Rune-ax

Early-to-mid period Northern Europeans carved celebratory stones to commemorate important events.  We know about these stones as many of them have survived.  Other items, especially wood, were also carved, though to be fair I have not personally done research to establish whether these were celebratory as well.

I was asked to make a commemorative “manuscript” for someone with a persona that fits this tradition.  The occasion was getting an award called “the golden mantel” which is given for prowess and service with Thrown Weapons.  I decided to carve an ax.  Not a real ax, but a purely decorative one.

So, first the ax had to be carved. I used a true size 2 x 4, quite old so that it was very dry.  The major cuts were done with power tools.  First, the rough in for the wedge that will define the ax head:

 

Second, the rough shape is cut in:

 

Finally, the whole thing is carved.  Since it’s carved out of one piece, I used a sharp knife to define the edge between the ax head and the handle.  This does two things: 1, it makes it look like the two are separate parts; 2, it makes sure that stain from one does not get onto the other.

Once carved (main tools: a curved leatherworking blade, sharpened for whittling, a straight knife, and sandpaper) it was time to stain the wood and carve the runes.  I experimented with the cast-off pieces to make sure that indeed I wanted the order that way (i.e. stain then carve).  If I carved first, there was no guarantee that the stain would be darker inside the carved runes, and thus you wouldn’t be able to see the letters.  Although I had been concerned about being able to carve deeply enough so that the stain would be eliminated, I learned that I could easily put just a small enough amount of stain on that this was not an issue.

After experimenting with several stains, I chose a very light ash stain for the handle and a darker beech stain for the axhead.

The futharc chosen for the runes was an early-period one.  After consultation with Countess Svava, the futharc shown here was selected: http://www.omniglot.com/writing/oldenglish.htm#futhorc  This is Anglo-Saxon, which seemed most appropriate for this gentle.

I’ve worked with several futharcs and I’m always amazed at how many of our modern letters still resemble their old counterparts.  In particular, the S, M, B, R, T, N.  I don’t miss their “G” but I am a little sad we didn’t keep their “D”, as I found it easy to carve and it looks pretty too.

The words I chose (which were written in keeping with the runestone tradition) are simply this:

To our warrior Pandaulf do we, Edward and thyra, king and queen of the east, award the golden mantle. This is done to recognise his prowess with thrown weapons and his efforts in teaching this skill to others so that our lands may be well defended. March 9 AS 47

Pandaulf words

Here are pictures of the finished ax.  They should expand when you click on them:

 

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