Much to my delight, the poll axe made by Josef Dawes of White Well Arms arrived today. This is an interpretation of the Wallace Collection poll axe catalogued as A926 (you can find it via Wallace Live and searching for that catalogue number). He has done a superb job of reproducing the key features of the original, and adding his own stylistic touches. There are of course some key differences – he made the axe sharp initially, then blunted it for safety, which I believe has made for a better presentation of the thickness of both the blade and the spike. One thing that seems to happen with a lot of reproductions is that they make the overall blade width thicker in order to blunt the edge, rather than making the real thing and taking the edge back off.
At my request he omitted the engraved brass strip that runs up the back of the hammer head, as I felt it would probably get too dinged up in use, and the hand-guard was not added. Having had a good look at the original on several occasions, I do agree with the consensus that the hand guard was added at a much later date.
The overall weight is a little heavier than the original – 3.4 kg compared to 2.495 kg, and marginally shorter (176 cm vs 188.5 cm), however the weight remains within the range of other surviving examples, and I agree with Josef’s judgement that the weight difference is due to differences in the timber of the haft.
Certainly I could have sought to have an axe that was more explicitly identifiable as “English” rather than something known to be French, but the Wallace Collection is very nearby, and I wanted to have something that I could refer directly to the original for.
I have yet to have a play with it, and do want to give it a coat of Renaissance Wax before I do so, so I hope to be able to follow up with some action photos and some comments on how it handles. My initial cautious wave around in the living room suggests that the balance is excellent, and it will be fairly straight forward to control.
(all photos by Josef Dawes)