News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 29, 2013

HISTORICAL TREASURE: Watch crafters using adzes at Pioneer Days

Jan Buffington
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Those who have gone to Pioneer Days at Fowler Park may have seen a small adze used to make wooden bowls. An adze is a tool used to shape, level and smooth wood to make a variety of items. A straight-blade adze is used to make flat surfaces, and a curved adze hollows wood to make objects such as bowls, gutters and canoes. An adze resembles an axe, with the exception that the adze blade is mounted at a right angle to the handle, called a haft.  

Early adzes were made of stone. Later, copper and bronze were used. Handles were made of wood. Today, the adze is made of steel. Shipbuilders, coopers, carpenters, firefighters and home builders are some of the professions that used adzes.

This tool comes in two sizes. The small version can be used with one hand. The large ones are called foot adzes. These each have a long handle to provide a powerful swing using both hands. Even though an adze is a versatile tool, it has been replaced by more technologically advanced tools in factories. Craftsmen and craftswomen still use adzes in making specialty items.

Pioneer Days is scheduled for the first weekend in October. Visitors can see Historical Society members reenacting everyday chores in the Peker Cabin and watch crafters using adzes to make bowls in the Foltz Cabin and the carpenter’s shop.