Boarding Axes From the Age of Sail  Hache d’abordage, Enterbijl, Entrebil, Änterbila,  Entrebile, Hachas de Abordaje
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Swedish Boarding Axes were heavily influenced by their Viking heritage and were generally considered as more weapon than tool, with their characteristics reflecting this. The Swedish navy was late in supplying cutlasses to ordinary sailors and in the early years of the fleet pikes and axes were their main weapons.

An axe with a leaf shaped blade was in use pre-1700 and continued in various forms throughout the following two centuries. It had an elongated upper part suitable for stabbing as well as cutting and early versions were not fitted with a spike, although later examples have incorporated them.

It was this leaf axe shape that appears to have been adapted to form the axe-pistol and in this form the leaf bladed axe served at least until the mid 19th century.

Perhaps the most recognisable Swedish axe is the model 1780 which succeeded its 1709 predecessor with only minor changes. It is a beautifully proportioned weapon with deeply flared blade, long slender spike and long langets balanced by the length of the shaft.

There are many variations of this model that include those with downward angled spikes, a heavier spike and examples are also known with a crescent shaped blade.

These good looks were lost in the new models that appeared after 1849, which favoured strength and durability at the expense of elegance.



Photographs on this page courtesy of the The National Maritime Museum, The Navy Museum, and the Army Museum, Sweden.

The boarding axe perhaps most recognisable as Swedish was produced from the early 1700s, the design of which can be seen in the drawing to the right.

The 1780 model that replaced it seems to have incorporated the main features with little change except for a longer spike and it is this model that has survived in relatively numerous examples today.

Leaf Bladed c.1700

Total Length: 31” (79 cm)

Blade - rear of head: 7.25”(18.5 cm)

Blade point to point: 11” (28 cm)

The older model was in use before 1700 but continued in several similar forms with a spike and with a flintlock pistol incorporated into the upper part of the shaft.

Leaf Blade with spike - Flottans Model

Total Length: 36.25” (92 cm)

Blade - point of spike: 6.75”(17 cm)

Blade point to point: 10” (25.5 cm)

This axe is of unknown date but most likely pre-1780. It is sometimes known as the Fleet (Flottans) model, and can function as a short pike as well as an axe. It is fitted with a short rear spike that appears to be hinged which may allow the spike to be folded. This may facilitate use in confined spaces or for example stabbing through boarding nets.

The axe-pistol was introduced in 1703 from an invention by Admiral Erich Sioblad and was produced in significant numbers in both short and a longer half-pike version over 5 feet in length. It continued in service throughout the 18th century and into the next. At least one example is known with a military conversion to the percussion cap firing system which would date it to post 1840.

Flottans Model

The 1780 model is recognised by the small axe head with deeply flared blade narrowing down sharply at the centre part of the axe. Because of this narrowness the metal of the eye socket extends down the shaft for added strength. To the rear a long and slender gently down curving spike is fitted. The spike is sometimes longer than the axe blade.

Long handles were the norm at around 36” (92 cm) often with a swelling at mid point on the wood and at the end. Langets were long, covering up to a third of the handle, mounted front and rear and often with the ends curved in around the shaft.

Flared blade 1780 model

Total Length: 35.5” (90 cm)

Blade to point: 10.25” (26 cm)

The 1780 model came in numerous variations with a thicker spike, shown to the left and a shorter more hooked spike as seen below.

This may be the earlier 1709 version as it most closely matches the drawing but it has not been verified as such.

After 1849 the situation is complicated by the introduction of more than one style of axe. It is not known which style was introduced first or whether they were produced concurrently or over a period of time as improvements. There is also a 1780 style axe fitted with a crescent shaped blade which has been included here but it is not known whether this was a variation in use before 1849 or made after that date.

 Further information is needed to clarify this group of axes.

Flared blade c.1849

Total Length: 29” (74 cm)

Blade to point: 8.25” (21 cm)

This model retains the flared blade but with a reduced curvature of the flare making it thicker at the socket end and the blade edge is also straighter. The spike is reduced in length.

Crescent Blade c.1849

Total Length - short handle : 33.5” (85 cm)       

Total Length - long handle   : 49.25” (125 cm)

Blade to point: 11” (28 cm)

This model is seen with both long and short handles. Note the crescent shaped blade that allows the blade edge to be deeply curved but still gives the strength of a full thickness join at the centre. The spike is similar in shape and size to the 1780 but now joins the head at the top.

Crescent Blade: c.1849 (?)

Total Length : 33.5” (85 cm)       

Blade to point: 11” (28 cm)

This axe combines the crescent blade into the classic 1780 shape but loses the strength advantage of that by still narrowing at the head. Whether this was a forerunner of the axe above or a later one or simply made by a different manufacturer is not known.

Total Length : 61” (155 cm)     Calibre: 16 mm

Total Length : 29” (73 cm)     Calibre: 14 mm