Hewing Axes And Adzes
Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1972-26-171
C.W. Jefferys' notes about this picture from The Picture Gallery of Canadian History Volume 2
The Hewing Axe was used by lumbermen for squaring timbers for rafting and stowage in vessels, and by carpenters for smoothing beams, planks and rafters. For these purposes the inner or left side of the axe in contact with the timber was straight and level. The handle was bent outward to the right so that the knuckles of the workman's hands should clear the log.
The log was placed about knee-high on cross beams laid on the ground. The bark was chopped off to roughly square the log. The required width was marked at the ends and small spikes driven in. Between these spikes was stretched a stout line, chalked with red or black crayon. The hewer, standing on the log, midway of its length, lifted the cord some inches above the log, and when it was drawn taut, released the cord, which snapped back and marked a straight line on the timber. Then, standing on the ground with the log close to his leg, and holding the axe with both hands, he hewed downwards diagonally across the grain. He took care to "hew to the line" evenly and smoothly, so that the timbers should be of uniform dimensions and smooth surfaced. This was necessary in order that they might fit snugly together in the hold of the ship, and not shift with its rolling in the Atlantic billows on the voyage to Europe.
Some broad axes were made with the right side straight. These were for left-handed hewers. When such workmen were employed it was possible for two sides of the log to be hewn at the same time, the two hewers working from opposite ends. Left-handed hewers were paid higher wages because of the time saved.
The Adze was used for shaping beams and rafters, for levelling and smoothing floor planks and for excavating log troughs and dug-out canoes. The edge of the blade was generally straight, though sometimes a curved or saucer-edged blade was used to produce a rippled surface which gave a pleasing play of light and shade along the smooth surface of the beam or plank. These saucer-edged adzes had to be sharpened by a file or whetstone, it being impossible to apply them to a grindstone for this purpose.
The Cooper's Adze was used for hewing down barrel staves as well as for shaping and finishing wooden bowls and troughs. As will be seen by the drawings, it was more deeply curved downward and also more often saucer-edged than was the carpenter's adze.
- Jefferys, Charles W. (1945) The Picture Gallery of Canadian History Volume 2, p.93