These once-standard tools have a place in any modern shop.

When the last grains of sand run through my hourglass, I know how I want to check out. I want to drop on the shop floor in the middle of a project. The mortician will have to pry my woodworking machines out of the cold dead fingers of my left hand. He will then have to pry my hand tools out of the cold dead fingers of my right. The last two tools he will wrest from my grasp will be my drawknife and my wooden spokeshave. I am so dependent on these two tools, that I am sure when that final moment comes, they will be in my hands.

Early records show that a drawknife and a spokeshave were in every woodworker’s kit. In fact, these guys often owned more than one. Why? These are two of woodworking’s most useful tools. Today’s woodworkers will benefit as much from them as did the old guys. I am writing about the two tools together because that is how they are often used – together.

As its name implies, the drawknife is a knife that is used on the pull stroke. Using two hands provides a lot more control. Pulling with arm, shoulder, back and leg muscles places a great deal of force behind the blade. An experienced user can slice a shaving as thick as his thumb, or cut one as fine as a human hair. This means a drawknife can accomplish quick stock removal, fine work and everything in between.

Drawknives

The problem for today’s woodworker is to find a good drawknife. Those sold in stores and catalogs will not generally work. The reason is simple. The tool is supposed to be a knife, but toolmakers insist on grinding their drawknives like a chisel. A 45° bezel won’t work any better on a drawknife than it would on a pocketknife.

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