Are you addicted to drawknives?

If not, are you completely insane? The drawknife is such an instinctive tool. With even the slightest of practice you can carve wood with a drawknife you can't do any other way. How's about 3 dimensional curves in short order? Peel poles for a cabin? Carve a new hammer handle in 10 minutes flat?   


 Nobody should ever be without a generous supply. in many sizes. With a sharp drawknife and a little practice you can effortlessly hog off big thick chunks of wood and then ease off the angle and slice fine curls to the line with precision.

 I use em bevel down for most work.  For the finest cuts, try this: Start your stroke at one corner of the blade and sweep across and you pull. It's a shearing cut that makes the smoothest surface.

I've know other guys who always used them bevel up and met a guy who ground them into double bevels. All will work.

I keep them as small as 3" and as large as a 14" blade and I'm looking for a larger one.


Here is an old favorite with madrone handles. A 7" Greenlee. I love a straight blade knife best.

Homemade Greenwood Handles

Rehandling the drawknife is an exercise you might as well get into. You can get a good blade with bad handles for about a nickel ninety eight anywhere.  New drawknives are expensive. With as many good old blades as there are around, I'd be embarrassed to pay much for one. There are more than enough other temptations to spend your money on.

Get you some green wood and just boil it!

Madrone is a notorious cracker of a wood. It wants to crack when drying very easy. It's near as bad as manzanita for the local woods. I had an oldtimer tell me one day many years ago, take a saw out into the woods and cut green wood straight from the tree. Drop it in a pot of boiling or at least simmering water and leave it there for one hour per inch of thickness. Take it out and next day you can begin to work it and it'll never crack (unless you end up leaving it out in the rain like a dope).  Naturally this only works for pieces small enough to drop into a pot. Unless you build a boiling tank. A friend and I did this once out of an old hot water heater tank.  Anyway, however you do it, it works. I've never lost a piece to cracking that I boiled. It has to be green, fresh cut though. Don't be expecting to get away using semi dry wood.

Next day you can put them on the lathe and turn them to shape, which is exactly what I did. Come to think of it, I'm not even sure I waited that long.


I "burn in the tangs". This means drilling a small pilot hole all the way through the new handles you just turned (best done on the lathe since the bit wants to follow the centerline so much better than any other way). Then the blade is secured in a big heatsink just at the bottom of the tang, a vise works best. The  tang is next brought up to red heat with a propane torch (or a pair of them works even faster). The handle will literally fall on most of the way, smoke billowing.  So quick, jerk it back off, run and open the window. Now heat it up again and this time push it on until it's about 1/8" from where you want it to permanently stay and pull it off one last time. When it cools, knock it on for keeps.  It will last forever or until you do something wildly dumb.   


If you lose or damage your washers, just make some new ones. Only takes a few minutes. Cut some out with a holesaw. To get the dish shape to em, lay over top of a ring of steel pipe or a large mechanics socket and hammer the dish with the ball end of a ball pein hammer.



Small Carving Drawknives

I use small ones a lot too. This first one was a gift from my friend Jim (the old Millrat) Thompson. He sent the blade after he found a stash at one of is famous estate sales. I scored some Honduras Rosewood shorts from an ebay vendor. Getting rosewood in any form cheap through the mail is dreadfully hard to do. Fortunately for me, all the ego freaks want the big slabs so occasionally small ones go cheap. Anyway, in case you haven't tried it, Honduras is the hardest of the rosewoods I have worked. It's about as hard as cocobolo or bocote if you are familiar with those. It turns like a dream though, no reason to fear it.   These three below all had short tangs so they don't go all the way through the handles. If you burn in your tangs they won't come off. 

This was the first of the small drawknives I made. It has some birch that I carved into ovals for the handles.Hand carving and scraping like this is hard the first couple or three but don't give up.

 It was once a 6" joiner blade. The old high carbon blades are the bomb!! They were still selling them for less in the 70's for shop jointers. Maybe even still selling them yet. High speed steel (which pretty much took over) sucks for making your own tools with.  Once it's hardened it can't be "unhardened" so that means no matter how hot you get it, there will be no bending or forging or whatever. It doesn't weld easy either but any kind of tool steel is a tough weld anyway. The older, high carbon blades you can get hot (whatever gets you Red!) and bend or reforge any way you want, then reharden and temper. In the case of tangs, these are always left soft anyway so you don't even have to harden them! Just keep the heat away from the cutting edge and you're fine. 

Here's a little 5" blade cutie I got off ebay for like 6 bucks, no reserve. It's a Charles Buck blade and very thin and narrow. It fits into curves nice. On this one I used purpleheart and some old lamp parts (brass).