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What are the different coatings used on adze heads?

What are adze heads coated with?

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Image showing an adze with an uncoated steel head that may be prone to rusting While it may be possible to buy a vintage adze with an uncoated head, you’ll find that most adze heads have a protective coating that has been designed to prevent them from rusting.
Image of an adze with a head that has been allowed to rust Rusty tools are very likely to be blunt, ineffective and potentially dangerous.
Image of an hourglass to illustrate the life of a tool Using paint or a black oxide finish will help to protect your tool and prolong its life.


Image of a selection of different coloured paint pots Painting an adze head provides it with a physical barrier against corrosion. Paint keeps air and moisture away from the surface of the tool to stop it from rusting.

The paint usually has to chip or wear away before the tool can go rusty.

Image of a rusty metal wheel arch to show that rust can still occur in painted metal Unfortunately, although this is a cheap way of protecting your tool, it isn’t foolproof. While it will slow down the rate at which your tool rusts, it is possible for metal to rust under paint.
Wonkee Donkee provides evidence that rust can get through paint and tells you where you can look for proof!
Advantages and disadvantages of using paint as a protective coating
  • Quick and easy to apply.
  • Finish can be in any colour.
  • Rust protection is only low level.
  • Can change the dimensions of the tool – the layer of paint could prevent it from fitting snugly onto the handle.

Black oxide

Image of a spanner that has been given a black oxide coating for protection against corrosion Black oxide is a durable coating that protects the tool from rust.
Image of a the chemical bath a piece of steel gets dipped in to coat it in black oxide Steel can be coated with black oxide by being dipped into, or rubbed with, a special acidic cocktail. This causes a specific type of iron oxide, known as magnetite to form on the tool’s surface.
Image of a piece of magnetite, the same compound used in black oxide coating Magnetite (chemical formula Fe3O4) is best known for its use in cassette tapes.
Image of a rusty nail Rust (chemical formula Fe2O3) is also a type of iron oxide.
Image to illustrate the concept of an item being rust proof Iron can only oxidise (rust) once. This means that once the tool has been covered in a layer of black oxide, it is chemically prevented from rusting again.
Image of a gun that has recently been blued The process of coating steel with magnetite is known as ‘bluing’ due to the blue-black colour of the steel once the process is complete.
Image of a can of water displacing oil in a spray can To fully protect the steel from rust, a water-displacing oil is applied to its surface. This draws out any water that has found its way into scratches or imperfections in the steel. It also makes the finish of the tool look more strongly black.
Image of a DIYer applying water displacing oil to a knife blade with a black oxide finish Oil can be reapplied to the surface of the steel at a later date to refresh the coating and keep it from rusting.
Image of a happy piggy bank, belonging to an adze forger who uses black oxide because it's cheap to apply Black oxide tends to be used on hand-forged tools because it is cheaper to apply than industrial-standard coatings, such as zinc plating.
Advantages and disadvantages of using black oxide as a protective coating
  • All black finish looks neat and tidy.
  • Provides a reliable anti-rust coating.
  • The coating itself is durable and is not easy to wear away.
  • Coating is very thin, but strong. Will not cause issues with fitting onto the handle.
  • Takes longer to apply than paint.
Wonkee Donkee recommends black oxide as a better coating for your adze than paint

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