Monday, August 8, 2011

Constructing A Carving Adz

I've been fascinated with tool building for sometime and I am presently working on putting together a small metal smithing shop thanks to some serious inspiration by a man by the name of Bill Dawson (Metal Smith Extraordinaire). I met Bill at a taco truck. It's kind of a fun story so I would love to share it with yall. My former roomate Derek King and I were grabbing a burrito and an older guy with a grey beard rolled up to the truck on a Harley with an absolutely beautiful hammered copper engine shell. I was really taken back by the craftsmanship of the piece, so I struck up a conversation. I told him I was interesting in learning about tool building and specifically tempering tools. He nonchalantly mentioned he had tempered several tools for jewelery smithing that day. I was filled with curiosity and Bill began to thoroughly explain three different processes he knew for tempering. I left that taco truck with a carne asada burrito and a mind full of wonder. I knew it would only be a matter of time before we ran into one another again and sure enough a few weeks later I saw him at the co-op and introduced myself as the guy from the taco truck and believe it or not he remembered me. I inquired if I could see him in action tempering and he invited me to his home to watch the process.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to see a true artist and craftsman at work. I walked into Bill's jewelry studio and was taken back by the plethora of handmade tools. I knew right away I stumbled into something special. I saw 2 small carving adzes lying on his workbench and I have always thought they were really cool tools and I went right for them. Bill asked me if I wanted to make an adz blade and I could build the handle myself. I jumped at the opportunity and Bill took a piece of w-1 round stock tool steel, heated, hammered, and crafted a beautiful adz blade using his adz as a model. There is just something about seeing someone build something that makes it seem so possible for you to do later. At the end of the smithing and tempering process I was handed this tool blade.

Top view

Bottom view

I've been busy with a variety of things and have not had much time to build a handle for the blade however, I flew home (to Mary Land) and spent a few days with the folks and decided to have my pops help me make a handle for this beautiful blade. I did some research online and I found a design that I used as a model, though it is a bit different then the adz Bill had constructed. Here is a picture of the model I used, click on the image if you are interested in seeing the builders ebay page.

My dad and I set to work and he had a piece of osage orange wood he recommended I use due to it's sturdy and heavy properties. We removed the first heavy bark layers with a few runs in the jointer, on the table saw and through the planer, the wood sheathed it's rustic attire and a beautiful yellow grain appeared. I'm fairly certain now that the wood is actually black locust.

Then I used a french curve to draw a new design for the handle I would construct with a printed model of the adz I found on the internet.

I copied the design onto the piece of osage with a piece of carbon paper and ripped it out with a band saw.

After I rough cut the shape with the band saw I started shaping the handle with some files, sand paper and a carving knife.

I spent most of the day shaping and feeling it out.

I kept on filing, sanding and shaping. Then I cut a notch in then handle below where the blade will be wrapped, for the waxed nylon to rest against.

One difficult task was to flatten the area on the handle where the adz blade will rest. I was using a file, and each time I rested the blade on the handle it was not even. I inquired with my pops what to do and he had an idea to clamp the handle down and use the radio arm saw to rip a flat strip.

Even after I got the area of the handle flat it was still giving me problems because the blade itself is not entirely flat. So we decided to glue a piece of leather on to where the blade will rest to create a small cushion and rest the blade snugly against the handle.

Now the piece is drying with some polyurethane finish. Here is a pic of the final product, with the blade wrapped on with sinew.

The very last piece of this project was stitching a leather cover for the blade.

As special thanks to my pops, Bill Skinner, without him I would not be able to do any of this.

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