Ever since I saw a beautifully restored 4 pound Plumb felling ax mounted on the wall in the office at the Hopkins Demonstration Forest near Oregon City, Oregon, double bit felling axes have been on my mind.
Just last week I was making my rounds of the usual places to find 2nd hand axes in Portland and stumbled across this Collins & Co. felling axe. I walked around the store with it in my hand for about 15 minutes until I could answer the question, “Do I really need another ax?” with a “Yes… yes I do.”
This close up shows the company stamp. Not pictured is the weight stamp, 3 1/2 lbs on the other side. I’ll talk more about this below but you should be able to make out a slight circle around the logo. That’s the edge of a very slight depression from using the sides of the ax to pound in felling wedges.
What I found really fascinating about this ax were what I believe to be undercutter notches in several places along the handle. Many old logging axes have these notches in the handles and it’s a sure sign that the ax in question was used by old time loggers.
To be honest, I’m not completely sure how they did this but undercutter notches come from loggers using the ax to support the back of a cross cut saw from the bottom as they started bucking a log from underneath.
Another thing I found to be interesting about this ax was that it seemed to be hung high on the handle. Usually an ax head is hung much closer the the curve in the shoulder. This ax also never had a kerf cut into the top to allow for a wooden wedge, but is stabilized with two steel wedges.
Here’s a quick comparison of two different ax patterns: the felling pattern, top, and a swamping pattern, bottom. The Collins felling ax on the top has longer, thinner blades.The thinner blades allow for deeper penetration into the wood but also make for a lighter ax to swing. This lightning of the tool is something we see in many professional tools. Take the miner’s pick ax for example. It’s longer and slimmer than the regular pick ax and it makes sense that when hand tools dominated the professions of logging and mining that swinging a lighter ax all day long was preferable to swinging a heavier one.
Also note the higher hang of the felling ax. I thought that this may have been, typical of older felling axes, but in my research I couldn’t find a single photo of a felling ax hung this high from the shoulder. Also note the damage from overreaching on the felling ax. Whether this damage occurred during the logging days or well after is impossible to say.
Something else to note about this ax is that it has some slight depressions in the middle of the ax head on either side of the eye. This is sure indication that a ax was used in felling trees in the old days. The dents come from the logger using the side of the ax to pound in wooden felling wedges.
This picture is from another felling ax of mine. (The depressions in the Collins ax are barely visible in a photo.) If you look closely at the photo three pictures up you can make out a slight indentation where the logo is stamped into the ax head.
So what’s next for this ax? Well, as a guy who fixes up old axes for use, rarely for hanging on a wall, I’m at a bit of a crossroad. I’d love to replace the handle and clean up and sharpen the blade, but it would also be a shame to replace the current handle. I rarely trust older handles but I’m trying to think of a way to keep the current handle and turn it into a working felling ax. (I’d love to do a performance comparison between this ax and my single bit Mann Edge Tool Co.-single bit-Maine pattern-felling ax, which I will soon place on a straight handle.)
We’ll see. I’m sure I’ll blog about the answer. Thanks for reading,
For more on the Hopkins Demonstration Forest follow this link:
And for a brief history of the Collins Company click this link: