12 Different Types of Adze

Types of Adze
Image credit: Rafael.amen via Wikimedia

One of the most common tools in any carpenter’s arsenal, the adze, has been used for centuries across many different cultures.

Used to chisel away at wood, shaping and smoothing it until it was just right. The adze certainly lives up to its name as a shape-altering tool that can be utilized in various tasks.  

Adze are great tools to have in your arsenal of carpentry tools, whether you’re building your first canoe or working on a complex sculpture.

Whether you use your adze in construction work or on your home improvement projects, there are types of adze that you should become familiar with to know which one best suits the job.

Learning the types of adze that exist will help you decide what type of tool will work best for your project.

Also, let you know which tool to pick up at your local hardware store or woodworking shop when needed.

What is Adze?

An adze is an ancient tool that dates back to as early as 15,000 B.C. It can be used as a woodworking tool or even for combat! 

It looks like a large, heavy axe with a broad blade that narrows to about a 90-degree angle at the back end of its head.

The blade is flat and generally, but not always, curved on both sides. Like an axe or hatchet, an adze’s blade has cutting edges that are perpendicular to its handle.

In fact, many years ago, these were used by armies across Europe and Asia in their war efforts. Nowadays, they are most commonly used by carpenters and woodworkers worldwide.

This is because it helps shape and smooth pieces of wood when constructing furniture or homes. There are two main types of adzes – left- and right-handed.

A left-handed one will have its blade on your left side when you hold it in front of you, while a right-handed adze will be on your right side.

Types of Adze

1. Ice Adze

An ice adze (also known as a pit adze) is a specialized pick used in mining to cut through rocks that are frozen into ice.

It was usually made out of steel and looked like an oversized chisel with one side flat and another that had been ground to a point. 

To use, it was heated up until red-hot and then pressed against a wall of ice to chip away at it. This process could go on for days, depending upon how large and deep-seated an area needed to be worked. 

A single man using an ice adze could cut through almost 200 pounds per day when working his hardest.

In times when materials were scarce or hard to come by, these tools were priceless. This is probably why they’re still popular today.

2. Boston Adze

This is one of the types of adzes that is used much like a drawknife. It looks similar to an ax with a wide blade attached. One puts pressure on the blade to use it and pulls it back.  

These tools are used to force entry into locked properties if they need access in an emergency. They can be carried by police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and even utility workers. By those who may need to enter a building quickly due to an emergency. 

Also, this tool has a blunt blade and is used for smashing materials apart during demolition work. It’s often called a wrecking bar.

Its shape allows for more power than other types of hammers and mallets. It’s usually made from metal, but sometimes from fiberglass or hard plastic.

3. Pocket Adze

The pocket adze is one of several names for an overhanded woodworking tool. Although it’s called a pocket adze, it has absolutely nothing to do with your pockets! 

To use an overhanded adze, you grip it just like you would a pair of shears by using both hands and pressing down on its blade. Pocket adzes are used for coarse chopping.

This woodworking tool’s main uses are in making log cabins and pulpits—think Henry David Thoreau’s famous Walden Pond cabin.

4. Two Handled Adze

These tools were used for shaping logs and branches. When using an adze, you’ll want to strike your marks with a two-handed technique called hewing or bashing. 

Unlike other cutting tools such as axes, chisels, and saws, there’s no need for a hammer when using an adze.

These work best when removing small amounts of material from larger surfaces where precision is necessary. 

For example, if you need to remove a big chunk from one side of a log, it might be faster just to use an axe instead since nothing is going in line with your cut (as opposed to a chisel). Since these are more delicate than other woodworking tools, they must be handled more delicately. 

Two-handled adzes work in the same way as other types of adzes, but the second handle allows for greater precision and control with each swing. Some people prefer these over single-handled adzes because of their versatility.   

5. Foot Adzes

As their name suggests, these adzes feature a blade at one end with a cutting edge that’s perpendicular to its handle. A foot adze is most often used to shape or create forms.

Such as bowls and mortars or even hollowing out parts in wood or any other type of solid material. This particular kind also has a hook at its back end.

It enables it to be used as a lever by trapping another tool, like a hammer, against its hook and swinging it hard. This enables you to get rid of unwanted wooden materials fast.

6. D-Handled Adze

A D-handled adze is among the types of adze used to perform different tasks, such as marking or shaping wood. When used correctly, it can be a very effective tool.

A typical d-handled adze features a blade that measures around 15 cm in length and 4 cm in width at its widest point. 

In addition, it can be made of either steel or bronze, with iron also appearing now and then, though rarely. Steel is most commonly used because it’s durable and resistant to rusting.

If you are lucky enough to acquire one crafted from bronze, you should use great care not to chip or damage your adze blade while working with it.

7. Hand Adze

A hand adze is a tool with a blade that is sharpened perpendicular to its handle and can be attached to any kind of stick. It was primarily used as a woodworking tool to shape tree trunks. 

Their use dates back to prehistory. They were also used in conjunction with stone tools by hunter-gatherers in Europe during the Upper Paleolithic period, c. 45000 BC – 11000 BC.

Hand axes tend to have convex cutting edges between 3-20 cm long. They were made from stones that had been subjected to heat treatment.

8. Carpenters Adze

Carpenter adze is a woodworking tool used for shaping wood. Although often used in place of chisels and planes, it can also be employed to shape pieces.

These types of adze are used to remove excess material from inside joints during carpentry projects and smooth out planks before assembly.

Furthermore, carpenter adze is designed purely to be efficient at shaving wood off surfaces. They don’t have any sort of point or edge for piercing through surfaces.

This makes them ideal for working on soft materials such as plywood or drywall. Carpenter’s adzes come in two basic styles: single-bevel and double-bevel.

Single-bevel adzes have only one sharpened edge; double-bevel ones have two (one on each side). Both types can cut across grain or along the grain, depending on what you need them to do.

9. Gutter Adze

A gutter adze is a small adze with a blade that is usually only an inch or two long and isn’t used on hardwood.

Instead, it’s designed for working on soft materials like trim, siding, and molding. Blades are sometimes curved (like a U) to allow for greater flexibility when working close to a wall. 

These types of adzes are rarely sharpened because they don’t need to be durable and aren’t meant to work through much material at once.

Gutter adzes have very limited uses but can be handy in certain situations. Such as where cutting hardwood is undesirable (e.g., trimming out windows).

10. Lipped Shipwright Adze

This traditional adze is made from a single piece of steel. The cutting edge is convex to allow for greater pressure when striking.

These types of adzes are most effective when used to remove timber between two surfaces but can be used for straightening and shaping timbers. 

Also, this is among the types of adze used extensively on sailing ships in shipyards to shape and smooth ships’ timbers, such as those used for bowsprits, rails, and gunwales, or any part that required fine-tuning before fitting out a vessel with planking or rigging. It has a blade that is swept upwards to create a shallow ‘U’ shape. 

Furthermore, it is commonly known as a shipwright’s adze, although it was also used by coopers (barrel makers) and carpenters.

Some shipwrights adzes have an angled handle so they could be struck at either end without moving one’s hands from their work position.

Shipwright’s adzes were also used for trimming sails and other canvas gear, which may explain why some examples have curved blades.

11. Shipwright Adze

The shipwright adze is a small, light adze that’s used for carving work. It has a slender blade, and a large handle meant to be gripped with both hands. This type of adze can be used to carve wood or shell. 

Some sailors used it to create ornate decorations on ships by etching intricate designs into their surfaces. Others used it for more practical tasks, such as making holes in their hulls.

12. Railroad Adze

This is among the many types of adze designed for shaping and molding curves into wooden rails; a railroad adze has a handle that is perpendicular to its head.

This tool can either be used with one hand or two, making it simple for both lefts- and right-handed users. 

Railroad adzes are designed to meet industry standards such as those of ANSI, SAE, and BIA. They also feature a metal blade that’s sheathed in heat-treated high-carbon steel.

Consider getting a railroad type if you’re looking for types of adzes to use when working on wood railings or fences. These models are more powerful than their planning counterparts.  


A simple digging tool that also doubles as an agricultural, carpentry, and military tool, the adze has been used worldwide for thousands of years.

The adze is similar to an axe but with the handle placed perpendicular to the head. This allows it to be struck directly into the wood while working on stone or soil. 

There are many different types of adze, all of which have unique qualities depending on how they were used and where they came from. Here are some of the most common types of adze to choose from.

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