Selection of axes from Charlie Smith
Axes and shafts courtesy of Charlie Smith, Huntly.
As a former and still working sawmiller Charlie has gathered a collection of old wood working tools over his 65 plus years that he has worked in the wood business. Featured in this photograph are three axes, some in a fairly rusty condition but could be easily resurrected by an enthusiast.
The top two axes are by Plumb of America which had a factory in Philadelphia and manufactured a very large range of edge and hammer tools. The Plumb axes seem to have had a high reputation in this country and well respected by its users. This style of axe with the wedge shaped head was extensively used in the timber trade in Scotland right up until the 1960s for trimming the base of the tree and cutting the lay in into the trees prior to the hand cross cut saw being used to cut the tree down. The axe was of course used for removing (snedding) the branches from the tree once it was felled. The advent of the chain saw reduced the need for the heavy pre-felling axe work at the base of the tree and much lighter axes (1.5lb - 2.25 lb) from Sweden were then used mainly to cut off the branches only. In time as chainsaws became even lighter and more reliable the task of snedding was carried out by the saw and the axe consigned to the back of the shed.
The top axe is a marked with the name PLUMB within a stamped outline of a rectangle. The number 5 appears above (model type or weight in lbs) and below the box is stamped U-S-A.
The middle axe is in a more damaged state but the same word PLUMB within the rectangular box can just be made out. Above the box is a large number 4 but with a smaller number 5 on its right shoulder. It would appear to be about 4 lb in weight and also has the same 3 foot wooden shaft as the previous axe complete with fawn foot at the end. The significance of the small number 5 is not known – can anyone help?
The lower axe is stamped ELWELL and the number 4 is located just below the name. One assumes this is again a reference to the weight. The type of axe is often referred to as a broad axe and used for general purposes but this type and even broader bladed ones had a role in the rough squaring of a bulk of timber or creating a flat surface. This would be a rougher and less precise job as would be done with an adze but some might disagree. The Elwell factory, seemingly located at Wednesbury just north of Birmingham, for many years produced many types of bladed tools as well as hammer and metal handling tools for engineers, railway workers and blacksmiths.
The attached PDF shows the marks on the axes in detail.
We would welcome any accounts of types and sizes of axes used in Scotland from the early days. Accounts on the differences, likes and dislikes of the various patterns, axe shaft length and style, sharpening methods and how much of the blade shoulders were taken off or left on for different types of wood.
Has anyone ever use the American double bit axes? Please use the comments box below.
Picture added on 14 December 2011