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Adze eye

The adze ( f. , Regional in Switzerland and in Bavaria m .; Plur. -N), also dexel , drawbar , badger ax or cross hatchet , is a tool that is used in woodworking to remove large amounts of chips as well as for finishing and smoothing . In contrast to the ax and hatchet , the adze blade is directed across the handle and worked like an ax. The tool is available with a long handle for two-handed strikes like a hoe or with a short handle for one hand.

The leaf is curved to the stem. The cutting edge is beveled on one side on the side facing the handle. The handle is usually inserted into the conical eye from above and not wedged. The head pulls itself tight during use. The handle is removed from the head for sharpening. This advantage does not apply to dikes with a wedged shaft. The wedge angle of the cutting edge is around 17 to 25 degrees.


The word adze comes from Old High German  dëhsa , dëhsala , dësla and Middle High German  dëhse , dëhsel derived therefrom developed mundartlich also Texel, Tegsel, drawbar, Dessel, Dissel, Thistle, Daxel . Johann Christoph ennobling resulted in his first published in 1774 Dictionary of English dialect the wood tool drawbar on the stem sting , are 'with the term drawbar - the restraint to the car - together. The Brothers Grimm only mention the stem of the word ahd. Dëhsen  'swing' in their article Dechsel in the German dictionary, written around 1850 , since the “ë” best explains the sound change to “i” and “a”. As evidence , the flax swing is called, for which a "broad, the blade of a sword-like rod of iron or wood" was used, referred to in Middle High German as dehsîsen or dehsschît . The different derivation could be responsible for the fact that the male form of the adze is still used in southern Germany and Switzerland today .  

Older dictionaries and some of the specialist literature use the masculine name of adze , also in the spelling Dexel , the modern Duden only the feminine gender of adze .

The related Norse names of the tool Danish tængsel and subsidiary forms, Swedish tängsla (dialect) and Norwegian teksle are derived from Old Norse Þexla and runic Þæxla 'ax'.

Prehistoric dechs

Tree felling
experiment with the reconstruction of a ceramic adze in an experimental archeological field test

For the stock see: Stock (prehistory and early history)

The dechs of prehistoric cultures were widespread tools during the Stone Age , the functionality of which may have corresponded to modern dechs with steel blades.

During the first rural cultures in the Old and Middle Neolithic , the adze made of polished rock ( amphibolite ) was the typical woodworking tool.


Dechseln have existed since the Mesolithic Age , where they are called either disc ax or core ax as the basic types . Many Mesolithic dikes in northern Central Europe were made of flint .

Neither of the two groups has been shown to be cross-stitched or used as a woodworking device.

Line band ceramics

The narrow-high adze of the band ceramic is traditionally referred to as the shoe last wedge , after the last of the shoemaker. There are similarities with the wooden ledge with the flat bottom and the curved top, so that there is often a D-shaped cross-section. Today they are more neutrally referred to as the “narrow-high delta type”. A classification of the shoe last wedges according to shape types is only possible to a limited extent, since a change in shape can take place through wear and re-sharpening of the blade. In addition to the dorsally vaulted ones, ribbon ceramics also have flat and wide blades, which are identified as “ flat ax ” or - according to the initially assumed use - as “flat ax ”. Traces of work from dechseln were found on the planks of ceramic well boxes.

Middle Neolithic

In the Middle Neolithic subsequent cultures of the LBK, especially in the stitch band ceramics , the Hinkelstein culture , Großgartacher culture , Rössen culture and Lengyel culture , there were perforated shoe last wedges. The perforated dechs exclusively represent the narrow-high type and are differentiated as the shoe last wedge type from the Middle Neolithic flat axes. The perforation in the narrow axis of an ax would be long and therefore particularly complex, which is why the transverse perforation was shorter. Since the hole diameters are usually quite small, it is unlikely that these were used as axes with a wooden shaft . If they were only used to fix the adzes by means of cords or straps, the perforations can have been horizontal, so that an adze shaft with a transverse cutting edge is then also present. Alternatively, these perforated and usually very heavy shoe last wedges are interpreted as setting wedges (for wood splitting).

Boat building in ancient Egypt

Adze blades made from basic stone shapes

From the Early Neolithic , through the Late Neolithic to the End Neolithic , d. H. between approx. 4400 and 2200 BC BC, adze blades made of basic stone shapes appear, which differ from the shoe last wedges in their shape.

Copper Age and Early History

In the early Copper Age and the Bell Beaker Age, double deuces occurred in Spain. Images of stone masons with décors have come down to us from ancient Egypt . As a sacred instrument for the opening of the mouth, it would also play a role in the Egyptian belief in the afterlife. During Roman times , adzes were portrayed as an attribute of the carpenter , as is recorded on a Roman tombstone from Bordeaux .

Iron adzes

Japanese Kuwa
English ship's carpenter (1944)
Hewing a trunk with a long-handled flat adze

There are a number of designs with longer and shorter stems and differently shaped leaves for different purposes and methods. They were used in carpentry and shipbuilding . Due to the position of the cutting edge, the metallic adze can be used well for smoothing surfaces. The small hand adze (size of the hatchet , not the ax ) can be found in all sorts of activities that involve the rough preparation of wood - the fine work (cleaning) is done with a hoop or planing . The small dechs also have shapes with a hammer-like head on the back, which are also used as hammers (for example by carpenters and coopers ). The inclination and longitudinal curvature varies ( e.g. crooked with wheelwright , especially with saddlers , where you also punch leather with it). Depending on the transverse curvature of the blade, a distinction is made between flat dicks for smoothing (smoothing) and hollow dicks for hollowing out. There are also U-shaped and, for the machining of inner edges, V-shaped dikes, as with the similarly named chisels . In order to achieve good results, the cutting edge of the décor must be extremely sharp.

For hollowing out wood (historical purposes such as dugout canoes , well troughs, wooden gutters , wooden containers ) it can only be replaced today by a chainsaw and special freehand milling machines .

In the lifting hoe (Reuthaue) there is a transition form to the hoe, which is just as good for earthworks as it is for chopping roots, tree stumps or small wood.

In addition to the ones described above, there are regional deviations in adze forms in Spain , Portugal (called Aleppo there ) and Greece (with the cutting edge turned by 60 °, bent or at an acute angle).


In the carpentry trade, flat adzes and hollow adzes are mainly used for woodworking . Both are available in the versions "short-handled" to work at chest height and "long-handled" (see picture) to machine the workpiece at foot height. In some places, the short adze with a hammer head was widespread instead of the carpenter's hammer , as it can be used to nail and hit and to readjust and align the wood. Often these one-handed bills had a nail hole for pulling nails. Since the use of motor and power tools, the adze is no longer used by carpenters in new buildings, but is still used occasionally by restorers in carpentry and in half-timbered construction, for example . The adze gives the construction timber a characteristic surface structure (chopped wood) , as it is also created by dressing with the hinge .

Dechseln in bad luck

Pecher adzes: A on the side, B forhack adzes, C place exchanges

The forms used for pitching are very short-handled in order to enable precise work even under difficult conditions (on high ladders and close to the tree trunk). There are two forms of these tools, the place adzes and the forhack adzes , which differ in the width of the blade. While the Plätzdechsel was used with the narrow blade to punches from the top down, the bark of the round trunk of the tree to remove (this would be due to the curvature of the tribe a wide blade useless), the Fürhackdechsel was performed by the wide blade Let ( a downward sloping groove) hacked into the trunk, which had already been freed from the bark, which then served to pick up the pitch nicks . More recently, the adze was replaced as a tool for removing the bark by the plane, which was easier to handle and could remove a large strip of bark with just one cut across.

Since the dechs were the most important tools of the pitchers, they also became their guild symbol and can be found on the coats of arms of many places where pitching was carried out.

Occupational safety

Due to the sharpness of the adze and the direction of impact towards the body, the use of the adze is associated with a great risk potential. The long, two-handed adze, in particular, aims at the feet and lower legs with its striking movement and was one of the most common causes of injury in carpentry and shipbuilding. Constantly carrying the short adze as a universal tool of the carpenter was dangerous and is forbidden according to most of today's occupational health and safety regulations.


The processing of stone with a cross hatchet can already be seen in ancient Egyptian representations. This tool was also common in Roman antiquity. From the Middle Ages, however, a normal flat ax with a cutting edge parallel to the handle can be seen much more frequently in contemporary images ; this shape is only used in Germany today. In France, on the other hand, a combination tool consisting of a normal hatchet and cross hatchet is still in use today under the name polka . It is used for corners that are difficult to access. In contrast to the wooden tools shown here, the angle between the handle and the cutting edge of the stone tool is less acute.

A common variant is the cross hatchet with a serrated edge.

Combination tools


Head of a Pulaski with a fiberglass handle

The Pulaski (also Pulaski tool or Pulaski ax ) is a special tool for fighting forest fires . It is used primarily in the United States and Canada by fire departments and forest authorities . In recent years the tool has also found its way into German-speaking countries.

The head of the Pulaski combines ax and adze in one tool head. The handle was traditionally made of wood, whereas nowadays plastic or fiberglass is mostly used for weight reasons. The combination of tools enables cutting and digging work and covers a wide range of uses. Among other things , it is used to create firebreaks , laying out hiking trails or other gardening and landscaping work.

Gorgui tool

The Gorgui tool is a combination of Pulaski (i.e. ax and adze) and McLeod and, like the Pulaski, is primarily used to fight forest fires.

The adze in heraldry

The adze can be found as a common figure in the coat of arms . These heraldic representations are also interesting from a tool perspective, because they depict the respective regional forms of the dechs.

coat of arms carrier region Blason and Notes Symbol
Escudo de Vinaixa.svg Vinaixa Les Garrigues , Lleida ( Catalonia ) Catalan aixa , Spanish azuela ; silver, upright
interesting mounting

Web links

Commons : Dechseln  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d DECHSEL , f. ax, hoe, hoe, crook, ascia . In: Jacob Grimm , Wilhelm Grimm (Hrsg.): German dictionary . tape 2 : Beer murderer – D - (II). S. Hirzel, Leipzig 1860 ( ).
  2. Product description from Ochsenkopf, accessed on August 12, 2019
  3. ^ Emil Hoffmann: Lexikon der Steinzeit , Books on Demand , 2012, ISBN 978-3-8448-8898-0 , p. 81
  4. ^ A b c Hans-Tewes Schadwinkel, Günther Heine: The carpenter's tool. Th. Schäfer, Hannover 1986, ISBN 3-88746-070-7
  5. ^ Franz Krämer: Basic knowledge of the carpenter. Specialist material for carpenters. Bruder, Karlsruhe 1982, ISBN 3-87104-052-5
  6. a b c The drawbar . In: Johann Christoph Adelung : Grammatical-critical dictionary of the High German dialect, with constant comparison of the other dialects, but especially the Upper German. Volume 1: A-E. 2nd, increased and improved edition. Breitkopf, Leipzig 1793, column 1439.
  7. a b Drawbar, a short-handled ax, to be cut horizontally with it . In: Johann Georg Krünitz : Economic Encyclopedia . tape 9 . Pauli, Berlin, p. 79 ( - 1773-1858).
  8. The Language Brockhaus. German picture dictionary for everyone. FA Brockhaus, Leipzig 1935, p. 112 and p. 118.
  9. Tengsel . In Ordbog over det danske Sprog , Det Danske Sprog- og Litteraturselskab (Danish); Retrieved December 10, 2011
  10. Jürgen Weiner: On the technology of ceramic adze blades made of rock and bones - A contribution to the history of research. In: Archaeologia Austriaca. H. 80, 1997, pp. 115-156, ISSN  0003-8008 .
  11. Margarete Dohrn-Ihmig: The ceramic burial field of Aldenhoven-Niedermerz, Düren district . In: Gerhard Bauchhenß (Hrsg.): Archeology in the Rheinische Loessbörden. Contributions to the history of settlements in the Rhineland (=  Rhenish excavations ). tape 24 . Rheinland-Verlag u. a., Cologne 1983, ISBN 3-7927-0692-X , p. 47-190 .
  12. Werner Buttler : The Danube Country and the Western Cultural Area of ​​the Younger Stone Age (=  Handbook of Prehistory of Germany . Volume 2 ). de Gruyter, Berlin a. a. 1938.
  13. André Grisse: New method of the metric and typological classification of stone axes and picks of the Neolithic . In: Acta archaeologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae . tape 60 , no. 2 , 2009, ISSN  0001-5210 , p. 357-373 .
  14. Clemens Eibner : On the nomenclature and ergological interpretation of the Neolithic setting wedge . In: Archaeologia Austriaca . tape 50 , 1971, ISSN  1816-2959 , pp. 1-20 .
  15. ^ Glyn Daniel : Encyclopedia of Archeology 1996 - p. 129
  16. Wolfgang Gaitzsch : Roman tools. ( Memento from August 6, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) (= Small writings on the knowledge of the Roman occupation history of Southwest Germany. 19, ZDB -ID 236356-2 ). Society for Prehistory and Early History in Württemberg and Hohenzollern a. a., Aalen 1978.
  17. ^ Fire Management Notes - The True Story of the Pulaski Fire Tool . (PDF; 1.38 MB) United States Forest Service, pp. 19–21 (English), accessed on October 11, 2016.
  18. a b Ulrich Cimolino, Detlef Maushake et al .: Combating vegetation fires . ecomed Sicherheit, Landsberg am Lech 2015, ISBN 978-3-609-69717-8 , p. 106 ff.
  19. Information on the Gorgui tool at, accessed on October 11, 2016
  20. commons: Categories: Adzes in heraldry