Knives the Vikings Used: The Seax

0
1586
Viking knives
The straight-line cutting edge of the Condor Tool & Knife Norse Dragon Seax tackles a variety of tasks easily. Country of origin: El Salvador. (Marty Stanfield photo)

Deeply rooted in Scandinavian history, the seax, aka “scramasax” or “sax,” was the blade shape of choice for the much feared and revered Vikings.

Typically the Norsemen were associated with their famous axes, but, truth be known, they also carried a knife that saw more general use.

Here’s a rundown of those knives, as well as some modern reinterpretations of the design.

An EDC for the Vikings

The Scandinavians usually lived in villages, farmed the land and raised animals. In such an agrarian society, they also needed tools to help them work the land and harvest the fruits of their labor. This is also where a knife came into play.

“Their personal knife was called the seax and it never left their side because it was their version of an EDC,” begins Ernest Emerson of Emerson Knives, Inc. “The knife was tasked with a myriad of chores, from skinning a freshly taken deer to cutting up the turnips they grubbed out of the ground with the same knife.”

Seax blade shapes
The folding Emerson Knives Seax puts a modern twist on this age-old blade design. (Image via Emerson Knives)

Emerson says the seax also could be employed as a self-defense weapon if needed. It was truly a blade for all seasons: Harvest produce in the morning, fend off the enemy after lunch, and then prepare supper in the evening—all with the same blade!

Seax Designs

All joking aside, the seax was a handy blade.

“It is a bowie-style blade, a spear-point type of blade, a Loveless drop-point hunter style of blade, and, of course, the well-known ‘broken-back’ style featuring a severe clip close to the front, finishing in a point well below the center line,” Emerson interjects.

He says the broken-back-seax style is the most common and appears in TV shows and movies depicting Vikings.

Broken Back Seax
The Broken Back Seax by Aidan Garrity of Iron Lion Blades features a 10-inch damascus blade of 1095 carbon and 15N20 nickel alloy steels, and wrought iron. The handle is maple and the bolster is moose antler. Overall length: 18 inches. (SharpByCoop image)

Blade lengths varied wildly from 7 inches on the short end and topping out at 30 inches, the latter Emerson calls a short sword, basically.

“The seax needed to be an all-round utility tool that could chop, cut, slice and sometimes stab, all with equal ease of application,” he illustrates. “A Viking’s livelihood depended on self-sufficiency, resourcefulness and the quality of his toolkit.”

Looks Aren’t Everything

What is a seax
The Cold Steel Damascus Long Sax features a 17.25-inch blade with an edge that curves up toward the tip. Handle: rosewood. Sheath: brown leather and embossed brass throat and chape, w/belt loop. Weight: 36.04 ounces. Overall length: 23.75 inches. Country of origin: China. MSRP: $635.99. (Cold Steel image)

At first glance the seax may not seem as exciting as a recurve blade, but looks are not always everything. The beauty of such a blade lies within its ability to tackle cutting chores.

The straight-line cutting edge tackles a variety of tasks easily, and the point of the blade is both precise and powerful, with the ability to score as well as penetrate.

A Cool Find for Knife Collectors and History Buffs

If you are attracted to unusual blade shapes away from the mainstream, the seax could be for you.

Keep Reading:


Download BLADE's Knife Guide Issue!NEXT STEP: Download Your Free KNIFE GUIDE Issue of BLADE Magazine

BLADE’s annual Knife Guide Issue features the newest knives and sharpeners, plus knife and axe reviews, knife sheaths, kit knives and a Knife Industry Directory. Get your FREE digital PDF instant download of the annual Knife Guide. No, really! Click Here to Get Your Free Issue