The Welland Vale All Steel: A Canadian Etched Axe

1886* – 1928*
Welland Vale Mfg Co.
St. Catherines, Ontario

The Welland Vale All Steel was a high-end axe produced and sold by Welland Vale Mfg Co. It had a triple steel overcoat bit, a full-polished finish, and was one of few large etch designs made in Canada. The earliest known listing for the axe is from 1886 and the last in 1928 – although it’s likely the axe was produced until Welland Vale was purchased by The American Fork & Hoe Co. in 1930.

I suspect the “All Steel” brand was likely introduced as a premium full-steel option at a time when many other axes were still made from an iron body with steel used only for the bit. A steel body would still be softer than the bit, but much more resilient than iron.

An ad from 1886 prominently calls out “Solid Steel”, and this would also justify the large detailed etch design which would only be done to a full-steel head.

Welland Vale All Steel in the early 1900s

The Welland Vale All Steel appears to have continued for decades relatively unchanged. Even though by the early 1900s all axes were made with steel, the “Welland Vale All Steel” brand was able to leverage long-lasting brand recognition, and the triple steel bit was still a feature only found in premium axes.

The marketing also provided more detailed descriptions and finish options, and a listing from 1923 offered finishes in polished, blue, or bronzed. Plus, even in the 20s etched axes were still ‘cool’.

Double refined crucible steel; full polished and deep etched; tempered to the highest degree of perfection; carefully ground and sharpened.

H. S. Howland, Sons & Co – Catalog (1923)

Welland Vale All Steel Double-Bit

The listing in the 1923 catalog for Starke-Seybold Limited (Montreal) includes the option to order etched All Steel double-bit heads. This is the only reference I have found to date, and I have never seen an image of one. But it seems they did exist.

Pricing and Comparison

The Welland Vale All Steel was always considered a premium axe and priced near or at the top. It was more expensive than the popular “Black Prince“, and priced equal/similar to Garrett’s Black Diamond, the Model Axe (Welland Vale’s self-described “best axe”), and the Welland Vale Special.

It appears that the “All Steel” brand may have also been used for international export early on but likely stopped as full steel axes became the norm.

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  1. “Axe Makers of North America” by Allan Klenman (second edition – editor: Larry McPhail), 1990
  2. – Welland Vale Co.
  3. H. S. Howland & Sons General Catalog No. 24, 1923 – Fisher – University of Toronto
  4. Starke-Seybold Limited, General Catalog 1923 – Canadian Centre for Architecture
  5. Wood, Vallance & Co. Catalog (1886)