Axes and hatchets have been used for generations. They are synonymous with everyday activities, such as cutting wood and hunting. If you happen to find one laying around, it could be worth a lot of money. Therefore, it is worth doing some investigating to figure out when it was made and what brand manufactured it.
If you want to correctly date an axe head, find out who the manufacturer is and what year it was constructed. Typically the axe will have markings that are unique to the designer. You can compare these marks to digital catalogs and see if they match up. This will give clues to the age and value of the axe.
The history behind these tools is intriguing when you imagine how they were used and what the purpose was. Since most axes deteriorate over time, answering these questions can be somewhat challenging. However, I will attempt to provide a solution and show you how to date an axe head.
The Evolution of Axes Throughout History
Hunting and woodworking have certainly evolved over time. Ten thousand years ago, humans used sharp, pear-shaped rocks as tools. These tools were used for smaller tasks, like digging and skinning animals .
Over time, humans’ needs for tools changed. Hand-axes were created with wood handles attached to make carrying easier. These are often called hafted axes. Wood handles gave significantly more leverage and power to these weapons. The heads were wrapped to the handle with layers of strong leather.
How Axe Heads Are Made
The way an axe head is constructed is a key indicator of its age. Axe heads are typically formed by either forging or casting. Forging an axe involves heating the metal and hammering it until the desired shape, angle, and sharpness is achieved. Typically you will see hammer marks or an uneven texture on the axe head that indicates it was forged.
To cast an axe head, you pour hot, liquid metal into two sides of a mold. This mold is then held together, allowing the metal to join. Where the parts of metal come together, there is usually a visible seam. If the axe was well-made, this line may be somewhat obscured. However, you can also make this determination by turning the axe to the side and examining it.
Identifying an Axe Head Marking
Most axes are typically marked with the company’s etchings. On the cheek of the axe, or the smooth side of the axe’s head, is where you will find the brand’s emblem.
Identifying the etchings can help narrow down the manufacturer of the axe. Once you determine the manufacturer, you can start looking through digital catalogs. These catalogs list the labels or logos that were used by the company throughout its history, and what year(s) each were used. By matching the axe marks to the ones in these catalogs, you can identify when your axe was manufactured.
Using a catalog will also help to narrow down which axes could be a forgery or reproduction. These would ultimately render your axe valueless.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I clean an axe head?
Yes. Because axes are made of metal, it is important to use materials that are strong but don’t damage the metal. The most popular and effective way is to use electrolysis. Electrolysis uses an electrical current to break down rust without damaging the metal underneath. There are methods to do this on your own, but the safest way would be to invest in an electrolysis cleaning machine.
Another method would be to soak the axe head in white vinegar for 30 minutes, checking periodically to ensure integrity of the metal.
You can also use a bass brush to clean off small amounts of rust, but be careful. You wouldn’t want to damage any markings or cause extra scratches.