Winchester Tools fake and forged marks; mismatched piecesBy

Winchester Tools

fake and forged marks; mismatched pieces

At the end of World War I, the Winchester Repeating Arms Company was looking for new consumer products to maintain war time production levels. The company wanted items that could be produced with the same workers and equipment previously used to manufacture guns and ammunition. Among the new product lines selected was an extensive range of hand tools.

Winchester's tools, like their better known guns and ammunition, are now highly collectible and can sell for up to several hundred dollars. Forgeries of the famous Winchester trademark are now becoming more frequent. This article will discuss how to identify genuine marks on Winchester tools and detect the most common forgeries. We'll also look at "marriages" of mixed parts and pieces.

Authentic Marks

The majority of authentic Winchester tools marks were created primarily in two ways. They were either die stamped which left a mark below the surface of the metal or they were cast as part of the tool which left a mark raised above the surface of the metal.

Die stamped marks virtually always appear in three lines. The top line is the word "Winchester" made of jagged letters. Collectors commonly refer to this trademark as lightning letters or the lightning mark (Fig. 3). The second or middle line is "TRADEMARK"; the third or bottom line is "MADE IN USA". Short horizontal lines or wedges frequently, but not always, appear on either end of the second and third lines. Authentic die stamped marks of less than three lines are found only on small tools or small parts or small areas of a tool. These include tangs (handles) of files, pipe wrench jaws, plier jaws, etc. If the lightning letter Winchester trademark is die stamped by itself without either "TRADEMARK" or "MADE IN USA" on any regular sized item, be extremely careful.

Raised cast marks are usually only one or two lines. The top line is "Winchester" with "TRADEMARK" generally below. The raised Winchester lettering is also jagged but less so than die stamped marks. Raised marks are usually found only in heavy thick bodied tools such as planes.

Detecting forged marks

So far only die stamped marks have been forged. New die stamps can be made for about $50-$100. The marks are applied simply by hitting them with a hammer. There are several ways to detect these new marks.

First, check for over strikes and double strikes made by the stamp slipping or jumping when struck. They will show up as double lines or shadows around the edges of the mark (Fig. 6). Many double strikes and over strikes can be seen with the unaided eye; others will require a 10X magnifier. Original tools were carefully and skillfully marked. Over strikes and double strikes are virtually never found on authentic Winchester tools.

Next, check the proportion of the die stamp in relation to the surface to which it is applied. Authentic stamped marks vary in size. Large items have larger marks; small items have smaller marks. Most forgers will have only one size fake stamp made and use that same stamp on every piece they mark regardless of its size. The faked mark in Fig. 7, for example, looks small and skimpy on the relatively wide wrench head to which it is applied. Compare it to the original mark on a similar wrench head in Fig. 2. The original mark is about twice as large. Keep in mind, however, that you are not comparing a specific size. You are looking to see if the mark is in logical proportion to the space where it is applied.

Also check the back side where marks are stamped on thinner pieces of metal. Many forged marks are struck so hard the mark can be seen or felt on the reverse surface. Besides looking sloppy, such protrusions could affect the tool's performance and never occur on authentic Winchester tools.

Finally, look for normal wear around the mark. Authentic die stamped marks were applied when the tool was new. Dents, gouges and other signs of normal wear happened after the mark was applied. This means that scratches, for example, generally run through old marks. If a fake stamp is applied to an old unmarked wrench with normal wear, the fake mark generally blots out the scratch where the stamp falls. Forgers will often grind out normal wear to make a smooth surface for their new marks. Marks of other less desirable manufacturers are also ground out. Be very suspicious of smooth surfaces surrounding die stamped marks. Areas around marks should generally show the same pattern of wear as the overall tool.

Where authentic tools are marked

Winchester marked tools in consistent ways. Space doesn't permit listing all the marks on all the types of tools so we chose three tools that most commonly show up with forged marks and switched parts. These are the pipe wrench, plane and open end wrench.

PIPE WRENCHES The photo in Fig. 9 shows a typical Winchester pipe wrench with a wood handle. The illustrations are of Winchester pipe wrenches with metal handles. Parts and markings are the same for both types; the only difference is the handle.

Authentic Winchester pipe wrenches have identifying marks in three locations (see Fig. 8, for parts of a typical pipe wrench). The die stamped lightning trademark appears on the front side of the jaw and the front side of the handle (Figs. 10). The mark on the jaw of the pipe wrench is one exception to the general rule that a die stamped lightning trademark should normally contain three lines. Due to the limited space, the trademark is reduced to two lines. A die stamped patent date appears on the reverse side of the frame (Fig. 11). The same patent date, 3-14-22, is on all Winchester pipe wrenches.

In addition to applying fake stamps, "marked" pieces can be created by combining pieces with genuine marks with unmarked pieces. This practice is particularly easy with pipe wrenches. A marked jaw from an authentic Winchester pipe wrench is removed and replaced by an unmarked jaw. The marked jaw then goes into an unmarked handle. An unethical seller then has created two "marked" wrenches from a single genuine piece (Fig. 12). Just remember that any pipe wrench represented as Winchester should be marked in the three places previously mentioned: jaw, handle and frame.

PLANES Genuine Winchester planes are typically marked in three places (Fig. 13). Raised marks appear on the body and lever cap (Fig. 13-1 & 13-2) and a die stamped mark appears on the cutter (Fig. 13-3). If any of these pieces is not marked, be suspicious. Although an unmarked piece may be a genuinely old replacement part, it could also mean an original piece has been removed to create another "marked" plane. In either case, the collector value would be decreased because the plane would not be original. Be particularly wary of planes with only die stamped marks and no raised marks. The raised marks are virtually impossible to successfully fake while the die stamped marks are relatively easy to duplicate.

OPEN END WRENCHES Authentic Winchester open end wrenches are marked in a specific way (Figs. 14-15). The die stamped three line lightning trademark and a model number appear on the front side of the wrench; sizes of the wrench openings appear on the reverse side. Be suspicious if there is any variation in these marks.

This spring, for example, open end wrenches began appearing in Midwestern states with the trademark applied to both sides of the wrench but without a model number or size. These were fakes; the die stamped trademark appears only once on authentic open end wrenches. The fakes also lacked model numbers and sizes (Fig. 16). Most fakers buy only a trademark stamp and are not equipped to apply convincing model numbers or sizes. Authentic model numbers are generally much smaller than size numbers. Typical authentic model numbers may be only one third to one fifth the height of size numbers on the back of the wrench. If the model numbers and size numbers are equal in size, be suspicious; some lazy forger may be using the same size stamps to fake both types of numbers.

Fantasy items

It seems once a forger makes a fake stamp, any object is fair game for becoming "Winchester". Pieces never made originally but now marked Winchester are called fantasy pieces. One of the most obvious categories is plumb bobs, a metal weight suspended from a string to establish a true vertical line. The fact that Winchester never made a plumb bob doesn't deter hardworking forgers from putting their fake stamps on bobs by other manufacturers. Winchester kept very good records of their product lines. If you are offered a tool you are unfamiliar with, ask to see it in a Winchester catalog or price sheet.


Maintaining a healthy skepticism is probably your best defense against fakes and forgeries of Winchester tools. Although die stamped marks are now the most commonly faked markings, be alert for other forgeries. Know where and how original tools were marked. Compare model numbers to original factory information such as catalog reprints and collector books.

Special thanks To Dave Heckel and Tom Bailey for their help and assistance with this article. Dave Heckel has studied and written extensively about antique tools. Antique tool collector Tom Bailey was the first to draw our attention to faked Winchester wrenches.


Fig. 1 (New) Original mark on this non-Winchester wrench was ground away. Forged Winchester mark was then applied. ACRN photo, Bailey Collection


Fig. 2 (Old) Original Winchester wrench with authentic die stamped mark. ACRN photo, Bailey Collection


Fig. 3 Original die stamped "lightning letter" trademark used on tools. This mark almost always appears in three lines: 1) Winchester, 2) TRADEMARK 3) MADE IN USA. The top two lines "Winchester, Trademark" also appear as cast raised marks.


Fig. 4 (Old) Typical authentic three line die stamped Winchester mark. Note the scratches and dents from normal wear run through mark.
ACRN photo, Bailey collection.


Fig. 5 (Old) Authentic two line die stamped mark found on small pipe wrench jaw. ACRN photo, Heckel collection.


Fig. 6 (New) Close up of double strike caused by forger's fake stamp. Double strikes and over strikes are virtually never seen on authentic Winchester tools.


Fig. 7 (New) Typical fake mark showing poor proportion of small die stamp mark on large surface. Original marks are proportional to the surface to which they are applied.


Fig. 8 Parts of a typical pipe wrench.


Fig. 9 Wood handle Winchester pipe wrench. ACRN photo, Heckel Collection


Fig. 10 (Old) Lightning trademark is on front side of genuine Winchester pipe wrench jaw (1) and frame (2). A patent date appears on the back side of the frame as shown in Fig. 11. ACRN photo, Bailey Collection


Fig. 11 (Old) Patent date 3-14-22 on reverse side of pipe wrench frame.
ACRN photo, Heckel collection.

Unmarked jaw placed in marked handle


Fig. 12 It is fairly easy to create two "marked" wrenches from a single genuine pipe wrench. The removable marked jaw is taken from the genuine wrench and placed in the unmarked handle. The unmarked jaw is placed in the marked handle. The seller now has two "marked" wrenches.


Fig. 13 (Old) Typical Winchester plane marked in three places: 1-raised letters cast in body, 2-raised letters cast in lever cap, 3-die stamped three-line lightning trademark on cutter (plane iron). Wooden handle removed from front to show markings.


Fig. 14 Authentic open end wrenches have the die stamped lightning trademark on one side only. A model number appears on the same side as the trademark. The reverse side should have size numbers by each opening.


Fig. 15 This illustration shows the typical problems with faked open end wrenches currently in Midwestern states.

1) the die stamped trademark appears on both sides

2) no model number

3) no size numbers - Marks of the original tool manufacturer are frequently ground off before the forged Winchester mark is applied.


Fig. 16 (New) New open end wrench. Original marks ground away; no marks to indicate size.


Fig. 17 Use a Winchester catalog reprint to authenticate model numbers and to protect yourself against fantasy items. If a model number doesn't agree or if you can't find an object, it could be sign of a forgery or fake.


Fig. 18 Catalogs show the individual parts that make up an original. Compare the catalog illustrations to the piece you're inspecting.

Winchester Tools

"As good as the gun"

Background Information
by Dave Heckel

Winchester quickly expanded its line of consumer goods after World War I by acquiring companies that already manufactured consumer products. Among the companies purchased were Eagle Pocket Knife Co., Napanoch Knife Co., Lebanon Machine Co. (auger bits), Page-Storm Drop Forge Co. (wrenches) and Mack Axe Co. Some companies were absorbed into the Winchester factory at New Haven, Connecticut while others remained in production at their home locations. With the purchase of the new companies, Winchester's product line expanded to include pocket knives, kitchen cutlery, scissors, ice skates, roller skates, fishing tackle, flashlights, batteries, sporting goods and tools. Winchester counted on name recognition from its arms business and used advertising slogans like "As good as the gun" to promote the new products.

The new lines were marketed through a Winchester Dealer Agency plan and company-owned retail stores. The dealer agent bought stock in Winchester and then became an exclusive agent for the company bypassing a jobber or wholesaler. A dealer-agency could carry other brands but was expected to emphasize the Winchester line. Tools were the most popular line for the hardware trade and Winchester placed importance on an extensive selection.

Screwdrivers, chisels, punches, hammers, hatchets and pliers were some of the first tools produced at the Winchester plant in New Haven. Winchester also purchased tools it or its subsidiaries could not produce from other suppliers and then sold them under the Winchester name.

Winchester's dealer-agency plan selling the expanded product line was organized in May 1920. By July 1924 there were 7,584 separate Winchester branded items. The number of retail stores reached a maximum of 6,300 in 1926. The experiment with the new lines continued for about 12 years. It ended with the sales decline brought about by the Great Depression. Although the new lines eventually accounted for 36% of Winchester's total sales, they operated at such an overall loss that they forced the receivership of the entire company. Western Cartridge Company of East Alton, Illinois purchased Winchester in December 1931.

Above from Midwest Tool Collectors Association newsletter Gristmill. Reprinted by permission of the author.