How to Date a Kelly Axe

Do you ever wonder how to date a Kelly axe? It may seem like an impossible task given the age and history of these tools, but it’s actually quite simple! In this blog post, we’ll explore the various ways of dating such an iconic piece of equipment. 

How to Date a Kelly Axe

From identifying what type of axe you have to determine its age based on manufacturer markings to even uncovering hints about past owners and usage – you’ll learn all sorts of fascinating information about your Kelly axe that can reveal its true age and history. So get ready for a journey through time as we unlock the secrets behind your favorite tool.

What Country Makes the Best Axes?

When it comes to axes, there are many countries that make some of the best tools available. Kelly Axe is a well-known brand of the axe that is made in the United States. However, there are also other countries that produce quality axes. Sweden, for instance, is known for its high-quality hand-crafted axes, such as Hultafors and Gransfors Bruks.

Germany is also a major producer of axes, with brands such as Fiskars and Stubai being immensely popular amongst woodworking professionals and hobbyists alike. In addition, Great Britain is home to some highly-regarded manufacturers such as Council Tool and Gerber.

It’s important to note that the country of origin is not necessarily indicative of the quality. Much like any other product, axes from different countries may have their own special features and advantages which can be beneficial to the user.

For instance, Swedish-made axes tend to feature beautiful handles made out of solid wood, while German-made axes often boast incredibly precise blade geometries for efficient chopping and splitting. Ultimately, the best axe for you will depend on your needs and preferences.

No matter what country is producing it, you can ensure that a Kelly Axe is of the highest quality by looking for certain features such as American-forged steel head construction and long-lasting hickory handles. The signature Kelly red paint will also serve as a way to authenticate the axe. Most importantly, it’s always important to inspect your axe before using it and employ good safety measures when handling any type of edged tool.

10 Methods How to Date a Kelly Axe

1. Look for the Kelly Axe Stamp.

All Kelly Axes will have a stamp on them that says “Kelly Axe & Tool Co.” along with the location of the company (Newark, NJ; Baltimore, MD; or Charleston, SC) and the year the axe was made. This is the easiest way to date a Kelly axe. If there is no stamp, the axe could be from another company or pre-date Kelly Axes.

All Kelly Axes Will 
Have a Stamp

2. Check the Size of the Axe.

The size of the axe can also be helpful in dating it. The Kelly Axe & Tool Co. used standard sizes for their axes, so if you know the approximate size of the axe you’re looking at, you can narrow down its date range. For example, a full-sized axe with a 36-inch handle and a 4.5-pound head was the standard size for most of Kelly’s axes, but by the 1940s, they had switched to a shorter 34-inch handle and lighter 4.25-pound head.

3. Look at the Shape of the Head.

The shape of the head can also be helpful in dating a Kelly axe. The company went through three different head shapes during its history: early (1870-1890), middle (1890-1910), and late (1910-1930). Early Kelly axes have a more rounded head with no visible bevels and a small eye. Middle Kelly axes have a flat-backed head, a slightly pointed poll, and a larger eye. Late Kelly axes have an oval-shaped head, with no bevels or pointed poll, and a large eye.

4. Look at the Color of the Wood.

The color of the wood can also give clues as to the age of a Kelly axe. Early axes were made with hickory, which is light in color, while later axes were made with white ash, which is darker in color. Also, the type of metal used can affect the color. Early axes used softer steel, which corrodes more easily and turns brownish-red over time. Later axes used harder steel, which corrodes less easily and remains grayish-white.

5. Check for Wear and Tear.

Wear and tear can also be helpful in dating a Kelly axe. Early axes will show more wear and tear than later axes, as they would have been used more frequently before the advent of power tools. In particular, look for signs of use on the blade edge, handle and cheek. Wear on the poll (opposite end of the axe head from the blade) can also be a sign of age, as older axes were more likely to be used for splitting logs.

6. Examine the Handle.

The handle can also give clues as to the age of a Kelly axe. Early handles were made from hickory, while later handles were made from white ash. Additionally, early handles were attached to the head with wooden pegs, while later handles were attached with metal rivets. The size and shape of the handle can also indicate its age – earlier handles tended to be narrower and longer than later models. Be sure to check if the handle is original or has been replaced.

Handle Can Give Clues as to the Age

7. Check for Rust or Other Damage.

Rust or other damage can also indicate the age of a Kelly axe. Rust is more common on older axes, as they would have been used more frequently and exposed to more elements than newer axes. However, rust can also be caused by poor storage conditions, so it’s not always a reliable indicator of age. If you find significant rust or other damage, it’s best to take the axe to a professional for repair before attempting any further dating.

8. Look for Signs of Repair.

Signs of repair can also help date a Kelly axe. Older axes are more likely to have been repaired at some point, as they would have been used more frequently and subject to more wear and tear. However, it’s important to note that some repairs may have been done by previous owners, so they may not be original to the axe. 

Repairs that are original to the axe, such as riveting or welding, will provide clues to the age of the axe. Additionally, repairs may also indicate that an axe was made by a particular manufacturer, as certain types of repair methods were typically only used by specific manufacturers. If the repairs are consistent with those typically found on axes of a particular era or manufacturer, then this can also help determine the age of the axe.

9. Research Online: 

If you are having trouble dating your Kelly axe using any of these methods, you can try researching online. There are many online forums where people discuss vintage axes, and someone may have already posted about your particular axe. You can also search for any identifying marks on the axe that might provide further information on its history. Additionally, you may be able to find more information on the manufacturer’s website.

Identifying Marks on the Kelly Axe

Finally, there are websites that specialize in vintage tools, and they may have additional information that could help you date your Kelly axe. These websites are generally run by knowledgeable individuals who can provide detailed information on these tools.

10. Ask an Expert: 

If all else fails, you can always ask an expert for help in dating your Kelly axe. There are many experts who deal with vintage axes, and they may be able to give you some insight into your particular axe. If you can’t find an expert near you, online forums and specialty websites are great places to ask for advice. Also, there are many reference books written about vintage axes that you can use. With the help of an expert, you may be able to date your Kelly axe and determine its value.

Things to Consider When Dating Kelly Axe

1. Value:

Kelly axes are highly valuable items and should be treated with respect. It is important to date someone who has a similar appreciation and respect for the value of a Kelly Axe.

2. Age:

Kelly Axes are usually made with high-grade steel and can last a lifetime if properly cared for, but they should not be used beyond their meant purpose, as this could damage the Axe or reduce its value over time. Be sure to find someone who understands that an Axe is a vintage item and needs to be respected accordingly.

3. Knowledge:

A considerable amount of knowledge about how to care for and maintain a Kelly Axe is essential when dating one. If your partner does not have sufficient understanding of how to clean, store, and sharpen a Kelly Axe, then it may be best to stay away from this type of relationship until more information can be acquired.

Sharpen a Kelly Axe


If you’re looking for an axe that will last you a lifetime, look no further than the Kelly Axe. With its durable construction and sleek design, the Kelly Axe is sure to make chopping wood a breeze. 

And with these easy-to-follow instructions on how to date a kelly axe, you’ll be able to date your Kelly Axe in no time!

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Enrique Howard

Hi, I am Enrique. I started my professional life as a handyman and did a lot of external and internal repair of home and office with a little bit of electric and plumbing support. I have extensive experience in tools testing such as drilling, turning, milling, and non-conventional machining like EDM. So let me help you on your journey towards becoming an enlightened DIYer with amazing tools that you can use on your project.

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