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