How to Select a Vintage Axe

How To Select A Vintage Axe For Use

Vintage axes can be found in many places: at antique shops, at barn sales, in your grandfather’s garage, and on the internet. Collectors look for axes with unique or historic markings, ones from particular manufacturers or regions, or those of a certain style. While having a value to collectors in many instances these axes cannot be (or are too valuable to) put back into service.

The axes Brant & Cochran restores are made to be used. Consequently, each axe is expertly assessed to ensure that it can be safely used once restored.

The most important safety consideration is to make sure the axe is not cracked. Many times this happens if the poll of the axe has been used as a hammer. The poll will be mushroomed and the steel around the eye may become cracked. Obviously a cracked axe is a dangerous axe. Even if there are no visible cracks in the axe one that is severely mushroomed should be avoided.

The eye of the axe should be uniform. Sometimes this is caused by using the axe as a hammer which deforms the eye. Other times this is a manufacturing defect. These axes should be avoided too.

Here is an example of an axe head with a lot of problems:  a severely mushroomed head, a deformed eye, and a crack.  Winner!

Chips in the blade can be filed out in some instances. However, the more material you file off to remove a chip can take you into softer steel which degrades performance. A good rule of thumb is to disregard axes that have chips deeper than 1/8“.

The shape of the axe blade can also tell a story. If the axe blade does not look uniform for the style of axe it is evidence of improper care and sharpening. If the axe was not uniformly sharpened the stronger steel may have been ground away.  In this instance the leading edge of the axe has been ground away (still a nice example of a Collins Legitimus!)

A lot of pitting on the blade is evidence of rust and corrosion. While this does not affect performance or safety it does take away from the overall value of the axe.

The way in which the axe is handled can also can give insight into the condition of the axe. If there are numerous wedges, nails or other things used to shim the axe handle onto the axe there may be a defect in the eye.