why-use-an-adze

Why use an adze?

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Image of a donkey that is wondering what jobs an adze is good for As discussed earlier in the guide, adzes are used for planing and carving wood. However, there are other, more common tools that can do those jobs, so why use an adze?

To help you answer that question, adzes are compared to their main woodworking rivals below:

Planing wood

Image of a flat bladed adze being used to plane wood Flat-bladed adzes are used for planing wood. They are ideally suited to pieces of timber with large surface areas as their wide blades can smooth wood quickly.
Advantages and disadvantages of using an adze to plane wood
ADVANTAGES  DISADVANTAGES
  • Quick to plane large areas of wood, i.e. timbers
  • Can be used to create an antique effect (by leaving blade marks on the wooden surface)
  • Easier to create a smooth finish on a beam than it would be with an axe
  • Adze marks may not be desirable if an extremely smooth finish is required
  • It’s possible to use an axe to smooth the surface of a wooden beam, so buying an adze for smoothing is an additional expense
Image of a plane, one of the adze's direct competitors for smoothing wood Planes are the most common choice for smoothing wooden surfaces, and can be used on small pieces of wood with ease. (See Woodworking Hand Planes)
Advantages and disadvantages of using a plane to plane wood
ADVANTAGES  DISADVANTAGES
  • Leaves a completely smooth surface
  • Can be used on a surface of any size
  • Less physically tiring than using an adze or axe
  • Planing a piece of wood with a large surface area is time consuming
Image of an axe, a direct competitor of the adze for hewing timber Axes are the alternative to adzes when it comes to hewing timber. There are a few different techniques for ensuring a smooth finish – see Axes for more information.
Advantages and disadvantages of using an axe to plane wood
ADVANTAGES DISADVANTAGES
  • Saves the expense of buying an adze for use once bark has been removed
  • Achieving a smooth surface on a beam takes a lot of skill and practice
Wonkee Donkee recommends planes for general wood smoothing

Carving wood

Image of a lipped adze, used for carving or hollowing wood Lipped adzes are ideal for hollowing out pieces of wood. Their wide blades make the process of removing material quick and effective.
Advantages and disadvantages of using an adze for carving and hollowing wood
ADVANTAGES  DISADVANTAGES
  • Wide blades allow for rapid hollowing out of wood
  • Can be used to shape both the inside and the outside of a bowl
  • Can be used for large hollowing tasks, such as canoes, troughs, gutters and seats
  • More tiring to use than a gouge
  • Not suitable for precision work due to width of blade
Image of a gouge, a direct competitor to the adze for carving and hollowing wood The alternative to lipped adzes are gouges. These tend to have narrower blades and are much more useful for precision work. (See Gouges)
Advantages and disadvantages of using a gouge to carve and hollow wood
ADVANTAGES  DISADVANTAGES
  • Narrow blade means the tool is suited for precision work
  • Can be used to carve in fine detail
  • Narrower blades mean that bowl carving from scratch would be a very slow process
  • Not suitable for large projects such as canoe, trough, gutter and seat hollowing
Wonkee Donkee recommends lipped adzes for hollowing wood, and gouges for precision carving
Image of a shipwright using an adze to create an authentic antique effect on the planks When compared to their more modern counterparts, adzes become tools that are used for more specialised tasks. They also appeal to woodworkers who are interested in using traditional methods or who are aiming for an antique effect on the items they produce.