1893 Grand Exhibition. The world's intro to PBR, hot dogs, ice cream cones and the Ferris Wheel.

1893 Grand Exhibition. The world's intro to PBR, hot dogs, ice cream cones and the Ferris Wheel.
A view through the wheel. The black, horizontal line is the axle, the single largest forging to that time.
"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Stupid Flanges!

Those damned flanges.
You'll recall; last time I mentioned that Dr. Konrad Spindler described the sides of Otzi's axe as having been worked into "three facets"...
Pictured above is how I interpreted that.
No, the vise is only for the photo-op. That's not how the flanges were raised. I did that by tap-tap-tapping with a light hammer while moving the piece about on the horn of the anvil until I got the amount of overhang I thought sufficient.
I think that's maybe what the old boy was after.
Otzi is interesting because he met his untimely end at an odd point in history. Copper had been exploited and worked with extreme sophistication for some time prior but a pure copper axe bit would be too soft to be useful - except in the land of the warm-butter-trees.
However, Otzi's chunk of copper was worked by people who seemed to know what they were doing so apparently they'd been making these taffy axes for some time. By then they must have worked most of the bugs out. 
My wild-ass conjecture (WAC) vis-a-vis the origin of those - oh so useful - flanges is that they may have just been a happy accident.
Pictured above: A "flat copper axe" from the "early bronze-age".
Hey, that's where Otzi was located (roughly) on the time line.
WAC to the rescue: The above axe would not only shift around in its bindings and then ultimately work loose, it would also suffer some bending action, if it were to be used with alacrity.
These guys had to have been clued-up by now that copper gets harder the more you pound it which can make the hardness and therefore usefulness of the metal (At the edge - For instance) actually functional in everyday life, not just in the toast-infested, soft-butter forests.
The limb I've chosen to go out on - and no, you can't come along - is this:
An effort to stiffen the neck of the axe by hammering it from the sides would have, not only necked-down the profile, it would have raised-up flanges as well - inadvertently.
Which - it seems reasonable to assume - were found to go a good distance toward keeping the bit of the axe from wandering about in its hafting. Or they beat the sides down just to raise these handy flanges and, hey - presto - the whole blade is stiffer. It's a chicken/egg thing.
Okay, our Bro Otzi, we can see was no caveman - and probably carried the shit that was the state-of-the-art five-thousand years ago. It's just that his period, the Chalcolithic  - which means: Kinda like bronze-age but still in the stone-age.
Most of Otzi's stuff - in the tool department - was stone - or bone. The only exception was the axe. Anyway, points to ponder.
Moving on; Otzi's particular "stone-metal-age" didn't last long. Someone soon found out that you can mix different metals into the copper and make it... different.
Bronze, Otzi's metal, with just the addition of a tiny bit of tin or zinc, would not only pour and cast much more readily, it would do so at a (slightly) lower temperature and, when all is said and done, be harder than pure copper. And it could be work-hardened further to boot.
So once folks caught on to the idea that certain other metals can improve the whole operation, copper axes were a thing of the past and the idea of pounding on the metal of your axehead to change its shape??
Totally chalcolithic.
But check out the brandy-new (comparatively) bronze axeheads that followed.
See them - picture above? Flanges. Cast-in-place flanges. You don't leave an idea behind that works.
This latest photo is of a middle-bronze-age axe from England.
In time, it's about as close to Otzi as - we are to Charlemagne nowadays so lotsa' know-how had accumulated by that time.
The hafting flanges get more and more elaborate as time goes on. You'll notice there's a stop that's been cast in the area between to prevent splitting the haft if it's driven down too far.
This thing is a piece of work. You can see it was obsessively put together regarding the working of the head back into the handle.
We've still got our flanges and they join together to form a little stirrup for the forked bits of the handle to lodge securely WITHOUT RUNNING THE RISK OF SPLITTING OUT THE FORK!
Was I shouting? I hadn't realized.
They had the impact thing pretty well wired but retention went south - or west... It would have depended on whichever way you were facing when your high-dollar axehead took off into the brush.
It would have/must have happened because of the sad development that accompanied it.
 
Pictured next: the same axe as before but with the embarrassing truth revealed. Here's my question:   Otzi didn't invent his axe. It was a product of centuries of experimentation - as was every axe that's come along since.  So, if this concept has been so thoroughly tweaked during the fifteen centuries or so between Otzi's axe and this one, why do we find a sophisticated axe - "state of the art" you could say - the latest thing...  and it's got that little loop cast into it? So you can tether it like a dog??
Okay, here's where I sputter incoherently:
"Flying off the handle". Clear to everyone - and apparently clear to our predecessors as well. Otzi must have been worried that the precious, copper raison d'etre of his axe could just fly away, anytime, on some random backswing. A real worry. So why, fifteen-hundred years later, when the bronze age is winding down, do they come up with this sorry-ass fix when the problem is something else altogether.
Have you noticed that, up to now, all the axes we've looked at had a straight head and and depended on a right-angle limb-trunk connection?
Wiki provides no date for the above but it was excavated in Scotland and I'm assuming that it and Otzi are roughly concurrent wouldn't be too great a stretch.
So, why do they keep hamstringing themselves with this need to find something so fiddly when you could just put a hole through the head - of the axe of course.
That's why we won't be revisiting Otzi's axe for a time as I've got to look around in the woods for the perfect piece of vine maple or dogwood or something else stout - anything with the all-important, ninety-degree bend but we shall reconvene.


1 comment:

Kevin said...

So, any luck in the woods yet?

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