View Full Version : Small hatchet issue?

Greg Portland
08-27-2014, 1:32 AM
I picked up a small hatchet at a local antique store the other day and am wondering if the head is on upside down. I'm used to seeing the heel be more curved & pointed versus the toe.

If so, can the handle be re-used or is it best to start over?


David Weaver
08-27-2014, 6:51 AM
It does look a little funny, but I'd use it for a while before changing it.

There should be a little taper in the socket to tell you which side is the top. Changing it around will require a new handle.

Pat Barry
08-27-2014, 7:55 AM
You think it should look more like this?

David Weaver
08-27-2014, 8:13 AM
The orientation of the logo (collins) on most of the pictures of vintage collins axes would suggest it's upside down. i'd still stick with using it as is and address a problem only if a problem exists.

george wilson
08-27-2014, 8:46 AM
The head is on backwards, Turn it around.

Paul Saffold
08-27-2014, 9:18 AM
Imagine the shame the the wood must feel, knowing it had been cut by a backasswards hatchet.

Pat Barry
08-27-2014, 9:27 AM
I don't know, all the ones I see for sale look the same as the original picture

Maybe they are all wrong?

David Weaver
08-27-2014, 9:47 AM
I don't see many legitimate hatchets in that picture. A lot of it looks like chinese-made junk with rubber handles (it amazes me how much utter trash there is that says "bear gryllis" on it).

Do a google image search for (Vintage, antique) Collins Axe

The new collins stuff is made in mexico, at least some of it is, and has a sticker, but the vintage collins stuff all has the stamp in like this hatchet. It reads with the C in collins at the top of the hatchet/axe head. If the eye is tapered, though, it will be the final decider. All of my older kelly axes (I have no collins) have a very significant taper.

Prashun Patel
08-27-2014, 9:48 AM
That's a Japanese hatchet, designed to chop on the pull stroke from underneath with the log held between your toes with a rope.

Paul Saffold
08-27-2014, 9:54 AM
Some hatchets, hand axes, with a single bevel, are "handed". The head may be attached either way for a left or right hand user.

Pat Barry
08-27-2014, 10:24 AM
Just because someone did it like Collins in the old days doesn't mean there isn't a better way. Keep in mind the Chinese have been making hatchets like this for millennia and they would therefore know best.

David Weaver
08-27-2014, 11:13 AM
None of the real chinese hatchets look like the ones shown on amazon. Those things on amazon are pressed out junk made to our specs.


A small chinese carpenter's hatchet makes an appearance around 14:00 in this video. The chinese use all sides of the hatchet, including the side. Looks remarkably like a vintage western hatchet....forged out of water or oil hardening steel, too.

Anyone who thinks they're just going to make a "better" hatchet than what was made in the early 1900s has zero chance of succeeding - to even think they'd be able to just flippantly "come up with something better" would suggest that they have no idea what would even make a good hatchet or axe design.

We have "better" axes now that are harder, that can't be filed easily and that have no bulge in their cheeks and thus stick when they are pitched into a tree - wasting the users energy to try to get them back out. Sounds like an improvement, huh? Well, they're harder, and that looks good in a catalog. I'm sure there are plenty of users who know nothing about axes who are sure that their new 59 hardness axe is better than a vintage axe that could be filed - they have no idea that someone else would notch a tree several times as fast with a proper vintage axe strictly because the cheeks are designed for the axe to release itself and the new "improved" axes are missing that feature....

That's what you get with "new improved engineering" as opposed to design generated by centuries of professional use and improvement.

george wilson
08-27-2014, 11:18 AM
The head is backwards. Turn it around!!!!!!!!

Pat,take a closer look at the Husqvarna(sp?) hatchet seen in your link. The one with the wooden handle.

As far as Chinese tools are concerned,they tend to look like they were designed to be the easiest shapes to forge out,except for English style tools meant to be exported.

Ryan Mooney
08-27-2014, 11:37 AM
The head is backwards. Turn it around!!!!!!!!

You know we could all save a lot of time if we just listened to George earlier :cool:

The handle is "the right way" the head most definitely is NOT (positively on backwards).

george wilson
08-27-2014, 11:50 AM
Photoshop the handle away,then re insert it on the other side of the head. Then,it will look right!!:)

Chet R Parks
08-27-2014, 11:53 AM
Why is the center point of the ruler at the 5.5 inch mark and not on the 6" line?

Pat Barry
08-27-2014, 12:25 PM
The head is on backwards, Turn it around.
Oh, you mean like this:
That makes sense!

Honestly David - I was just pulling your leg. We all know nothing can be improved upon post 1900 when it comes to hand tools. LOL

David Weaver
08-27-2014, 12:41 PM
It may seem ridiculous for me to say "i'll believe it when i see it" all the time about "improvements", but ...well, I'll believe it when I see it. Most of the people trying to "improve" on tools have no idea what makes the tools they're trying to improve on desirable in the first place.

And the sense that nobody would've knocked off the low hanging fruit when there were hundreds of makers all competing for a pool of professional users who were real penny pinchers (by necessity) is naive to say in the least.

Think about the "improvements" in the tools that we see. They're more finished (for beginners), they can be dropped (for beginners, I guess), they have harder irons (put in context of work, that doesn't amount to much), they have more highly alloyed irons (presumably that's because it's difficult to heat treat the irons that are plain carbon steel and hard - LN couldn't harden an entire water-hardened steel iron), they have catalog flatness specs (for beginners).

And that's the tools that haven't totally gone to crap (planes and chisels) completely across the board.

Jim Koepke
08-27-2014, 12:42 PM
Wow! Look at all I missed by going to bed a little early.


Jim Koepke
08-27-2014, 1:16 PM
Most of the people trying to "improve" on tools have no idea what makes the tools they're trying to improve on desirable in the first place.

The traditional system of tool use and making was interrupted by the double barreled disrupter of mechanization and world wars.

Young tool makers learned from older tool makers why a hatchet didn't have a hollow face. Young woodworkers likewise learned from the older, more skilled wood workers how to use the tools.

The world moved away from everything being hand built to a 'modern society' were everything was mass produced on an assembly line.

The knowledge of the artisan/craftsman fell to the pencil of the accountants.

Now we have a 'renaissance' of workers and makers. The individual workers are more amenable to change. Some are trying to emulate the practices of old. They are not trying to find 'new and improved' methods. There journey is more focused on how such great work was possible with the limits imposed by a low tech society.

My experience with engineers and manufacturing is they usually only change if it is going to cut costs. They often do not like major design changes for fear of having to face the idea of, "we have been doing it wrong all along."

One example is a well known maker of quality socket chisels. In the 19th an early 20th century the sockets were left rough on the inside. The modern maker has them smooth on the inside. Then to keep them from falling off of the handles, the idea was devised to shoot some hair spray into the socket to hold the handle in place.

On my old chisels there are only a couple that have issues with the handle coming loose. These are both ones with severely damaged sockets before the came into my possession.

In reality we have the ability to make as good or better tools than a century ago. All to often the knowledge permeating the workers of the previous centuries has been lost on the modern manufacturers.


george wilson
08-27-2014, 2:52 PM
That's exactly right,Pat. Doesn't the hatchet look more correct with the head turned around? Now,go to your link. The hatchet now looks very much like the Husqvarna hatchet with the wooden handle.

Any farmer should know that head was on the wrong way. I grew up in Alaska,sharpening the axes and hatchets of workmen and loggers,among other things.

All these posts about something so simple and so basic. It's just amazing.

Greg Portland
08-27-2014, 6:39 PM
Thanks for confirming my suspicions everyone. If you look closely it almost looks like it had been hung previously and re-installed upside down. The handle has an oddly-shaped shoulder.

Time to look for some hickory...

daniel lane
08-27-2014, 6:41 PM
I grew up in Alaska,sharpening the axes and hatchets of workmen and loggers,among other things.

George, the more I find out about you, the more I think you should be a beer spokesperson. You have got to be the most interesting man in the world. :)


george wilson
08-27-2014, 9:26 PM
Stay thirsty my friends. And,will someone get these 3 women off me????

Ryan Mooney
08-27-2014, 10:46 PM
Stay thirsty my friends. And,will someone get these 3 women off me????


Greg, odds are you could get that handle out and reuse it.. You'd need to drill/pull the wedge out but then it should be possible to tap it out. If nothing else it would make a decent template :)