She-Hulk - the Revival of the Adze




About: I made a beer mug with only a knife & a hatchet. I think that says a lot about me.

If you want to make something big, start making the right tools.

Within some time - once I've got the right log - I'll make another canoe. No more duct tape & pvc, but big solid wood. Dugout style. Back to basics.

Making a dugout canoe is one of those projects that are haunting me for many years. It's like one of a few dozen power-safe circuits in my head - something I think about when I just don't want to think about something. If ever you'd see me staring at nothing - don't disturb, I'm thinking about my canoe. Or peeing. But don't disturb anyway.

Making a dugout canoe isn't something you can just do in a few afternoons. There's quite a bit of planning & craftmanship for involved - a lot, in fact - and during my research I learned that one of the have-to's for this project is the adze (dutch: kipkap, french: herminette, german: dechsel). An adze is like an axe, but with the blade perpendicular to the handle - like a flesh scraper, if you want.

Making such a tool sounded like the perfect start for my project - the very first step in the canoe that will bring people together. Making it own your own is fun, but making it with a group is much better. Projects, in the future.

Adzes are among the oldest tools men ever made. Or women, who knows. The first adzes were build with natural wooden forks, flintstones and sinew. Later on, forged heads replaced the wooden fork, making the tool more compact and more powerful.

During thousands of years, adzes were standard gear in men's work-caves.

Adzes are beautiful tools. There are big ones, and small ones. Some have curved edges, others flat edges. The flat ones are often used to rectify beams, like a huge plane, while the curved ones are used for sculpting and bowl making.

A canoe is like a big bowl, in fact.

So instead of ordering an adze on the big big web, I thought that this kind of lazy behavior wouldn't bring good karma to my project. Neither to my bank account, btw, since the prize of a nice forged adze is always something with 3 digits.

I thought that, if people are using this tool for thousands of years, it's probably not because it's just beautiful. If it's one of those great inventions that stood the test of time, it would surely stand the test of my canoe.

So I decided to do it the old way. With a few bricobartistic mods, indeed.

Step 1: Fries on My Pizza

Making a traditional adze is like having fries on your pizza - you won't be sad because choosing one would mean losing the other.

No need to choose pizza OR fries. Just put the second on the first - which is the way I prefer my pizzas, btw. About my beers, I prefer them separated.

Making an adze involves real woodworking, AND real metalworking. And some real thinking, also.

First of all you need the right steel to shape the blade. Carbon steel is fine. Like blades from old lawn mowers, for example - easy to find, large and cheap. If you don't have such a thing, try old leaf springs or just an old knife. The local scrapyard is the place to go.

I'm not that saturday lawn-mower guy. So I sacrificed ours for the right purpose.

Cut the blade in three equal parts and you're done. 5 inch long, 2 inch large.

Step 2: Tunnel to China

Then you'll forge that piece of steel into a gutter-like something.

Depending on the work you'll do with it, you can leave it just flat, also. Flat adze blades are often used instead of planes - the tool, not the thing that flies.

I needed a 'digging adze', and therefor a 'curved' blade was the way the go. Curved edges are perfect to remove big chips.

To shape the blade that way, you definitely need a forge. If you don't have one, build one. Or use a barbecue and a hair dryer. Links below.

I decided to do it the wild way: some carbon pellets, a transformed dust buster and a very windy day. The whole setup generated enough heat to burn a tunnel to China in our backyard, and to make the steel blades red hot - tunnel fire, you know. No matter how you do it, that's the only result you need.

Use an anvil to hammer the blade into the right shape - flattening one side and making it curved.

I didn't have an anvil, but I had some heavy steel profiles hanging around - perfect to use as a kind of 'mold' to hammer the blades into the slight curve I wanted. Very bad blacksmitting, I know. But very effective, nah.

After the shaping I made them nice red again and quenched them in vegetal oil. When the salt melts, it's time to quench. The sisseling of the hot metal was just to die for. And the good smell of fries all over the place even more.

At the end, the blades were set a while in the oven to temper.

Last action: the sharpening on the grinding wheel.

This type of adze has to be beveled on the outside - contrary to sculpting adzes, where the bevel is on the INside.

30° is the way to go. You ask it, we sharp it. Note the unegal thickness on the cutting edge. Dirty forging, payed cash.

If you're not familiar with forging technics, these collegues may be helpful:

Making a small blacksmiths forge

Making a brake drum forge

Making a soup can forge

From file to knife

Step 3: Wild Pooping Starlings

Traditional adzes can be made out of natural forks, natural elbows or just a piece of solid wood.

Instead of setting up a whole database of parameters to find that ultimate form, I decided to get my eyes wide unshut and to let the decision up to the inspiration of the moment. So while I was walking into the valley of the shadow of death, I suddenly found a whole platoon of young cherry trees aka the biggest pooping spot of starlings on earth, I guess.

One had just the fork I needed - the tree, not the starling.

Once cut, it measured 15 inch long and 2 inch thick. No cheap jokes, I'm trying to be serious.

Two inch was right what I needed for that blade I forged the day before.

Some debarking, rough shaping with axe & knife and drying. Greatful I felt, that day.

Step 4: Better Than Porn

Besides porn, you can also find useful knowledge on the net.

I learned, for example, that a good adze design is based on a few geometrical parameters. I highly recommend to have a look at the site of the Jayhawk Institute. It must be the first site of which I read every word. Twice.

Like shown in the first picture, the blade edge needs to make a 90° angle to the top of the hand holding the tool. The adze will pivot from this point, and respecting this rule will make it a good cutting tool. I can't tell you if it's true, but untill proven false I'm ready to believe it.

This doesn't mean you need to cut the excess at this point, it means you need to cut it about two or three inches above it (red dashed line).

Once the short side is cut right, you need to cut a 'shoulder'. This prevents the blade from moving backwards while eating the chips out of the trunk.

Finally, at the downside of the short side you need to remove some stuff because that's where the cord will be attached.

Let it dry a bit more, and finish it to its final design. All tools alowed.

Don't sand it too smooth. Real cavemen like it rough.

Step 5: In Your Face, Picasso

Unless the fact that I'm probably the downest of all down-to-earth-cavemen on earth, I do appreciate nicely decorated womens nails, for example.

Whatever. Adding synthetic gloss on finger- or toe-nails is something of all times. I'm pretty sure that even wild cave-women coloured their nails, to please the wild cave-men. Or other wild cave-women, I won't exclude anyone.

Nail-art is hot, these days, and I'm so lucky since the other person in our smoky cave is pretty skilled in that sort of body-decoration. Instead of making just one painting at the time, she's making ten paintings in a row. Or twenty, depending on the season. In your face, Picasso!

Simply Red is out. Wild Nail Art is in.

So, since the tool I was building reminded me of a hughe hallux, I decided to give it a whole new twist.

Guess which woman has a hallux of that size. She-Hulk!

This thousands or years old tool would become The Famous She-Hulks Hallux.

No kidding.

Before I asked my wife to set free her wildest fantasy on my tool (never thought I would ever write this one), I coloured the wooden handle with green colorant. I intended to do it like this, but since I couldn't find the green coloring I used a magic toxic marker.

Of course it works.

Then I fixed the 'nail' to the 'toe'. Yes I used magic toxic glue, yes the authenticity of whole project became contaminated, but don't you think it already was from the moment I coloured it green? Advantage: the glue filled the slightly uneven contact zone between the shoulder wood & the blade.

Craftmanship is in the details, always.

Ten meter of flashy green paracord & a well tighted fishermens knot finished the fixing - don't underestimate the length you'll need.

Rock solid, ready to dig.

Finally my wife let the beast go, taking this cavemens invention to a whole new level.

She chose a sober & stylish nail art. On a cave-tool.

You didn't see that coming.

Step 6: Out of You

After the dust had settled, the best is yet to come.

There's only one ingredient missing to get this recepy right and calm the demons in my head.

Thàt log

You are out there, somewhere

And you're hiding my canoe

In your belly

I'll find you

I'll cut you down

And I'll dig that canoe

Out of you

Much love




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    23 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Nice job, however, I highly doubt efficiency of this tool. Using only glue and paracord makes it a big risk to use this tool, because using it repeatedly with great force the blade will surely break off. I would definitely suggest securing the balde using some bolts if you don't want to harm yourself.

    3 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Agreed BUT the issue is the way the adze will be used AKA with the top face scraping across the wood so I would suggest rivets pounded flat like everything was before bolts. Although the worst that will happen when it breaks is the blade getting stuck or just falling out in the wood . Unless bart missed horrifically and the adze go back through his legs and the blade flies up out of the adze and down onto his head...Worst case possible.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    True! I believe that homemade tools are the best, however I am sure that they are useful only when they are made carefully and to remain qualitative for many years! In this case the tool lacks quality and so might not be useful at all. But it has good potential of becoming a decorative item!

    Let's hope that what you said doesn't come true!


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Although if you look at that amount of para-cord it is unlikely the blade will fly out. Just become loose and useless...there is even an instructible on how not to use an adze where he slices his foot very open not pretty! But lets not be too negative else the nice police will tell us off :/ .

    I do believe that a tool made by a master craftsman who relies on centuries of knowledge and his experience probably makes the best tools and the ones that will last...thus gaining emotional value through reliability hard-work and care.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    As always, good writing makes a good 'ible. Thanks for sharing. It makes me want to go out an make an adze. I've wanted one for a while and this just might be the spur in my sides to get me going.

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you Jobar. What started as just a 'let's-make-a-canoe'-project is leading me on a series of amazing cultural, historical and technical tracks. Making the adze is a wonderful part of it. This story is just beginning...

    And... go and make that adze!


    4 years ago

    Very nice, and effective. May your canoe glide through the bush approaching shore.

    1 reply

    Wonderful work. I love all the metaphor and innuendo in you descriptions, and the poem at the end.

    I wish you luck on your adventure.

    1 reply

    Don't worry about her. She appeared to be lazy, inefficient, noisy and worthless. Just like my ex, in fact. Haha.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Nice job!! I love the way it turned out, very zombie.

    Look forward to seeing the sea worthy vessel.

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    I tried it out on one walker last night, very awesome. Or maybe it was our neighbour, very awesome anyway.

    That vessel will appear on this site, maybe next year. It would be nice to make it my 100th ible. That would be very, very nice!


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you - just keep an eye on the starlings, they'll show you where to find nice cherry canes!