Here’s a photo of my two favorite axe heads. The top one is one that I managed to find a few years ago; an original Emerson and Stevens, made in Oakland, Maine. This is the axe head that Geoff Burke sent to Sweden when Gransfors Bruks needed a template of a good American felling axe. They based their design on it. I haven’t used it, and am thinking about giving it to my son when he’s old enough, and good enough with the axe, to appreciate it.
The bottom axe I got from Don Merchant at Pole And Paddle Canoe. He used it for a few years before entrusting me with it. It was made by the John King Axe Company, also from Oakland, Maine. After a bit of research, I think it was made in the early 1940’s. The steel’s ability to hold an edge is amazing. I have it on a 30″ handle that Don carved.
I’ve got others, including some vintage Snow And Neally’s (Bangor, Maine – are you seeing the trend?), and some with no name on them. I’ve spoken with several people about axes recently. My advice to them, and to anyone looking for a good axe is to give Don a call before you buy a new one. He usually has a few old ones in stock, and if they don’t have a handle he can carve one and hang it for you.
Lastly, always keep in mind that whatever tool you have, it’s the user that makes it work.