Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Swiss Military Reserve Hatchet, Refinished with Patina

I felt inspired to finish up the work on the Swiss Reserve Hatchet yesterday, and knocked out the entire project in one afternoon.  Here's the update.

You can see the "Before" write-up and photos in my last post:

I started out by sanding the metal head with  150 grit wet/dry sandpaper, then polished it up with some 600 grit wet/dry paper.  The wood handle was sanded out  with some of the 150 paper as well.

I cold blued the head with some Birchwood Casey Perma Blue cream, and then buffed the dark blue finish back to a dull gray with a purple 3M scouring pad.  The wood handle was stained with a coat of "Colonial Maple" stain, and then I finished that out with several coats of Danish Oil.

The hatchet turned out great!  With that little bit of work, I turned a "new" hatchet into a classic, with the look of a well cared for seasoned veteran.

Without further delay, here are some photos of the finished hatchet.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Swiss Military Reserve Hatchet, circa 1980's, CFL, Swiss Kitchen Hatchet / Axe

Today we'll be taking a look at the most recent "Pioneer Tool" addition to the collection.  

This hatchet is a "Swiss Military Reserve" hatchet that most likely dates to the mid 1980's.

I have been watching these hatchets pop up, literally all over the world, over the last several years.  They all seem to have come from the same bulk surplus batch that came out of Switzerland, and from the same surplus wholesaler.  Nearly every retailer that is selling these hatchets uses the same description and wording in their catalog listing, hence my suspicion that they all are obtained form one single wholesaler.

These hatchets also have a bit of a mystery about them.  Each one is unissued and is stamped with the same "CFL" makers mark.  After extensive research, through internet pages, archives and photos, I can not find a single reference to what company used this CFL logo.  It also appears that these hatchets are the only tools that this logo appears on.  I can only guess that it was a small company that is now out of business.

When these hatchets first hit the market, they appeared with a larger sized hatchet that was marked with the Swiss military acceptance cross and "86" for the year 1986.  These larger hatchets (actually more of a small pioneer axe) were also unissued and described as Swiss Reserve Axes as well, and often were sold alongside the smaller hatchets or as a set.

Larger "Reserve Axe" from same source.

It is my guess that they all came from the same "warehouse" that was surplussed out in Switzerland.  With the reference to them being "reserve hatchets and axes", it is my guess that these were warehoused to be held "at the ready", for issue to the Swiss Army Reserves should they ever need to be fully mobilized.  Switzerland drastically downsized their national military forces starting in 2003.  It was several years after that when "tons" of old-stock Swiss military gear started hitting the market, these hatchets included.

These hatchets have a bit that is larger than the more common "camp hatchet" size that most Americans are used to.  In fact, with a longer haft, these could easily be classed as a "small boys axe".  The eye in the axe bit is sized larger, more like a full sized axe, to accommodate a larger handle.  This is extremely common in older European hatchets.  Since Ash wood was often used for handles, a larger sized haft was needed for strength.  Ash is a wonderful wood, but it is not as strong for it's dimensional size as American Hickory, hence the larger eye and handle size.  The handle on my hatchet is Ash.

The axe I have came with a clear lacquer coating over the bright carbon steel head, with a rubber blade edge protector in place.  The rubber edge protector also helps date this hatchet to the 1980's era +/-.  The metal is nicely shaped, but not sharpened.  The wood handle is fitted to the head well, but has no oil finish or protective coating.  

I plan to polish out the head and put a good edge on it, and then give it a natural "patina" or paint job.  I have seen a number of old period photos with this style hatchet, strapped on the sides of Swiss soldiers packs.  From what I can determine, these small hatchets were issued at least back to the pre-WW1 era.  2 or 3 of them would be issued out to each squad, to be shared by all of the soldiers in the group.  Nearly all of the older examples of this style hatchet that date to the WW2 era, seem to have had the heads painted black or green, with a few left natural and unpainted.  It is my guess that these hatchets were issued out in the condition I received mine, and then "finished" in the field after issue.

UPDATE 12-21-16:  I finished up the "re-finish and patina" work on this hatchet.  You can see the results in the next post: 

In all of the older, period photos, it appears that the hatchets were issued with an oiled leather head cover, of a type that would match the entrenching tools.  I have not run across one of these covers in my treasure hunting travels, but now they are on my radar!  One more thing to look for!

Now let's take a closer look at this "Classic Swiss Reserve Hatchet".

Rubber edge protector in place.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

US Pick-Mattock Pioneer Tool, Full Sized circa 1991, Woodings Verona Tool Works, Unissued US Military

Well, I've gone and done it again............ I couldn't resist another amazing deal on a vintage pioneer tool.  This time it's a US Military Pick-Mattock that was never issued.

This pick-mattock is dated 1991, but it could easily have been issued at any time since WW1.  These full sized pick-mattocks have been built to the same US specifications since WW1.  The only thing that has changed are the stampings and colors.

This pick-mattock is a beast!  The cast steel head is 19.5 inches long, and it weighs in at 5 pounds!  The handle is a brute as well.  It is solid hickory, and bigger than a baseball bat.  It is 36 inches in length, and 3 inches wide at the head.  Just like it's smaller belt carried sibling, the metal head is designed to slide off the handle for storage.  These pick-mattocks were carried on virtually every heavy field vehicle that the US military has sent into combat since the WW1 era.
Here is a great website that describes how these pioneer tools were mounted and carried:

This particular pick-mattock is marked with the manufacturer's mark for Woodings Verona Tool Works Company.

This WTV stamp was used until the company was bought out in 1997, and production of all tools stopped.

It is date stamped with the number "91", for the production year of 1991.  This puts it in the First Gulf War time frame (Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Shield).

It also has the official US stamp, and a modern "eye protection safety warning".  The number "5" stamp indicates the head weight, 5 pounds.

This pick is in its "off the shelf", paint scheme.  It also has as a heavy metal staple in the butt end of the handle.  I assume that the staple was for hanging the handle in storage or for the attachment of some sort of tag.  It would have been removed once it was issued.  The head is painted in flat black, and the handle is standard olive drab.

As a comparison, I took a few photos, side-by-side, with my old WW1 vintage Entrenching Pick Mattock.  You can really see how massive the full sized pioneer version is in these shots.

Here is the blog entry on the WW1 Pick-Mattock:

Now let's take a closer look at the monster of a pick-axe!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

German Ammo Can for MG1A3, MG2, MG3, MG5 and H&K 121, Post-War 1967, .308 NATO Bundeswehr

In my last posting I showed a German ammo can for the MG42 variant machine guns, next to the featured Yugoslavian  8mm ammo can.  Today we'll be taking a closer look at the German Can.

I purchased this ammo can back in 2010 and it has been "banging around the shop" ever since.  I decided to take a closer look at it, and discovered a few VERY interesting details!

This ammo can is for the German post-war versions of the WW2 MG42 machine guns.  The can is sized for the .308 NATO caliber rounds, and held a 250 round linked belt.  These cans were used by all of the post-war German forces, but this particular can is painted in Bundeswehr Olive Green.

This can is marked with the date number "67", for the year 1967.  The fact that the can is marked 1967 is actually quite significant, as we will see.

On the side of the can, written in felt pen, is the notation 
"MG5 121".

Here is where it gets interesting!

With the date of 1967, we know that this can would have been used with the MG1A3 and MG2 machine guns.  These were the two earliest, post-war versions of the MG42 used in Germany.
In 1968, the MG3 version was introduced.

9 / 67 is for the date, September 1967.  BK is the maker's mark.

The notation of MG5 121 means that this can was also used for the MG5, also know as the H&K 121.  This version was trialed by the Bundeswehr in 2005, but not adopted.

Since I bought the can in 2010, not long after it was surplused.  That means that this ammo can saw service with four versions of the German post-war MG42 variants!
MG5 / H & K 121

There are also some "inventory numbers" painted on the can as well.  These would have been used internally, within the unit to keep track of the can and its contents.

I love it when a seemingly "ordinary" piece of surplus ends up telling an amazing story!

Unless you have one of these cans in your collection, one seldom gets to take a close look at the details.  Let's take a look at this ammo can.