in time for his big day. Somehow, I never thought of elves working in forges (other than in Tolkein's books), nor have I ever thought of myself as being in any way elfin. But if the shoe fits....

VIdeo: cutting performance