Axes such as the bearded axe of the dark ages are designed to maximize the size of the wound caused by the strike without greatly adding to the weight. This is done by extending the thinner blade bit and edge while not adding to the thicker part of the head near the haft. This creates an axe that bites both widely and deeply with a mix of cleaving and concussive force, whilst remaining relatively lightweight. Enough mass and heft to do the damage, but not so much as to greatly imbalance the weapon.
The war axe of the Viking age came in a wide variety of axe heads and shaft lengths – all of the deadly. One of the iconic types is the bearded axe and some insight shows why it was popular. In skilled hands the beard of the axe can be used like a hook for a variety of purposes. It could be used to catch a shield-edge and to pull it away, or to snag a mans leg or neck and pull him to the ground. Longer-handled axes could be used to hook onto a palisade wall, and a warrior could hoist himself up and over a fortification. It is a surprisingly quick and sophisticated weapon when in the grip of a cunning hand.
Axes with a haft length such of this example could be a backup weapon hidden in the left hand behind a shield, ready to be quickly shipped to the right hand for a surprise strike against a foe who may wrongly think him disarmed in the midst of the fight. In a pinch it could be thrown as seen in one of the Icelandic Sagas, the Harr saga og Hmverja. Depicted there is a combat whereby one axe-armed warrior was pierced through with a spear and unable to close the distance for a strike. In desperation, he vengefully hurled his axe at the spearman, killing him before succumbing to his own spear wound.
This bearded axe was crafted from the Czech Republic with an axe head of high carbon steel. The edge of the axe is thick and blunt. The head is left rough-finished for a forged appearance. The shaft is of wood and the head has been fixed into place with a steel wedge pounded into the top of the shaft.