Juha Maasola: Kirves [The axe]

4 March 2010 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Kirves
[The axe]
Helsinki: Maahenki, 2009. 207 p., ill.
ISBN 978-952-5652-74-1
€ 44, hardback

This book by Juha Maasola, a forestry protection officer, provides an economic, cultural and social history of the axe from prehistoric times to the present day. The axe was the sole implement used for felling trees in Finland up until the turn of the 20th century. Most Finnish men still know how to chop their own wood for the sauna, while one axe model produced by Fiskars has won awards for outstanding product design. This impressively illustrated work also explains the techniques and history of forestry and logging. In the 1940s, wartime ‘woodcutting bees’ united the Finnish nation, with women picking up their axes and joining in. Buildings have traditionally been constructed from wood, and builders had to be handy with a hatchet. This skill gave carpenters their name in Finnish: kirvesmies – literally, ‘axeman’. A list of over 300 Finnish-language terms meaning ‘axe’, gleaned from the archives of the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland, is included. The book concludes with a look at portrayals of the use of axes in Finnish literature, film and art.

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