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The Coming of the Maori

Chisels and Gouges

Chisels and Gouges

Wood carving was so well developed in New Zealand that the great variety of chisels (whao) was a natural result of the craft. Some of the finer carving was probably done with the smaller adzes, of which there is also a rich variety. The chisels, according to Best (12, p. 280), ranged in length from one to eight inches and in weight from one-quarter of an ounce to one pound. They were made of basalt and nephrite. Some were quadrangular in section and others rounded. Those with a straight cutting edge are definitely chisels and those with a rounded edge are regarded as gouges. Some implements used as gravers probably were not hafted. Evidence supports the use of a mallet with at least some of the chisels.

The type of hafted chisel is represented by an old chisel in the Dominion Museum described by Best (12, p. 287, Pl. xx, No. 124). The straight handle is six inches long and seven-eighths of an inch in diameter. One end is cut down to a flat surface an inch long with a shoulder for the butt end of the chisel. The part of the circumference below the flat surface is reduced but leaving a raised flange at the free end. The lashing with transverse turns of a vine is thus countersunk (Fig. 42a). The blade of the chisel projected for an inch beyond the lashing.

Some nephrite chisels were perforated at the butt end and thus worn by craftsmen as ear ornaments betweentimes. This was also a safe way of keeping a valuable tool.