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Axe info

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by devilpig, Mar 24, 2010.

  1. tandanus


    Aug 3, 2016
    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)
  2. Ballenxj


    Oct 30, 2010
    Something different for sure, and a very interesting AD and photo. Thanks. :)
  3. tandanus


    Aug 3, 2016
    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.
  4. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    Advertisement from 1946:

    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)
  5. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010

    "...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
    just reward."

    quoted from Kalgoorlie Miner (WA), Mon 23 Oct 1950, Page 4

    It sounds like an interesting film, I hope it becomes available.
  6. Cambertree

    Cambertree Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 29, 2014
    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: Sep 8, 2016
  7. tandanus


    Aug 3, 2016
    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...
  8. rnelson02


    Dec 15, 2016
    I picked this hatchet up at auction[​IMG][​IMG], 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?

    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
  9. SC T100

    SC T100

    Apr 2, 2014
    Leave it! It looks great!
    Miller '72 likes this.
  10. Mocivnik


    May 29, 2017
    Hey guys,
    I'm new to axes, so please be gentle. I'm not into axes as much as you guys, but now there came a need for a proper one, so I'm turning onto this forum. I don't need it for any specific job, but mostly for cleaning up the wood and cutting it for a fireplace. I don't have any specific shape of an head in mind, but I do find useful an carpenter's axe such as this, with straight on the top:
    I'd prefer a handle lenght about 60cm (total, includin head), which I'd make on my own.

    Why are there leather neck collars for the axes, such as this:
    Is there any particular need or protection from them?

    What is best wood, that could handle be made of? Is it an Ash tree, a Beech tree or an Oak tree?
  11. Ballenxj


    Oct 30, 2010
    The leather collar you posted is protection against over strike. Over strike is what happens when missing the intended piece of wood where the hatchet's head ends up beyond the target. The hatchet handle hits it instead, and can become splintery, split, or even broken if this happens too often. The collar merely protects the handle.
  12. phantomknives


    Mar 31, 2016
    hey, i picked up a true temp kelly works hatchet with some weird markings. its stamped LC-1 above the true temper. any ideas
  13. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    From another thread, a reference to a similar hatchet some guy was selling:

    "...a very scarce WW2 Signal Corps LC-1 Hand Axe ...This axe head is identical to the standard M-1910 "Axe, Intrenching" and would fit the G.I. canvas carrier. However, it is marked LC-1 on one side and U.S.A. on the other. Further maker marked True-Temper Flint Edge under the U.S.A. This is considerably scarcer than the standard Hand Axe and most likely a component of the S.C. Lineman's Gear... Finish was likely black based on the scant existing traces."

    [To find the listing, google "WW2 Signal Corps LC-1 Hand Axe" with the quotes]
    phantomknives likes this.
  14. phantomknives


    Mar 31, 2016
    well dang, i got this for about 2 dollars. it still has the original handle and a bit of paint, i'll clean it up, paint it then re-hang on the old handle and put out some pictures, thanks steve
  15. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    Some additional information on that LC-1 hatchet, the "LC" evidently stands for "Line Construction", according to this google result:

    The Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association, Inc
    1986 - ‎Snippet view - ‎More editions
    All signal line construction tools were designated as LC and a number. Thus the Signal Corps hand ax was designated LC-1 . I have not found the specifications for this ax but l do have one specimen which shows considerable use. The head ...
    phantomknives likes this.
  16. phantomknives


    Mar 31, 2016
    cant wait to get this fixed up, im away from my tools right now so i might get something done tonight or tomorrow. mine's is very decent condition, i'll weigh it to see how much of the bit is missing after that i need to take care or some eye-mushrooming and the poll.
  17. J_Curd


    Jul 26, 2006
    Where does the name "oyster hatchet" come from? I assume some sort of trade task?
  18. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    "...The clusters are broken apart with an oyster hatchet, called culling, and separated to size, with the marketable oysters placed in one pile ready for sacking. The shell and small oysters are placed in another pile for planting on another part of ..."


    Proceedings of the Annual Workshop - Volume 1 - Page 33
    World Mariculture Society - 1970 - ‎Snippet view
    Cambertree and jake pogg like this.
  19. J_Curd


    Jul 26, 2006
    Nice find...I looked for a good 20-30 mins before posting and found nada.
  20. Vaughanhalen


    Jan 27, 2018
    Can anyone give me any info on this axe head. I know about Gransfors Bruks, and that this was probably made for the south american market. Is there a way i can find out how old it is?


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