Woodwork Tools Blog

Jan

15

The Drawknife – Lethal Weapon or Useful Woodwork Tool?

One of my favourite woodwork tools in the toolbox is an old drawknife that I picked up from a second hand shop for $10.
At first glance, the drawknife could be mistaken for some sort of medieval weapon or disembowelling instrument. Basically it consists of a sharpened blade several inches long (varying sizes are available), with handles attached at either end, which are used to pull or push the blade. It is certainly a dangerous looking tool, however once mastered (I use this term very loosely, as I do not consider myself a master of any of my tools…), it is an extremely useful woodwork tool, and one that is surprisingly safe to use.

I first became interested in obtaining a drawknife after reading this excellent article by Mike Riley. Until this article, I had never really been able to see the use of a drawknife – it looked to me more like some sort of weapon, rather than one of the most useful woodwork tools I have come across.

 
Soon after reading the article, I stumbled across an old drawknife in a second hand shop. The drawknife that I picked up is quite old, the blade was pitted with rust (not too deeply), and one of the handles doesn’t have the original fastening. The tool looked as if it had been well used – the handles having the beautiful patina that you only find on aged timber that has seen a lot of use.
 
I didn’t do much in the way of cleaning up the tool (no-one could accuse me of being an expert tool restorer) – I removed any rust that came off with a quick rub with an oily rag, and put the blade to a sharpening stone to bring back its edge. Despite the rust, the tool was in pretty good condition, and I didn’t even bother grinding it at this stage.
 
I now wonder what I used to do before I had this tool. I use it for everything from roughly rounding down a piece of timber to put on the lathe, to taking fine shavings off the edge of timber. I also find it is great for working on concave and convex shapes, giving you better control than could be achieved with a chisel, and better access than could be obtained with a plane.
 
When using a drawknife, make sure you have a look at the direction of the grain before you attack a piece of wood. It is incredibly easy to have the blade catch and dig in, following the grain, splintering off a much larger section than you had planned. If you watch out for this though, you should find that it is a simple, relatively inexpensive tool that will find a variety of applications for.
 
The biggest problem that I do find when working with the drawknife is holding the workpiece – the shaving horse/pony seems to be the answer to this, and is something that I have been aiming to construct, but so far I just haven’t quite got there, so I find that I am constantly moving the piece in my vice, which can get a little annoying, particularly for fine work…
You can pick yourself up a drawknife from about $40 new (check out these drawknives for an indication of prices), but they can also be found second hand (as I did) for much less – your local second hand dealers and ebay are great places to start looking around.

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