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Anne Elk
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PostSun May 24, 2020 6:29 pm 
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I'm wondering if anyone out there has a "retired" brush axe they might care to sell.  Something along the quality of a Sandvik, such as this. A Wetterlings would be fabulous, but since they're out of biz I don't think one can get new blades that would fit. I need it for a limited, occasional use and don't want to purchase new unless I must.  Most who use such a tool probably wouldn't part with it unless they've hung up their forestry hat, but I figure it never hurts to ask.  biggrin.gif

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Malachai Constant
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PostSun May 24, 2020 7:00 pm 
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I have a brush hook that looks medieval but still use it for blackberries.

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mike
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PostSun May 24, 2020 7:28 pm 
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You might look at a brush hook...
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Ski
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PostSun May 24, 2020 8:20 pm 
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I've never used a tool like the one shown in your video.
These are the tools I used for trail work: (top to bottom) D-ring (slightly customized with shovel handle), Grass Whip, and Brush Hook (with 36-inch handle)

T to B D-ring Grass Whip Brush Hook 01
T to B D-ring Grass Whip Brush Hook 01
T to B D-ring Grass Whip Brush Hook 02
T to B D-ring Grass Whip Brush Hook 02

My mother found the brush hook head at a second-hand shop. I got the handle from the chain saw shop. It will cleanly cut 2-inch diameter alder with a good swing. Takes a hell of a lot of arm to swing the thing with any degree of effectiveness. Blade protector is home-made from a piece of old garden hose and some leather thong.

The D-ring (about $16-$20 bucks at Home Depot) comes with a short handle. I used an old shovel handle for extra length and greater velocity at the business end. Will cut 2-inch Salmonberry, but it's necessary to carry a file, two 7/16" open-end wrenches, two 1/4-20 x 1" bolts, two 1/4-20 hex nuts, and a spare blade if you're more than a mile or so from the trailhead. The arms will twist and break after extended heavy use.
There are two versions of this tool: one has the solid steel straps which hold the blade to the handle, as shown in the photo. The other uses a cheezy stamped-steel arm which snaps off in pretty short order under heavy use. Don't waste your time or money on that type - they're junk.

The Grass Whip is okay for light duty use. It will cut small Salmonberry, Huckleberry, Sword fern, and other weeds, but if you get into Service Berry or Devils Club or large Salmonberry the blade will snap off and go flying off into the brush, never to be seen again. (There are two of them somewhere along the lower end of the Queets Trail.)

Bright yellow paint makes tools much easier to find if you should lose your grip and the tool goes flying off into the brush.

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I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
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Anne Elk
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PostSun May 24, 2020 9:16 pm 
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Thanks for the suggestions, Malachi, Mike & Ski.  I actually have an ancient, rusty brush hook that was left deep inside a tool closet when I bought my house.  Didn't know what it was. The previous owner of my house was originally a Swedish farmer in Saskatchewan, so who knows, it might be a Viking heirloom.  It would take a lot to make it usable.  I don't need anything that heavy as I won't be taking down small trees or trimming small limbs.  Biggest stuff would be shrubbery & blackberry.

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PostTue May 26, 2020 6:40 pm 
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^ Would take me about an hour to break down the head, clean with a wire wheel, and put a edge on that brush hook. Good hickory handles (Ron Jones Power Equipment, Spanaway; Lincoln Hardware, Tacoma; or  https://tennesseehickory.com/ ) run about $20 bucks for a good one. (Don't buy Chinese handles - they're junk.)(Nothing quite like a good piece of US hickory.)

Cutting blackberry (R. Discolor or R. Laciniatus) can be a pain - the canes have just enough "springy" in them to cause blades to bounce off, and if you're swinging low near the crown at multiple canes it's pretty easy to break a blade.

That's where the loppers come in. (Also a must-have for huckleberry of any variety.) Mine are one-piece forged steel. Bulletproof, but heavy. Will cut anything that I can fit into the jaws - up to about 1-1/2" diameter. There are super lightweight models available now that lend themselves well to trail work.

loppers
loppers

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I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
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mike
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PostTue May 26, 2020 8:29 pm 
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Or something like these. The handles extend.

Actually for blackberries and salmonberries and brush I use a scythe with a sharp brush blade. Blade length is only about 12-24". One can hook the cut canes and drag them out of the way without getting bit. Otherwise you're always fighting the stuff you just cut.
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Malachai Constant
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PostTue May 26, 2020 9:53 pm 
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Blackberries have a root ball, I call it a potato at the end of the cane. You have to grub that out or they will just grow back, it is also where the ribosomes come from. That is where the brush hook comes in handy as you can cut underground in way you cannot with an axe (if you like your axe). Luther Burbank was the Scion of satan!

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"You do not laugh when you look at the mountains, or when you look at the sea." Lafcadio Hearn
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Ski
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PostWed May 27, 2020 12:58 am 
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Blackberries:

My first retaining wall was in the back yard of a house on SW 45th Street near Dakota in West Seattle. I went down 48" below grade to set the bottom course. I was still pulling up root crowns of Himalaya Blackberry (R. Laciniatus) at that depth.

I go after the root crowns with a 5-foot pinch-point bar. (aka "railroad bar" aka "spud bar".) Something similar to the models shown on the C.M. McClung catalog page, or the "digging bar" at bottom right on the Shapleigh catalog page:

1935 Shapleigh Hardware catalog Track Wrench Rail Fork Locomotive Pinch Bar ad pp 55
1935 Shapleigh Hardware catalog Track Wrench Rail Fork Locomotive Pinch Bar ad pp 55
1915 C.M. McClung & Co. catalog Verona wrench crow bar ad pp 107
1915 C.M. McClung & Co. catalog Verona wrench crow bar ad pp 107

I also have a 6-foot model which comes in handy for removing stumps. Once you get the business end of the thing stabbed into the ground below the object to removed, it's simply a matter of muscling it out. They come in handy for moving large pieces of downed trees as well.
A bit heavy for trail work, however.

* Verona / Verona Tool Works, Pittsburgh, PA / USPTO TM 70028858 July 25, 1896 / https://www.garagejournal.com/forum/showthread.php?t=270911 /

*Not sure who "E.T.W." was - I have nothing on that one.

* Shapleigh / Shapleigh Hardware, St. Louis, Mo. / http://www.thckk.org/history/shapleigh-history.pdf /


* Chemicals are a lot easier. I believe ONP is now using "Garlon 3A", a concentrated solution containing Triclopyr. You might want to inquire at your local County Weed Control Board for their recommendations. Glyphosate is somewhat effective, but has some drawbacks which make it not always the best choice. I got the stuff that was trying to creep under the fence in my back yard under control with repeated doses of 2-4D. "Glyphosate" and "RoundUp" are not one and the same thing. See http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=8029504 *

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"I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. 
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
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Anne Elk
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PostSat May 30, 2020 5:14 pm 
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Thanks everyone for your detailed input re tools and methods. Since my OP, I've learned a bit about the demise of quality hand tools. Even the Europeans seem to have sold old to the demand for "cheap".  Right off I discovered that one of the best brush axes out there was made by Wetterlings, which unfortunately went out of biz several years ago.  Can't find a Wetterlings anywhere.  Check out the quality of the Wetterlings on this demo video by a Canadian supply company.  Compare to any online pic of new brush axes for sale. Those look like they're made from welded aluminum.  tongue.gif  No more double-sided blades, either.

So I hunted around and found an old antique on ebay for cheap:

brush axe
brush axe

The seller was in Idaho so I figured the tool has some good history and stood up to some heavy use. The head looks more like the forged Wetterlings.  Might have to replace the handle, so thanks, Ski, for the links to a hickory handle supplier.  I can probably coax some life out of that old blade but hope new blades will fit.  I've already uncovered warnings about cheap Chinese steel blades that aren't worth a darn.

In re those "Viking battle axes" that were suggested, way too heavy for the upper limits of what I'll be working with, and I like that this tool has a certain degree of tall grass-shearing ability.  I like your forged loppers, Ski.  Mine aren't old enough to be of that quality, but old enough to be better than what's out there now.

Seems to be the story of everything these decades, no?  Stuff's just not built with quality, to last.  Bad for the "economy"!    huh.gif  I'll report back after my toy arrives and I have a chance to work on it.

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Ski
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PostSat May 30, 2020 6:55 pm 
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Interesting piece you found there.
Intrigued by the tool in the video, but I would definitely be wanting the model with the longest handle and the angled head, and even then I'm not sure the handle would be long enough for me.

As to your other notes regarding tools:

The history of hand tools is pretty interesting, if that's your thing. Many hand tools we are familiar with today simply didn't exist prior to WWI, and there were no "standards" until the 1920s - everybody made their stuff to their own "specifications", so thread sizes and pitches and nut and bolt sizes were all over the map.
You are correct in your observation that there are very few US-based tool manufacturers left. Most all of that manufacturing base has been shipped offshore, primarily to Taiwan and China.
As you noted, some of the old-line European manufacturers began outsourcing product from other countries as well.
There are still a few US-based hand tool manufacturers who are doing all their production in country. There's a list of US based mechanics hand tool manufacturers HERE. I don't make any claims about it being complete or comprehensive. Makers of the sort of tools shown in this thread aren't within the scope of that project. I haven't updated it for almost a year and a half - it's a fairly daunting project I'm still working on.

The loppers aren't that old. I bought them new about 30 years ago. Got tired of snapping handles off. I can make pretty good time with those and a small bow saw.

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"I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. 
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
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Anne Elk
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PostSat May 30, 2020 8:45 pm 
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Ski,  I didn't mind if the tool wasn't US made so much as that it was well-made, and I knew that some of the Euopean outfits were excellent in their niche.  These years, not so much I guess.  Ages ago I read Paul Hawken's Growing a Business.  He founded Smith & Hawken because he saw the need for quality gardening tools, which couldn't be had here; S&H began importing them from the UK and elsewhere in Europe. After he retired, the company ended up getting traded numerous times, distorted and wrecked by several investment firms and large corporations; as often happens to niche mid-size businesses.

When the seller contacted me with the USPS tracking info, I asked him if there was a story to go with the axe, and he wrote:

Quote:
I work for the Forest Service, and found it last year while I was doing some layout work.  It was right by the property line between State and Federal ground, so Id guess the survey crew that paints the boundaries had it and dropped it years ago. For as long as it may have sat, it still works all right, I took a few swings with it here and there, and it still cuts brush.

That it comes to me after lying about in the woods for who knows how long, just at the time I was looking for it, gives a satisfying feeling that I can't quite explain.

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PostSat May 30, 2020 9:56 pm 
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There are/were no shortage of high-quality tool manufacturers outside the US. Currently some of the better quality hand tools made are coming out of Taiwan, believe it or not.
I just have more of an affinity for US made tools, as that is primarily what I collect.

The Smith & Hawken story (at least from what I gathered from the Wikipedia article) sounds like what happened to many other companies that were sold, re-sold, and re-sold again in the orgy of corporate mergers and acquisitions in the 1980s and 1990s. Those that didn't go belly-up (like many of the US tool manufacturers) were whored out to corporate giants and transformed into nothing more than an old and well-respected brand name being used as a vehicle to peddle schlock merchandise - the C.E. Niehoff Company of Chicago comes to mind.

An oft-overlooked advantage of a used tool is that it's already been put to the test. I would assume, from the quote by the seller, that some guy worked the hell out of that thing.
If it was going to fail, it would have happened long ago.
Odds are all you'll need to do will be a put a new handle on it and a new edge on the blade.

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"I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. 
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
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Anne Elk
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PostSat May 30, 2020 10:29 pm 
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Ski wrote:
transformed into nothing more than an old and well-respected brand name being used as a vehicle to peddle schlock merchandise


Or the brand name is just a shadow of its former quality. Stanley thermoses and Vornado fans are examples.  I've got pre- and post- China versions.   frown.gif

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PostSun May 31, 2020 12:13 am 
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^ SB&D is in the business of garnering market share. Making high quality tools is a secondary objective for them.

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I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
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