They did once claim their axes could cut steel...
That ad gives a good idea, though, of the difference between Keech's methods and other axe makers. Sure, plenty of manufacturers were still casting axes then, but those were only ever el cheapo axes, never professional or racing axes, or, as the ad implies, casting a poll and eye around a forged bit.
Also gives their history - they really were the axe that got us through the war, since we had no factory that could tool up for axe making to meet demand. I think Plumb Australia (Cyclone) were the only axe makers in the country at the time. We need an easily-made, good, strong axe. Drop-forging would take too long. Keech would've been less then a decade old when the Army contract came in, and they would've had to convince the government a new-fangled cast axe could work. No mean feat, considering how bloody conservative the Aus military was back then, and how anti-self-reliant we were (look up the history of the Owen gun).
I've always wanted one of their corrugated "washboard" axes. I forget what they were actually called ("Klean Kut" or "Keen Kut" or "Kutall" or something along those lines).
They were a household axe, with grooves in the side. You see them labelled as "poisoners axes" or "poisoning axe", the idea being you fill the grooves with herbicide and swing one or two cuts into a tree, injecting it. Really they were just done because there was less surface area to bind with wood, and it's a great way of getting a bigger axe without adding the cost and weight of more steel. They were just a woodpile, and occasional fresh chicken, axe.
But they look unique, and you could only do those grooves if you cast 'em.
(Image found elsewhere)
I actually emailed Keech for a copy of that movie mentioned in the ad (the actual title is "Men of Steel" - WE'LL SEE YOU IN COURT, DC COMICS) to see if they can upload it to their youtube channel. They're still a fairly small company, so hopefully they can dig it up.
The new Keesteel 'Keenkut'
High-grade cast steel axe
An outstanding Australian achievement in design and steel development.
These are fully guaranteed by the manufacturers.
Stocks are available at Shepherd's Anvil Stores.
Daily Mercury (Mackay, Qld.), Sat 16 Nov 1946, Page 4 Advertising
(at bottom of page, below Percy the Panda)
"...the documentary film 'Men of Steel,'
a film which tells the story of the
making of Kutall, Supercut and'
Keesteel axes, which are claimed
by their makers to be the world's
keenest, and toughest axes,
specially designed by bushmen for
work on Australian timbers, and
manufactured by highly efficient
trademen. The film, which is in
colour, as well as telling the story
of the making of the axe, also
shows its use by highly trained
axemen in the big-timber country
of Australia. It depicts how the
forces of brain and ingenuity, bent
to meet the urgent need of the
country in her days of peril,
evolved a new process which
revolutionised the production and
cost of many tools hitherto made
more laboriously in other countries
and placed on the Australian
market only with the expenditure
of much time and money. The
directors, Keech Castings Proprietary
Limited, claim that the film
tells an interesting and enjoyable
story of sincere endeavour and
quoted from Kalgoorlie Miner (WA), Mon 23 Oct 1950, Page 4
It sounds like an interesting film, I hope it becomes available.
Excellent info fellas, thanks tandanus and Steve T.
That claim about being able to cut steel at first made me think, 'well they didn't say what kind of steel, could be annealed mild steel'.
Then I recalled those old ads and claims from the 1930s and up to the '50s about Frank Richtig's knives. Apparently not only could they be batoned through softer steels, but also rail spikes, chisels and harder stuff as well, including some cold work tool steels, and still retain their cutting edge.
Undoubtedly, edge geometry played some part, but interestingly in a metallurgical analysis of his knives after his death, it seems that he may have discovered austempering before Bain and Davenport - the microstructure of his knives was either wholly bainitic, or a combination of bainite and martensite. (Basically this means you could get much tougher, more impact resistant steel than fully martensitic steel at the same hardness level. Austempering can also be used on cast iron.)
Given that this would have been cutting edge technology in WW2, used for rifle bolts and other components, and Keech were involved in making Bren gun sprockets and other cast steel war materiel in conjunction with Defence Department R&D, I wonder if this is not part of the secret of the qualities that Keech were able to achieve in their cast steel axe heads?
Interesting too that the current uses of austempered steels and cast irons are for just some of the agricultural and earthmoving components that Keech currently manufacture.
Anyway, just a thought.
I love those groove lines in that Kutall or Keenkut axe - kind of like an evolution of those Kelly 'phantom bevels.'
For 3,000 axes a week at their peak, you certainly don't see many of them around.
Last edited by Cambertree; 09-08-2016 at 05:48 PM.
Well, case hatchets were design from the get-go to cut nails.
It's actually not a very smart ad, since it wants to imply that it can cut any steel, then later goes on to say to tell you that there are different steels, some tougher than others.
My theory is that, yes, it was different steel to your bog-standard axe steel. Something slightly more exotic than your bog-standard iron-and-carbon axe steel mix, to compensate for the deficiencies of casting. Something with a fair bit of, I dunno, nickel or molybdenum or vanadium or boron in it.
I'm not sure you'd required anything as fancy as a tool steel alloy for a Bren gun mount (hell, you could get away with using pig iron for that), or even a rifle bolt (forging a billet of 1060-equivalent and machining it would be easier), but I'm guessing Keech was called upon to do things like prop shafts and bearings, perhaps some sort of high-alloy cylinder head for a fancy engine...or it could be they were called upon to do the armour and hull for the Sentinel and Thunderbolt tanks...
This is cool. Like how they say Wootz has carbon nanotubes in it, or how some mediaevel swordsmiths sorta case-hardened blades...it seems that he may have discovered austempering before Bain and Davenport
I picked this hatchet up at auction, it's in rough shape but it's kind of cool. Looks like it could be a carpenters hatchet.
I wonder if I should grind out the pits or just leave as-is?
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Leave it! It looks great!
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