Students and their mentors in the Waa'gey traditional canoe carving program are giving rave reviews to a set of new tools, provided in part by the US based charity Habele.
Adzes are a traditional tool used for carving or smoothing rough-cut wood in hand woodworking. They are most often used for squaring up logs, or for hollowing out timber. Long ago islanders in the Central Pacific used shell, coral, and sometimes even stones, for the blades of their woodened handled adzes. Today metal blades are fixed to the locally cut and carved handles.
For years, Waa'gey carvers had to salvage truck springs and other low-grade scrap metal in order to shape the blades. Now, master metalsmith Jim Wester of Waldron Island, Washington is forging high-grade, specialized blades for the group. The partnership was initiated and coordinated by Habele as part of that group's mission to serve K-12 aged students across Micronesia.
"Waa'gey's model of pairing master carvers and weavers with high school aged students is great. They are doing so much to revive and preserve the cultural heritage," said Alex Sidles, a Habele Director. "The efforts also fit perfectly within Habele's mandate to promote academic excellence and access" Sidles continued. "Like the high school robotics teams, this type of extracurricular program really compliments Habele's scholarships and library donations."
The international partnership between canoe carvers in Yap, a small charity in South Carolina and a metalsmith in Washington State has not gone unnoticed. Wester's shop is now offering similarly large and customized blades to other carvers across the world.
"Last year, I sold a few gutter adze irons to some carvers in the remote outer islands of Yap, Micronesia," Jim explains. "But they are building traditional dugout canoes and really want something more aggressive, for two handed work. So they commissioned me to make larger gutter irons, about 3 1/2 inches wide and five times heavier than my normal ones. Not only are they more powerful but also less taxing on the forearm than the single handed adzes."
Learn more about the Waa'gey program here.