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Plumb Manufacturing Thread

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by Operator1975, May 9, 2013.

  1. Operator1975

    Operator1975 Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Sep 24, 2010
    Well gang I decided it was time to get back in the game and get to another manufacturing thread. These seem to go over quite well and guys enjoy them. I have done Warren, Collins, Kelly, Keen Kutter, and now Plumb. We will see how this goes. Similar to the other great axe manufacturers of the past, Plumb has a long history with great tradition and recognition. I will obviously not do them justice here, but if some people get some enjoyment out of this it is worth it.

    Here we go. This is going to be pic and material heavy so have some time on your hands......

    Fayette R Plumb(FRP) is the man behind the Plumb Co. However, he did have help in the very beginning. FRP was originally into the hardware business. He wasn't entirely happy with what he was doing or where he was at in the mid 1850s, so he joined forces with Jonathan Yerkes, a tool maker in the Philadelphia area. This joint venture started in 1869. By 1887, it was Plumb in full control as he bought out all Yerkes interest. Now, as with most axe manufacturers, this is where things first get interesting. The company had been using the Yerkes and Plumb logo(you can look this up online), and with its success and following, continued to do so for sometime after the Plumb takeover. This helped to continue business and keep the brand, while enabling a slow transition to Plumb. Common logo was the Yerkes and Plumb with an anchor. This is an old logo and at the time was recognized for high quality of goods. In the phase out period, it went to Plumb name only, which can be seen here -

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    That broad hatchet is one of the highest quality pieces that I own. It isn't the prettiest or shiniest, but when you knock on it with your finger it rings so crisp and clear it is amazing. You can tell it's quality right away.

    FRP continues the operation, but passes away in 1905. Next generation of Plumbs continue to run the operation. Why they were not in on the American Axe and Tool co collaboration of 16 axe companies is not sure. Maybe they were too big, or maybe at the time too small to be bothered with, who knows. However, due to the overall success of the company, they open a second plant in St Louis to meet demand in 1910. It is also reported they had various warehouses across the country as well. Now they just need to continue to build the brand. They do this by stepping up business, and also acquiring other companies, such as Philadelphia Tool Co, among various others, most of them based in the Philadelphia area at the time. Here is a Phila Tool Co hatchet -

    [​IMG]

    How long they used these other companies logos is unsure, but usually they did, especially if it was an "off" brand or second rate brand, usually for hardware stores, etc.

    Hopefully everyone is familiar with the Plumb logo. Though it does vary, the standard Plumb logo/inscription etc was patented in 1917, and was PLUMB in a rectangle. It was used before 1917 of course, but that is the official patent date. This logo would be used on millions of tools including axes, hatchets, hammers, sledges, files, etc. Here are a couple hammers -

    [​IMG]

    A couple axes -

    [​IMG]

    Plumb continues on up until the death of the axe age hits - the 1950s - when the last family members are out in 1959-1960. In roughly 1971, Ames Co buys out Plumb. They keep the name and make a striking tool division named Plumb. They continue to manufacture axes hatchets, etc. In 1981, this division is sold to the Cooper Group. This is where things get a little muddy. It is reported that during the 1980s, Mann Edge Tool Co out of Lewistown Pa actually manufactured Plumbs striking tools. It is also reported some of the business might of been from overseas, especially Mexico and China. (I know Mexico isn't overseas but you know what I mean.) In 2010 Cooper and Danaher Tool merge and form Apex Tool Group, which continues with the Plumb name today, mostly on hatchets and hammers. These to my knowledge are made overseas, but I do not know that for 100% fact.

    So that is a quick run down on the company history. Not all inclusive by any means, but gives you a basic timeline of the company.

    Plumb is known as being one of the largest makers of axes and hatchets during the golden years of the axe age. I think they would rival Collins and Kelly with overall numbers, but I have no idea to what degree. I am not sure if that info is even available. I know in Pa there are a TON of Plumb axes and hatchets around, and they are popular on the sites as well for purchase. This leads me to believe they were a major player in the grand scheme of the axe age.

    So with that being said, let's look at the different axes, hatchets, etc of Plumb -

    Hatchets -

    Of course very popular like I said, and they made just about every kind imaginable -

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    you will notice on these last 3 just pictured, the Plumb logo but with different names with it - Genuine, Guaranteed, and Victory. These were all marketing, especially the Victory which was immediate post WW2 to try and capitalize on post war euphoria and excitement. They are all pretty popular and did well for Plumb overall.


    Axes -

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The smaller double bit in the pic is a 4lber, while the larger one is 3 1/2 - the small one is thick and a bruiser. Haven't seen too many like that.

    Now with Plumb being one of the major players in the axe manufacturing business, they of course made axes and hatchets for various other companies, hardware stores, groups, etc. Let's take a look at some of these -

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Interestingly, when they made axes for other companies, they didn't always put their name on it, but sometimes it would have a marking on the opposite side. Such markings have been identified as crescent moon, heart, star, circle, boot, diamond, horseshoe. Why these were used is not entirely known, might be to identify a particular distributor, area of the country, etc. Couple examples of these perhaps (not 100% sure, but pretty sure) -

    [​IMG]

    Other side -

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And again -

    [​IMG]

    Plumb was also one of the major manufacturers for the Military and Boy Scouts as well for hatchets and axes. Plumb military hatchets -

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And then boy scout and girl scout hatchets -

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The designs/imprints on the military and the scout hatchets will vary with time range of manufacture. They are pretty similar, but if you look at multiple years you can notice differences. The military ones usually were dated on the hatchets, and sometimes on axes, but not always. I have a DefenseAx hatchet from Plumb with full intact paper label on head and handle, but it is at my old mans house, and somehow I don't have a picture of it.....I will get one and post it to an update here sometime.

    Plumb also made a wide variety of specialty axes and hatchets for various companies, and some of my favorite are the hardware axes, and especially the advertising axes. These to me show a different time when advertising on an axe was routine, accepted, sought after, etc. I am not sure who would advertise with an axe nowadays....here are a couple though -

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    As with all axe companies, competition was fierce and these companies had to get their name in the game. Advertising one way or another was a big part of being able to drive the business. As far as I can tell, Plumb did this pretty well in the states, and even better overseas, especially in Australia. You will see references to the Plumb Tasmanian axe, and also the start of what is today known as the racing axe, used in competitions. Plumb was able to see the needs of new forest and lumber markets in Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania. They were one of the first to meet the needs and wants, come up with new specialized patterns, and excel while doing it. Sadly I have no hands on examples of these, however they are available, especially if you are interested in paying more in shipping than the price of the axe itself!

    With advertising, it would be remiss to not mention some of the Plumb lines like Auto-Graf and Champion - both were trying to meet the new nitch in competition axe. This proved to be a good endeavor for Plumb, as it helped to build reputation, mystique, and awe around their brand. They were affiliated with a champion competitor by the name of Peter Mclaren from Australia. He was reportedly so good at axe competition chopping that he would routinely give people an advantage in time and tout he could chop threw the same log in 2/3 time of his competitors. Again sadly I do not have any specimens from these two, but it is important to mention the importance not only to Plumb but also to the history of axes in this regard.

    Of course lets not forget hardware store advertising, as it was very common. A little piece of memorabilia -

    [​IMG]

    Plumb will be remembered in the history of axes as one of the major players and contributors to the golden axe age. It was huge, well known, well respected, and technically I guess still going today in name. I know anyting with a Plumb name on it has always been of high quality metal and hardness. I enjoy their axes and hatchets as they are plentiful around me, and as stated always of quality.

    This is not all informative, and corrections and other examples are welcome. Whatever it takes to learn more about this company and its history.

    Thanks for the time.

    Mike
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2013
    Yankee Josh and Miller '72 like this.
  2. cooperhill

    cooperhill

    Nov 14, 2011
    Great thread. Love the history.

    I've got quite a few plumbs - a few to add to this.

    Plumb USA stamp.

    [​IMG]

    a smaller Plumb victory Connecticut pattern (one of my favorites). I have three Plumb victory axes (one of which was Operator's).

    [​IMG]

    1930s Plumb advert featuring Peter Mclaren:

    [​IMG]
     
    Yankee Josh likes this.
  3. crazyengineer

    crazyengineer

    Apr 2, 2011
    My favorite axe that I own is plumb, and it's not even an axe. It's a mutant. I put a plumb hatchet head (heavy hatchet) on a 21 inch boys axe handle. It now resides in my truck, I need to make a new cover for it though....and resend and oil the handle

    I have one of those hewing hatchets by plumb too, I haven't used it though, I should probably get rid of it for another heavy hatchet head that I can use for a copy of the first onev
     
  4. Dusty One

    Dusty One Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 12, 2004
    Great info and pic's...Thanks for taking the time !
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: May 9, 2013
    Yankee Josh likes this.
  5. KingKoma

    KingKoma

    249
    Feb 2, 2012
    Thank you for this. In my opinion Plumb made some of the prettiest axes.
     
  6. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    Thanks for the thread. Interesting that Plumb advertised its axes as having "twice the life". Below is an ad from the December 3, 1921 Saturday Evening Post which said that the bits were "double tempered for two full inches above the cutting edge". These days, ANSI standards call for hardening at least a half inch back from the cutting edge, and Council Tool aims for 1-1/4 inch from the edge.

    [​IMG]

    [Note the stamps on these pictured axes: PLUMB U.S.A.]
     
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  7. bigbadboom

    bigbadboom

    417
    Jan 4, 2007
    Nice post!
    Here in Australia recently at Bunnings they stocked a Plumb axe but the head was stamped Hultafors bruks sweden, and came with a Coopers tools branded file. Was about $50au.
     
  8. Double Ott

    Double Ott

    Jan 3, 2011
    My Plumbs...

    Plumb Daytons.
    Top 4 Lb. Middle 3.5 Lb, Bottom 2.75Lb.

    [​IMG]

    Plumb Boys axes

    [​IMG]

    Plumb cruisers

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    Plumb small rafting / Boys axe

    [​IMG]

    Plumb Boy Scout hatchet

    [​IMG]

    Tom
     
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  9. KingKoma

    KingKoma

    249
    Feb 2, 2012
    Plumb small rafting / Boys axe

    [​IMG]


    Tom[/QUOTE]

    Does it have a hardened poll?

    edit to add: I think I see the temper line. Pretty much my dream axe right now.
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2013
    Yankee Josh likes this.
  10. Double Ott

    Double Ott

    Jan 3, 2011
    Does it have a hardened poll?

    edit to add: I think I see the temper line. Pretty much my dream axe right now.[/QUOTE]

    I believe that it does have a hardened poll. I tried a file on it and it just slide off it.

    [​IMG]

    Tom
     
  11. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    Thanks for confirming that those (Cooper) Plumbs sold in Australia are made by HB. $50 seems like a steal.

     
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  12. KingKoma

    KingKoma

    249
    Feb 2, 2012
    I believe that it does have a hardened poll. I tried a file on it and it just slide off it.

    [​IMG]

    Tom[/QUOTE]

    Oh, man. Your lucky we have a sea between us or else I might have tried to steal it from you.
     
  13. bearhunter

    bearhunter

    Sep 12, 2009
    Great write up Operator... Thank you :)
     
  14. garry3

    garry3

    Sep 11, 2012
    Yerkes & Plumb
    [​IMG]
     
  15. moosecreektrails

    moosecreektrails

    242
    Apr 8, 2012
    [​IMG]
    Plumb victory,boy scout and a plumb nos hatchet
     
  16. Square_peg

    Square_peg Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    Great choice for a thread, Operator. Really good stuff. Thanks. [​IMG]


    I only have a few photos to add. This is my 5-pound waffle-poll rafter and a pre-Permabond scout style hatchet.

    [​IMG]

    And here's a Jersey I recently gave to a friend.

    [​IMG]
     
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  17. Square_peg

    Square_peg Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 1, 2012
  18. KingKoma

    KingKoma

    249
    Feb 2, 2012
    I have been looking through that catalogue, and they had some nice looking tools, most of which I have no idea what they were used for. That "killing axe" is seriously intimidating. Does anyone know how they were used?
     
  19. Square_peg

    Square_peg Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    Those were used to slaughter cattle. As they came through the chute each was struck on the head with the poll of that tool.
     
  20. KingKoma

    KingKoma

    249
    Feb 2, 2012
    And the edge?
     

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