This section is from the book "Spons' Mechanics' Own Book: A Manual For Handicraftsmen And Amateurs", by Edward Spon. Also available from Amazon: Spons' Mechanics' Own Book.
Those whose business requires the forming of lengths of wood into curved shapes, and who rely upon the adze for the preliminary operation, use an Indian form of adze. In India it is held so near the metal that the workman's hand touches the metal. He accomplishes blows chiefly by acting from the elbow. This very general mode of holding gives a pretty uniform length to the radius of the swing, hence the form of the adze in the plane of the swing is nearly that of the circle described. The angle of the handle and the adze is very much the same as that of the handle of the file-makers' hammer and the head. The handling of the adze, as used by English wheelwrights or shipwrights, briefly described, is the following : The workman stands with one foot upon the wood, this foot being in the line of the fibre. He thus assists in steadying (say) the felloe of a wheel. From this felloe much of the wood on which the sole of his shoe rests has to be removed. The long handle of the adze is curved; the object of this is to permit an efficient blow to be given, and the instrument brought to a stop before the handle strikes any part of the workman's body - in fact, caused to stop by the exhaustion of its impact energy in and amongst the fibres of wood to be separated.
The edge is often so keen as to cut through a horse hair held at one end and pressed against it. This instrument is raised by both hands until nearly in a horizontal position, and then not simply allowed to fall, but steadily driven downwards until the curved metal, with its broad and sharp edge, enters near to, if not below the sole of the workman's shoe, separating a large flake of wood from the mass; the handle is rapidly raised, and the blows repeated. This is done with frequency, the workman gradually receding his foot until the end flakes of wood are separated. It is fearful to contemplate an error of judgment or an unsteady blow. So skilled do men become in thus using the adze, that some will undertake, with any pre-determined stroke in a series, to split their shoe sole in two.