Issue 11 T.O.C. – Gustave Rémon – “The Versatile Socket Axe”

This post is part of a blog series revealing the table of contents of upcoming Issue Eleven. As is our custom, we’ll be discussing one article per weekday in order to give you a taste of what is come. 

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Gustave Rémon – “The Versatile Socket Axe”

The axe is one of humankind’s most ancient tools. The form of this tool has not drifted far from its origins as a stone cutting head hafted onto a branch to gain mechanical advantage, but the design and materials have developed over the centuries. In medieval Europe, the axe evolved into a particularly versatile style capable of multiple operations with interchangeable handles – from felling and hewing to cutting joinery: the socket axe.

Author and carpenter Gustave Rémon has spent years experimenting with, and learning from, ancient axe designs. In his travels around the world with Charpentiers Sans Frontières (Carpenters Without Borders), he has dedicated himself to learning to do most every timber-framing operation with his medieval-pattern, double-bevel axe, affectionately dubbed his “Baby.” This axe can be used with a long handle for felling and quick hewing, then the handle can be swapped over for a shorter one for close-up final hewing and even rough-carving a spoon blank. 

Rémon takes us to the ancient oak forests of France, where the trees that were cut to fashion the original roof structure of Notre Dame grew tall and straight, and explains how highly prized a well-made axe with a steel cutting edge would have been those centuries ago. He describes design details and considerations to be weighed by medieval and modern blacksmiths, and shows how such a tool can still be of great value today.

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