John Barton - On Axes
As with my earlier post about shovels, I was able to find the federal specifications for axes that were in effect before and during WWII. It is called GGG-A-926. The first version appeared in 1931… GGG-A-926. There were 4 amendments to that, the last in 1937. Then version GGG-A-926a was issued in Sept 1943, becoming effective Nov 15, 1943. The 1943 spec required that axes purchased for the government also meet Federal Specification NN-H-93… Handles, Hickory: striking tools. That spec is actually more detailed than either of the first two concerning axes.
Pic2- 926a- 1943
So, I will post a lot of scans and pics of the axe that we need for our MB/GPW’s. Please refer back to
section to see period pics of axes
As with shovels, both the 1931 and 1943 versions of GGG-A-926 refer to a commercially available product when describing the “chopping, 4lb”
axe. That is the only designation. It does not state square back, single bit, curved handle, or other descriptions that show up in later
government books. The federal specs (both) usually only refer to them as 4 lb “Dayton
In the 1944 TM 9-803 under vehicle equipment, it lists Axe, chopping, single bit. It does not have a weight, but the federal spec only lists 2 or 3 axes. So if an
axe manufacturer was responding to an invitation to bid… and the bid said comply with GGG-A-926… there weren’t many choices
The “Dayton Pattern” axe had apparently been around for quite a while. Here are parts of a few
pic4- catalogue pic5-
I found a 2005 GSA catalogue…it stills uses “Dayton Pattern” as description.
Weight and Dimensions:
The 1931 spec didn’t have a drawing or chart.. it was a 4 lb “Dayton Pattern”
The 1943 spec includes the below chart:
pic6- table from 1943
It does list tolerances so jeep axes could be slightly different sizes.
both specs require head to be polished for some length (back from cutting edge), this part was to be coated in oil, grease, or clear transparent lacquer. The unpolished part was to be coated with paint, lacquer or enamel… I have seen NOS axes in OD. I would guess the invitation to bid did specify color?
The 1931 spec only says handles should be dipped in hot linseed oil to protect them from the powder post beetle!
The 1943 spec states handles must comply with NN-H-93. This spec is very detail as to finish, coating, dimensions, etc.
Now, the handle needs hot linseed oil, or clear toxic water repellent!, or agent to prevent swelling, insects, etc..
This was obviously before Rachel Carson, Sierra Club, etc…!
Those on G503 who have been here for a while know that I have sold a lot of shovels and axes. One of the reasons I wanted to find this information was because one expert posted that I was selling incorrect tools… He stated that all WWII shovels and axes must be marked with USA. I didn’t know? I’m not trying to validate the ones I sold. I wanted to know so that they would be correct!
Shovels did not require USA after 1941. Axes purchased for the Army only needed USA according to the 1931 spec. After the 1943 spec took effect it was not required. It could be on there if the invitation to bid specified it. Since there are axes with USN… I believe some invitations probably did specify particular markings. But, USA was not required for
government axe purchases after 1943. I don’t think anyone can claim that early jeeps needed USA and later ones didn’t!!!- I imagine both styles were all over as far as time or location!
One interesting point about markings is that both specs required manufactures to put
the name or recognizable trademark, plus WEIGHT on the side. I have seen axes marked with weight on
the side…but, I have seen more with a 4 stamped on bottom between the handle hole and
the square butt. This includes ones with USA… so some makers were not technically complying with spec- it states weight shall be marked on
the side! I imagine it was ok because that’s how a “Dayton Pattern” was marked, and spec allows some variation if
the axe otherwise substantially complies.
Both axe specs include many specifics about metal hardness, polishing, welding of bi-metal heads, thickness of eye, construction, workmanship, packing, what grit to use for polishing, attachment to handle, etc. But, basically it is a 4 lb “Dayton Pattern” commercially available
axe. I can’t post all pages from both specs… about 25 pages. As I stated above, the handle spec is very detailed.
pic7- handle dimensions from NN-H-93
From the period pictures, it is clear that a certain style handle was used. See the pics in the shovel post, but, I would like to point out the end of the handle. All those in pictures, and in the spec have what is called a fawn’s foot. The end is one straight cut.
pic8- original and replacement handles
This type of handle is not usually available from the replacement handle sources. Modern replacement handles have the second cut so that you can pound it into head. I have found the original style at flea markets and in brush hogs. I also take modern replacements and cut them and shape them to resemble the original. I have been able to purchase a few old style… but the cost is pretty high. I have only found one US manufacturer still making 4 lb “Dayton Pattern” axes. The handle is not correct for us, and it costs $51 wholesale… can’t find it retail or in less than a dozen from manufacturer. In fact, the only place I have seen it was in a
government catalogue- next to the $600 toilet!
The original handles are also thinner than modern ones… they bend around
the jeep body better… and take a set if you leave them on for long time!
The jeep axe was: 4 lbs, “Dayton Pattern” (that is square-back), single bit, curved handle, marked with manufacturer’s name or trademark, supposed to have weight on side, USA if before 1943 (Army only), head painted, handle oiled, and vary in weight, length, cutting surface size, and height.
Having been in the service, and literally painted rocks for a general’s visit… I can say with some certainty (and from pics) that sergeants probably had privates paint these shovels and axes OD… if not for busy work… then for regs about camouflage or tool preserving. So how you prepare it for your jeep, is subject to a lot of personal preference. Some like the contrast of wood, black metal, and OD jeep, some like it all to match. The best axe I saw was polished bright per the spec for a couple of inches back from blade, and then a nice oxide black for rest of head- looked very business like!
Pics of a few brands. I would ask that if you have an axe like those described above… could you post pic. I usually posted a pic when I sold them… but, it was not a close up. E-mail to me if you can’t post pictures.
The most common brands that I have seen are COLLINS, True Temper, Kelly
(also made for other companies), MANN, Evans, or Evansville.
pic11- TRUE TEMPER
I have some axes and shovels to clean up, none for sale at this time. I find them at yard sales, flea markets, power company, and state forestry dept sales (at one PA forestry sale, I also found 3 decon units!!) They are out there!
COLLINS USN Stamped
I found this well worn
axe at a garage sale, the top and ends had been ground and filed over the
years, but the stamping is clear enough to read COLLINS and the USN with the
Number 4 still legible. Is it Navy.. ? maybe, I can't say for sure.
COLLINS As found, with
etched by hand US ARMY markings and OD paint, and repaired for use. I'll be
using this one on my GPW, you'll notice that I didn't remove the hand
stencilling, so if ever in the future someone wants to say I put it there, I
can show them the photos. I can't stress enough the importance of keeping a
visual record of what is found, and used on your MV vehicle, it's all part
of it's history.
EVANSVILLE.. ...don't recall if USA was on other side
did have a 4 stamped under butt.. concerning replacement handles...I have ordered them from several companies...even after speaking to sales, and have a old style picture in
a catalogue.... when they arrived...they were a more modern style!!
Collected Images By
Gerard (MB Magic) Eire
WWII vintage or not, here is my best axe. It is marked on the head with Plumb
and 4, and on the bottom of the handle with a P. P for Plumb I must assume?
Instead of a simple wood or steel wedge this one came with this T shaped
"deluxe" wedge, that provides the wedge function and also serves to cap the
top. Sorry I didn't take a picture of it when it was apart.
The handle was a bit loose when I got it so I was able to get the handle off
without damaging it, and sanded it, bead blasted the head after dressing it up,
and reassembled and finish it. Yes that is minwax polyurethane on the wood,
might not be original but I like it.
Barton Shovels g503.com