Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Foot Adze (an article, an image and a link)


I'd told Ralph, over at Mindless Ramblings, that I'd try to get him a picture of what we call an adze in my neck of the woods. When I started looking on line for a tutorial on using an adze, I found mostly examples of demonstrations by people who didn't really know anything about them (eww, that sounds arrogant). Adzes were never intended to be swung in a forceful manner, but were used in a pecking-style stroke, with approximately the power of someone finish-dressing a stone. Some people spoke of putting multiple layers of burlap on their shins for protection, forgetting that you should NEVER swing a tool in such a way that it can glance into you, and that burlap would do NOTHING to stop a sharp edge.

That being said, adzes were designed to be held with two hands and swung UNDER the foot (thus the name "foot adze"), as opposed to the smaller "hand adze," which was for one-handed use. Even my hero, Eric Sloane, showed a shipwright's adze alongside a gutter adze and called them both gutter adzes. (This was a page AFTER one of his illustrations showing a man with a broad-axe apparently endeavoring to split his left knee.) Obviously, good information on the tool and its use is hard to come by.

The adze isn’t normally used for hewing, unless out of necessity, but for finishing. In order of use, it sometimes fills the space between the splitting or hewing of beams or planks, and smoothing them with a jack plane. Incidentally, those waves you see in old floor boards were NOT from hand scraping, like modern flooring companies pretend, but were left by the slightly convex cutting edge of a jack plane.

Below is a photo of an adze that I found online. The photo is a poor one, due to the man’s foot being too high in the front and apparently being turned to one side a bit far. In use, the blade stroke should end under the toes or ball of the foot. This does two things; it keeps the cut from turning into a split, and it allows the toe of the shoe to stop the travel of the HANDLE OR EYE of the adze, thus stopping the cut IF the stroke was a bit too powerful. The ball of the foot should be firmly on the beam. In days of yore, frontier men would sometimes place bets on who could split the sole of their shoe with an adze. Unfortunately, this didn’t usually occur until after a bout of heavy drinking, so a few fellows, who would have had no trouble performing the stunt when sober, ended up splitting their toes instead.

The link below the picture is the most accurate article that I could find on the use of an adze.© 2013



Sunnybrook Farm said...

It was a sad day when I found my wife digging in the flower bed with my adz, words can not express the sound of an adz hitting rock.

Gorges Smythe said...

SF, I have a worn-out adze in my collection of tools that I bought for $5 from the man who was using it to dig in a gravel driveway. Even a decent burial seemed more fitting.

Lady Locust said...

I think I still have one of these - What SF it's not a garden tool???
I hadn't heard this term in years - thanks for bringing back memories. It's funny how hard grueling work when you were 'a bit younger' turns into a fond memory.

Gorges Smythe said...

So true, LL!

Ralph Goff said...

That was interesting. Yes, mine is just like that but I have never had a tutorial on it's use. I will have to check my century old encyclopedia of agriculture to see if they mention the adze.

Gorges Smythe said...

Don't you just love OLD books, Ralph?

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

My husband has one. He is looking for a broad axe when we visit flea markets.

Gorges Smythe said...

Broad-axes worth taking home are scarce, Kathy, but they're still out there. Of course you can buy new if you're willing to spend the money.