Going through my collection of old tools I've inherited from a friend long ago, I found these two, that look like axes, but I doubt that is what they are. For one thing, they are too small, and the 'axe-end' is about as sharp as a rolling pin. Anybody knows what they are?


I've taken another picture from a different angle. I think it shows that they can't be pickaxes, certainly - the sharp ends are not at all sharp and never were. Besides, this is quite soft iron - I tried to put an edge on them, but it blunts as soon as I try to use them as axes.

I found them in a box full of tools that seem to be for heavy duty soldering - perhaps for lead roofing? They are basically a wooden handle attached to a thin metal shaft with a large lump of metal in different shapes at the end, that looks like it has been heated (covered with some black cinderlike stuff). When I found the 'axes' they looked like they had been blunted by using them like a kind of hammer.

End view

  • Axes that have been neglected for years (probably starting before they were stored) can end up very blunt indeed, so you can't rule out that they've been sharp in the past
    – Chris H
    Dec 21, 2021 at 13:05
  • The simple answer is that this is a traditional axe shape which has been used for different purposes at different times....
    – keshlam
    May 17, 2023 at 21:54

5 Answers 5


These look to me like antique firefighter's axes. You can see the restoration of one here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnlEZhwRERo .

I can find several examples of the left one in an internet search for "antique fireman's axe", e.g. https://www.tooltique.co.uk/superb-condition-a-rare-shand-mason-co-19th-century-firemans-axe/ assuming someone modified the smaller end.

I can't quite find the right one, but I see some similar: https://victoriancollections.net.au/items/4f72b8aa97f83e03086059f0 .

  • 2
    I think you've probably nailed it; the previous owner was a very old gentleman, and it seems plausible that he could have been a firewarden in WWII in London.
    – j4nd3r53n
    Mar 31, 2022 at 8:13
  • Cool. WWII short supplies might then explain the lower quality metal. Mar 31, 2022 at 16:14

I believe these are "prospecting" or "mining" axes. They are used even today by those mining or prospecting for gold, gems, minerals, etc. by hand.

  • Thank you for your answer - I doubt they are useful for mining or prospecting. The metal is too soft, really. I've edited my question and added pictures.
    – j4nd3r53n
    Dec 24, 2021 at 7:38
  • They do seem to be rock picks from their shape, size and intentional bluntness. I wouldn't rule out that they are just not very good and were made with best efforts by people who didn't have access to anything better.
    – jay613
    Dec 24, 2021 at 12:58
  • 1
    Many rocks and minerals are quite soft. For example I know these types of tools were used in coal mining.
    – jwh20
    Dec 24, 2021 at 19:15
  • Coal mining, hmm... I'm in UK, so it isn't unthinkable, but I think miners used something a bit heftier - I will probably go with this answer eventually, but I'm not sompletely convinced. @jay613 - with this being in UK, I think people would have plenty of access to better steel, so it is probably deliberate that it is so soft.
    – j4nd3r53n
    Dec 26, 2021 at 8:18

Those are rockhounding tools.

The pick is for picking out rocks and the "axe" is for splitting rocks (for example to find agates inside) or wedging out clefts from bigger boulders.


I have required a axe like that first one on the left of the photo, I bought one with a load of antique tools it belong to a Fireman or fire marshal in ww11 if it’s the same one as mine it’s a SHAND MASON Co tool and they are very rare. Gets some wire wool and clean it, should be embossed on it good luck.


They might also be dull hand/camping axes for splitting kindling

  • 1
    Thank you for your answer - I don't thin they would be useful as axes. The metal is too soft, really, and they don't seem to have the right balance. I've edited my question and added pictures.
    – j4nd3r53n
    Dec 24, 2021 at 7:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.