Copper Spuds-Woodworking Tools

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Copper Artifacts

Copper Spuds-Woodworking Tools
Great Lakes Copper Research
By Don Spohn
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Copper spuds are a form of the adze type axe, which were most likely woodworking tools. Like other implements of prehistoric times they were, no doubt, drafted for many uses, but woodworking may have been their primary utility. Most copper spuds are found in Michigan and Wisconsin. Mason (1981:188) calls the spud an adze and lists it as one of seven or eight core artifacts diagnostic of the Old Copper culture. Pictured above are two spuds, one quite large and the other very small.

I purchased the superb, large (21/4 pound) spud from Jim Ritchie of Ohio in July, 2004. He acquired. it from Jeff Riegel of Illinois in 1995. Jeff purchased it at an auction, from the estate of a California congressman. Jeff informed me that the spud once exhibited an old sticker dating to the late 1800's. It still has "2 96" together with an inventory number "L.137", written in black ink on the reverse bottom side of its bit. Jeff also informed me that the spud was once the property of Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in Seattle, Washington.

The Field Museum of Chicago exhibits a twin to this spud (summer of 2004) under the title, "Old Copper Culture", Great Lakes Area, 4000-2000 BC. A slightly smaller spud of this type is curated in the Michigan College of Mining and Technology collection. This large spud shows the hammer marks and lap lines of its creation. Although it has been partially cleaned, this exceptionally heavy spud shows original patina in the recesses of its socket. The thick bit has a half-inch bevel on both sides of its wide cutting edge. The bit shows moderate use and it remains, like its sister at the Field Museum of Chicago, in excellent condition. 

The little spud in the picture above is very small, only 1'/2 inches wide and 2 inches long. The shape and style of its bit do not indicate that it was ever much longer. This unusual artifact is in excellent condition. I purchased it from Ken, Spaulding of Michigan. It was previously owned by Barry Goodwin, who purchased it from Sam Wasion, formerly of Kenosha, Wisconsin.

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A comparison of spud sizes.

Quimby (1960) informs us, "Copper tools called spuds were hafted to handles made of wood or of elk or caribou antlers . . ." Elk antler axe handles were found at the Reigh Site in Wisconsin. In an experiment, one of the elk antler axe handles was placed in a copper spud from the Osceola Site, and a neater, snugger fit could hardly be imagined."

It is possible the bit was broken in construction or at some time after it was crafted. It is not so well developed as SP 1, and we cannot tell the type of spud it was intended to become. It is, therefore, classified as a spud preform.