I intended to do this over three years ago — make an elbow adze. My intentions were so sincere that I purchased the iron from Kestrel Tool. I even found a branch junction that would work well for the haft and roughed it out of the green white oak, thinking I’d leave it to dry for a couple months, then finish up. Then other things kept intervening. 45 months later, it’s done, and I like it.
The crook moved around a good bit as it dried, so it was a good thing that I had left a fair amount of extra material. I was able to flatten both sides and get things trued up. I could have just purchased a finished adze from Kestrel, but thought making one would be more fun and better help me to understand this animal that is different in many ways from the adze style I’m used to.
Doing it this way forced me to really concentrate on the literature packet that came with the iron that went into great detail on northwest coast elbow adzes and what makes them tick. In the photo above, the major shaping has been done. I used a drawknife and sloyd knife, but a rasp came in especially handy with all of that convoluted grain around the tight bend. My handle is oval in form overall, but more like a squished octagon, with eight facets that merge into the head. I refined everything with a sharp card scraper.
I also used a bench chisel on the surface where the iron rests. Good contact is important there. I just noticed in the photo of the haft that it makes me think of a horse.
I temporarily attached the iron with some electrical tape. This temporary binding allowed me to try out the action of the adze. I could still make adjustments, including shaving the neck to adjust the action. There is a liveliness, a slight springiness, to the haft that you can feel as the tool takes a chip.
After I finished shaping and oiling the handle, I secured the iron to the haft with tight wraps of cord.
I textured the grip area with cross-grain cuts from a small gouge…
Then softened the sharp corners between facets with some very fine sandpaper.
As you can tell most obviously by the straight iron, this isn’t an adze for hollowing bowls but rather for shaping and texturing (although there are also specialized texturing adzes with extra springy hafts). I’ve spent a total of about 15 minutes using my finished elbow adze now, so we still have to get to know each other. But we had a great time in our first play session with this chunk of pine.
Swinging this tool is quite different from my bowl adze (above). For one thing, the pivot point on my bowl adze swing is near the base of the short handle. The significant swell and kick at the bottom of the handle encourages this full rotation that can reach well into a hollow. Whereas the pivot point on this elbow adze is right above the index finger almost halfway up the haft. There is more of a rocking motion in the hand, a steady rhythm of back and forth. At least that’s my initial impression.
Both have their strengths and particular uses, but I’ve got a lot more exploring to do to even begin to understand or comment much more. Whether you buy an iron or make one from an old car spring or lawnmower blade, an elbow adze is a great project and there’s no need to wait a few years!