Monday, May 7, 2012

Axe Talk - Helve

Now, let’s look at those Finnish axes in more detail.

Finnish Axe Helves:
I would like to start with the helve because in my opinion, this makes the biggest difference on Finnish axe. from others. Also as I have mentioned on previous post that wrong helve makes the Finnish axe a wrong axe.

Avobe are the photos of Finnish type and Swedish type of helves. Generally, the shape on Finnish type are more straight from the axe head, but suddenly curves on the bottom. The Swedish types are more snaky all over.
Other difference I have notices was the thickness of the helve. I find the Finnish type of helve are generally thinner than Swedish type. It might be difficult to see it from the picture, but if you hold it, the difference is obvious. From the right side of photo, you can see that 80 cm Finnish helve (right most in photo) has about same thickness of 60 cm Swedish helve(2nd right in photo). same goes to Buillnäs N:o 300 v.s S.A.W small axe.

One more thing I would like to add; it is about the material used. I never have seen the Finnish axe with hickory handle. If I go to shop and look for a replacement helve for Finnish axe, all of them are made from birch. On the other hand, the Swedish axes are fitted with hickory. Well, hickory is not a common tree in Finland so this make sence.

Balance of Finnish Axes:
If I understood correctly, on most of axes, there are 2 different balance and are usually located on same location as can see on the picture below.

Balance of an American axe. Balance point is right under the neck of helve.
Two things to notice here.
1: balance point is one, located right under the neck and balancing both helve lengthwise and blade lengthwise.
2: So, when hold the axe from the bottom of the helve, the head easily sits horizontally.
This is same on Swedish type axes.

Now let’s look at the Finnish axes…


Billnäs N:o300 with original helve and Kellokoski 12.2 fitted with correct Finnish axe helve.
Notice that both are balancing exactly the same way, but differently from American or Swedish axes. The helve length wise balance is right under the neck like American type, but not balancing blade lengthwise. The edge side of the head is heavier so it points down.  But pay attention to the shot of me holing it from bottom of helve. It balances horizontally. I am not holding those firmly, but more like 3 finger grip.  This balance comes from extra curvature on the end of the Finnish style helve. To confirm this theory, I have tested with the Billnäs N:o1123, which has the Swedish type helve.

As you can see from the picture, no position makes the axe head balanced horizontally. there fore the Swedish style helves are not suited for using on Finnish Axes.

I must admit that I only have very limited amount of samples on my hand to test to draw such conclusion. But so far, this has shown clear indication of difference, that might be good idea to take in consideration when replacing the Finnish axe helve.

To be continued to the next post "Axe Talk - Axe Head"


  1. This is very good post. I really like, as I like axe too :) Cant wait part 2

    1. Thank you! I love these Finnish axes and just want to know more and more about it.

  2. Anonymous8/5/12 09:25

    Very interesting, OZme! I have always thought that Finnish axe heads and handles have an interesting design. From what you say, it does seem that the unique handle design helps to keep the head balanced.

    Keep these axe posts coming!! :)


  3. Thak you. So far what I see / experienced tells me that is the case. I will talk about this balance bit more later, but this way of balancing kind of make sece to me more than the Swedish type axes.

  4. They tried to start importing helves made from hickory etc but atleast 90% percent of the users hated those, as they didnt last that long at all, in lumberjacks work, for 13 hour a day, six days a week, 12 months in a year. Only birch has been "approved as good" shaft/handle/helve material, traditionally.

    I have one drawing to you, youll get it during this week in your email,its about finnish axes,and i think youll find it useful ;)

    1. Than you for the interesting story. I wonder why it did not last... Hickory is suppose to be stronger wood, but then wood also, in some sense, act like metal. under cold, it gets harder and brittle...

      I like using birch because nicer feeling on hand than hickory and is lighter.

      and thanks for the drawing, will looking forward.