An adze or adz (PronEng|ædz) is a tool used for smoothing rough-cut wood in hand woodworking. Generally, the user stands astride a board or log and swings the adze downwards towards their feet, chipping off pieces of wood, moving backwards as they go and leaving a relatively smooth surface behind. Adzes are most often used for squaring up logs, or for hollowing out timber.

The adze is also a tool of choice for building wreckers, laborers who dismantle old buildings by hand for salvage. The single tool can serve all the needs of deconstruction with proper use.Mooallem, Jon " [ This Old Recyclable House] ", Retrieved 29 September 2008.]

The blade of an adze is set at right angles to the tool's shaft (like a hoe or plane), unlike the blade of an axe which is set in line with the shaft.



In central Europe, adzes made by ping flint are known from the late Mesolithic onwards ("Scheibenbeile"). Polished adzes and axes made of ground stone, like amphibolite, basalt or Jadeite are typical for the Neolithic period.
Shoe-last adzes or celts, named for their typical shape, are found in the Linearbandkeramic and Rössen cultures of the early Neolithic. Adzes were also made and used by prehistoric southeast Asian cultures, especially in the Mekong River basin.


The adze is shown in Egypt from the Old Kingdom onward. [A statue of the third dynasty boat builder Ankhwah is showing him holding an adze (Michael Rice, "Who's Who in Ancient Egypt",Routledge 2001, ISBN 0415154480, p.25)] Originally the adze blades were made of stone, but already in the Predynastic Period copper adzes had all but replaced those made of flint. [Katheryn A. Bard, "Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt", Routledge 1999,ISBN0415185890, p.458] While stone blades were fastened to the wooden handle by tying, metal blades had sockets into which the handle was fitted. Examples of Egyptian adzes can be found in museums and on the [ Petrie Museum website] .

A depiction of an adze was also used as a hieroglyph, representing the consonants "stp".

The "ahnetjer", Manuel de Codage transliteration: "aH-nTr", depicted as an adze-like instrument, [Ermann & Grapow, "Wörterbuch der ägyptischen Sprache", 1926, vol. 1, 214.24] was used in the Opening of the Mouth ceremony, intended to convey power over their senses to statues and mummies. It was apparently the foreleg of a freshly sacrificed bull or cow with which the mouth was touched. [Andrew Hunt Gordon, Calvin W. Schwabe, "The Quick and the Dead: Biomedical Theory in Ancient Egypt", Brill 2004, ISBN 9004123911, p.76] [Christopher J Eyre, "The Cannibal Hymn: A Cultural and Literary Study", Liverpool University Press 2002, ISBN 0853237069, p.54]

New Zealand

Prehistoric Māori adzes from New Zealand, used for wood carving, were made from nephrite, also known as jade. At the same time on Henderson Island, a small atoll in Polynesia lacking any rock other than limestone, natives fashioned giant clamshells into adzes.

Northwest Coast America

American Northwest coast natives traditionally used adzes for both functional construction (from bowls to canoes) and art (from masks to totem poles). Northwest coast adzes take two forms hafted and D-handle. The hafted form is similar in form to a European adze with the haft constructed from a natural crooked branch which approximately forms a 60% angle. The thin end is used as the handle and the thick end is flattened & notched such that an adze iron can be lashed to it. Modern hafts are sometimes constructed from a sawed blank with a dowel added for strength at the crook. The second form is the D-handle adze which is basically an adze iron with a directly-attached handle. The D-handle therefore provides no mechanical leverage. Northwest coast adzes are often classified by size and iron shape vs. role. As with European adzes, iron shapes include straight, gutter and lipped. Where larger Northwest adzes are similar in size to their European counterparts, the smaller sizes are typically much lighter such that they can be used for the detailed smoothing, shaping and surface texturing required for figure carving. Final surfacing is sometimes performed with a crooked knife.

Modern adzes

Modern adzes are made from steel with wooden s, and some people still use them extensively: occasionally those in semi-industrial areas, but particularly 'revivalists' such as those at the Colonial Williamsburg cultural center in Virginia, USA. However, the traditional adze has largely been replaced by the sawmill and the powered-plane, at least in industrialized cultures. It remains in use for some specialist crafts, for example by coopers.Adzes are also in current use by artists such as Northwest Coast American and Canadian Indian sculptors doing pole work, masks and bowls.

"Adze" was frequently mentioned by William F. Buckley as one of the most obscure words in the English language.

One of the most common tools used in the fire service today is the Halligan bar. This is a multipurpose pry-bar used most commonly in forceable entry of a structure. One end of the Halligan bar is called the adze end. It has an adze along with a 4 inch spike on one end and the other end has a pry fork.


* Carpenter's adze - A heavy adze, often with very steep curves, and a very heavy, blunt poll. The weight of this adze makes it unsuitable for sustained overhead adzing.
** Railroad adze - A carpenter's adze which had its bit extended in an effort to limit the breaking of handles when shaping railroad ties (railway sleepers). Early examples in New England began showing up approximately in the 1940s - 1950s. The initial prototypes clearly showed a weld where the extension was attached.
* Shipwright's adze - A lighter, and more versatile adze than the carpenter's adze. This was designed to be used in a variety of positions, including overhead, as well as in front on waist and chest level.
** Lipped shipwright's adze - A variation of the shipwright's adze. It features a wider than normal bit, whose outside edges are sharply turned up, so that when gazing directly down the adze, from bit to eye, the cutting edge resembles an extremely wide and often very flat U. This adze was mainly used for shaping cross grain, such as for joining planks.
* There are also a number of specialist adzes once used for barrel stave shaping, chair seat forming and bowl and trough making. Many of these have shorter handles for control and more curve in the head to allow better clearance for shorter cuts.
* Another group of adzes can be differentiated by the handles, the D handled adzes have a handle where the hand can be wrapped around the D, close to the bit. These adzes, follow closely traditional forms in that the bit or tooth is not wrapped around the handle as a head.
* The head of an ice axe typically possesses an adze for chopping rough steps in ice.
* A firefighter tool called the halligan has an adze on one end of the bar. This bar is a multipurpose pry-bar with a fork on one end and an adze on the other with a spike that sticks out next to it.

Footnotes and references

* The section about types of adzes is based on a Quicksilver Wiki article at [ A Glossary of Terms For Traditional Timber Framing (Timberbee)] under the terms of the , last accessible 25th July 2006.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • adze — (n.) also adz, M.E. adese, adse, from O.E. adesa adze, hatchet, of unknown origin, perhaps somehow related to O.Fr. aisse, L. ascia axe (see AX (Cf. ax)). Spelling with z is from 18c. Adze has been monosyllabic only since the seventeenth century …   Etymology dictionary

  • Adze — ist ein Vampir, bzw. ein Geist mit vampirischen Fähigkeiten welcher in der Mythologie der Ewe, einer Volksgruppe Westafrikas (Ghana, Togo, Benin) seinen Ursprung hat. Der Vampir ist in der Lage die Kontrolle über das Opfer zu übernehmen. Er saugt …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • adze — adz [ædz] n [: Old English; Origin: adesa] a sharp tool with the blade at a right angle to the handle, used to shape wood …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • adze — (US adz) ► NOUN ▪ a tool similar to an axe, with an arched blade at right angles to the handle. ORIGIN Old English …   English terms dictionary

  • Adže — 44° 29′ 55″ N 18° 00′ 09″ E / 44.4986, 18.0025 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Adze — Adz Adz, Adze Adze, n. [OE. adese, adis, adse, AS. adesa, adese, ax, hatchet.] A carpenter s or cooper s tool, formed with a thin arching blade set at right angles to the handle. It is used for chipping or slicing away the surface of wood. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adze — 1. noun /ædz/ A cutting tool that has a curved blade set at a right angle to the handle and is used in shaping wood. ...if I wanted a board, I had no other way but to cut down a tree, set it on an edge before me, and hew it flat on either side… …   Wiktionary

  • adze — UK [ædz] / US noun [countable] Word forms adze : singular adze plural adzes a tool used for shaping or cutting wood …   English dictionary

  • Adze — (ADS) The Ewe people of southeastern Ghana and southern Togo, Africa, believe that this vampiric spirit looks like a CORPSE CANDLE, the constant light of a firefly, or like a shining beetle when not possessing the tribe s sorcerer (see AFRICAN… …   Encyclopedia of vampire mythology

  • adze —   Ko i (see Haw. Eng. entry and entries that follow it), lipi (for various kinds, see Haw. Eng. entry).   Also: kūpā, kūpā ai ke e, lopu, pākīkō, iwiole, kīkoni, ko i paukūkū, nao maka lua, olopū.    ♦ To make adzes, kāko i.    ♦ Adze headed, po… …   English-Hawaiian dictionary

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