Traditional Nordic Knives
Most Finnish axes have a distinctive collar or sleeve. Extended collars on axe-heads became common in Western-European utility axes during the Middle-Ages. The collar was developed to aid in the shafting of the axe and to add durability as it increases the area of the shafted portion. East-European or Russian axes developed a “beard” to function in a similar way as a collar. The beard is an extended tip that grows out from the bottom part of the axe head, just at the eye and makes for more durable shafting. The Karelian type axe has two beards. These “beards” are two similar extensions in the front and the back half of the axe head and this axe type is a middle form of the full collars European utility axe and the Russian axe. Several different styles and versions of axes suited for local needs were developed by local smiths and forges. These broad axes with long collars arereferred to as Bila (Swedish) or Piilu (Finnish).
Collar-axes remained popular in Finland because there was a high demand on durability due to the versatility of axe usage. Most people in Finland could not afford to own a lot of axes, let alone carry all these axes with them to the field. One axe had to fit the bill and the axe was used for all things possible. The long collar made the axe more durable, and the handle fitted snugly inside the long collar. The wide edges of the Bila styled axes were preferred as this made it easier to carve logs for houses and they also proved efficient when cleaning branches of logs.
The overall size of axes remained fairly small until the 19th century due to the fact that iron was a valuable commodity and a good axe could be handed down from father to son. Traditionally iron was manufactured from iron ore found in the bottom of Finnish lakes and marshes. As industrially produced steel became available, this gradually increased the size of the axes.
As mentioned earlier the collared axes were tremendously well developed for heavy use in the Finnish forests. The axe was a virtual all-functional tool for the Finns, much like a “Swiss-army knife”. The axe could be used for a number of different things and was always carried along. The importance of the tool is evident in the way they were stored in the old days. The axes were kept in a rack above the main door so it would be readily available when venturing out. There is also another possible, superstitious reason, for keeping axes above the entrance to the cottages. Finns believed in all kinds of different supernatural forces such as ghosts, guardian spirits (haltia), trolls and such that could be dangerous if they were allowed to enter in to the houses. Sharp steel objects such as knives and axes were magically potent to deter unwanted spirit-beings from entering a home and hanging axes above the doors would be an effective way to keep them away.
Among old axes found today a version of the Bila, the Billnäs model number 12:1-3 outnumbers all others and was the most popular of all the models manufactured due to its versatility in felling trees. This type, called the Kemi or Hult ́s type, was also manufactured by Kellokoski-Mariefors, and labeled with the same model number 12. Kellokoski-Mariefors also had another, very similar axe, the Finspong, originally from Sweden. The Finspong is very similar to the Kemi type, but it has a wider edge. Curiously, the name Finspong is said to derive from Finns who were the first to settle the area. Finland was part of Sweden for some 700 years until 1809 and Finns, especially the Savo, migrated to the uninhabited parts of Northern Finland and worked their way down through Sweden and pioneered the establishment of new settlements.
The Finnish migrations were fueled by the constant need for new agricultural lands. A family would settle in a wilderness, burn and slash down some forest and plant rye and turnips among the ashes for a few years. Additional food was provided through animal husbandry. Hunting, fishing and gathering were also important. This type of livelihood could only be maintained for a few years before locally available resources were spent and the household had to move. The Finns reached Sweden by the 17th century. The Swedes were worried that the Finns would burn down all the valuable timber needed for the ironworks and shipyards so they sent some of them away to Swedish colonies in Delaware in America to slash and burn in the woods inhabited by Indians. The Finns probably fit well in with the Native Americans as their most valued possessions in addition to the rye and turnips and the odd cow and dog was the knife, the axe, the bow and the spear.
Finnish Forest Axe
The Finnish Forest Axe is the only axe you may ever need and own. You can fell trees, hew logs, hammer in wooden dowels into logs when building a log cabin and also use as a carving axe.
This axe is hand forged from one piece of tool steel . Has the traditional taper eye and is heat treated for hardness and the proper temper.
Axes and hatchets are hand-forged and heat-treated out of 4140 or O1 Tool Steel.
4140 cold finished annealed is a chromium-molybdenun alloy steel that can be oil hardened to relatively high hardenability. The chromium content provides good hardness penetration & the molybdenum imparts uniformity of hardness and high strength.
O1 Tool Steel is the original oil-hardening, “non-shrinking” tool steel that can be hardened to the Rockwell C 65 range from a low austenitizing temperature. O1 is a general-purpose tool steel that is typically used in applications where alloy steels cannot provide sufficient hardness, strength, and wear resistance
Weight: 3 lb.
Length: 23 inches
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