Woodworking Tools: The Hand Maul

A First Nations hand maul currently in the shell midden display at the Exhibit.

A First Nations hand maul currently in the midden display at the Exhibit.

As we prepare to create a new display of First Nations history on the island this summer, our treasure of the month for June is a tool traditionally used by the first peoples: the hand maul.  The maul is considered part of the triad of the woodworking industry on the Northwest Coast, along with the adze and wooden wedge. In BC, the hand maul was used for hammering and pounding tasks to make dugout canoes, totem poles, wooden plank houses, and more.

hand maulsMauls are hammerlike tools made of hard, ground stone that is not prone to cracking or chipping. This maul would have had several uses: to pound wedges into a cedar log to split off planks, to pound and soften cedar bark, and to carve with chisels. A hammerstone would be used to shape the maul, and a stone abrader would smooth the surface.

Hand mauls were typically made 700-800 years ago until colonization. As well as hand mauls, there are hafted mauls which are hafted onto a wooden shaft, and swung with both arms like a sledgehammer.

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