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How do you hollow out timber or carve with an adze?

How to hollow out timber or carve
with an adze?

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Image to show that carving or hollowing with an adze can be a time consuming process so be patient! Carving hollows in wood is a more time consuming process than planing it flat.
Image of a DIYer levelling up their adzing skills by graduating to carving However, it gives you another way to improve your skill in wielding an adze.

Hand adze or foot adze?

Image of a DIYer standing next to an oversized adze, or a tiny DIYer standing next to a normal sized adze The size of adze you need depends on the size of the piece of wood you’ll be working on.
Image of a carpenter making a piece of wooden guttering with a long handled, lipped adze If you’re working on a long pole to make a gutter or a log to make a dug out canoe, you may need a foot adze.
Image of a DIYer using a lipped adze to carve out a wooden bowl If you’re working on a smaller piece of wood to make a bowl then you’ll need a hand adze.
Image of a DIYer shaping a chair seat with a foot adze If you’re working on a medium-sized piece, such as a chair seat, you could use either size of adze. Go for whichever one you feel most comfortable with.

Example: carving a bowl

Image of a lipped adze blade, which is necessary for carving For this type of carving, your adze will need a lipped blade.
Image of a piece of wood that has had pencil lines marked out to show where the edges of the bowl will be

Step 1 – Mark out guidelines

Mark the area that you want to hollow out in pencil if you need a guide.

Image of a DIYer starting to carve a bowl by chipping out shallow fragments with a hand adze

Step 2 – Begin carving

You’re now ready to start carving – be patient and keep things relatively shallow to begin with.

Image of a DIYer marking the outside of the bowl with a pencil to avoid cutting into the hollow of the bowl

Step 3 – Mark sides

Once you are satisfied that you’ve hollowed out enough wood, draw lines on the back of your bowl to show where the area you have just hollowed starts and stops. This will help you to accurately shape the outside of the bowl.

Image of a DIYer carving and smoothing the outside of a bowl with an adze

Step 4 – Shape sides

You can now use your adze to shape the outsides of the bowl.

Carving and hollowing other things

Image of an artist carving with a D-handled adze The same process for hollowing out bowls can be used for gutters, seats and canoes, and sculpting with wood.
Image of a wood carver adding scallop marks to the carved surface of a totem pole with a hand adze Totem pole carvers have a history of using adzes to leave marks all over carved poles, which gives the totem an authentic finish .

Adzes and burning out canoes

Image of a group of outdoorsmen burning out the inside of a dugout canoe The hollowing process for gutters and canoes can be sped up by burning them out using hot coals.
Image of an outdoorsman using water to prevent one side of their canoe from burning to make sure that it stays high enough to not ship water Water is used to wet the sides of the wood so that it doesn’t burn away as quickly.
Image of the inside of a canoe shortly after burning with a layer of charcoal over the inside The burning process builds up a layer of charcoal, which is both waterproof and insect repellant.
Image of an outdoorsman who is about to use an adze to scrape the ash from the inside of his burnt out canoe In this case, the adze is not only used to start the hollowing process but also as a scoop to remove ash from the inside of the hollow.
Wonkee Donkee warns against letting your adze get too hot as the steel in the head will soften

Wonkee Donkee Tools