Viking Axe

Image of Viking Warrior Viking Axe

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when asked about Viking weapons? The answer we often receive is the Viking Axe. The common belief is that the Viking axe is a massive weapon that only the muscular men could bring. But, in fact, Viking axe is a very balanced weapon that focuses on the speed, deadly attacks, and clever movements.

Design of Viking Axe Head

The common Viking axe was the single-edged axe. Any depiction of the double-edged axes, we believe, can be the fabrication of the modern distortion.

There were many sizes of the Viking axe heads. In the early Viking era, the cutting edge of the axe head ranged from 7 to 15cm in length while that of the later axe head became larger, around 22 to 45cm. The common shape of the cutting edge was crescent. The common material to create an axe head was the hardened steel.

Image of Viking Mamman Axe
Viking Mamman Axe

Many beautiful axe heads were unearthed. The Viking elaborately decorated the surface of the axe head with many patterns. Among them was the Mamman axe head. The head had splendid decorations with inlays of silver or even gold. People assumed that the patterns of the head axe were the Yggdrasil and the ancient creature – the Phoenix.

Some axes consisted of an axe head, a holder (joining the head and the haft), and the haft while some only consisted of axe head and the haft. The latter type of axe had the axe head made of a single piece of steel with the eye holding the head and the haft. The axe head might be either thin or not. The thin axe head was not for cutting wood, it was for splitting skull though.

Design of Viking Axe Haft (Handle)

Like other weapons, the cutting edge was not enough, there must be the holding part from which one could hold and control the weapon. The Viking axe got the haft. The common material for Viking axe haft was wood. One source pointed out that the length of the Viking haft was around 80cm. However, the axe maker could create the axe for certain intended use. This means that the Viking haft could be either long or short.

Image of Viking short-hafted axe Viking Axe
Viking short-hafted axe

The Viking axe with smaller head often had the shorter haft. Obviously, one could use the shorter axe with one hand while the longer one with both hands. There were cases that the axe head flew out of the axe haft. The solution to this, by the axe makers, was to taper the eye and haft so that it would be firmly fit on the haft and not fly out.

The axe with longer haft could deal a much more fatal blow to the enemies. Meanwhile, the axe with shorter haft could be hidden behind the shield or under the cloak to prepare for the surprise attacks.

Viking Use of Axe

Axe became the most familiar weapon and tool in each Viking household. Every Viking man obtained their own axe since their very childhood. They might use their axes to go hunting, go fishing, chopping wood, farming, and etc. In those Viking days, swords were something very luxurious and not everyone could afford a sword for battle. The primary choice of the poor Viking warriors was their axe.


Image of Viking axe Ragnar Lothbrok TV series Vikings
Ragnar with Viking axe in TV series “Vikings”



Many people may assume that the Viking axe was so heavy and huge that it could not rival the swords regarding the speed and maneuverability. In fact, a well-made axe could weigh only around 800g, lighter than many swords. The curved shape of the axe head could fatally hit the enemies. The curved shape also hooked the ankle of the enemies and throw him down to the ground. Or the neck could also be grabbed by the curved shape, which helped the axe-wielder to pull their foes into the direction that they did not wish. Another clever use of Viking axe was to climb the fort. Specifically, the warriors hooked the curved edge of the axe head into the wall of the fort. Thereby, they could easily climb into the fort without much help.

The sharp points of each Viking head could be the most deadly. The warriors often used those sharp points for stabbing or slashing attacks, for example, into the belly.