Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Bulgarian Military Pick-Axe #2, Pick-Mattock, WW1, WW2, or Cold War era Entrenching Tool Pickaxe

There's another Bulgarian pickaxe in the collection! 

The company I bought the previous pickaxe from, went ahead and sent me another pick as compensation for a "product not as advertised", (it was supposed to be "like new").  As you will see in the photos, this replacement pickaxe was not anything close to new, but it was in much better condition than the first one I received!  And besides, how could I possibly complain when I got two for the price of one!

It appears that this new pick is a combination of an older pick head, and a newer replacement handle.  The pick itself appears to have been in this configuration for quite some time, and based on the wood, I would imagine the handle was replaced some during the Cold War era.

I have no way to know for sure, but I suspect that the pick head dates back to the WW1 or WW2 era.

I have talked about these picks in my previous Bulgarian Pickaxe posting, so I won't repeat myself here.  You can read more here in my first posting:


Before we get too far along, I'd like to show some photos of both of these pickaxes, side-by-side.  The New pickaxe is on the left, and the much older, first pickaxe, is on the right.

When I received this "new" pickaxe, it was covered in the old "Com-Block" hard tar preservative.  This hard tar coating was usually applied before these tools were placed into long-term storage.  
After an hour or so of soaking and scrubbing with a scouring pad and mineral spirits, It had all of the surface tar removed.  There is always a residual amount that has soaked into the wood, but I think that gives it a great "vintage look" and still lets it retain some of its Cold War history.  You can see the contrast with the "old" pickaxe that was never preserved.
I finished off the wood handle with some teak oil and let everything dry out well. The finish turned out great!

I also did some restoration work on the "old pickaxe" from my first posting.  
As you may recall, the wood on the handle was damaged from post beetles and there was some dry rot.  I used a penetrating polyurethane and saturated all the wood until it would not soak up any more of the poly.   I used a syringe to slowly inject polyurethane into each post beetle hole to fully saturate the interior of the wood.  By injecting the polyurethane into the holes, I preserved, and sealed any rot inside the handle.  It took about 1/4 cup to reach maximum saturation.  The handle turned out a bit darker than it was originally, but at least now it is fully preserved and strengthened.  I left the metal head untouched.    For an old pickaxe that is probably near 100 years old, it now has a new lease on life!

Here are a few shots of the restored "old pickaxe"......... As a "before and after" comparison, you can hop back over to the first post to see the "before" shots.

As an interesting comparison, lets take a look at three photos from the the three eras that these old picks were used, WW1, WW2 and the Cold War.  In the first photo, you will see one of these old picks being carried on the belt of the soldier closest to us, with his back towards us.  The soldier to the left and in front of him, is carrying a "trench spade" on his belt.  This is the only photo that I have been able to find that shows one of these picks in use.

World War One

World War Two

Cold War
Now let's take a closer look at this new Pick Axe.  Enjoy.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

US M-1910 Pick-Mattock with US Ordinance Corps stamping, WW1 M1910 Pickaxe Entrenching Tool

This post is a follow-up to my previous posing on my M-1910 Pick-Mattock Entrenching Tool.  This is a "mini-mystery story".

While going through my documentation photos on that pick for the previous post, I noticed that there was a very small, partial stamp of some sort on the pick end, near the US stamping.  Sometimes when you look at photos on the computer "big screen", little details get noticed.

You can see the very small marking on the left side of the pick.  It's small, look closely!

I pulled out my magnifying glass and gave the pick a closer look.  I was surprised to see that it was not just a "random marking", but was actually part of an intricate stamp mark!

It appears that the pick had been stamped with the small mark, and US, and then at a later time, the pick had been "cleaned up" with a wire wheel or mild grinder.  It appears that the "grind marks" were exposed for quite some time and had rusted before a later coat of dark olive paint was applied.

From what I can tell from the "clues", here is what happened:  The pick was manufactured and stamped US, and then sent to the field unpainted.  The pick was then used for a period of time, then "wire wheeled" to clean it, then it saw more service in the field.  This previous bit was probably in the 1910 to the end of WW1 era.  At some point, the small stamp mark was applied, and then ground away when it was "cleaned up".   During either WW1 or WW2, the pick was painted olive green and then saw more field use.  The paint slowly wore away and chipped off and eventually the pick found its way to the "civilian world", and ultimately into my hands.

So the question is, "What exactly is the little stamp mark?".  At first I was a little baffled. It did not look like any manufacturer's marking I have ever seen on an entrenching tool.  It did however look like some sort of inspection or acceptance marking.  My first guess was that it could be a Quartermaster's Corps marking, but it wasn't quite right for that.

I "photographed" the mark using my scanner on the highest dpi setting.  I then was able to look at the marking much closer and in much higher detail on my computer screen.  I still couldn't identify the mark.  I could however see that it had been hand stamped as there was a faint "double image" from the punch hopping when it was struck.

I posted the question and photo of the mark online for any collector - experts who may be able to assist.  Within a few hours I had my answer!

The mark is the crest of the US Ordnance Corps!  

It appears that the stamping is "upside down" compared to the US stamping.  You can see the flames on the edge of the pick stamping.

It was confirmed from anther collector and expert, that the Ordinance Corps stamp was indeed hand stamped at the unit level.  He also said that these stamps were applied as an acceptance stamp when the item was accepted from the original contractor.  The acceptance stamp was applied by the direction of the commanding officer of the unit that received the original item.  The stamps were not required, but could be ordered by a commanding officer at his discretion.  Not all items were marked like this, indicating that not all commands required an acceptance stamp.  I am fortunate that my pick received one!  It adds another interesting detail to an already interesting pick.

I have no way to know exactly when the pick was punched with the Ordinance Corps marking, but it would have been when it was first received into Government Service, during WW1 or before.  I am guessing that the pick was sent to the Ordinance Corps by the original contractor, stamped, and then issued out to one of their engineer units.  I know that during the early years of WW2, the Ordinance Corps organized, trained and implemented the first Ordinance Disposal Units (EOD).  It is possible that this pick had something to do with that...........  We will never know for sure though.

Us Ordinance Corps,  Ordinace Disposal Unit, 1942.

It is the little mysteries like this that give me so much pleasure in collecting!  Things with a history always have layers and clues to uncover.  Now I can add a little bit to this pick's story.

Here is a link to the original blog posting about this pick-mattock:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

US M-1910 Pick-Mattock Entrenching Tool, WW1 Pickaxe

Picks must be on my radar right now!  I just picked up another old Pick-Mattock to add to the collection.  This one is a Model 1910, M-1910, US Pick-Mattock Entrenching Tool.

This old pick is one of the early models, pre-WW1 or WW1 vintage.  This pick is undated and stamped "US" on both the metal head and on the wood handle.  Only the pre-WW2 vintage picks are marked like this.

The M-1910 Pick-Mattocks were made from 1910 through WW1, and then production picked up again in WW2.  The main distinguishing feature of the WW1 vintage picks that sets them apart from the later versions, is that they are only marked US.  In WW2 the picks, and often the handles, are marked US and also marked with the date and manufacturer's name.  The old WW1 vintage picks are often passed over by collectors because they are not dated like the WW2 versions!  I think it is often assumed that they must not be "authentic" due to the lack of date and manufacturer stamps.  I got a great deal on this pick for that very reason!

These picks were designed to be taken apart and carried in two pieces.  A canvas carrier was issued with them that held both pieces separately, making the "package" more compact.  This carrier was strapped to the field pack.  (I'm on the hunt for a WW1 canvas carrier now!)  The canvas carriers can be found with WW1, WW2, and some 1950's dates.

Not every soldier was issued a pick.  I'm not sure what the ratio of picks to shovels was in WW1, but in WW2, here is how they were issued out:

Squad of 10 men:
1 man issued M-1910 Hatchet
2 men issued M-1910 Pick-Mattocks
8 men issued M-1910 Entrenching Tools (shovels)

The very early M-1910 picks were issued out un-painted.  Not long after they were first issued (pre-WW1), the regulations were changed to indicate that all M-1910 entrenching tools (picks, shovels and hatchets) were to be painted.  My pick has the last remnants of paint still visible on it.  There is some of the early Khaki-Green paint from the WW1 era and some of the later Dark Olive Green paint from WW2 on the metal head, and just a few specks on the wooden handle (The WW1 paint on the head is very faint, and around the edges of the darker WW2 green paint).  I am guessing that the paint must have been field-applied and that may be why it did not stick so well.

While examining these photos, I discovered that there was a very small, partial US Ordinance Corps, stamped marking, to the left of the pick's US stamping.  The story of that "mystery and investigation" can be seen at my blog posting here:


These US picks were well designed, compact, and some of the most useful ones that I have seen produced by any of the armies through the years.  They were used by the US military all the way up into the 1970's.  The pick was still standard issue through the Korean War era, and then tapered off after that.

Let's take a look at the album.  Enjoy!