Has to be one of these 4 still on the farm today. I've rehung the 3rd one back with the original handle, a Plumb Cedar axe. I'm thinking he used the 2nd one. The 4th one predates him and would have been from around 1890's
Zooming in on your first photo I'm seeing a Michigan pattern with about 1" of shoulder below the head and a moderate curve to the haft. Of the 4 axes shown the one on the left closely matches that description.
Cottonwood is a much maligned wood. It's been scorned for use as lumber and even as firewood. Some varieties when burned smell like someone urinated on the fire. Some varieties are very light when dry and have few BTUs/volume. It often has a twisted and interlocked grain that is the dickens to split.
But it has its good points, too. It's extremely fast growing. Experimental tree farms and some production farms are growing it for pulp wood. It's excellent for this purpose. In the NW our black cottonwood is being milled for finish wood trim now. It's lightly colored with a hint of green to the wood but it accepts dyes very well. Millwork suppliers are dyeing and substituting it for a variety of other hardwoods. I've used many of these and while it's obvious to me that it's dyed cottonwood the customer and general public don't notice and like the wood.
And our black cottonwood is denser dry than some other cottonwood varieties. It makes a good firewood. Easy lighting, hot burning, quiet with few or no pops to throw embers out of the fire.
Reminds me of a froe I found in a buddy's shop the other day. I saw it sitting on a crossbeam in the wall and when I pulled it down to examine it I noticed it was forged out of an old horseshoe rasp. I pointed that out to him and he said his wife's great grandpa must have forged it right in the shop where we were standing because he was a blacksmith. I think that is the coolest thing I have ever found, because it was 20 feet from where it was created by this guy's relative probably 100 years ago! The whole ranch/farm/orchard is just full of old tools and equipment that has been there for who knows how long, I could spend hours out there just looking at stuff.
In desert conditions branches die off regularly on Cottonwoods and then fall in a wind so that's a problem when they are located like that At the same time they are essential yard trees for needed shade. The third biggest Cottonwood in the valley's here at my place though growing far from the house, thanks god.
Man, and I complain when I have to hack up 4 or 5" oak limbs that fall out of my tree.
It's crazy how far cotton wood....er, cotton, travels on the wind. I find it in my pool all the time, but to my knowledge, none of my immediate neighbors has such a tree. I'm guessing there are a few down the lane along the lake.
That's such a cool picture and awesome that you still have the axe on hand. Amazing how long a well taken care of tool will last.
What do I like about chopping down a Cottonwood here? The down cut. The wood is soft - even deadwood - and you make good deep cuts. What there is not to like? The in cut. In particular at the outside The fibers are very resistant to my edge. Mostly though it's the filth of these trees that accumulates in the bark that makes the work less than enjoyable, not like cutting into a nice pine or ash.
I have several hand made wooden utensils that I made during various camping trips. Though they started as part of my camp kit they have migrated to my kitchen where they find use on my non-stick cookware.