adze mattock

The adze is among the very oldest of stone-age tools.  It was invented about the first time someone tied a rock to a stick, which you can figure was quite a while back.

Imagine our prehistoric ancestor digging with his hands into the dirt, he points his fingers perpendicular to his hand and scoops out a handful of dirt, and along with it maybe a few sharp stones, a thorn or two, or perhaps a splinter slides under a fingernail.  Ouch.  It’s obvious that one of the first tools early man would invent was something to dig with that was a bit more finger-friendly.

Today, the adze is a sharp tool that’s used in rough carpentry.  It has, for the most part been replaced by mechanized woodworking tools.  A short-handled adze is called a hand adze, because you swing it with your hand, and a long-handled adze is referred to as a foot adze because if you aren’t using it carefully, you’ll chop off your foot.

We refer to the same blade configuration, that is, a blade installed at a right-angle to the handle, as a mattock when the blade is duller and intended for chopping into the earth.  Every gardener is familiar with the mattock, whether it’s an adze mattock which that features an adze in combination with an axe, or a pick mattock which has a pick on the opposite side of the tool.  The mattock is typically affixed to a long handle.

In this case, though, I’m talking about a shorter handle, and a lighter mattock, making for a one-handed garden tool.  Mine came to me as a gift a long, long time ago, and I’ve used it for so many things I’ve lost count of them all, but I use it primarily for gardening efforts.

It’s great for digging a planting hole out of virgin sod where you expect to encounter rocks, glass shards, or other sharp nasties.  I also use it as my prime gardening tool in my rich, loose-and-fluffy home-made garden soil to create holes and furrows; and to chop weeds out by the root.  I keep mine sharpened, which makes weed-chopping a little easier, but that really doesn’t matter much.

Mine may have been a government-issue tool from some branch of the military, circa WWII, when it might have been helpful in digging foxholes. You can find new versions on the internet from $18 to $34 dollars, but you can also find one, or maybe just the head for one, in antique shops, junk stores, or farm auctions.  Get one of these, add a new hickory handle to it, and you’re good to go for at least a few more decades.


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