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Disappearing high center line; should we blame Hitler and big government contracts?

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by crbnSteeladdict, Mar 17, 2019.

  1. garry3

    garry3

    Sep 11, 2012
    Purely economics I think. And to follow that up we have been bombarded with axes that have fangs, odd phantom bevels, and others that have flat cheeks and scale left on as a mark of forging and supposedly hand craftsmanship. Flat cheeks are fine depending on the application, but ya. Can we not just do better by buying vintage axes?
     
  2. Square_peg

    Square_peg Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    I think it was a combination of lower production cost and the primary market becoming homeowners who didn't know better. They just bought what was cheap. And makers responded with cheap.
     
    Fmont, ithinkverydeeply, A17 and 2 others like this.
  3. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    In answer to #2 and #3, it has to do with America's early iron and steel industry. When it first started up it was using somewhat outdated refining methods and public perception was that imported iron and steel were of higher quality. This circumstance rapidly changed and American iron and steel quickly became the equal of European imports, but the stigma persisted with the tool-buying public, and so tool manufacturers imported large amounts of cutlery-grade steel from England and iron from Sweden and Russia well up into the 1930's and possibly beyond, to the best of my recollection. Due to this raw material trade, there was a lot of exchange of ideas between Sweden and the United States and we borrowed design elements from one another, and sold each other tools. There are American scythes (both blade and snath) and axes in Sweden, and there are Swedish-made axes and scythes here. Somewhere along the way, Swedish makers determined that they could be very competitive on the American market, and dove right into it, to the point where American companies had specially branded lines that were designed to compete with the cheap Swedish imports. The North Wayne Tool Co. had their "Swedonian" line, and Rixford had their "Swenor" line, for example. In general, domestic production was the highest quality, Swedish production was the "cheap but good" option, and Austrian/German imports being the "cheap" option. I'm not sure as far as things like inserted bits go on axes, but with scythe blades a lot of the Swedish-made blades were still laminated construction like top-class American ones were. Craftsman's scythe blades were produced for them in Sweden. I'm pretty sure that the cheap imports were happening back in the mid-1800's. There was a lot of hubbub in period trade journals about companies jointly demanding that the government institute tariffs on Swedish and Austrian/German agricultural tools because of how they were perceived to be unjustly undercutting domestically produced goods.
     
  4. David Martin

    David Martin Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 7, 2008
    Here is a photo of a Wards Master Quality 1970 my thinnest ax, Mann True American 1910-1920 & my Hult Burk 1950 which I modified
    (l-r). You can see the Mann is not as thin as the Wards but still not much cheek. DM
    MannHultWard.jpg
     
    Moonw, Fmont, cityofthesouth and 3 others like this.
  5. crbnSteeladdict

    crbnSteeladdict

    563
    Jul 31, 2017
    I think at the time of Perl Harbor only Plumb and True Temper had contracts to supply hatchets for US Army.
    The extra capacity was needed: Mann Edge Tool Co gets some grants/loans for retooling and delivers abundance of flat cheek hatchets (This the moment when the door to flat cheek hell is being crack opened). After the war flat cheek line of axes is added to Mann's lineup.
    After the ww2 there is population shift: people from rural areas and cities move to suburbs (from 1940 to 1970 percentage of population living in urban areas grows from 56 to 74%). Human survival does not depend on good axe anymore.
    Because of contract with Sears a lot of Mann's axes end up in hands of occasional axe users from suburbs (Good luck finding Mann axe with FSS stamp). Cheap flat axes sell well and companies like Rixford or Warren suffer.
    We also have to consider price competition between big box chains. I would not be surprised if it was Kmart or Walmart that offered cheap Swedish axes exerting additional pressure on Mann's manufacturing choices (pure speculation).
    I just want to add: Before buying Collins Co Mann Edge had line of axes called Colonial . It had a look of blue beveled Collins Commander line. I think some of premerger Colonial axes are being misidentified as Commanders.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2019
  6. ithinkverydeeply

    ithinkverydeeply Gold Member Gold Member

    740
    Dec 17, 2018
    Due to this thread, I took noticed that the one I just finished doesn’t have much cheek either.

    It’s at least 30 years old but could be significantly older. Welland Vale was a good maker that made True-Temper for Canada. But this one is flat and the factory grinding on the pole was rough.

    Could it be that these smaller axes and hatches were being done particularly cheaply?
    (I’ve read that old Kelly hatchets came painted up to look like they had the bevels of the axes.)
    [​IMG]
     
  7. crbnSteeladdict

    crbnSteeladdict

    563
    Jul 31, 2017
    1942 war time hatchet. True Temper's finishing quality suffered but the high centerline was still there.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/vintage-army-hatchet-head-ww-1942-1901439109
     
    Fmont, Square_peg, garry3 and 5 others like this.
  8. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    There's one of those same hatchets at my family's camp. Very pronounced high centerline on it.
     
    crbnSteeladdict likes this.
  9. ithinkverydeeply

    ithinkverydeeply Gold Member Gold Member

    740
    Dec 17, 2018
    crbnSteeladdict likes this.
  10. junkenstien

    junkenstien

    723
    Feb 15, 2017
    So those true americans have the same type of stamp and were mfg.different ?If Collins won at the worlds fair back when for the American felling axe because of a highcenter line wouldn’t they just be going back to normal for a general purpose shape?Maybe the heads from that hundred years are a specialty tool not necessary anymore because of the chainsaw and power grinders chewing the toes off convex cheeks used for roots that could be returned easily Mann edge did what they had to do to stay in business for another fifty years.
     
    A17 and ithinkverydeeply like this.
  11. David Martin

    David Martin Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 7, 2008
    I can see the use of some cheek needed for felling on a ax, to pop chips. But for limb work and splitting this feature seems to cause the
    ax to hang up and prevent it from penetrating.? DM
     
    A17 and Moonw like this.
  12. Fmont

    Fmont Gold Member Gold Member

    588
    Apr 20, 2017
    Cheek is definitely beneficial for splitting as well as chopping. Think about mauls or wedges, etc. Help spread the wood while keeping surface contact minimal. Limbing I doubt matters one way or the other, all you have to do is adjust your technique in a very minor fashion.

    Looking at axes and how they were created as the industrial complex became the military industrial complex during world war II is really fascinating. I'll bet you see specimens from the same company manufactured in different ways as they moved non-essential production lines to products to fill military demand. So you have the Plumb as above with cheeks, but I will bet there are Plumbs with flat cheeks as well. It would be interesting if we could find the actual spec, so far the main thing that is noticeable is of course the US stamp and the date stamp.
     
    FortyTwoBlades likes this.
  13. Moonw

    Moonw

    Nov 19, 2014
    I have yet another theory, just another reason and not necessarily the main one.

    Sharpening (properly) a high-heeled axe was also more time-demanding for the occasional user. More metal to fill away, bothering when all you want is to "get things done", not necessarily in the most efficient fashion. Sure, even flat-cheeked ones which were not re-profiled after a while would become too obtuse to use efficiently, but not as soon as one with a high-centerline. And since most users were not felling big trees on a day by day basis, combined with the fact that flat axes were being made cheaper, I think it just was bound to happen.
     
    A17 likes this.
  14. Fmont

    Fmont Gold Member Gold Member

    588
    Apr 20, 2017
    Well, and a lot of them had to work anywhere, if you know what I mean. All across the world, a variety of roles. I suspect they got feedback, too, at a certain point. I wonder who knows the history of world war two axes.
     
    A17 likes this.
  15. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    All manual tools essentially function my more efficiently directing and distributing the energy that a human being is able to generate to accomplish a certain amount of work. If you approach axe heads from that viewpoint you can see how the various design elements distribute the energy. The chief forces involved are penetration and wedging (spreading) forces. Higher penetration force distribution increases depth of the cut per blow at the expense of chip-popping or splitting ability and greater wedging force distribution increases chip-popping and splitting ability at the expense of ease/depth of penetration. Additionally, width of the cut is a factor. A wider bit more easily connects blows across the face of a cut, but also spreads force over a greater area, while a narrower one will bite deeper, but require more accuracy and more blows to connect across the face of a cut. A more rounded bit profile will be more readily penetrating, but harder to connect blows due to the scalloped bottom of the cut it creates, while a flatter bit will be easier to connect repeated blows, but be less penetrating and more shock-inducing (presuming the blows land square) because there's less gradual of a ramp effect spreading out the force of impact.

    So with those factors in mind, a high centerline is one of the design elements that can be used for adjusting that distribution of force, and is an especially useful feature for axes that are designed to be generalists and maintain good splitting capability while also chopping well.
     
    jake pogg, Square_peg and Moonw like this.
  16. Fmont

    Fmont Gold Member Gold Member

    588
    Apr 20, 2017
    I'm talking about how there are more factors than falling efficiency in an axe of that utility.
     
    Moonw likes this.
  17. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    So was I...?
     
    Moonw likes this.
  18. David Martin

    David Martin Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 7, 2008
    Here is a Plumb Victory roofing hatchet 1945 and a Estwing hatchet 1997. Neither have much cheek and both split kindling and do limb work very well. DM
    PlumbEst.jpg plumb4.jpg
     
  19. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    That's because with limbing you prioritize penetration, and with kindling the already relatively small starting size of the wood inherently has a low wedging force requirement to the point where it's commonplace in Europe to use billhooks for splitting it. :)

    Thin geometries can compensate for a comparative lack of chip-popping ability by using certain techniques, and can split using the twist-splitting method to split pieces of wood too large for direct blows to work without binding the bit, but they definitely require more mindfulness in use to get equally broad-spectrum utility out of them. They trade off some of that accessibility in some areas in exchange for more focused performance in others, making them less generalist and more specialist.
     
    jake pogg likes this.
  20. Square_peg

    Square_peg Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    It's a nice thought but I don't think the consumer market was driven by ease of sharpening. These are people who never thought past "it's axe-shaped and cheap."
     
    Trailsawyer and FortyTwoBlades like this.

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