Wednesday, April 18, 2007


My posting about drawknives has to start with a disclaimer. People use, sharpen and prefer them in many different ways, and if you are at all like me, you'll want to try them all before settling on your own preference. Now I can talk about my own.
I use the drawknife bevel up and bevel down, in different situations. When I look to purchase a knife, I check the overall condition, look for rust pitting on the back, comfortable handles and a straight blade. I think that it is easier to create flat planes and facets with a flat blade, I pass on all distinctly curved blade knives. I also pass on any blades with a "knife edge", unless I am in the mood to put in a lot of work flattening the back. While in the Midwest, I was reminded how fortunate I am to live in a region where knives are widely available at junk shops and antique stores. I think that ebay has really levelled this playing field. Now, no store owner can hold a blades "rarity" over you, there a ten more just like it for sale at any given moment. My final rule is that I never pay more than $25 for a blade (ok, maybe $35 if it's amazing) and I never pass up a good knife for $15 (even though I already have ten).
So how do you tell the difference between a bevel up and a bevel down knife? If the back of the blade is parallel to the tangs that pass through the handles. then the knife is most comfortably used bevel down. If the blade is canted, the knife is best used bevel up. It should seem obvious when you hold the tool, your wrists should be relaxed and relatively straight, not contorted. In my experience, the bevel up blade is the most useful. It acts more like a splitting tool and follows the fibers of the wood more easily. I use the bevel down blade when I want to carve into the wood. I find that a bevel down blade can create a smooth surface regardless of whether it is following the fibers, this can be a difficult trait when the goal is to follow the fiber. This difference shouldn't be enough to stop you if you don't have one or the other, just get to it. Most knives that you will run across will be bevel down users, but can be easily adjusted by wrapping the blade with a wet rag (to avoid ruining the temper) and spot heating the steel between the blade and the handle with a torch. When it is cherry red simply readjust the handle to the desired position. I have adjusted many blades this way. I'll be posting about sharpening the different knives soon.

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