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.

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