I first saw a hand adze used by craftsmen at the Kamba Carvers’ Union in Mombasa, Kenya in 1969. They were sitting on the ground with a couple of dozen billets of wood in a basket on one hand, and a saw and hand adze with which they applied one cutting and chiseling operation to each billet as it was transferred to a basket on their other side. In short order operations were made in each as the work lot was passed back and forth until final sanding was done by an apprentice nearby.

Three different folk traditions have their influence in my hand adze. Besides the Kamba carvers are the Indians of the northwest coast and the Portuguese boatbuilders. Both these later examples are shown alongside this adze. It would be interesting to go back in time and acquire a Kamba adze. If memory serves me right, they were a medium sized chisel with a narrow tang that pierced the knot end of a small wooden club used as a handle. What I don’t remember is the angle of the blade to the handle, and my adze required some experimenting to make it have an effective bite in hollowing chair seats. The means of attachment follows the Northwest Indian tool.

adze 002

A HAND ADZE in the Northwest American Indian tradition (left) and a Portuguese boatbuilder’s adze (right) give influence to the project shown here. The former shows how to attach the blade. Following the Portuguese adze angle was not suitable for chair seats, and my final version abandoned this acute angle.