I discovered Kestrel Tool early this year on @jihaewoodworks‘ Instagram page. If you’ve never come across her work, please check it out. Her furniture beautifully exhibits elegance in design, with a well balanced amount of subtle details ‘hiding’ complexity in apparently simpler forms—she’s great. In a post about one of her favorite tools, she describes her Baby Gutter adze made by Kestrel Tool. I was immediately intrigued by it, and was specially drawn to how it looked to be an arm saving solution to my current behemoth of an adze’s unfun work out in use.
I’ve no aversion to work in a workshop, a drawknife is my favorite tool for shaping the seat edge transitions on the Windsor chairs I make. I haven’t yet made many chairs, but I also haven’t yet made one with a seat that wasn’t hardwood. 🙂 But still my first adze quickly became a tool I avoided using on seats, preferring an inshave for all the seat scoop rough out.
Like many things made by artisans, the complete tools available to order at the Kestrel Tool website were more expensive than I wanted to spend at the time. Though I’m certainly not saying they’re too expensive, far from it, I think the prices for their complete tools are perfectly fair. Still, I went with the “iron only” option for the Sitka and Baby Gutter adzes, figuring making the hefts myself wouldn’t take that long.
The irons came with some helpful literature for making the wooden body. Along with full size patterns for laying them out on a board, or matching the pattern to a natural crook you may have access to. If using a board, he suggests drilling a hole along the length of the head, and setting a dowel with epoxy. This is to strengthen the unavoidable short grain weakness where the handle and head converge when cutting the heft out of single board.
Splines and Dowels
While I don’t think there’s anything at all wrong with the dowel and epoxy, I wasn’t too keen on making a trip to pick them up at the store. I could’ve turned some dowels, but I already had some white oak strips milled to .25″, so a table saw to the rescue. After more than a few strokes with a file to clean the floor of the groove, the oak splines were glued in using Gorilla glue. I still didn’t have any epoxy, and I’d decided to make the bodies with some rosewood cutoffs I squirreled away years ago. Even with the alcohol trick, I seldom see rosewood joints maintain cohesion when I used yellow or white glue, so polyurethane glue seemed a good choice. Hopefully my solution will result in an equally lasting tool.
I considered adapting Tim Manney’s brilliant fastening method for the blade, and may do it in the future, but for now this tarred seine twine works wonderfully. It’s definitely quicker and super strong stuff. If you get or make one of these, and would prefer to always have the option to easily remove and replace the blade for sharpening, check out his posts on his adze. He uses a barrel nut in the head, and a machine screw countersunk into the blade slightly offset toward the shoulder to insure the blade sits hard at the back edge when the screw is tightened—a beautiful solution.
Kestrel Tool has video available on YouTube showing how to properly wrap the seine twine around the blade and heft. Once I saw him demonstrate it, it only took a few minutes to have both of these ready to go.
After a good twenty minutes of playing with and testing these out, I’m happy to say, these elbow adzes are indeed the arm saving solution I was looking for. They work wonderfully, and I’m very much looking forward to learning to use them better in upcoming projects.