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Thread: sharpening a drawknife

  1. #1
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    Default sharpening a drawknife

    Hi, just wondering if anyone has any tips or instructions for sharpening a drawknife.

    I was told once to just clamp it in a vice and file the edge back and forth with a metal file. Which gets me okay results, but now that I think of it it was a timber frame carpenter who taught me that, so maybe I'm losing out on a degree of precision when I'm eg. carving a paddle.

    I was shaping a kayak paddle the last couple days, which got me wondering. I always enjoy doing paddles.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    If you can file it is not much of a drawknife, and will never be "sharp"

  3. #3
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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    The venerable Bob Smalser posted some good info here, here, and here on our forum some years back.

    Derek Cohen in Perth posted his method here, a combination of stones, a grinder jig, and more stones.

    And if you want to spend a few bucks, Benchcrafted has the fancy Drawsharp, though I have no experience with it.

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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    This is what I use.
    Drawknife 2.jpgSrawknife 1.jpg
    It clamps in the leg vice, and the blade is clamped into to the recess with two G cramps.
    That presents the bevel up and level so that a sharp stone or diamond plate can go to work held in reasonable safety in both hands.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    I think of a draw knife as a roughing out tool. Once its getting close, switch to a spoke shave.
    There's the plan, then there's what actually happens.

    Ben Sebens, RN

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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    Quote Originally Posted by BBSebens View Post
    I think of a draw knife as a roughing out tool. Once its getting close, switch to a spoke shave.
    You need to practice more.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    My thought too, a tad more practice....

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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    I do mine free hand holding a stone with the handle clamped in the bench vise so I can see both sides of the blade. I would never go near it with a file. I can get very close to the line with mine, then finish with a few strokes of a plane or spoke shave.

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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    Just be sure to keep the bevel from becoming rounded in its cross section. Using a bench vise is the easiest but if that is not handy, holding the tool by putting one handle aginst the chest and holding it with with one hand and using a rectangular and flat small stone with the other works. Light Oil is acceptable for a honing lube but, I like water. Sitting with the outer handle cradled just behind the knee works for holding as well. I have a set of small stones that are dedicated to sharpening my draw knives and adzes which are handy for this kind of honing. For the adze, cone shaped stones and handy as well. Very thin and accurate work can be done with a draw knife if you let the blade cut at an angle to the grain and slice by letting it skid on its flat back with the grain. When working with the stones be sure to keep your fingers behind the cutting edge to avoid a nasty slice on the fingers!
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 05-14-2020 at 01:20 PM.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    Thanks everyone for your thoughts. The threads from Bob Smasler were really helpful.

    I'm starting to get a feel for the drawknife - realizing I can work right down to the line with it and that I can save myself a lot of time with the spokeshave. It's nice to hear confirmation of what I was starting to suspect - that it can be a precision tool. I definitely need to up my game sharpening though. I have a couple small stones that might work.

    Jay - re. your comment about rounding the bevel. Is the point just that you don't want to end up with a steeper and steeper cutting angle - eg like when sharpening a chisel blade freehand? Or is it important that the entire bevel is flat? Can I use a microbevel?

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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    Quote Originally Posted by adamarthurryan View Post
    Thanks everyone for your thoughts. The threads from Bob Smasler were really helpful.

    I'm starting to get a feel for the drawknife - realizing I can work right down to the line with it and that I can save myself a lot of time with the spokeshave. It's nice to hear confirmation of what I was starting to suspect - that it can be a precision tool. I definitely need to up my game sharpening though. I have a couple small stones that might work.

    Jay - re. your comment about rounding the bevel. Is the point just that you don't want to end up with a steeper and steeper cutting angle - eg like when sharpening a chisel blade freehand? Or is it important that the entire bevel is flat? Can I use a microbevel?
    Because like a chisel, you use the drawknife both ways up you do not want a micro bevel. Keep the bevel flat, which is why I use the sharpening jig that I pictured in post# #4. It provides much more control with both hands on the sharp stone.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    Okay, that makes sense. Thanks Nick.

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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    Quote Originally Posted by Peerie Maa View Post
    Because like a chisel, you use the drawknife both ways up you do not want a micro bevel. Keep the bevel flat, which is why I use the sharpening jig that I pictured in post# #4. It provides much more control with both hands on the sharp stone.

    Nick, I don't understand your sharpening jig at all. What's pictured looks to me like a drawknife with a wooden guard tied to it.

    Jeff

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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    Pretty sure the knife gets turned upsy in the guard(guard on the back of the blade)which get clamped into a vise,in turn holding the blade, bloody side up.
    R
    Sleep with one eye open.

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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    Quote Originally Posted by jpatrick View Post
    Nick, I don't understand your sharpening jig at all. What's pictured looks to me like a drawknife with a wooden guard tied to it.

    Jeff
    Me neither; can you show more how your set-up works?
    thanks
    pvg

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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    Looking at it, I’m guessing the back of the blade fits in the slot & the wood with the slot is held in a vise. Then stones are run over the blade.

    i do the opposite. Stone clamped, freehand he drawknife.

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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    Quote Originally Posted by jpatrick View Post
    Nick, I don't understand your sharpening jig at all. What's pictured looks to me like a drawknife with a wooden guard tied to it.

    Jeff
    It is. There is a shallow sloping recess in the top of the guard. You hold the guard in the vice, and engineers vice or a leg vice is best, The knife is clamped into the recess, bevel up. The slope of the recess matches the bevel angle so that the bevel is horizontal. then you work the sharp stone over the bevel. When you need to you take the knife off the jig and debur the flat side.

    I do not like clamping the stone in the vice as
    • It is harder to stop the blade rocking on the stone and creating a curved bevel than it is to hold the stone level.
    • With some bench/vices, the knife handles foul the bench.

    drawknife jig.jpg
    Last edited by Peerie Maa; 05-15-2020 at 03:34 AM.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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  18. #18
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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    This shows two spoke shaves, one of which is the classic Stanley 151, I use all the time. The other one looks very similar but has a spring-loaded throat plate like an adjustable plane. I suspect it's for some specialty of which I'm ignorant. I can't make it work worth a damn. And in addition to the tools, a guest in the shop.





    The pic also shows two drawknives, the curved one with the blade guard I made, and a longer, straight one behind it. They both hang from a block of wood mounted to the tool wall. I made the blade guard and the little piece that acts as a lock to both keep the guard on the blade while it's hanging and to keep it on it's hook, which gives me peace of mind about the sharp edge being close to the spokeshaves. The straight one in back is the one I was using when it slipped from my one hand and laid the worst blade injury of my young life on the thumb of the other hand. I showed a pic of the gore. And then I apologized. I'm rambling to remind people to pay attention when handling such a big free sharp edge.

    The sharpening system I use consists of the cedar chunk holder, which houses a two-sided India stone, and a wide hard-Arkansas stone. The holder rests solidly on the bench and can be clamped or dogged in place as necessary for a given task. The holder also puts the business plane of the stone at a five inch height above the bench and gives clearance for the handles of what's being sharpened. I also have a hard Arkansas slip stone which I have used on occasion to touch up the edge of the drawknife while holding it as Nick described. I much prefer to clamp the stone and hold the knife by the handles, keeping the sharp away from my soft parts.

    Speak softly and carry a mouthful of marbles.

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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    Thank you Nick.

    Jeff

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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    Quote Originally Posted by jpatrick View Post
    Thank you Nick.

    Jeff
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    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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  21. #21
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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    Quote Originally Posted by adamarthurryan View Post
    Thanks everyone for your thoughts. The threads from Bob Smasler were really helpful.

    I'm starting to get a feel for the drawknife - realizing I can work right down to the line with it and that I can save myself a lot of time with the spokeshave. It's nice to hear confirmation of what I was starting to suspect - that it can be a precision tool. I definitely need to up my game sharpening though. I have a couple small stones that might work.

    Jay - re. your comment about rounding the bevel. Is the point just that you don't want to end up with a steeper and steeper cutting angle - eg like when sharpening a chisel blade freehand? Or is it important that the entire bevel is flat? Can I use a microbevel?
    You will have a tool that is easier to use if you avoid creating a bevel that has a hump or rounding in its cross section. I keep mine at about 27deg as it seems to like that. I don't use a micro bevel unless the tool is made of soft tempered steel. I have about four draw knives that came down to me through my family and really like this one for most work as it is long and so can be used at an angle to the axis of the work. Foolishly I hollow ground it many many years ago before understanding the advantages of a flat bevel which allows the tool to float rather than dive into the wood! Even so this is a nice tool in the hands and it is made of very good steel. The blade is forge welded as a laminate. I think it is getting close to being a hundred years old now! Still works just fine! I keep the one with the folding handles for work that is not in the shop as the handles protect it for travel and can be adjusted for the work it is doing. The tiny shave does come in handy at times and is a home made tool. It came from a model A Ford leaf spring. The handles are a couple of old file handles. Messy bench means I am working!
    Jay
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 05-15-2020 at 01:38 PM.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greer View Post
    You will have a tool that is easier to use if you avoid creating a bevel that has a hump or rounding in its cross section. I keep mine at about 27deg as it seems to like that. I don't use a micro bevel unless the tool is made of soft tempered steel. I have about four draw knives that came down to me through my family and really like this one for most work as it is long and so can be used at an angle to the axis of the work. Foolishly I hollow ground it many years ago before understanding the advantages of a flat bevel. Even so this is a nice tool in the hands and it is made of very good steel. I think it is getting close to bein a hundred years old now! Still works just fine!
    Jay
    Hollow ground is not too much of an issue. Repeated sharpenings make it act as a perfectly flat bevel. It definitely avoids the hump.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    I need a drawknife as I am getting ready to do some spars and oars, and the one I used to have disappeared. Nick, this is probably obivous, but it seems your sharpening method is much more suited to a straight blade drawknife than one with a curved blade? Thanks.

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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    You need curved stones for that.
    jay

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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    Thanks Jay

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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    Quote Originally Posted by nrs5000 View Post
    I need a drawknife as I am getting ready to do some spars and oars, and the one I used to have disappeared. Nick, this is probably obivous, but it seems your sharpening method is much more suited to a straight blade drawknife than one with a curved blade? Thanks.
    Just carve the recess in the block/guard to fit the back of the curved blade. Simples.

    The key is that it holds the blade rock solid with the bevel level.

    Edited to add:
    The ends of the blade will rest against the ends of the shoulder of a straight recess, and the cramps will hold the blade down on the sloping bed so one jug will fit all.
    Last edited by Peerie Maa; 05-15-2020 at 03:50 PM. Reason: Thinking again.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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  27. #27
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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    I grind a concavity into all my edges despite that I prefer a flat bevel. The reason is that I cannot maintain the flat without the use of a very good mechanical aid. And those devices have their own problems: slow in setting up, difficult to reset exactly as it was the last time used, and they usually mean the entire stone can't be used. But without an aid I cannot consistently maintain the flat bevel. It will go convex on me every time. Now some here likely believe they are super human and can do this, and maybe they're right. But just consider that any deviation from perfectly flat means the beginning of a convex surface. And on the next swipe on the stone the possibility of a repeat is increased due to the micro-convexity. So I don't believe that most people can do it. Certainly not beginners or even those of us who need to sharpen only every so often.

    I like Nick's jig idea for the drawknife. I believe I will copy it. My drawknives are still very very sharp but they could do with a touch-up. And it's been so long since the last time.. I can't really remember how I did it. Probably cobbled up a way to hold the tool onto the bench and moved the stone. Nick's jig will prove useful.

    Jeff

  28. #28
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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    I really like that combo blade guard and sharpening jig Nick. I'll build something like that for myself. Definitely makes the sharpening task seem more approachable.

    I do have a bit of a hump / rounding on the bevel in profile. I suppose I'll try to take it out with a course stone first. I guess failing that the only think I can think of is to take it to the grinder with a jig like Bob Smalser's. Though that would of course hollow grind the bevel. Jay, do you have any thoughts on how else you might re-grind the bevel?

  29. #29
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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    I got the jig from this book, which I cannot recommend too highly.

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hand-Tools-.../dp/0393322769

    Being of an economical frame of mind I combined it with the blade guard.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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  30. #30
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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    Quote Originally Posted by jpatrick View Post
    Thank you Nick.

    Jeff
    Yes, thanks for elucidating... ;-)
    pvg

  31. #31
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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    Word on sharpening a drawknife...

    (220/330 sandpaper and maintain a CONVEX bevel)


  32. #32
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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    I hollow grind mine against a base on a wheel freehand then use a handheld flat stone against the edge and the heel. I have found that it wastes my time to use it as a finishing tool instead of just getting close then finishing with a plane and/or rasp and/or spoke shave. It sharpens in a fraction of the time hollow ground as well. You just need to be very careful not to heat it up when grinding.

  33. #33
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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife

    A drawknife can be used for heavy stock removal (as I do) or for more refined work. If it's not so large as to get in its own way for the latter (which is why I most often forced to switch to a spokeshave at some point).

    But here's a fellow, Curtis Buchanan, whose work I like and who has a fine eye and hand and creates very sophisticated Windsor Chairs... who also loves to use the drawknife more rustically.

    But you don't have to be aiming for doing detailed work to want to keep your drawknife keen. It always helps.


    Synopsis: Curtis Buchanan builds his “democratic chair” with the bare minimum of inexpensive tools and materials with surfaces directly from the drawknife, embellished with a bit of milk paint.






    For comparison - here's some of his sleeker work --

    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    https://www.facebook.com/HarborWoodworks/

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  34. #34
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    Default Re: sharpening a drawknife



    I love that style, maybe gonna build a rowing hull like that on a beach somewhere remote someday.

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