Tuesday, March 7, 2017

East German Military, DDR, NVA, Pioneer Axe - Hatchet, circa 1950's or late 1940's for Sapper, Engineer Units

Today we'll be taking a look at one of most recent additions to the "Pioneer Tool Collection.   

This hefty, little hand axe-hatchet, is a vintage East German military chopper that dates to the late 1940's, or 1950's.

I picked this up from a surplus vendor that marketed it as unissued East German.  Based on the style, construction, preservatives, and a bit of OD green paint, I believe that is exactly what it is.

"As Received", complete with wax preservative.

I received the hatchet in the condition it was surplussed in, from long-term warehouse storage.  In other words, in good shape, but coated in preservative!   The bright metal portions of the head were coated in a heavy wax-tar compound.  The wood handle was VERY dry and hardened, and the wedge was missing (probably popped out as the handle shrank).

Missing wedge.

There were a couple of brushed spots of OD green paint on the wax.  This definitely lends credence to its origin as a military hatchet.

You can see one of the spots of green over the black in this shot.

After an extensive bit of "wet sanding" with sandpaper and mineral spirits, I managed to remove the wax coating.  The head was now clean and could be inspected closer.

The head is roughly forged, in typical East German style,  The steel appears to be high quality, and the grinding and shaping of the bit appears to be well done.  No extra effort was put into making it "pretty", another distinct clue as to its East German origin!

The only markings on the bit, is the number "1", stamped on one side.  After removing the wood handle, I weighed the head, and discovered it weighs 1 kilogram, hence the "1" stamping.

The wood handle was poorly fitted to the head.  The handle is in the classic "European Style" with the large axe-type haft that tapers down to a hatchet size.  This is because the old handles were made from European hardwood that was not as tough as American Hickory.  The handle appears to be something like Ash.

To keep the re-hafting of the hatchet looking "authentic", I fashioned a hand cut wedge that did not quite fit perfectly, then cross wedged it with a used metal wedge.  I then soaked the end of the wood, at the eye, in penetrating polyurethane to bond everything and help "glue it in place".  After that set up, I filled in the cracks and crevices with some old, thick, grimy, grease from the undercarriage of my Jeep.  The finished results look perfect, and in character with the rest of the hatchet.  That's what I like to call a "museum quality, and appropriate" restoration!

This style of hatchet was used by the German forces in both WW1 and WW2.  The only difference is that the earlier hatchets were much nicer in their finish work.  In the early days of the East German, the "old equipment" was replicated in style, but not in finish.  This hatchet falls into that exact, early, post-war era, and the finish work confirms it!  These East German hatchets would have been used as "utility hatchets", and carried by sapper or engineer units in the field, and possibly by some of the infantry units along with their entrenching tools.

This hatchet definitely fills a "hard to find" spot in the early East German military portion of my collection.  Now the hunt continues to find more information about it, and to hopefully locate a photo showing this style of hatchet in East German use!  

Until then, let's take a look at the album.

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