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

Happily, our predecessors bought scads of drawknives back when toolmakers still knew what they were doing, and many of them are still around. You should have no trouble finding a good knife on eBay or from old-tool dealer web sites. Look for one with tight handles, that has not been beat, or ground down to nothing. Drawknives were made with cutting edges more than a foot long or as short as 4″. An 8″ to 10″ knife is the right size for most work.
A versatile tool. Taking a hair’s breadth off a workpiece is quick work for a drawknife – as is heavy stock removal, and anything in between.

Bad grind. The modern drawknife on top in the picture above is ground with a chisel edge, which severely limits its usefulness. Look for one with a knife edge (they’re easy to find on eBay and on old-tool web sites).

How to Grip Your Drawknife

When choosing a knife, don’t be tempted by the ones with folding handles. They look nice, but leave them for the collectors. The extra length created by the hinge places the handle too far away from the edge. You sacrifice control. Drop handles cause a similar problem. They lower your hands out of the plane of the cut, sacrificing power.

A drawknife’s handles are misleading. They suggest that you hold a drawknife like you did the handle bars on your tricycle. In fact, how you hold a knife is a function of the work, and a straight grip on the handles is only one of many possibilities. A drawknife is frequently used on end grain. Then, you have to choke up on the control handle (the right hand if you are right handed). Sometimes I hold the blade vertical, then my right hand holds the handle with an overhand grip. The important point is to not get locked into a misperception and be limited by it.

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