Adze, Hooks and Scythe
The history of the adze follows very closely that of the axe. The heads were made of the same materials and the shape was similar. However the fixing to the handle had to be modified to bring the cutting edge at right angles to it instead of being in the same plane. For this reason the adze is still known as the "cross-axe" in some countries.
The Cretans of the Late Bronze Age had double bladed adzes and the axe-adze, with an axe on one side and an adze on the other. Roman carpenters thought very highly of the axe-adze, indeed no Roman carpenter or military engineer would be seen without one. It still survives as the grubbing mattock.
One problem with the adze is that in normal use it is difficult to keep the head rigid on the handle. The Cretans first solved this by providing a deep socket; the socket is now made square and the eye tapered so that the head can be easily removed for grinding and sharpening.
SIZE: Cutting edge width: 3 to 5-1/2 in.; Head weight: 3-1/4 to 4-3/4 lb
MATERIAL: Head; steel; Handle: hickory
USE: To trim and shape the surface of large sections of wood
The cutting edge of the adze blade is at right angles to the line of the handle and is ground on the back surface only. The longitudinal curve of die blade is matched to the arc of the swing of the tool using the traditional curved handle. The adze head eye is squared and tapered so that the head is automatically tightened during the swing, but can be removed for sharpening by slipping it along the handle.
Different shaped heads are available. The carpenter's, shipbuilder's and curved blade adze heads, in use for centuries, are still available in modern tool catalogs.
This is almost flat across the blade and may have a flat, half or pin poll. It is used to shape flat sections of wood.
This tool, (below left), is similar to the carpenter's adze but it has a flared cutting edge 5-1/2 in. wide.
Curved blade adze
This tool, (above right), has a curved, gouge type head with a blade curved in both directions. It is used to cut hollows such as the traditional wooden seat of the "Windsor" chair.
Using the adze
Stand on or astride the work-piece and swing the adze backward and forward with a pendulum action. The thigh controls the depth of the swing by acting as a stop against the swinging arm. In skilled hands an adze can remove a considerable amount of wood or produce fine shavings when finishing the surface.
OTHER NAMES: Riving axe cleaving iron, rending axe
SIZE: Blade length: approximately 15in.
MATERIAL: Blade: steel; Handle: hickory
USE: To split lumber along the grain
The froe is used to split wood along the grain. It is much quicker to split lumber along the grain than to saw it. It was already in common use in Roman times where it was used chiefly to split oak roofing shingles. The tool is still in use for this purpose as well as to split lumber for planks, wheel spokes or simply firewood.
Using the froe
Drive the wedge shaped blade into the end grain of the lumber with a wooden mallet or froe dub. Use the handle, extending at right angles to the blade, as a lever to twist the blade, extending the split lengthwise. If the lumber resists splitting, drive the blade further with the mallet, and lever once more.
SIZE: Blade length: 9 to 10in.
MATERIAL: Blade: steel; Handle: ash
USE: To cut and lay hedges and split branches
Laying a hedge
To make a strong hedge, thin out every five years leaving the strong bushes every 12in. Trim off branching and cut the stem of the bush halfway through, near the ground with a downward angled stroke. Bend the bush to a flat angle, facing uphill, locating it under its neighbor to secure it. When a row of bushes are cut and bent, interweave stakes with thern.
Country people in Britain use the bill hook to lay hedges and make lightweight fencing.
Preparing the branches
Cut stakes out of the hedge leaving strong bushes about a foot apart. Bend each tree trunk over and half cut near the base. Force it down nearly horizontal but do not break.
The bill hook is a wide bladed knife fitted with a straight handle, used to chop wood, to split thin brancheSj to make hurdles and to lay hedges. There is still a variety of "hooks" available from modern catalogs, which are derived from patterns developed many years ago by local craftsmen.
The tang of the blade passes right through the hardwood handle and is riveted over. The swelling at the end of the handle prevents the tool slipping out of the hand when it is swung with a chopping action.
Sharpen the cutting edge of the bill hook with a slipstone or use a scythe stone.
Try to push part of each horizontal trunk under its neighbor, always working uphill. Drive in the stakes at right angles to the trunks making sure they are interwoven with the trunks. Secure the tops with split willow and hazel.
Making wooden fencing
You can make lightweight fencing by driving sharpened stakes every 9in. into the ground or into a prepared length of lumber and interweaving them with split, pliable willow, hazel or holly branches. The bill hook is used to sharpen the stakes and to split the "withies". Start the cut in the end of the branch and twist the blade to propagate die split along the grain. The resulting strip is woven between the stakes and at the end, is twisted before returning it along the row to prevent it breaking at that point.
Splitting the withies
Use the bill hook to split willow, holly or hazel branches to make weaving strips.
Weaving the Strips
After splitting the withies, weave each strip through the upright stakes.
OTHER NAME: Brushing hook
SIZE: Blade length: 9 to 14in.; Handle length: 22 to 32in.
MATERIAL: Blade: steel; Handle: ash
USE: To cut back hedges and undergrowth
Slashing hooks are fitted with long handles so that the head can be swung with considerable force when clearing undergrowth and thinning out hedges. They have similar blades to the bill hook and are also available in a wide variety of locally produced shapes, including a sickle-like blade.
Clearing overgrown hedge
Use the slasher to control "runaway" hedges but remove undergrowth with a shorter-handled hook.
SIZE: Blade: 24 to 40in.; Snath: 56in.
MATERIAL: Blade: steel; Snath: hickory, aluminum alloy
USE: To cut weeds and long grass
The scythe is the traditional reaping tool which has been used for centuries around the world. Although machinery h?s taken over the scythe's reaping role, it is still useful for cutting down extensive areas of long grass, weeds or bracken. The long, slightly curving blade, sharpened along one edge has a right angled tang which fits into a metal collar on the end of the elegantly curving shaft or snath.
Other names for the shaft are snade, snead, sneathe and batt. The handles, known as nibs, hand pins or doles are fitted at an angle which suits the user. The grass nail, a rod which is stretched across from the snath to the blade, prevents grass lodging between the heel of the blade and the snath.
Using the scythe
Sweep the scythe across and in front of you. Adopt a steady rhythm. Experienced countrymen should be able to mow up to an acre per day.
OTHER NAMES: Reaping hook, bagging hook, grass hook
SIZE: Blade length: 18 to 26in.
MATERIAL: Blade: steel; Handle: hardwood, tubular steel aluminum alloy
USE: To cut long grass and weeds
Sickles are curved knives which are still used to cut long grass or weeds in areas which are difficult to clear with machinery or even a scythe. The handle is angled upward so that the blade is swept parallel with the ground.
Using the sickle
With a natural sweeping movement of the hand and wrist, slice sideways through the grass. Holdback overhanging growth with a stick.
This is a modern version of the sickle, and it is a cross between the sickle and scythe. It has a slightly curving blade which can be fitted with a short handle or with a tubular steel shaft up to 32in. long.
The traditional hay or pitch fork is the most useful tool for picking up long grass or bracken.
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