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Drawknife Technique

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Taffy Turner

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I went to the South Wales Woodfest at Margam Park on Sunday for a look around. It was OK - nothing marvelous, but worth the £6 entry.

Whilst looking at the Classic Handtools stall, my eye was taken by a rather nice drawknife, which now has a new home in my workshop. I can't read the makers name, but it looks older than me! :D The blade is in good condition, with no pits or dings in the edge, and the steel is a hard as old boots - my honing stone doesn't make much of an impression on it.

The main reason for purchasing this fierce looking weapon was for de-barking timber (I am fed up with my left hand being flayed alive while trying to remove bark on the lathe) and for cutting tenons for some rustic furniture that I plan on building at some point. I had a quick dabble with it yesterday, with mixed success. :?

Does anyone have any pointers to successful drawknifing? For example, is it supposed to be used bevel up, or bevel down. Bevel up seems much more aggressive, whereas bevel down seemes to give more control.

All advice gratefully received.

Gary
 

Chris Knight

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Gary,
Smalser doesn't say so but you can use them either way up. Bevel down they have a tendency to ride back out of the cut which is advantageous if you are concerned about it digging in by going against the grain. However, you will find that with a little practice and a very sharp drawshave, that you can make highly controlled cuts with bevel up as well.

When drawing the tool towards you, it can help to angle it and impart a sideways motion to the tool so that it "slices" as it moves along the workpiece. A fine slicing cut can be made against the grain with some confidence of avoiding tearout.

Do practice an a few different pieces of wood first. There's nothing like a drawknife for getting wood down to size quickly as well - you will soon find that a lathe is merely a "luxury" (It also helps to have clamping arrangements that permit you to turn the work to a suitable angle for using the knife - the classic being a shave horse).
 
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Anonymous

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Both bevel up and bevel down have their fans and their uses. I use mine bevel up when roughing out and when shaping long surfaces straight pieces (e.g., chair rungs). Any concavity gets done bevel down. Drew Langsner's book "A Chairmaker's Workshop" and Dunbar's book on restoring old tools both have information on sharpening and using drawknives. Langsner's book also has plans for a shaving horse, a picture of which I will try to post below. While I'm at it, I'll put in a plug for Langsner's book if you have any interest in making chairs by hand. I made a set of five ladderbacks (his first project chair) and the book does a great job of walking you through the process. I was very pleased with how well I was able to do with no other instruction and no prior experience with chairmaking.

One of the things that makes the drawknife more controllable when used bevel up is to allow a slight backbevel; this gives you a way to direct the cut upward when you need to. Dunbar suggests you can accomplish this by allowing the back to just wear off some from use (i.e., don't lap it flat at every sharpening. It's also easy to do with a strop or felt wheel by just tilting the back slightly upward.



Drawknives are fun,

Dave
 

Alf

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Dunno how you are for space, Gary, but if a shaving horse is a bit big, you might find a shaving pony handy. Oh, and for removing bark apparently you might actually be better off with a blunt edge to your drawknife. Personal experience suggests keeping it sharp might have unforseen benefits and/or side effects...

And guess what? I favour using drawknives bevel-up. \:D/

Cheers, Alf
 

Taffy Turner

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Thanks for all the help and advice everyone. 8)

That shaving pony looks just the job - I was wondering where I was going to fit a shaving horse (I have 12 horses of the four legged, hay munching, wallet emptying kind as it is!!!). :roll:

Regards

Gary
 
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