Samoan Material Culture
The haft ('au) is usually made of toi wood. A branch of suitable size for grasping is selected, after estimating the suitability of the upper angle that it forms with the tree trunk. The trunk is cut transversely 2 or 3 inches above the branch junction and about 1.5 to 2 inches below it. The transverse cuts or scarfs are made about 2 inches deep or more and a piece of the trunk about 6 to 7 inches long, 2 inches thick and 2.5 inches wide is removed with the page 357branch. The branch is cut off to form a shaft 10 to 13 inches long. The trunk part is reversed so that the upper acute angle is below and the wood is shaped to form the foot of the haft.
Terminology. The haft is described in the position for use, with the shaft to the back and the acute angle formed by the shaft and the foot, below. The terms used may be followed out in figure 205.
Figure 205.—Adz hafts types, terminology and fitting of adz to haft:
1, shaft; 2, foot; 3, heel; 4, toe; 5, heel angle; 6, toe angle; 7, shoulder (le'i); 8, wedges (matalafi); 9, adz cross section; a, haft, side view; illustrating acute toe angle; shoulder in lower line of shaft; b, haft, side view; wider toe angle with more upright foot; high shoulder above upper line of shaft; toe, 1.25 inches deep, 2.3 inches wide; c, haft side view; no projecting heel; low shoulder below toe angle; toe, 1.75 inches deep; d, haft foot; showing shoulder with front surfaces at different planes above and below; e, cross section, toe and adz; toe, flat front; adz, flat back; f, cross section, toe and adz; toe at front; adz with back median ridge; matalafi wooden wedges to fill space between adz and toe; g, cross section, toe and adz; toe with front hollowed out to fit back of adz.
The shaft is the part of the haft grasped by hand to swing the adz. It is formed from the selected branch.
The foot is the part of the haft set at angles to the shaft. It supports the adz and the lashing and is formed from the wood cut out of the tree trunk.
The heel is the upper part of the foot. It forms an obtuse angle with the shaft which may be trimmed off into a curve or the upper line of the handle may be continued to meet the front of the foot and so remove the projecting heel. The heel has a flat front surface which narrows towards the top. The sides of the heel are convex transversely and usually meet in a posterior median edge which runs up from the top of the shaft junction. The cross section is thus triangular. The sides also narrow but instead of reaching a point, the end of the heel is cut off with a forward upward slant to form an upper triangular surface. In some hafts, the back of the heel is rounded off. The heel gives support to the upper turns of the lashing and was devised page 358for that purpose. The angle between the heel and the shaft is termed "the heel angle."
The toe is the lower end of the foot and forms the part projecting below the shaft with which it makes an acute angle termed "the toe angle." It supports the adz and must be a little wider than the butt of the adz. The front of the toe forms a surface which is usually flat or may be hollowed to fit the back of the butt. The sides of the toe are convex transversely and may meet in a median edge at the back or form a general rounded surface. The toe is shorter than the heel and supports the lower turns of the lashing. In adzes without a projecting heel, the toe is longer and may support the whole of the adz butt.
The front of the foot, including the heel and toe parts, is dubbed out in one plane. The adz butt is laid upon it and the craftsman decides how much of the adz will be included under the lashing. A mark is made where the poll ends. A transverse cut is made and the part of the surface below it is removed to form a deeper plane, the depth of which depends on the thickness of the butt. The right angle formed with the upper plane is termed the shoulder (le'i) and it prevents the poll from working upwards under the lashing. The site of the shoulder varies as indicated above with the amount of the adz that the craftsman intends to include under the lashing. In some adzes, the site is in line with the lower line of the shaft (fig. 205, a); in others, it is above the upper line of the shaft. (See fig. 205, b.) In hafts without a projecting heel, the shoulder site may be below the level of the lower angle. (See fig. 205, c.) In the hafted adzes in Bishop Museum, more than half the length of the adz has been converted into butt by inclusion under the lashing, while in the haft, with the shoulder above the upper line of the shaft, no less than 77 per cent of the adz length was converted into butt by the lashing. Two hafted adzes in the British Museum figured by Edge-Partington (10, vol. 2, p. 42) appear to have less than half of the adz length lashed to the foot. My informants maintained that with the longer butt, the chances of the adz breaking were lessened.
Hafting wedges of wood termed matalafi (mata, an edge; lafi, to hide) were used when a butt such as those of Type II (fig. 205, f) would not lie evenly against a level toe surface. While a level toe front is suitable for adzes with flat backs (fig. 205, e) no amount of lashing alone will keep an adz with a median back ridge or a rounded back in an immovable position on a flat surface. Even in a haft hollowed out with a steel tool by a master carpenter in Savaii, he had recourse to wedges to keep an adz of Type II in proper position. It seems likely that in Samoa, the hollowing out of the foot in adzes hafted for museums and collectors has been due to the acquisition of steel tools (fig. 205, g), and that the old method of fitting was by using wedges and a flat toe surface. It was easier to build up a bed for an uneven page 359butt than to cut one out of the solid to fit exactly. When the foot, adz, and wedges were surrounded by the lashing turns, the wedges were hidden (lafi) and for all practical purposes were as good as if they formed a structural part of the toe.
The lashing. To lash is fafau, but an adz lashed to a haft is termed to'i fafao. The lashing material was always sennit braid. With the adz fitted to the foot and the poll resting against the shoulder, a sheet of the coconut fabric-like material (lau'a'a) was laid over the butt with a fair margin projecting down beyond the toe. The material was bound on by the lashing and when the adz was used, the lower projecting part of the sheet was turned back over the lashing to protect it from wearing against the wood being worked.
The lashing turns are arranged to bring out some design and so combine decoration with utility. The commonest hafting design of repeated chevrons consists of a mesial line of crossings which is also used on wall posts. As applied to the hafting of adzes, it is described under figure 206. (See Plate XXXVII, D, 2.)
Figure 206.—Hafting technique of adz, chevron design:
a, the end of the braid (1) is fixed at the back of the toe by slanting it obliquely upwards and carrying the braid transversely round to the right near the lower margin of the toe. The braid is carried transversely round the front over the adz and reappearing on the back at the left makes the transverse turn (2) over the oblique end. It passes to the right just above the first trun and continuing round the front in this relationship makes another complete turn (3); b, the third turn finishes on the right side of the toe. From there it is carried obliquely upwards across the front of the adz and round the back to the toe angle. It then crosses upwards over the right side of the shaft and is brought round it to the right again; c, crossing below the shaft as it crosses to the right, the braid is carried page 360round the right side of the toe and makes an oblique turn downwards over the front of the adz to cross the ascending turn in the middle line. Below the crossing, it meets the previous transverse turns on the left and is carried round the back just above them; d, succeeding turns are now carried on, each close above the preceding oblique turns and proximal turns round the handle. Thus six ascending turns are made from the lower right side of the foot and six descending turns from the upper right side. The crossings are made under the shaft and in the middle line over the front of the adz; e, the appearance of the crossings on the front are here shown and completes the lower set of crossings. The braid after the last turn round the shaft is carried obliquely upwards across the front of the adz in a line parallel with the previous ascending turns; f, the upper set of crossings is made by taking the turns round the projecting heel instead of round the shaft. Thus the braid from the last ascending oblique turn is carried round the back of the heel and then descends obliquely across the front; g, the descending oblique turn crosses the ascending turn in the middle line and passes round the left side of the toe level with the point where the ascending turn appeared on the right side. From there it is taken transversely round the back of the toe to appear just below the first ascending turn on the right. It will be seen that the first crossing of the upper set is a little distance above the last crossing of the lower set. The space between has to be filled in by succeeding turns passing obliquely upwards across the front from right to left, transversely behind the heel, obliquely downwards from right to left and then transversely behind the toe. Each turn instead of being above as in the lower set, follows below the preceding turn in the upper set; h, about seven full turns completes the upper set as shown on the side view of the right side; k, the completed crossings in front fill up the space denoted in figure g. The braid after making the last upward oblique turn is on the left side; m, the braid is carried across from the left side to just beyond or proximal to the turns round the shaft. About four complete loose transverse turns are taken round the shaft and the end of the braid passed back towards the heel under the turns. Each turn is then drawn taut commencing with the one nearest the heel. When the last or proximal turn is drawn taut, the braid end is pulled taut towards the heel so as to remove the slack. The end of the braid is thus fixed and any excess cut off close to the turn from under which it emerges. The methods of fixing the commencing end of the braid and the finishing end are the same in all lashings. The use of the upward projecting heel and downward projecting toe can now be appreciated from, the lashing point of view.
Figure 207.—Hafting technique, single lozenge design;
a, the commencement end (1) is fixed at the back by two or three transverse turns as before. The braid is then carried obliquely upwards from the right and crosses the middle line in front at the spot selected to form the middle point of the lozenge. The oblique turn is continued up round the left side and passes transversely round the back of the heel. It descends obliquely on the right; b, descending obliquely from the right the braid crosses the ascending turn in the middle line at the front to form the middle of the lozenge (2). It reaches the transverse turns at the lower left side and passes transversely round the back of the toe; c, appearing on the right side the braid ascends obliquely upwards below the previous. page 361ascending turn and passing transversely round the back of the heel descends obliquely across the front below the previous descending turn; d, the braid in passing transversely round the back of the toe crosses the previous transverse turn so that it appears on the right above the two previous turns. It makes an ascending oblique turn above the two previous turns and passing behind the heel descends obliquely above the two previous turns; e, the turns are continued as in c and d, first below and then above the previous turns, until eight or more complete turns sufficient to firmly fix the adz are made. The lozenge design develops with the various turns; f, the last upward oblique turn is carried on round the left side of the foot and on to the upper part of the shaft. Three or more loose turns are made round the shaft and the end (3) fixed as before.
Figure 208.—Hafting technique, double lozenge design. Two smaller lozenges are formed on the front of the adz so two points are selected for the first crossings:
a, the commencement end is fixed with one transverse turn made high up so as to be covered by the lower lozenge. The braid runs obliquely upwards from the lower right side, osses the lower middle point (1) and passes round the back in the toe angle. Reappearing on the right, it crosses obliquely upwards over the second middle point (2) and passes transversely round the back of the heel; b, the braid makes a downward oblique turn from the right, crosses the second middle point (2) and passes transversely round the back of the toe high up. It reappears on the right and descends obliquely over the first middle point (1) and continues down to pass transversely round the back of the lower part of the foot. The two crossings (1 and 2) have now been formed and successive turns are made below and then above the first turns; c, after the ascending turn reaches the top the second time, a transverse turn is made round the front of the heel just over the end of the poll and then continued downwards in the oblique turn. Three of these transverse turns are made altogether (3). After the fourth descending turn, a fifth ascending turn is made. Instead of descending again, the braid is continued back over the shaft round which it is fixed with three turns (6) in the usual way. The crossings at the sides close to the shaft are arranged in order so as to form a crossing pattern. The descending turns are marked 4 and the ascending turns, 5; d, the appearance of the two lozenges on the front is shown.
In the above three forms of lashing, the use of the heel in making possible the upper turns is obvious. In handles without a projecting heel, the upper turns have to be made around the shaft as in the first stage of the chevron design. (See fig. 206, d.) The technique is shown in figure 209.
The Samoan guild of carpenters now use steel plane blades lashed to the old time short handles with sennit braid. The le'i shoulder is always used. The carpenters maintain that the lashing designs now used are the old patterns originally used with stone adzes and that they have been transmitted page 362to successive generations of the guild. As the time sequence has been main tained by continuous use of the short handled adz, there is no reason for doubting their statement.
Another type of wedge termed olaolatina was sometimes driven in under the completed lashing to tighten it up if there was any tendency to slackness.
Figure 209.—Hafting technique, haft without projecting heel, chevron design;
a, the commencement end is tied with a running noose round the shaft close up to the foot (1), the braid is then passed obliquely downwards round the right side (2), crosses over the front and makes a complete transverse turn round the lower end of the toe (3). The end (4) is brought round the back to the right side; b, the braid makes an upward oblique turn from the last figure to cross the descending turn in the middle line. It passes round the left side of the toe and appearing at the back under the shaft, it makes a complete turn round it ascending on its right side. It then crosses obliquely downwards above the first oblique turn, makes a transverse turn below round the toe and then ascends obliquely above the previous oblique turn. It follows proximally round the handle and continues this for five descending and five ascending turns. After the fifth ascending turn, it passes back on the shaft and is fixed in the usual way; c, the appearance in front is shown.
Straight hafts. Though no adzes of the axe type, bevelled from both sides, were seen, Judd (17, p. 41) had two methods of hafting demonstrated to him at Tau, in which the adzes were lashed to a straight handle with the cutting edge in the same axis as the handle. (See fig. 210.)
The name of to'i laitiiti given to the slot lashing refers to the type of adz (laitiiti, small) and not to the style of lashing. The adz in the split handle was termed to'i pito tele (pito, navel; tele, large) and evidently likens the poll of the adz, as viewed from above, to the anatomical region mentioned.
Reverse hafting. An old man in Tau and a skilled carpenter in Savaii both hafted stone adzes with the bevel surface in front. The Savaii man stoutly maintained this to be the correct method. He produced his kit of tools containing 9 steel adzes all hafted in this manner. He called up other old men who supported his contention. He argued that the bevel surface must be in front to prevent digging in, especially in working on the concave surfaces of canoes, food bowls, and kava bowls. All metal implements used by Samoan carpenters, whether chisels, hatchets, or plane blades, are ground with the bevel in front when attached to short handles for use as adzes. The position was said to be due, not to the change in material but to direct transmission page 363of the method from the time when stone tools were so treated. Other arguments advanced were that, with the bevel in front, the edge could be re-sharpened without removing the haft and that the ground front would then rest against the level front of the foot of the haft while the unground back by being in front would better support the lashing turns as they passed directly over it.
Figure 210.—Halting with cutting edge in axis of handle:
1, adz; 2, straight haft; 4-8, lashing turns; a, a transverse slot is cut on one side of the straight haft to fit the butt end of the adz which being narrower at the poll cannot work up when a blow is struck. With the haft upright, the lashing resembles the simple lozenge lashing of wall posts; the adz corresponding to the wall plate and the haft to the wall post. Diagonal turns (3, 4) are made and then the transverse turns above (5) and below (6). A circumferential turn passes round the lashing turns and under the slightly projecting poll. The braid descends on the handle and is fixed by passing back under three loose turns which are then drawn taut over it (7); b, shows a view from above with the adz resting in the slot; c, second method; the straight haft is split at the end and the adz butt inserted in the split. The two parts of the haft are lashed together first with transverse turns above (3) and below (4) the adz and then with diagonal turns (5, 6) while another diagonal set (7, 8) passes over the poll and assists in preventing displacement when a blow is struck. The lashing is fixed in the orthodox manner. Another set of transverse turns (9) is made lower down the haft to prevent the split working back; d, a view from above, showing the diagonal turns (7, 8) crossing above the poll.
The contention is interesting in view of similar opinions held by some of the Cook Islanders (39, pp. 243, 244). Adzes from other Polynesian areas have been recently hafted in the reverse manner. It is possible that some types of adz were hafted in the reverse for special purposes, such as, working concave surfaces. As against reverse hafting in Samoa, adzes from that area have been hafted in the generally accepted manner. Those figured by Edge-Partington (10, vol. 2, p. 42.) were hafted with the bevel to the back, but cannot be accepted as proof for they were not hafted in the period when stone adzes were in actual use. Hafted adzes authentically known to have been collected by the earliest white navigators are the only ones that can settle the question. So little is known about the actual way in which the various types of stone adzes were used, that any theories based by ethnologists page 364on angles and directions of striking can be no more final than that of an expert Samoan carpenter who lives by making houses, canoes, and bowls with short handled adzes though the implement be of steel instead of stone. Even the proved methods of hafting in other Polynesian areas may not necessarily apply to Samoa, where more primitive types of adz may possibly have carried a different method of hafting. Until positive proof is forthcoming, less confusion is caused by accepting the orthodox method with the bevel to the back.
Figure 211.—Short quadrangular chisel (L. 1565):
a, front; well ground surface narrower than back and narrowing towards the poll; anterior edges, well defined; sides showing; poll surface slight inclination upwards and backwards; b, back, well ground, depressions on right; bevel surface curved on left; chin distinct; c, side, thin, well ground; d, sections, different slopes on sides.