Vintage tools, treasures from the rust: Kelly Rockaway Axe

Vern Burke, SwiftWater Edge Tool Works

Skowhegan, Maine

I’ve played the “antique picker” from time to time, looking for old tools in “barn fresh” condition to restore for my inventory. Lately, I seem to have acquired my own army of pickers who drop by my spot in Topsham, Maine (on Tuesdays) or my table at the Arundel Flea Market (on Fridays) with all sorts of strange and interesting goodies, thoroughly rusty and cobwebby, of course :). You just never know what’s going to show up.

This week’s prize was a pre-1930 Kelly “Rockaway pattern” poll axe. If anything screams “antique axe” to me, it’s the shape of this head!.

The handle of this axe was a great dark mellow brown finish, unfortunately, whoever installed it did an absolute butcher job of getting the rounded lugs cut in, not to mention wedging it with square cut horseshoe nails. YEEK! I’ll rehandle this axe with a new hickory handle in the same length as the old one and treated with an old fashioned linseed oil finish.

The head cleaned up very nicely leaving a great looking clean burnished finish. I’ll polish the bit back to the original polish line, give it a good sharpening, and it should make a great classic axe!


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