Long Handled Adze

Although I rarely use it, I do have a hollowing adze meant to be swung with two hands. For large bowls, it can help to hog out material a little faster. It was looking lonely, so I pulled it off the wall to begin hollowing the walnut bowl that led my last post. In his book Country Woodcraft Then and Now, Drew Langsner has an extensive bowl carving section that includes a low base for securing a blank while using an adze with two hands. That would be better, but I haven’t gotten around to making one, so I just took a seat on a convenient log and set the heavy bowl blank in front of me. With my elbows on my legs, I swung the adze by pivoting at my elbows and rotating my wrists. The hardest part was concentrating, what with the neighborhood kids laughing at my pants, asking where the flood was.

In the shot above, it may look like the handle is breaking at that sharp bend, but it’s not.

When I bought this adze, I expected I would have to change the handle. The geometry of the head and the handle were not in harmony. In the photo above, I’ve used a yardstick to represent the original handle. It came straight out of the eye. When swung naturally, the cutting edge was tucked at an inward angle and the area behind the edge just slammed into the wood. So it was either reforge the head to open it up with less of a tucked profile, or make a new handle that brought the geometry of the head into harmony with the swing arc. I’m not a blacksmith, so I went to the woods.

I found a limb in a fallen oak with an appropriate bend in it, split it, and made this handle from it. Drew Langsner used to offer a similar handle design for an adze in his Country Workshops catalog. He steam bent the handles from straight grained wood, which makes more sense when you have multiples of the same thing to make.

In the detail photo, you can see the flow of the fibers through the handle.

I looked around this morning online, and I don’t see this exact one available any more. The cutting edge is deeply curved and nearly 3″ across. I found some Biber adzes, but it looks like they’ve been radically redesigned. They have a short-handled one now with a design that seems to have been modeled closely on Hans Karlsonn’s adze. Anyway, whatever adze you use, keep that geometry in mind. I’ve written about it on the blog before. This post is a good place to start, and it includes links to others on the topic. I also wrote an article for Fine Woodworking #285 (December 2020).

Like I mentioned, I tend to use this only rarely, but some folks rely more on a long handled adze. I find that the short one hogs away nearly as fast and I have to go to to it for more precision anyway as I near the line. The photo above shows about as close as I want to get with the big one. That one cut almost required a bowl re-design.

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8 Responses to Long Handled Adze

  1. Greg Hott says:

    Dave, when I was a boy (50+ years ago) would have just called you Noah.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Skip Florey says:

    Always such a trove of information!
    Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gav says:

    Sounds like the neighbourhood kids are easily entertained. They would get a kick out of the work pants backup army surplus trousers I got off my Dad I resort to sometimes. Gotta be hitting sixty years old (trousers, I’m not there yet)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ben Strano says:

    Sorry Dave, the yardstick stole the show. I hope that store is still hanging in there, with their weird elevator and all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dave Fisher says:

      Hey Ben. Well, the yardstick is from the Gibson Furniture Company, which is NOT still hanging in there (although the building is), which means you won’t get an answer if you “phone 1138.” 5/16″ thick hard maple. They don’t give away yard sticks like that anymore. I use it all the time in the shop.
      As for the store with the hand hoist elevator you remember, that is Hurlbert’s Hardware (still going strong), owned and operated by Jan Hurlbert who is a treasure. She knows more about fixing things than just about anyone I know and always has a way of finding what you need tucked away somewhere in the store. https://www.visitmercercountypa.com/see-and-do/hurlberts-hardware/


  5. George Blackman says:

    Hi Dave I really liked your story about realigning the adze handle. I am a wood carver who forges carving tools. Some short sweep gouges were not working well, so I started reshaping the shank to get the cutting edge in line with the direction of power (handle). I now believe the best word to remember is to push the cutting wedge PARALLEL with the force – not in line. Spoon and bowl gouges work better with this concept. Please reply with your experiments with this idea.

    George Blackman – Oregon Orsmith2@gmail.com



    • Dave Fisher says:

      Hi George,
      Sorry about the late reply. I somehow had missed your comment until now.
      I’d love to comment, but I’m not sure I understand clearly what you’ve written. It’s the kind of thing that a drawing would tend to clarify. Is there some way for you to explain this in another way, or an image I can see somewhere online? Thanks!


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