In the world of weapons and tools, there are many knives with a rich history. They come from different parts of the world. One such knife with ancient legends is the seax knife that comes from Northern Europe.
Also known as the sax or the Viking dagger, the seax was popular not only among the Vikings, Angles, Saxons, and German communities. Featuring a deep Scandinavian history, the knife was the choice of much dreaded and distinguished Vikings.
The Vikings used them before the descent of Rome, which persisted up to the Middle Age. Ranging right from small models having blades of 3 to 4 inches to authentic swords featuring long blades measuring 27-28 inches, the profile of single-edged seax differed significantly. In this post, let’s explore it in more detail.
Introduction to the Seax Knife
The Scandinavians typically lived in hamlets, raised animals, and plowed the land. Living in such a farming community means they required tools for farming the land and harvesting the crops. Thus, they came up with a knife.
This was the personal knife and was termed the seax, which became popular across northern Europe between the 5th and 11th centuries. It was their model of Everyday Carry (EDC) knife due to which it was always with them while at work or home.
Interestingly, the knife was used for several tasks, ranging right from hunting to cutting roots (veggies). The seax was also used as a self-defense weapon. It was considered a versatile tool during all spells: Harvesting crops in the morning, putting off an adversary in the noon, and cooking dinner in the evening.
Thus, it was an all-round tool that cut, chopped, sliced, and even stabbed easily. After all, a Viking’s income was reliant on the possessed toolkit and resourcefulness. The Vikings also used an identical tool known as a Viking seax.
Origin of the Name
At present, a seax is also known as scramasax or scramaseax. The term ‘scrama’ in German means scratch or wound, while the term ‘sax’ means dagger.
It is also believed that the term ‘Saxons’ may have come from ‘seax’. The seax has is symbolically represented in the ceremonial emblem of Essex and Middlesex.
Of all the tribes that used the tool, the Anglo Saxons were the first ones to make a knife that is currently known as the seax. Thus, the term ‘seax’ may have come from ‘Saxons’.
Both the axes and seax knives were highly available as well as widely used weapons during the initial period of the Middle Age. The knives were kept at hand always, were lighter than an ax or a sword, and were more affordable. This explains why seax knives were so popular.
The longest seax knives belong to Norway originally, although they were then used across Europe. The golden period of these tools was witnessed during the Merovingian era before the Viking age.
Reasons Why Europeans Choose Seax Knives?
During close combat, chances are always high for a fighter to lose the sword or manipulate an ax smoothly for the moment. In such a situation, the warrior simply relies on the hidden knife attached to the waist. Unlike a sword of the Vikings, a seax could stab easily, even at short distances.
Thus, a small weapon like a seax served better than other weapons. Effective and economical to produce, the seax knives were also commonly seen amongst the poorer warriors.
Modern Day Seax Knives to Buy in 2020
Terava Skrama Bush Knife – Best modern seax knife
Terava Skrama is undoubtedly the best seax knife you can buy today. The Skrama is a versatile knife designed for heavy-duty tasks such as carving feather sticks, chopping firewood, and making campsite shelters. Its design is based on the broken-back seax design to offer better control and more dynamism.
Versatility comes from the more forgiving long and a bit curved edge than the short-edged ax. With such an edge, you need not cut very precisely. This is commendable, especially if you are out.
The blade is honed to two angles, one is the 5 cm area close to the grip with an angle of 25° for fine detailing and whittling. The remaining part has an angle of 34° that is ideal for heavy chopping. The flat rear area is ideal for batoning.
Even the handle’s rubber grip is unusually long and designed to give two grips, one close to the blade for fine carving and other close to the back end for heavy chopping.
- Great grip
- A bit tricky to sharpen
Unfortunately, we were not able to find it available in any online US retailers. But you can find it in this finish retailer store which ships worldwide.
SZCO Supplies 203341 Brass Studded Seax with Sheath
This is the knife to consider if you are looking to put yourself into genuine Vikings’ appearance by spending wisely. Offering value for your money, this knife itself reflects the medieval feel. At first glance, you may feel like grabbing it due to its authentic look and feel.
Made by SZCO Supplies, this medieval seax features a blade that 14+ inches long. You may need to sharpen it but it then works well to cut even wood although you may not rely on it for chopping it.
The blade is designed using stainless steel that is good in terms of performance but is not that easy to sharpen. The thickness is a bit over 1/8 of an inch.
The handle is made up of wood and has brass studs, brass pommel, and guard. You also get a sheath.
- Visually appealing
- Value for money
- Poor sheath quality
Condor Norse Dragon Fixed 7.03 in Blade Hickory Wood Handle
This is the seax to consider if you are looking for the classic broken-back style. The Condor Norse Dragon is not a show-off knife but a high-performance weapon facilitating valiant combat during the war. The credit goes to its versatile blade and light design.
The 7.03-inch long blade is made using 1075HC steel that contains high carbon content. This steel is resistant to wear although being less tough to make it easy to sharpen the edge. The handle is made up of hickory wood and has a picture of a colorful dragon. Well, this is not colored but is incised and burned.
The overall balance is ideal for both chopping and fine tasks. You also get a leather sheath.
- Great edge retention
- Value for money
- Small belt keeper
Poshland REG-HKJ 310 – Custom Handmade High Carbon Steel SEAX Knife
This one is the Vikings’ multipurpose seax that you can use for chopping trees, cutting foodstuffs, or killing an opponent in and adverse situation. This 14-inch long bowie-like seax features an Anglo-Saxon design and durable construction.
For most users, the biggest benefit of this knife is that it is not a hollow ground but an ax ground. This means you can easily split wood for camping in the wild. The blade is made using high carbon steel to ensure a great edge having acute cutting power.
The handle is made using rosewood and fits comfortably in hand despite the groove flanking the middle area. The leather sheath is also included and fits horizontally.
- Artistic look but highly functional
- Adequate weight
- Better balance than other seaxes
- Sheath not seax style
Types of Seax Knives
There are various types of seax knives, each differing in terms of blade point, design, and size. Thus, you will be able to find narrow, long, heavy, light, and short seax knives.
The most common or standard type is the seax with the broken-back style with a sharp tip close to the front. It features a transition between the blade’s point and the rear section, which is angled sharply. The point section covers around one-third to a three-fifth portion of the blade’s length.
These models are available in both long and small versions. The long ones have back and edge parallel to each other, while the short ones feature an expanding blade narrowing after the kink and towards the tip.
Originally, the broken-back style seaxes come from Ireland and the United Kingdom, with some from Germany belonging to the period between the 8th and 11th centuries.
Despite the varieties, it is easy to identify a seax from its standard look. Saxes had a typical blade with parallel edges, a broken rear close to the point, and a sharp tip. Usually, they had a bowie-style and a drop-point or a spear point blade.
Modern Day Seax Knives
Salient Features of Seax Knives
By knowing the main characteristics of a seax knife, it becomes easy to comprehend the resemblances between the blades. Seax knives feature a blade that can be 18-80 cm long and 1/4-3/8 thick, and a long handle. The blade is at times a bit convex and has a full-flat grind.
The edge is never fully straight; at least a slight curve is always there. At its hump, the blade is at its peak in terms of the width and then tapers in both directions.
You will not find any false edge just as in the case of a bowie. There is also no distal taper, ricasso, and no sharpening notch.
A few seaxes have a welded pattern due to which they look quite appealing. There is a tang but it remains usually hidden. However, it is rare to spot metallic fittings on the handle.
There are some intact handles of the original seaxes, which feature a hidden tang similar to the ancient swords as well as to the early bowie knives.
The other typical feature of seax handles is their length. They were very long. Typically, most handles are around 5″ long. However, that of the Aachen seax or the knife of Charlemagne is around 9″ long, which is enormous.
So, why a seax handle is so longer than the handle of other knives? This is perhaps because the knife originally was used as a chopper as well as a fighting tool.
In case of an additional 4-6 inches, gripping at the handle’s butt provides several more inches of chopping reach. This draws a line of difference between death and life if you use this tool on the battlefield.
By designing longer handles than usual, the users can get the same chopping reach as using a longer blade. For instance, a 2-inch handle and a 10-inch blade total to 12 inches and even a 6-inch handle, and a 6-inch blade makes 12 inches of good reach.
In ancient times, a sheath was made for a seax. What was fascinating was the way it was worn. The seax sheath was worn either at an angle with the edge or horizontally facing the body’s front side. Why so? As the blade is long, it would be irrational to put it by the side of the body.
Uses of Seax Knives
When you see a seax for the first time, it may not thrill you as a recurve blade. However, it is unwise to judge the overall knife from its looks. The splendor of this blade is in its diverse abilities for completing different jobs.
The straight cutting edge can perform a myriad of jobs easily, including penetrating and scoring, while using the robust and precise blade point.
It is the length of the seax knife that plays an important role in determining the best possible use. In the olden days, it was the length that helps in deciding whether to use it for fighting or cutting.
Two types of seax knives exist namely, short and long. The former ones gauge up to 35 cm, while the latter ones typically have a length of 40 to 75 cm. The short ones are meant for daily use, while those with longer lengths are for combats or chopping a variety of things including bushes just as a machete.
In its early days, the seax knife was primarily preferable for slashing because of its thicker rear side as well as heftier weight than other knives. This persuaded the Vikings to use it as a combat weapon.
A local blacksmith could make this knife rather crudely without compromising its purpose. In most cases, this strategy was used to design seaxes.
As the advantages of using it come from the weight, no fine craftsmanship was rendered to the blade. This facilitated the widespread use of these tools for both combat and EDC purposes.
Those in combat were longer than those seen across general uses. Still, both the types proved effective for either job due to the design attributes and expediency.
However, the Vikings preferred these weapons for fights for a variety of reasons apart from the blade’s weight. These reasons were small size, thicker rear than normal, sturdy feel, and fast to make without any significant craftsmanship.
As a result, the blade ensured an effective edge to act as a secondary weapon. This blade was also considered suitable for stabbing.
This is because it always was designed somewhat straight and massive that shrunk toward the end. Even the forging process was quite simple, which contributed to the increased popularity of this application.
Although on targets with chain mailed and heavily padded armor, the seax combat knife is less likely to make any noticeable damage such as cuts. However, the heavy knife’s blow with its steep weight would lead to broken bones and internal bleeding.
In the absence of the armor, the target would become susceptible to cut off limbs or lacerations. The other benefit of this combat blade was the ability to get concealed.
Considering the smaller size than a majority of other hand weapons, it was easy to conceal this knife behind its shield. This could easily surprise the adversary when in close range.
In general, several methods of applying or using the Viking sword and shield were applied to the seax knife and shield in an exact manner. The absence of the second sharp edge on a seax kept short edge attacks at bay.
A shorter blade itself meant attacks from a shorter range. It also meant easier concealment behind a shield than other knives for an unexpected, instant thrust from behind the shield.
For some, seax knives were a symbol of their social as well as financial status. So, some models were decorated well. They reflected themes such as ornaments and fauna. The most popular ones were discovered in Trondheim.
Almost each Viking would carry a version of the seax knife horizontally on the waist. This manner of holding or carrying it served as an easy way to access the weapon when in close combat range. At times, the Vikings used to even use it as a preferable weapon, thus, replacing their lethal one-handed swords.
A seax knife, in its early days, was an EDC tool. It was widely used as a general-purpose knife, utility knife, combat knife, and a hunting knife. The credit for this is attributed to the weight, typical broken rear area of the blade, and the long handle.
The original version of a long knife was widely used for different tasks, ranging right from cutting to camp work. It was also used for fighting when an ax or a sword could not do their job effectively.
The design and weight features of a seax knife contributed to the increased usage of the knife in close range combat. Further, even the convenience of ease of making it quickly made it a common weapon choice of most Viking fighters.
Apart from these practical uses, the seax knife is also known for its spectacular look. This is the reason why several knife enthusiasts prefer to buy it just for keeping in their knife collection.
So, is seax for you? Well, it depends on you! If you are a great fan of unconventional blade shapes and wish to try something different from the mainstream, the seax knife is worthy of your time and money. Modern-day seax knives like Skrama is the favorite of many bushcrafters.