drawknife

A tool by definition solves a problem. It gets something done in the hands of one who knows how to use it. Make it a part of your tool kit, and you reach for it automatically when something needs doing. That is ownership. The drawknife is often seen as an interesting artifact in the flea market or museum more than being a useful part of your tool kit. That was my experience throughout my school and teaching career. It hung in the tool cabinet, never taken down, nor do I recall ever seeing others use it.

Find out how this handy-size drawknife with side-mounted handles can earn a place in your shop.

Three situations recently have made me come to appreciate this tool. One was watching a canoe paddle being made where the blade was taken down from 1½″-thick pine blank to the finished ⅜″ thickness and then shaping the handle grip with a drawknife. (“Canoe Paddle”, Popular Woodworking #142, August 2004.) The second is timber framers who peg their frames, and the pegs are made by whacking off splits of wood and using a drawknife at the shaving horse to make strong, coarse pegs to pin mortise and tenon joints in beams. Finally, chairmakers make use of many spindles and rungs and posts. The most familiar way is to use a lathe to turn the square to a round and add embellishments for style or strength. Less familiar is to use a drawknife to rough out the shape and finish with a spokeshave.

In each case the drawknife in the hands of the craftsman is an efficient way to rough out a shape for use as is or to trim using a finer tool. As such the drawknife is in a class by itself. You have to watch someone skilled in its use to appreciate its ease and efficiency. It gives you a new approach to working wood.

Drawknives come in a variety of sizes. The one made here with a 4″ blade is smaller than most, and is the favorite of David Abeel, who comes to the Home Shop to teach Windsor tall stools and side chairs. David likes it because your arms are close to your body when using it. Control and ease of use results from that. Take a billet of wood for a chair leg or stretcher, clamp it in your bench vise, and render it from square to tapered round in a matter of a few strokes. Amazing. A tool as a problem solver.

This project owes much to David Abeels creative work in chair making at the Home Shop.