You have to be a pretty handy tool if you are going to stick around for as long as the adze has.
This tool dates all the way back to the earliest tools ever made by humans, all the way back to the Stone Age, and remains one of the most important hand tools ever devised. Featuring an easy to manipulate handle that can be either pretty short your rather long (depending on how you plan to use the adze), the shape of this axe like tool is very distinct.
It has a pretty large, rectangular head on it that can be sharpened to a point – but it sits at a right angle to the handle as opposed to perpendicular the way that a traditional axe head does, giving it more of a hoe shape than anything else.
Available in an almost infinite amount of shapes, sizes, blade configurations, and overall weights (as well as made out of pretty much every construction material imaginable), the whole idea of this tool is to shave away at the material that you are looking to work – almost exclusively would – especially if you’re looking to hollow out curves or want to shape and smooth out flatter surfaces.
As mentioned above, this tool predates pretty much any other tool archaeologists have ever discovered. Stone Age adzes have been found throughout Europe but these tools have also been found in Australia, in North America, and even in ancient Egypt. It seems to be a design that was universal in its adaptation, with early humans making the most of this tool pretty much all over the world even though they warrant in communication with one another.
Today, an adze may not be used as often to hollow out a canoe, work wood for other tools or construction materials, or be all that useful in the garden or around the homestead the way it would have been more than 100 years ago.
Instead, this tool gets a lot of use by adventurers and explorers that want a multipurpose tool that they can depend on in a variety of different situations. Arctic explorers in particular use this tool because it’s easy to chop steps into glaciers or other ice structures.
The overwhelming majority of modern adzes are going to be hand forged options as opposed to mass-produced materials which the gives them a little bit of extra charm, particularly for those that want to use these the way that early craftsmen use them in their trade.
What to Consider Before Buying a New Adze
A couple of different defining features really make or break a adze, and because they come in so many different shapes and sizes you’ll want to make sure that you zero in on these elements before you pull the trigger on a purchase.
Foot or Hand Adze
The first thing you’ll need to figure out is whether or not you want to get your hands on a foot adze or a hand adze.
Though there are multiple variations of both these, these are the two main categories that all adzes are going to fall into – and they do not usually have all that much overlap with one another as far as their utility is concerned.
A foot adze is almost exclusively a much longer, heavier, and double handed adze that you’ll want to use when delivering powerful strikes at larger pieces of material that are at your feet or up to your knee as far as positioning is concerned.
A hand adze, on the other hand, is much lighter, much smaller, and designed to be used with just a single hand – allowing you to work on material that can be positioned pretty much anywhere (including on a workbench) in a way that foot adzes would have a tough time with.
The second thing you want to think about before you grab a new adze is how the head itself has actually been designed.
Some options are going to have a much more pronounced arc, others are going to be almost pickax in nature, and others still are basically going to be flat across – designed for carving into incredibly hard materials (like ice and other hardwoods).
Not only will the shape of the head come into play but the size of the head is a huge factor as well. If you’re looking to take away a lot of material all at once you’ll obviously want to go with a larger adze head, and if you’re looking for finer “detail work” a smaller adze head is going to be right up your alley.
The last piece of the puzzle you’ll want to get right before you go shopping for a new adze is the overall weight of both the handle and the head themselves as well as the total weight of the entire unit itself.
Heavier duty adzes are designed to tear through bigger chunks of material in a slightly more haphazard way compared to lighter weight adzes that are designed with precision and accuracy of strikes in mind.
The handle itself should be perfectly balanced with a lot more weight towards the top of the head for better striking balance, and handles that have a sheep’s foot at the end give a lot of extra grip and security as well.
Top Adze Axes
1. FITOOL Woodcarving Straight Adze
This is a very simple and straightforward adze, a tool designed for carpenters, woodworkers, sculptors, and other tradespeople that want to replicate – and really duplicate – the results that craftspeople that came before them were producing before power tools were even imagined.
The head itself is a single piece of drop forged steel weighing in at 1.4 pounds, and the arch itself has been designed for effortlessly scaling back bark, shaping or trimming up timber, or rapidly removing soft and hardwood materials. A claw hammer with a nail hole on the opposite side makes this a very versatile tool indeed.
- Perfectly replicates traditional adze designs and traditional adze results.
- Doubles as a framing hammer with nail pull.
- Forged single piece head as a lot of strength and durability.
- A little bit on the heavy side of things as far as hand adzes are concerned.
- Handle is perfectly smooth with no real ergonomic contours.
This product is best for craftspeople that want as authentic a hand tool as possible, even if it is just a bit heavier than most other hand adzes
2. ForgeCraft SolidTools Forged Adze Hoe
Made 100% in the USA, this solid adze is a lightweight hand adze that features forged steel construction and a 16 inch hickory handle – offering plenty of durability for tradespeople and craftspeople that are going to put this adze through its paces.
The blade itself comes in at 3 ¼ inches wide with 5 inches of length and a subtle arc to it that makes it fantastic for those that want to use this while woodworking as well as those that would like to use this in the garden or the outdoors as a hoe replacement.
Super compact (it’s about the size of a framing hammer) this is the kind of hand tool you can tuck into a toolbox or leave out on your workbench without worrying about it chewing up a lot of valuable real estate.
- Very lightweight and easy to swing.
- Blade is perfectly arced with versatility in mind.
- High quality forged steel comes sharpened right out of the box.
- The handle is still nothing but a straight cylinder and a little bit to smooth for use right out of the gate.
- The adze does not have any secondary tool opposing the adze head, limiting its flexibility somewhat.
This product is best for those that would like to have a adze around even if they aren’t sure of how often they were going to use it.
3. ForgeCraft Forged Adze with Fiberglass Handle
Very much a modern reimagining of the traditional adze, this tool has the exact same design features of the traditional adzes made hundreds of years ago – thousands of years ago, really – but has replaced all of those parts with modern construction materials and engineering.
The head of this adze is 5 ½ inches long, features a slightly steeper angle than the other adzes that we have highlighted already, and is made entirely out of drop forged heavy duty steel construction materials. This allows the head to maintain a razor sharp edge (with just a little bit of work necessary on your behalf to get that sharp) without losing any of the durability you’d expect for something that can beat up on hardwoods like oak.
The handle itself is just slightly over 14 inches long and is made entirely out of high-strength fiberglass that shaves a lot of weight from this tool compared to other options. This gives this adze a really solid swing, fantastic balance, and the peace of mind in knowing that the handle isn’t going to come apart anytime soon the way that wooden ones might.
- Modern construction materials update this ancient tool.
- Fiberglas handle is ridiculously strong but super lightweight.
- The entire adze from top to bottom is made of noncorrosive and weather resistant materials, too.
- Because it is so short it isn’t ideal for tearing into larger pieces of material.
- Works wonders as a gardening adze but is a little bit limited outside of that.
This product is best for folks that want a lightweight adze for tooling around the garden and maybe some woodworking every now and again.
4. FITOOL Forged Adze Hoe
This double-sided adze looks a lot like a miniature version of a tool that 49er prospectors would have carried with them to the Gold Rush, and in reality it actually works similar to those kinds of tools as well.
The head itself is made out of a single piece of drop forged steel, steel that has later gone through a heat treating and tempering process that guarantees it has only the highest degree of strength and durability. On one end of the head you have a traditional adze blade and on the reverse you have the same blade flipped perpendicular to the handle, giving you extra versatility. Both ends are sharpened to a razors edge.
The handle itself is made out of rubberized fiberglass construction materials. This gives it a fantastic strength to weight ratio, and the rubberized material improves your grip and ergonomics significantly.
- Both blades allow this adze to do double duty in a way that single bladed adzes cannot.
- Rubberized fiberglass construction material is a treat to use compared to standard wooden handles.
- Heat treatment and tempering process improves durability significantly.
- Balance can be a bit of an issue with this adze depending on which of the blades you are using.
- 15 inch long handle hits a weird sweet spot between being a little too short but not really long enough for the versatility it could have otherwise brought to the table.
This product is best for people that want a adze capable of handling double duty as both a adze and an axe or cutter without having to purchase two or more tools to get the job done
5. Narex 890950 Hand Forged Adze
The most compact of all the adzes we break down in this quick guide, this single headed and uniquely designed adze measures in at just slightly longer than 11 inches.
This makes it very much a hand adze, and it’s very sharply angled and almost rounded out adze blade allow it to remove a tremendous amount of wooden material in a hurry – with the kind of precision that only something this compact and lightweight could make possible.
- Super lightweight for those that do not want to carry around a heavy adze.
- Compact enough to strike targets from a variety of different angles and positions.
- Razor-sharp and tightly angled for quick removal with zero sacrifice as far as efficiency is concerned.
- Isn’t large enough to tackle big projects.
- Balance can be a little wonky until you get used to swinging it.
This product is best for those that want a top-tier adze for accurate quick removal of wooden construction materials or a “pocket adze” that they can keep on hand for quick jobs in the garden.
6. Prohoe 55HX Pulaski Hoe Axe with Wooden Handle
Every single thing about this adze has been designed with gardening in mind, including mating it to a horticultural axe head that improves its versatility for those with green thumbs.
Engineered to bust open and remove turf, split open hard soil, cut roots, dig trenches, and basically make easy work of prepping your garden before you start to plant – or tooling your garden in preparation for a harvest – this is a very handy tool to keep around.
- 5.5” x 13” carbon steel cutter makes quick work of all your outdoor obstacles, and the offset adze blade gives you the traditional adze utility as well.
- Sharpened edges right out of the box are ready to go to work.
- 40 inch curved hickory handle lets you get a lot of leverage when you want to move quite a bit of earth all at once.
- It’s tough to find a place to use this adze outside of the garden.
- Overall head to handle construction approach may weaken over time.
This product is best for anyone with a green thumb that does not want to go without a adze.
The Beset Adze
At the end of the day, this might not be the “sexiest” hand tool on the market right now but as we made mention of earlier there’s a reason why it continues to be used by human beings thousands of years after it was first invented.
There are plenty of jobs where this tool is the perfect option for the task at hand and is likely that you will find yourself reaching for the ideal adze time and time again once you get used to working it into your rotation.
Use the inside information we highlighted above to find the best adze for your specific needs and you won’t have anything to worry about when investing in this useful little hand tool!