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Valašska Shepherd's Axe

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by rjdankert, Feb 24, 2017.

  1. shappa


    Oct 15, 1998
    Beachlogger, no I haven't put a haft on it yet. I'd like to do it with curly maple. I just haven't found the right piece or the time.
    Yeah, I'll have to seat the head then carve the curve into the haft.
    It turned out pretty good for an experiment.
  2. rjdankert


    Mar 10, 2011
    AaronGP likes this.
  3. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    I had been looking not long ago for a good hiking point for my own little shepherd's axe project and the Lee Valley ones are the nicest I was able to find, by far.
    rjdankert likes this.
  4. 300Six


    Aug 29, 2013
    I'm always happy to see a plug for Lee Valley Tools. Leonard Lee (who passed away last year) was an Ottawa federal public servant that enjoyed old tools and collected thousands of them. He quit government in mid-life and initiated a mail order business and then opened a store to sell quality hand tools in 1978. The flagship Ottawa store outgrew it's surroundings a few times over and ultimately more stores opened throughout Canada. His son Robin now owns/operates the business. During a Provincial high school shop teachers tour of the huge Ottawa warehouse and mail order facilities, which I attended, 15 years ago someone asked Len if there was any prospect of his employees unionizing, to which he replied; they're welcome to do as they see fit but they know perfectly well that I'll fold the entire operation the following day. Len was a staunch believer in the merit system to encourage innovation and efficiency.
  5. daizee

    daizee KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 30, 2009
    Well, politics is a good way to kill a decent thread.
    Square_peg and rjdankert like this.
  6. 300Six


    Aug 29, 2013
    If this comment is in regards to Len Lee's philosophy about 'most pay for least work' (ultimate motive of any union) then also let it be known he was a real thorn in the side of Canada Post, Can Revenue Agency and City of Ottawa when it came to publicly embarrassing them about inefficiency and incompetence every chance he got. He refused to get involved in municipal, provincial or federal politics because he figured that was the surest way of accomplishing nothing.
    Miller '72 likes this.
  7. kvaughn

    kvaughn Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    What's this got to do with Eastern European shepherd/hiking axes?--KV
    rjdankert and Square_peg like this.
  8. 300Six


    Aug 29, 2013
    Lee Valley Tools sells metal tips specifically for hiking axes, and I'm always keen to promote local (in my case) Canucks that have 'done good'.
    Miller '72 likes this.
  9. Miller '72

    Miller '72

    Jul 25, 2017
    I didn't read politics into the 300six post, rather a proud and fine endorsement to what sounds like a friend to excellent tools and tool users.
  10. Agent_H


    Aug 21, 2013
    I missed that comment the first time through.

    rjdankert likes this.
  11. littleknife


    Nov 29, 2000
    These axes were used in a more or less continuos area with Hungary at its center, and until the end of WWI these areas were practically all part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire: today’s Hungary, Northern Serbia (Voivodina), parts of Croatia, Banat (Romania and Serbia), Transylvania (Romania), Slovakia, Southern Poland, Ruthenia & Zakarpatie (Ukraine).
    The term ‘valashka’ comes from ‘Valachia’ or ‘Walachia/Wallachia’, the medieval name of the region south of the Carpathian Mountains and north of the Danube River, the place of the first Romanian states. The name ‘valashka’ indicates that the shepherd’s axe in the predominantly Slavic regions was likely introduced by Romanian (Valachian) transhumance shepherds, who were moving with their livestock in the summer into the Carpathian Mountains and the areas around them.

    While the fokos remained in continuos use in Hungary until the very end of the 19th Century and it is still recognized as a quintessential Hungarian weapon/tool, the Hungarian herdsmen did not migrate with their livestock high into the mountains, that was done mostly by the Valachians (Romanians), and not only in Austro-Hungary but also (and originally) in the Balkans (today’s Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, Greece and Turkey).

    The first Romanian states were - in part - founded by Cumanian warrior elites who ruled over the local Romanian population and influenced their way of life too.


    The fokos was part of the weapons used by many medieval steppe horsemen warriors: Bulgars, Magyars (Hungarians) and also the Cumans, so the Romanians, who lived in all of the states founded by Bulgars, Magyars and Cumans, could have adopted the fokos during the long centuries of interacting with those steppe warriors, and in turn, it became associate with them to the extent that it was named after them in the mountainous Slavic lands they ventured eventually.
    rjdankert, FortyTwoBlades and Agent_H like this.
  12. littleknife


    Nov 29, 2000
    Kun (Cuman) style fokos - refers to the Kuns (Cumans) who settled down in Hungary:


    This style is suited for a walking stick use too.

    20th Century ‘concept’ of a medieval Hungarian warrior with a fokos:


    The fokos pictured by the artist is likely modeled after a 19th Century herdsmen’s fokos rather than medieval archeological finds.

    A more authentic reconstruction: the head shape is similar to those excavated, but the eye and thus the handle shape & size is modern, once again a 19th Century feature:


    The handle is too big, heavy and square to allow for a nimble weapon.

    An excavated fokos (likely more ceremonial than a hard-use battle weapon):


    Replica of an 18th Century ‘kuruc’ weapon. It combines the elements of the medieval fokos and the war hammers, also it might have some late Medieval Oriental (Ottoman and Indo-Persian?) influence:


    Similar style axe-hammer were also used by the 16-18th Century Polish warriors, besides the Ottoman and Tatar, there was likely a Hungarian influence too (like with the Polish Hussars, who were originally Hungarian mercenaries or refugees):


    Late 19th, early 20th Century style walking stick fokos with brass heads - these were/are accessories worn to symbolize a romanticized nationalism:




    Some modern products modeled after traditional shepherd/herdsman tools:



    The very pronounced downward curve of the toe makes these somewhat more suited for a walking stick use.
    rjdankert, Square_peg and Agent_H like this.
  13. kvaughn

    kvaughn Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    I'm fairly certain that one could communicate the high quality of a product without a detailed description of the opinion of the company owner on organized labor. Having worked both union and non-union jobs, I really don't have a hard opinion on it. I just came here to learn about shepherd axes, not the labor practices of Lee Valley tools. I would buy from them in light of the quality of their product and just that.--KV
  14. Square_peg

    Square_peg Basic Member Basic Member

    Feb 1, 2012
  15. Agent_H


    Aug 21, 2013
    Seeing an axe used in the transfer of power in modern day is grounding. Pride, strength, and rigor have to be part of earning that one. It’s probably something that another man would ask permission before picking up and maybe even then not “pawed”.

    It also has "rings" or something similar halfway down the spine as well like yours rjdankert.


    This seems like it was broadcast on the national news so can one assume those axes still play a part in the official recognition of honor and precedent?
    I mean,the guy giving orders does have an axe. ;)
  16. crbnSteeladdict


    Jul 31, 2017
    I believe the ciupaga is only used that way in Polish Mountain and Arctic warfare units. If you consider those soldiers have seen real blood in Iraq and Afghanistan, becoming a commanding officer of such regiment must be great privilege.
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2017
    Agent_H likes this.
  17. Agent_H


    Aug 21, 2013
    It may only manifest itself to us as casual/interested parties but the fact it remains a rite in the military gives precedent to a more widespread cultural ethos.

    The Polish Mountain and Arctic warfare troops’ usage predates the current conversation and understanding.

    What part of the varied nomenclature of the “tool” represents to present day something older than our internet searches?

    They are interesting and probably have cultural significance, quality in build differences, and physical/spiritual relevance as well.
    rjdankert likes this.
  18. crbnSteeladdict


    Jul 31, 2017
    It is very interesting, the ceremonial usage of shepard's axe in this case almost resemble function of bulava (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulawa)
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2017
  19. rjdankert


    Mar 10, 2011

    crbnSteeladdict and Agent_H like this.

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