I am currently involved with a very exciting woodworking project which I will post lots about in due course but there is a press embargo until March the 6th. For now I can tell you that I have been having fun experimenting with bronze tools.
I have used bronze tools a little in the past but only felled an odd tree which doesn’t give you much idea of how well they work. The folk who used these tools no doubt used them for many thousands of hours and really knew how to get the best out of them. It’s not possible to form much of a judgment as to how well they work without at least putting in a few hundred hours.
There are lots of potential variables to play with from edge angles and sharpening profiles to hafting techniques and angles and finally variables in the way they are used. I started out with some bronze pallstaves straight from the foundry, they come looking like this. Pallstaves can be mounted as adzes or axes and are the standard form through most of the second millennium BC before socketed axes came in. This was cast from an original and as you can see it is pretty blunt.
Here are some original pallstaves in a museum to show the variation.
The first stage in preparation of the blade is peening or hammering it out toward an edge, I didn’t photograph this stage but I did it with a small steel hammer, presumably in the bronze age it would have been done with nice smooth rounded river boulders. I was surprised how soft the bronze felt compared even to hot steel and did not think it boded well for a working tool. The bronze apparently work hardens a little with hammering but my rockwell files suggested it was still below 40 r which is incredibly soft for an edge tool. Anyway after peening I ground and polished the edge, now they would shave arm hair or slice paper easily.
Next I set about hafting them, First I researched on the web to find images of as many early axes as I could, I knew Oetzi’s axe well but found just a few more. Here they are
Here is an index for all blog posts on the Dover boat project
woodworking-marathon-continued-just 18 hours to go.