How to Date a Kelly Axe: Tips and Tricks for Collectors

How to Date a Kelly Axe

If you’re a collector or enthusiast of vintage tools, you may have come across a Kelly axe and wondered about its age and history. The Kelly Axe Manufacturing Company was one of the most prominent American axe makers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, producing high-quality axes that were used by loggers, carpenters, and homesteaders across the country.

Understanding Kelly Axes

To date a Kelly axe, you need to understand the different types of axes the company produced over its history. Kelly axes were known for their high-quality steel and innovative designs, which included unique shapes and features for different purposes. Some of the most popular Kelly axes include the Perfect, the Flint Edge, and the Black Raven. Each of these axes has distinct characteristics that can help you identify and date them.

The History of Kelly Axe Manufacturing

The Kelly Axe Manufacturing Company was founded in 1874 by William C. Kelly, a Kentucky blacksmith who had a reputation for making high-quality axes. Kelly’s business grew rapidly, and he soon moved his operations to Louisville, Kentucky, where he built a large factory that could produce thousands of axes a day. Over the next several decades, Kelly axes became synonymous with quality and durability, and the company became one of the largest axe makers in the world.

Key Takeaways

  • Kelly axes were known for their high-quality steel and innovative designs.
  • The Kelly Axe Manufacturing Company was founded in 1874 by William C. Kelly.
  • To date a Kelly axe, you need to understand the different types of axes the company produced over its history.

Understanding Kelly Axes

As an axe collector or enthusiast, it is essential to understand the history and characteristics of different types of axes. One of the most popular types of axes is the Kelly axe, which has been used for centuries by carpenters, builders, and other craftsmen for a variety of purposes.

Kelly axes were manufactured by the Kelly Axe and Tool Company, which was founded in 1874 in Charleston, West Virginia. The company later moved to Newark, New Jersey, and then to Baltimore, Maryland. Kelly axes were known for their high-quality steel and durability, which made them a popular choice for loggers and other woodworkers.

One of the most recognizable features of a Kelly axe is the double-bit design, which means that the axe has two cutting edges on opposite sides of the blade. This design was popular because it allowed the user to switch between cutting edges without having to stop and sharpen the blade. Kelly axes were also known for their distinctive Black Raven logo, which was stamped onto the axe head.

To determine the age of a Kelly axe, it is important to look for the Kelly Axe stamp, which will include the location of the company and the year the axe was made. This is the easiest way to date a Kelly axe. However, it is important to note that not all Kelly axes were stamped with a date, so other methods may need to be used.

Overall, understanding the history and characteristics of Kelly axes can help collectors and enthusiasts identify and appreciate these classic tools. Whether you are looking for a double-bit axe for chopping wood or a Black Raven axe for your collection, the Kelly Axe and Tool Company has a reputation for producing high-quality axes that are built to last.

The History of Kelly Axe Manufacturing

As a collector or restorer of old tools, it is essential to know the history of the manufacturer of the tool you are working on. The Kelly Axe Manufacturing Company is one such company with a rich history.

William Kelly, the founder of Kelly Axe & Tool Co, established the company in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1844. The company started as a dry goods business, but Kelly soon realized that the region lacked a reliable source of high-quality axes. He decided to start his own axe manufacturing business, and the rest is history.

Kelly’s knowledge of metallurgy and his experience with steamboats helped him create a successful business. He was able to produce high-quality axes that were popular with carpenters, builders, and other craftsmen. The company grew rapidly, and by the 1860s, it was one of the largest axe manufacturers in the world.

In 1864, the company moved its headquarters to Alexandria, Indiana, where it remained until 1902. The company’s success continued, and it opened a new factory in Charleston, West Virginia, in 1904. The factory complex included about 50 buildings, and ax production started shortly thereafter.

Kelly Axe Manufacturing Company was a significant business in the early 1900s, and its axes were popular worldwide. The company continued to grow and innovate, and in 1920, it merged with the True Temper Corporation, becoming the Kelly Axe Mfg. Co.

In conclusion, the Kelly Axe Manufacturing Company played a significant role in the history of axe manufacturing. Its founder, William Kelly, was a knowledgeable businessman who was able to create a successful business by producing high-quality axes. The company’s success continued for many years, and its axes remain popular with collectors and restorers today.

Identifying and Dating a Kelly Axe

As a collector of vintage axes, I have learned the importance of identifying and dating them accurately. One of the most sought-after brands is the Kelly Axe, which has been used by craftsmen for centuries. In this section, I will share my knowledge on how to identify and date a Kelly Axe.

Look for the Kelly Axe Stamp

The easiest way to date a Kelly Axe is to 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 information can be found on the axe head, usually on the flat part of the blade or on the poll. Once you have located the stamp, you can use it to determine the age of the axe.

Check the Profile

Another way to identify a Kelly Axe is to check the profile. Kelly Axes have a distinct profile that sets them apart from other brands. The blade is thin and sharp, and the poll is flat and wide. The handle is usually made of hickory and has a slight curve to it. If you are unsure if an axe is a Kelly Axe, compare the profile to a known Kelly Axe to see if they match.

Look for Etchings or Markings

Kelly Axes may also have etchings or markings on them that can help identify them. These markings may include the model number, the weight of the axe, or the name of the person or company that ordered the axe. Some Kelly Axes may also have decorative etchings on them, such as a pattern or design. If you find any markings or etchings on a Kelly Axe, take a photo of them and compare them to known examples to help identify the age and model of the axe.

Check for Valuable Features

Finally, when identifying and dating a Kelly Axe, it is important to check for valuable features. Some Kelly Axes may have features that make them more valuable, such as a rare model or a unique design. These axes may be worth more than a standard Kelly Axe, so it is important to research the value of the axe before purchasing or selling it.

In conclusion, identifying and dating a Kelly Axe requires a keen eye and some knowledge of the brand. By looking for the Kelly Axe stamp, checking the profile, looking for etchings or markings, and checking for valuable features, you can accurately identify and date a Kelly Axe.

Restoring a Kelly Axe

Restoring a Kelly Axe can be a rewarding experience for anyone interested in vintage tools. However, before beginning the restoration process, it’s important to assess the condition of the axe head and handle.

One common issue with old axes is rust. Rust can cause damage to the metal and weaken the overall structure of the tool. To remove rust, I recommend using a wire brush or sandpaper. Be sure to wear gloves and eye protection during this process.

Once the rust has been removed, it’s important to sharpen the blade. This can be done using a sharpening stone or file. If the blade is severely damaged, it may need to be replaced.

Another important aspect of restoring a Kelly Axe is ensuring that the handle is in good condition. If the handle is cracked or damaged, it should be replaced. It’s important to choose a handle that is the correct size and shape for the axe head.

There are many resources available online for those interested in restoring a Kelly Axe. The True Temper company, which acquired the Kelly Axe and Tool Company in 1930, provides a wealth of information on their website. Additionally, there are many forums and online communities dedicated to vintage tool restoration.

In conclusion, restoring a Kelly Axe requires patience, attention to detail, and the proper tools. By following the steps outlined above and utilizing available resources, anyone can restore a vintage Kelly Axe to its former glory.

Collecting Kelly Axes

Collecting Kelly Axes is a fascinating hobby, and it can be challenging to find authentic and valuable pieces. I have been collecting and restoring old tools for a while, and I have found that Kelly Axes are some of the most sought-after axes among collectors.

One of the best ways to get started with collecting Kelly Axes is to join an online forum or community. Websites such as r/axecraft or are great places to get advice and opinions from other collectors. These communities are an excellent resource for learning about the history of Kelly Axes, identifying authentic pieces, and finding rare models.

Another great resource for collectors is blogs and websites dedicated to axes and antique tools. Websites such as or offer valuable information on how to date and identify Kelly Axes. These sites also provide tips on where to find rare models and how to restore and maintain them.

When collecting Kelly Axes, it is essential to have a discerning eye and know what to look for. Authentic Kelly Axes typically have a “K” stamped on the blade, indicating the manufacturer. However, some counterfeit axes may also have this stamp, so it is essential to look for other signs of authenticity, such as the overall quality of the axe and the materials used to make it.

In conclusion, collecting Kelly Axes can be a rewarding hobby for those interested in antique tools and history. Joining online communities, reading blogs and websites, and knowing what to look for when identifying authentic pieces are all essential aspects of this hobby. With a bit of patience and knowledge, collectors can build an impressive collection of Kelly Axes that they can enjoy for years to come.

Where to Buy and Sell Kelly Axes

As a collector or enthusiast of Kelly Axes, you may be wondering where to buy or sell these valuable tools. Fortunately, there are several options available to you.

One option is to look for Kelly Axes on online marketplaces such as eBay or Craigslist. These platforms allow you to browse through a wide selection of axes and compare prices from different sellers. However, it is important to be cautious when buying from individual sellers online, as there is always a risk of scams or receiving a counterfeit product.

Another option is to visit antique stores or flea markets in your area. These places often have a selection of vintage tools, including Kelly Axes. However, keep in mind that the prices at these stores may be higher than what you would find online.

If you are looking to sell a Kelly Axe, you can try advertising it on online marketplaces or social media platforms such as Facebook Marketplace. You can also try contacting antique stores or tool collectors in your area to see if they are interested in purchasing your axe.

In addition, there are businesses that specialize in buying and selling antique tools, including Kelly Axes. These businesses often have a wide selection of axes available for purchase and can provide you with a fair price if you are looking to sell your axe.

Overall, there are several options available to you when it comes to buying or selling Kelly Axes. Whether you choose to buy online, visit antique stores, or work with a specialized business, it is important to do your research and be cautious to ensure that you are getting a fair deal.

Kelly Axes in Popular Culture

Kelly Axes have been used in popular culture as a symbol of strength, durability, and craftsmanship. They have been featured in video games, movies, and TV shows, and have become a favorite among collectors and enthusiasts alike.

In the popular video game Valheim, players can craft and use Kelly Axes to chop down trees and gather resources. The game’s emphasis on survival and exploration makes the Kelly Axe an essential tool for players to progress through the game.

Similarly, in the game Genshin Impact, Kelly Axes are used to break rocks and mine minerals. The game’s expansive open world and emphasis on exploration make the Kelly Axe a valuable tool for players to uncover hidden treasures and resources.

Kelly Axes have also made appearances in popular games like Minecraft, Path of Exile, and Hollow Knight: Silksong, where they are used as weapons to defeat enemies and bosses.

Outside of video games, Kelly Axes have been featured in movies and TV shows like Escape from Tarkov, Watch Dogs: Legion, and Call of Duty: Warzone. These appearances showcase the Kelly Axe’s versatility as both a tool and a weapon.

Even popular streamer Pokimane has shown her appreciation for Kelly Axes, using them in her streams to chop down trees and gather resources in various games.

Overall, the Kelly Axe’s reputation as a reliable and durable tool has made it a favorite among gamers, collectors, and enthusiasts alike. Its appearances in popular culture only serve to solidify its place as a timeless and iconic tool.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the distinguishing features of a Kelly Perfect axe?

The Kelly Perfect axe is known for its high-quality and precision. It has a thin blade, a long handle, and a pronounced curve. The blade is sharp and can be used for a variety of tasks, including chopping and splitting wood. The handle is made of hickory wood and has a comfortable grip. The Kelly Perfect axe is also known for its balance, which makes it easy to use.

How can you tell the age of a vintage Kelly axe?

There are several ways to tell the age of a vintage Kelly axe. One way is to look for the Kelly Axe stamp, which is usually located on the axe head. The stamp will have the name of the company and the location of the company (Newark, NJ; Baltimore, MD; or Charleston, SC) and the year the axe was made. Another way is to look for the shape of the axe head. Kelly axes made before the 1920s have a different shape than those made after the 1920s.

What is the history of the Kelly Axe and Tool Works?

The Kelly Axe and Tool Works was founded in 1874 by William C. Kelly. The company was located in Charleston, West Virginia and produced a variety of tools, including axes, hammers, and shovels. The company was known for its high-quality tools and was one of the largest tool manufacturers in the United States. In 1930, the company was purchased by the American Fork and Hoe Company, which continued to produce Kelly axes until the 1950s.

What is the difference between a True American axe and a Kelly Vulcan axe?

The True American axe and the Kelly Vulcan axe are both made by the same company, but they have different features. The True American axe has a thinner blade and a longer handle than the Kelly Vulcan axe. The True American axe is also lighter and easier to use. The Kelly Vulcan axe, on the other hand, has a thicker blade and a shorter handle. It is designed for heavy-duty tasks and is more durable than the True American axe.

What is the value of a Kelly Perfect Double Axe?

The value of a Kelly Perfect Double Axe depends on several factors, including the age, condition, and rarity of the axe. Vintage Kelly Perfect Double Axes can be worth several hundred dollars or more, depending on their condition. However, it is important to note that the value of an axe can vary greatly depending on the market and other factors.

What are the uses of a Kelly Works Brush Axe?

The Kelly Works Brush Axe is designed for clearing brush and undergrowth. It has a long handle and a curved blade that makes it easy to swing and chop through thick vegetation. The blade is also sharp and can be used for cutting through small trees and branches. The Kelly Works Brush Axe is a versatile tool that is commonly used by farmers, ranchers, and outdoor enthusiasts.

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