The history of the axe dates back thousands of years. The axe is one of the oldest hand tools used by man. Its uses vary from shaping, or splitting wood to harvesting timber, weapons, ceremonial purposes and status symbols. The first axes were made from stone in the Neolithic Period or around 9500 BC. These stone artifacts have been found all over the world. Stones were shaped into a wedge by grinding against another larger stone called a grinding stone. Primitive man would mix sand with water and grind against the grinding stone to further sharpen the edge of the axe. These primitive axes were used to cut or carve wood into useful objects such as bowls or spears.
Around 6000 BC a handle was added to the stone head by strapping a piece of wood to the stone using a vine or fiber from a tree or bush. This provided additional leverage and made chopping much faster and allowed land to be cleared and used for cultivation. As technology developed, axes were made from metals such as copper, bronze, iron and eventually steel. An eye added to the axe head to insert the handle made the tool more sturdy and dependable.
Worldwide, the specific pattern or shape of the axe varied based on the geographic location of the axe maker and the intended use of the tool. Shapes could range from wide with a thick blade to very narrow and a thin blade. It was also found that both tool ends could be used -so developed the poll or pounding end of the axe or some added another blade on the opposite end making the double bit axe.
In the United States around 1900 there were over 400 recognized styles or patterns of axes. Most of the names associated with axes developed because of geography. Thus the Michigan or Dayton axe started in a local region. Around 1920, an early trade association of axe manufacturers developed a standard chart of axe patterns and reduced the number of patterns to less than 30.
It has been said that you can tell what part of the country a man is from by the way he swings an axe. Certainly you can see preferences of axe patterns and handles based on the geographic location of the user.
Although today many people rely heavily on power tools, there are many who would not trade a good axe for all the chainsaws in the world. After all, an axe needs no gas and if taken care of will be passed on for generations to come.