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Naval Boarding Axe - Relic Condition, 1775
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Naval Boarding Axe - Relic Condition, 1775

Measurements: Overall height: 37cm (14.5in)



Patinated steel and wood. Crescent shaped head with short pointed fluke, attached by langets, to the shattered haft. Relic condition.

The present boarding axe head conforms to documented types manufactured along the American eastern seaboard during the late 18th century. These tend to have a pronounced crescent shaped blades, and noticeably thin cross section quite unlike conventional axes.

The main uses of the naval boarding axe were damage control and that of a combat tool at the conclusion of a sea fight in the age of sail. The crescent shaped blade enabled the axe to easily slice through anti-boarder nets and lines, to cut through rigging or ropes holding gun ports open. The pointed fluke could be be used to drag spars clear, smash doors, windows and skulls and even pry out embedded hot shot. A boarding party invariably included a complement of axe carriers to support the main body of marines and sailors armed with musket and cutlass. Boarding axes like cutlasses were not issued to individuals but stored in racks near each gun they were also handy for defence against enemy boarders, being quickly available to the gun crews to cut grappling lines or defend themselves. Accordingly they were not generally preserved as mementos or taken as trophies. When the age of sail came to its close the boarding axe was found to be of little use; being too light for felling and too large for kindling. The handles were often shortened in an attempt to make them more useful but with limited success.