What Is An Adze? What Is An Adze Used For?

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An adze is a traditional hand tool which is in effect a combination of an axe and a wide chisel or gouge.

An adze is used for removing lots of wood stock very quickly and fairly accurately, it is used for carving, shaping and hollowing work, it can also be used for smoothing work.

An adze consists of a slightly shaped, pole-like wooden handle and a metal blade. The blade head is fitted securely at one end of the handle by means of a hole in the blade head slotting over the end of the handle. The blade is set perpendicular to the handle.

There are a variety of types of adze. The variation of adze is determined by the blade and in some cases, the handle length. An adze with a short handle is known as a hand adze. Types of hand adze include bowl adze, guttering adze and a cooper's adze. An adze with a long handle is often known as a two handed adze.

The blade on an adze usually ranges in length of 10cm - 30cm, usually with widths of 5cm - 20cm. The blade can have a straight edge profile or any depth of gouge profile. An adze blade may be roughly at right angles with the handle or it may have been set an angle.

The adze has a very long history of being used by many civilisations through many, many generations.

During the long history of the adze the tool evolved in to many different forms to suit different jobs. The development of the widest range and advances of these tools occurred during the 18th / 19th Centuries to suit jobs such as shipwright's, cooper's and wainwright's. The trades associated with these different types of adze have all-but-died-out, as such, many of the specialist adze are no longer made today.

What Is A Hand Adze?

hand adze

A hand adze is a short handled adze that can comfortably be wielded with one hand.

What Is A Bowl Adze?

A bowl adze is a type of hand adze usually with a very short handle. The blade is usually a gouge profile. There are examples of old bowl adze which can have very wide blades and which are often set at quite a steep angle to the handle (approx. 45 degrees).

gutter adze

What Is A Guttering Adze?

A guttering adze is a type of hand adze. A guttering adze typically has a very long blade with a gouge profile.

coopers adze

What Is A Cooper's Adze?

A cooper's adze is a type of hand adze. The tool has a curved blade one side and a hammer head the other side. The cooper's adze was originally used by cooper's to make curved containers such as barrels.

shipwrights adze

What Is A Shipwright's Adze?

A shipwright's adze has a long handle and a long blade (unless obviously the tool has been well used). The blade is usually a flat profile, sometimes with a very gentle curve. The opposite end of the blade often has a metal bar. This bar can be of varying lengths. I have been informed this bar is called the 'balance'. The user removed an amount of this metal 'balance' to get the optimal balance of the tool. I would therefore guess as the blade becomes shorter through years of use then so does the 'balance' (this does fit in with the many adze I have observed/handled which have the 'balance' bar).

Adze Parts

A typical adze consists of the following parts:

adze parts

  • A - Handle
  • B - Blade / Head
  • C - Cutting Edge
  • D - Balance (only on a few types)

Typical Adze Uses

  • Hollowing work - such as a bowl
  • Shaping wood in preperation for finer work
  • Preparing and shaping fencing
  • Removing stock quickly

There have been many makers of adze past and present, below are a list of a few well known adze makers:

Old Adze Makers:

  • Gilpin
  • Marples
  • Sorby
  • Whitehouse

New Adze Makers:

  • Gransfor Bruks
  • Henry Taylor


(i) This review/article may give warning(s) / advisory notes / cautions / guidelines given in good faith, any such information should not be solely relied upon and seen as the exhaustive list of warnings / advisory notes / cautions / guidelines. Refer to good safety practices for the safety of you and others. Refer to good practices for the good health of your tool and property.
(ii) The details here are given in good faith, the details are constantly growing and evolving, there is scope for error and shouldn't be fully relied upon, please confirm any details for yourself by performing additional research from reliable sources.

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