A wood splitting wedge

A wedge is a triangular shaped tool, and is a portable inclined plane, and one of the six classical simple machines. It can be used to separate two objects or portions of an object, lift up an object, or hold an object in place. It functions by converting a force applied to its blunt end into forces perpendicular (normal) to its inclined surfaces. The mechanical advantage of a wedge is given by the ratio of the length of its slope to its width.[1][2] Although a short wedge with a wide angle may do a job faster, it requires more force than a long wedge with a narrow angle.


Flint hand axe found in Winchester

Perhaps the first example of a wedge is the hand axe, also see biface and Olorgesailie. Wedges have been around for thousands of years, they were first made of simple stone. A hand axe is made by chipping stone, generally flint, to form a bifacial edge, or wedge. A wedge is a simple machine that transforms lateral force and movement of the tool into a transverse splitting force and movement of the workpiece. The available power is limited by the effort of the person using the tool, but because power is the product of force and movement, the wedge amplifies the force by reducing the movement. This amplification, or mechanical advantage is the ratio of the input speed to output speed. For a wedge this is given by 1/tanα, where α is the tip angle. The faces of a wedge are modeled as straight lines to form a sliding or prismatic joint.

The origin of the wedge is not known. In ancient Egyptian quarries, bronze wedges were used to break away blocks of stone used in construction. Wooden wedges that swelled after being saturated with water, were also used. Some indigenous peoples of the Americas used antler wedges for splitting and working wood to make canoes, dwellings and other objects.

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