Sunday, October 2, 2016

A MAN-Sized Mattock

Click image to enlarge.

There are probably larger mattocks to be had, but I’VE never seen one. This mattock came from the oilfields of Volcano, West Virginia, and belonged to one of my dad’s elderly half-first cousins. Despite being the largest mattock that I’ve ever seen, Lyss, the man who used it, was just a small fellow, maybe 150 pounds in his prime, but probably less. He was tough as whit leather, though.

The area around Volcano is all hill and holler, with hardly a level spot to be found. So, if you wanted a level spot, for a well-site, a house or an out-building, you made it with mattocks, picks and shovels. Maybe that’s why a lot of buildings (and oil derricks) in that area were set on stilts and pilings. I’d originally thought that I was going to give this mattock to my stepson, but I decided to keep it for now; I’ve got a lighter one that I’ll give him, since I’m probably more likely to have need of the heavier one.

This mattock has stood in the basement for several years, the large end of the handle resting on a brick with a board atop it, so the handle wouldn’t wick moisture from the concrete floor and go soft on me from dry rot. I finally fit it up today.

As you can see, I didn’t have to do a lot of work to get the blade seated. The handle measures 36” overall, but I’ll cut it off just above where the paint ends, rather than do the rasping required to take it farther up the handle. Years-old hickory is nearly as hard as iron, so I’ll simply avoid the effort. Considering that I did the fitting on my truck tailgate in the Chinamart parking lot, I had no power tools available. Cutting where I mentioned will still leave enough room for it to wear for many years before it nears the large end of the handle. Mattock handles rarely go bad from being wore out, but from abuse and neglect.

The main blade is four inches wide at the cutting edge; I didn’t measure the “axe” blade. From cutting edge to cutting edge, though, it measures 16-1/2 inches. I forgot to weigh the head alone, but with the handle as is, it weighs just barely over seven pounds. I figure once I trim the end and rasp it smooth, it will be seven pounds even.

I probably won’t need it for any building, but I have some gardening projects where it might come in handy. One thing is for sure; I’ll have enough tool for the job! © 2016


Sunnybrook Farm said...

It looks a lot like the one that I have used for 40 years or so but my digging blade has worn down a few inches, not so much from sharpening but just digging wears them down. The one you have looks close to new so you have a good one. The ones I see in stores are light and even look like an ax handle would fit them.

Gorges Smythe said...

I think most of the new ones literally use axe handles, SF. They're made for flower gardeners, apparently. Mine will certainly outlive me.

Ralph Goff said...

That looks very similar to some I have here. Very old, likely my grandfatherr's and I think they are a similar size to the one in your photo. We called it a "grubhoe". Mainly used for cutting off tree roots in the ground when clearing land I think.

Gorges Smythe said...

I seem to remember you saying that before, Ralph. What we call a grubbing hoe down here, some folks would call an eye hoe, but it has a rectangular eye, rather than a round one.