Sunday, July 12, 2020

WITCO Avalanche Snow Shovel, Witco A.S., Made In Norway, Brtitish Army, Norwegian Army, Rottefella, T-Handle, Alpine

I have added, yet another, shovel to the collection.  This time the new shovel showed up by way of a gift.

My daughter and son in law, picked up a wonderful little avalanche snow shovel at a local garage sale, and gave it to me for Father's Day.  Great Gift!

The funny thing about this, is that I have been watching and researching, these very shovels, but hadn't picked one up yet.  Now the search is over, and another "empty spot" has been filled in the bunker.

This shovel was made by Witco A.S, of Norway.  It is marked as "MADE IN NORWAY", in both english and french.

The Witco company is named after the inventor of the Rottefella ski bindings, Bror With, (WIT-h CO-mpany:  WITCO ).  Later, WITCO  became Roteffella, still based in Norway, and the shovel production that started with WITCO, continued with Rottefella, with only the name changed on the shovel.

Here is the link to the biography page of Bror With: 

Here is a link to the Rottefella Company "About Us" page:

The WITCO avalanche snow shovel was based, very closely, on the original Swiss Military avalanche shovel made during WW2.  The Swiss version was flatter, and the blade parts were spot welded, and not riveted, like the WITCO version.  Originally the WITCO shovel had a straight handle, and then later, a plastic T-Handle was added.

The WITCO shovel was first sold in 1979, and a short write-up appeared in Backpacker Magazine, Oct-Nov 1979, on page 73, at the time.

From what I can tell, these shovels were manufactured and sold from 1979, to some time in the early 2000's.  The earliest versions had the straight wood handle and were marked WITCO.  The middle versions were marked WITCO with a T-handle, and the last versions were marked Rottefella, with a T-handle.

The red bladed shovels were marketed to civilians, and a natural silver bladed version, with a grey or light green T-handle, was sold to the Norwegian Army and the British Army.  You can still find these silver military versions for sale as surplus British or Norwegian military.  The military shovels are marked the same as the civilian red shovels, only the colors are different.  Since the British used the WITCO shovels, it is very probable that they were also used by the various British Antarctic Expeditions as well (quite possibly the red version).

The WITCO T-handle shovels have a removable handle.  

The handle is held in place by a sliding shank-ring.  The handle is released by sliding the ring down and then pulling the handle out.  

There is an indexing screw in the wood handle that fits into a notch on the blade shank to make sure the T handle is positioned correctly, and to prevent the handle from rotating.

I currently have three different avalanche shovels in the collection, this new WITCO, a WW2 Swiss shovel, and a French shovel.  You can read about the Swiss and French shovels here, on these blog pages: 

Before we get started with the photo album of this new WITCO, let's take a quick look at the three versions of snow shovels that I have in the collection.

WITCO,  Swiss,  French
WITCO,  Swiss,  French
WITCO,  Swiss,  French
WITCO,  Swiss
Now to finish things up, here is the WITCO snow shovel.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Boy Scout Shovel, Combination Tool, Pick - Hoe - Shovel, Folding, WFS World Famous Sports, Made in Japan, Patent 765564, Triangle with Stars Trademark

Quite some time ago I noticed an odd "folding" shovel that was often referred to as a Boy Scout Shovel, or Camp Shovel.  I say "folding", but it is actually a "combination shovel", as it doesn't actually fold.

I was immediately intrigued when I saw these, and was determined to track down an example in good condition.  Well, I succeeded!

This shovel is very unique, in that it appears to be a folding shovel, but the head actually pivots, and locks, at a 90 degree angle, to convert it from shovel, to a pick mattock (hoe and pick).  From what I can tell, it is a variation of the old Vaughan and Bushnell Company, combination shovel-pick-hoe tool that was marketed to Boy Scouts in 1936.  
Here is a link to a page that shows some details of the Vaughan and Bushnell tools: 

Boys Life Magazine, May 1936

The old Vaughn Bushnell tools used a siding piece to lock the head in position, and the shovel I have, used a spring loaded, double button, mechanism - pivot, to lock the head in place.  But other than the locking method, they both appear to be basically the same design.

The shovel we are taking a look at today, has the brand mark "WFS" on the wood handle.  This is the logo for World Famous Sports.  

World Famous Sports was known for producing a complete line of Boy Scout "knock-offs", that were sold in hardware and sporting goods stores to Boy Scouts and campers.  They made everything from mess kits, to packs, axes, compasses, and shovels.  All were copies of the Official Boy Scout items, but substituted the WFS logo and name where the Boy Scouts logo often appeared.  On the rucksack copies they made, the WFS logo was designed to look like the Boy Scout logo at first glance!  All of these items were made and marketed from the late 1950's to 1970's.  As far as I can tell, they were also all made in Japan (pre-"Made In China" days).

I have been unable to find a single advertisement or catalog for the WFS items from this 1960's period, so I believe they were only wholesale suppliers to retail stores.  The packaging for their items was very generic, and each package had an item number and the WFS log, but not much else.  When you start looking, you will find all kinds of old Boy Scout items that are actually WFS and not Official Boy Scout items.

I am guessing that my WFS shovel was made in the 1960's or 1970's.  You can still find lots of WFS camping gear available for sale on line, and also through sporting goods stores in the USA like Big-5, Walmart, etc.  Starting in the 1980's (as far as I can tell), WFS started making knock-off copies of popular "modern" camping gear, and stopped making copies of Boy Scout gear.  The WFS gear sold today, all appears to be made in China.

The blade of this shovel is stamped with a makers trademark that is a "triangle made from 4 triangles, with three stars in 3 of the triangles".  I have been unable to figure out what company used that trademark.  It may be a manufacturer of tools, but not necessarily a retail company marking.
Under the logo, it says Pat. No. , 765564, Made In Japan.

I did some research into the patent number and discovered that it is not from Japan or the United States.  Both of those patent numbers are for items that are not this shovel!  So, it may be that the patent number is not an actual patent, but merely placed for marketing.  That is just a guess for now.  The US patent number that matches also would have been issued between 1904 and 1905, obviously out of range for this shovel as well.  It is possible that because the design was so close to the Vaughan and Bushnell shovel, they decided to give it a "fake patent number" to hopefully make is seem more "legitimate".  Again, just speculation.

UPDATE 7-11-20:  I did a database search of all registered, worldwide patent numbers on record (over 120 million!), and discovered that the patent number on these shovels does not match any patent for a shovel, or a locking mechanism.  It seems that the patent number is just for show.  There are a number of matching patents with the same number, from various countries, but none match anything close to a shovel or locking mechanism.

There is one thing that can not be disputed though, this shovel-hoe-pick tool is very well made!  It is very unique as well!  The pivot-lock assembly is made of heavy steel and is fitted quite well.  The head locks tight in both positions.  The locking buttons have very strong springs and lock very positively.  All in all, the locking assembly is very well made.

The shovel-pick head is also very well made.  It is stamped out of heavy gauge steel and looks like it would stand up to heavy use.

The handle is solid, firmly attached, and well made out of quality wood. 

Aside from being so odd in its appearance, this shovel is a higher quality "camp shovel".  I am definitely glad I picked one up!

The best way to tell about this shovel is to take a close look at it, so lets get on with the album.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Austro-Hungarian Shovel Cover, WW1, WW2, Cold War, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Austria, M-1910, T.D. II, Traindivision Nr.2, K.u.k.

In my quest to find covers for all of my shovels, I'm always on the lookout for a good deal, and covers with unique markings and patina.  I recently found a cover with all three, and I had a shovel that needed a cover just like it.  

I have an old Austro-Hungarian shovel that has been in the collection for some time, without a cover.  I originally purchased it, sight unseen, as a Hungarian Army entrenching tool.  When it arrived, it was pretty obvious that it was a WW1 era, Austro-Hungarian shovel that had continued its service with the Hungarian Army, well into the Cold War.  I have been on the lookout for a good cover ever since.

You can read about that Austro-Hungarian shovel on my blog post here: 

There have been quite a number of the old, leather, Austro-Hungarian shovel covers coming out of Bulgaria lately.  After WW1, Bulgaria continued using the old Austro-Hungarian shovels, through WW2, and into the Cold war era.  The Bulgarians "modernized" the old covers by removing the belt loops and restitching them lower on the cover.   I believe my cover most likely came out of Bulgaria, since it has the signature "Bulgarian belt loops".

 There is not much more I can say about my cover, other than it is a M-1910 style, cover.  It fits the old WW1 Austro-Hungarian shovel quite nicely, and looks great!

The cover has a couple of small markings stamped into it.  "T.D. II", and an "A".  I am still trying to sort out the meaning of the stamps.  They must be unit markings of some sort.

UPDATE 7-7-20:  I received some information form another historian, reference the T.D. II stamped markings.  He stated that the Austro-Hungarian Army used the T.D. stamp to designate units of the "Traindivision".  He stated that the T.D. stamps can be found on firearms and other equipment that were issued to the "Traindivision" troops.  The "Traindivision" troops were  supply troops.  A bit of research revealed that one of the T.D. units that was activated and serving with the Austro Hungarian Army in 1914, was the Traindivision Nr.II.  This was the Supply Troop of the 2 Corps.  The "II" could also be a double one, "11", but that is a bit unlikely.  The more obvious and likely option is that the "II" is actually the roman numeral for "2".  This fits the stamping perfectly!   T.D. 2 was garrisoned in Wien, also know as Vienna, Austria.  The "A" stamp is still under investigation.

If the "II" stamping is actually the roman numeral for "2", as opposed to "11", then it was for the Traindivision Nr.2, that was garrisoned in Vienna Austria.    You can see how it is very tough to positively identify units from markings!

Here is a wonderful website that has a very complete list of the Austro-Hungarian units during WW1.  Great information, and the best I've found when it comes to deciphering unit numbers!

Now let's take a closer look at this cover.