What is a wedge? – Simple machine – Physics

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What is a wedge? This stone hand-ax from Chennai, India is a kind of wedge.

What is a wedge? This stone hand-ax from Chennai, India is a kind of wedge.

A wedge is a kind of inclined plane

What is a wedge? Like screws, wedges are really a kind of inclined plane, but they are so useful that people give them their own category among the simple machines. A wedge is two inclined planes back to back against each other.

When were wedges invented?

Wedges evolved on their own long before people. Sharp teeth are a kind of wedge that cuts through meat and vegetables when fish or crocodiles eat something. People have been using wedges in Africa since the earliest Stone Age, about 2.6 million years ago. These early wedges were stone hand-axes, and their sharp edges let people cut a hunk of meat off a gazelle to eat, or cut branches for firewood. Probably people also used wooden wedges to split bigger pieces of wood into smaller pieces.

Wedges and mechanical advantage

What is a wedge? wooden wedges to split a log

Wooden wedges to split a log

The mechanical advantage you get from a wedge depends on how thick it is. A thick short wedge will split things apart faster, but you’ll have to push down on it with more force – maybe hit it with a hammer. A thin long wedge will be easier to drive in, but it will take longer to split something.

Some examples of wedges

Today we have many different uses for wedges. A plow is a kind of wedge. A knife is a kind of wedge, and a fork is made of four little wedges. Razors and scissors are wedges too. So are doorstops. A nail is a kind of wedge, and so is the pointed nose of an airplane, that helps it cut through the air more efficiently.

So what is a wedge? Did you find out what you wanted to know about simple machines? Let us know in the comments!

Learn by doing – wedges
More about levers
More about simple machines

Bibliography and further reading about simple machines:


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By |2018-05-31T11:49:24+00:00August 17th, 2017|Physics|15 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. What is a wedge? – Simple machine – Physics. Quatr.us Study Guides, August 17, 2017. Web. November 16, 2018.

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.


  1. Kale May 3, 2018 at 12:00 pm - Reply


    • Karen Carr May 3, 2018 at 12:54 pm

      Hi Kale! Thanks for visiting!

  2. Kagan March 21, 2018 at 10:55 am - Reply


  3. Ryan February 22, 2018 at 8:52 am - Reply

    What’s good I’m doing this in school

    • Karen Carr February 22, 2018 at 9:24 am

      Hi Ryan, thanks for stopping by!

  4. Nathaniel Taylor February 16, 2018 at 6:09 am - Reply

    hi karen carr

    • Karen Carr February 16, 2018 at 11:25 am

      Hi Nathaniel!

  5. the bruh January 26, 2018 at 5:36 am - Reply

    where is the screw SIMPLE MACHINE

  6. Dessy January 16, 2018 at 8:29 pm - Reply

    Is there any more background information on the wedge? I really need it for a research paper. these other websites arent giving me enough information.

    • Karen Carr January 17, 2018 at 5:08 pm

      I can’t guess what sort of information you’re looking for, sorry! Try asking a specific question or set of questions, and I’ll try to answer them.

  7. finley January 11, 2018 at 1:30 pm - Reply

    The fish head was GROSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. avery December 14, 2017 at 8:33 am - Reply


    • Karen Carr December 14, 2017 at 8:35 am

      Hi yourself! Thanks for stopping by, Avery.

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