Good morning dear readers…
Its Bank Holiday weekend, and what better way to spend it than firing up the Forge and getting creative! As some of you may know, myself and my Bushcraft Buddy Steve (aka Silverhill) are quite crafty (in the hobby sense). Steve has been practicing the art of Blacksmithing (‘Smithin) for a couple of years now. What started off as humble beginnings with a relatively small forge and just a couple of tools, has now evolved into a very productive environment. As such, his skills keep evolving along with his tackle.
About the Adze
Traditional use of the adze is for removing bark and trimming or shaping timber. Authentic log builders, as well as traditional shipbuilders, make use of the adze. Artists and sculptors use various sizes of adzes for making totem poles, masks and bowls. Craftspeople who follow age-old customs use adzes for making barrel staves, forming chair seats and making bowls and troughs.
The earliest form of an adze was a rough rectangular piece of stone, ground to a pointy end. Later bronze and then iron replaced the crude stone blades. Use of the adze can be traced throughout history from the Middle Stone Age in Europe, to the third millennium B.C. in Egypt, to the Maori in New Zealand and the northwest American Indians in pre-colonial times. The sawmill has replaced the adze for its traditional use, but thanks to specialized craftspeople, the adze has held its own through time, still finding a place in the woodworker’s world today.
More information about the Adze can be found on Wikipedia
Blacksmithing – Getting Started
Our Adze was to be a small, handheld tool, and started its life as a small Ball Pein Hammer Head. Now, I don’t profess to know a jot about Blacksmithing – that’s Steve’s area of expertise, so what I’m going to do, is simply explain the rough process of how we made ours, and hopefully you’ll find the process as rewarding as we did!
The first image below shows Steve’s blacksmithing area, forge, and some tools. The second image shows his smaller Forge that we actually used. The reason for using this smaller, gas powered one, instead of the traditional Coke powered one is simply this – it is far easier to control the temperature of the workpiece, and avoid overheating (and potentially ruining the thing…)
The first step was to get the hammer head heated to a suitable operating temperature – in this case, a nice bright orange. There are some other bits in the forge too – these were little sideline ideas we could work on in between ‘heats’ of our Adze.
Now comes the start of the interesting bit – getting the relatively square head into a thin, flat form. This was achieved by multiple ‘heats’ and while Steve held the workpiece in some tongs, I used ‘Big Bertha’ to keep striking it. We could only manage around 6-7 strikes before it needed reheating again.
The hardest part about this initial step was not getting it flat – that would come with perseverance – but trying to aim every blow in the same place on the anvil, and not the workpiece! It was Steve’s job to move the workpiece forward and backwards as I did the striking, and believe me, its not easy trying to strike in the same place when the workpiece is moving!!
Working the sides
Once the initial flattening was nearly there, it was time to concentrate on working the edges, and in turn, working the flatness again as it would ‘mushroom’ over.
Creating the ‘Bill’
The whole Blacksmithing process is a very fluid one, and trying to write a step by step isn’t easy, mainly because we didn’t simply flatten, work the sides, then finish. The very nature of Blacksmithing requires you to go back over areas you’ve already worked as each step forwards usually has an impact on the last step performed.
So, after working the sides, and a little more fettling etc, it was time to create the ‘bill’ – the curvature at the front. Steve asked me what type of Adze I would like – a flat or curved edge. I went with a curved edge to make it easier to carve bowls and the like!
Now that the initial shape was there, all that was left to do, was grind the sides, and put the cutting edge on! This was achieved by using a belt sander, working up the grits from very course to extremely fine (somewhere in the region of 80-400, although I can’t remember the exact ones).
Again, as I knew nothing about Adzes, I left the grinding to Steve.
Here’s an image of the completed Adze straight after forging (well, after it had cooled for a while…)
And heres some from the grinding process…
The Finished Piece
After around 3 hours of work, the Adze is now complete, and ready to have a handle fitted. I must say at this point, that I’m like a kid with a new toy! I absolutely love my new tool, and will hopefully get many many years of service out of it. There is something very satisfying about taking an existing item that is no longer required/fit for purpose etc and converting it into a useable item.
Do you want one?
If you were contemplating buying a ‘ready made’ Adze, I urge you to reconsider spending your hard earned cash on some mass produced rubbish. Granted, they may look nice – smooth and shiny etc, but, in my opinion, you cant beat having a hand made tool, that was crafted with sweat, with your own needs in mind, to your own specifications, via traditional Blacksmithing methods.
My Adze isn’t smooth and shiny, it’s got character, and I know where it came from. Steve undertakes all kinds of commissions, and can be contacted via email here: alverton5 @ gmail.com [without the spaces - ruddy spammers...]
Here’s a few examples of some Adzes that Steve has forged using his traditional Blacksmithing methods for recent customers…
That concludes this little article, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as we enjoyed making the Adze! As usual if you have any questions, or comments etc, feel free to leave them below, or send me a message using the contact page.
Here’s the full gallery of images:
Until next time…