Making a Long-Blade Marking Knife

A couple of years ago while working on a chair, I found myself needing to lay out the position of the seat slats on the centre rail, which was basically a cross-lap joint. Normally, I’d use my marking knife for this operation, but due to the thickness of the components, my marking knife wasn’t able to reach.

So I grabbed an old chisel and quickly ground a spear point on the end to make my marks, then proceeded to complete the project.

Recently, Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement hosted a hand tool build-off on their forum called Building Together: Hand Tools. I decided to make a long-bladed marking knife to complement my two short marking knives (shown on left of photo).

Marking Knives

I think that at some point, somebody used the chisel with a steel hammer without a handle in the socket, so the inside taper had a lip. Since I wanted a handle for the marking knife, I started by filing the taper smooth.

Filing Taper

I lapped the back on my 120-grit diamond stone, which was my coarsest.

Lapping Back

I applied blue layout fluid to the back of the knife and used my regular woodworking tools to lay out the shape of the knife point.


With my bench grinder’s tool rest at 90 degrees, I ground the profile of the knife. Then, I tilted the tool rest and ground the bevels.

Grinding Profile

I selected a piece of dogwood with interesting grain and mounted it on the lathe.

Blank Ready to Turn

I turned a taper on the end, and test-fit it frequently with the knife socket.  By rotating the handle in the socket, I was able to see where it was rubbing.  I removed those parts and kept checking the fit until the parts mated well.

I used an existing handle for shaping inspiration.

Shaping HandleI shaped the handle and sanded it up to 180-grit on the lathe. At this point, I used a hand saw to cut off the handle and hand-sanded the end.

Parting-Off Handle

I applied a coat of oil to bring out the grain.

Finished Handle

To complete the knife, I removed tarnish from the blade with a Rust Eraser, lapped the back of the blade to 600-grit, and ground the bevels flat (mostly for aesthetic reasons).  I finished sharpening the knife with a leather strop charged with honing compound.

Long Marking Knife


Overflow, Part XVIII

A number of months ago, a fellow brought me a boxful of old tools and said that he just wanted them to go to good homes where they would be appreciated. In the box were these three saw sets.

(A) Stanley Pistol Grip Saw Set

Despite the worn paint, this saw set works smoothly and has an anvil that can be adjusted from 4-10.

 (B) Swedish Saw Set

This made-in-Sweden saw set operates with a pliers-like movement. An adjustable stop slides up and down to regulate the amount of tooth that gets set.

(C) Taintor Saw Set

This saw set is a pistol-grip design. A rotating anvil allows the user to set it for different sizes of teeth. The handles do not open on their own; I suspect that the spring is simply missing.

If you would like one of these saw sets, please leave a comment below indicating which one you would like (or that you’d be happy with any) by July 11. I will then draw a winner at random. Even if you don’t get one of these items, remember that there is still much more I want to give away.

And if you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to my blog so you can be notified as soon as I post something new! Please tell your friends about my Overflow program.

Review the details of the Overflow program.

Maple Trestle Table, Session 7 – Installing Battens and Flattening the Underside

On the morning of Sunday, April 15th, Morton and I exchanged ideas about trestle tables, spurred on by a recent sketch of a table on which he was working.  That got me yearning to build a trestle table.

I documented my progress live on Twitter which was useful because each update had a time stamp so followers could see the rate at which I progressed.  Here is a list of the previous Sessions:

Session 1 – Flat Boards are Boring;
Session 2 – Playing with Slabs;
Session 3 – From Two Slabs to One Table Top;
Session 4 – Clamping Odd Shapes and Sketching on Wood;
Session 5 – Routing Pockets for Battens; and
Session 6 – Making Battens and Installing Countertop Connectors.

(If you are not familiar with the format used on Twitter, every update, or “tweet” below starts with a username, being the author of that tweet.  Sometimes, you see two or more usernames in a tweet.  The second (and third, etc) usernames are preceded by a @ symbol and are people to whom the author is talking.  The other symbol you see is #, which serves as a category.  I try to remember to categorize all my tweets pertaining to this project under #flairww.)

FlairWoodworks Today I bought some 5/16″ x 2-1/2″ bolts and washers to fasten the battens to the bottom of the table top. #flairww -6:49 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks To sink oval holes to allow for expansion and contraction, I’m drilling overlapping holes at the drill press. #flairww -7:03 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m drilling two holes with a 1-1/16″ diameter saw-tooth bit, 1/2″ apart. #flairww -7:07 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks For consistency, I use a fence and stop block. #flairww -7:10 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks For the second hole, I insert a 1/2″ spacer between the stop and workpiece. #flairww -7:12 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks To bore clearance holes for the bolts, I’ve switched to a 3/8″ brad-point bit and drilled the two end holes. #flairww -7:20 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Then I drill out the waste in the middle. #flairww -7:22 PM Apr 24th, 2012

I recorded this video showing how I bore an elongated hole.  (Duration – 0:59)

FlairWoodworks The holes are all drilled so my next step is to mark where to drill pilot holes in the slabs using a transfer punch. #flairww -7:32 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’ve been using an electric drill plugged into a ceiling mount more often and my cordless drill less often as of late. #flairww -7:43 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I used a socket adapter in the drill to drive the bolts and a ratchet to tighten them. #flairww -7:48 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks With the countertop connectors and battens installed, I can finally move the top without losing alignment. #flairww -7:56 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks While thinking about what to do next, I picked up my jack plane and worked on surfacing the underside. #flairww -8:06 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I think I’ll stop for dinner break. #flairww -8:06 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m back in the shop and I’m going to see if I can smooth the underside of the table tonight. #flairww -9:35 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m making good progress but I need to resharpen my plane blade. It’s an O1 blade, by the way. #flairww -9:51 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks After a bit of work on my 1200x diamond stone and a little stropping, I’m back to work. #flairww -9:53 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks One good thing about surfacing wood by hand is that you get a good feel for how it works before you get to the smoothing stage. #flairww-10:21 PM Apr 24th, 2012

Tumblewood That is looking extremely cool, Chris!! -10:22 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Thanks, Vic! #flairww RT @Tumblewood: That is looking extremely cool, Chris!! -10:24 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @Tumblewood I’m not sure about the long-term consequences of making the top in two pieces, instead of gluing them. Any thoughts? #flairww -10:25 PM Apr 24th, 2012

gvmcmillan @FlairWoodworks @Tumblewood What about how laminate countertops are joined underneath? Might allow for wood movement if not glued #flairww -10:29 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @gvmcmillan But laminate countertops are usually glued to particle board which does not move much. @Tumblewood #flairww -10:32 PM Apr 24th, 2012

gvmcmillan @FlairWoodworks True, but I was thinking you could use that system without the glue to allow for the movement. #flairww -10:33 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @gvmcmillan Glue the slabs to particleboard? I don’t follow. I already have installed countertop connector bolts. #flairww -10:34 PM Apr 24th, 2012

gvmcmillan @FlairWoodworks Whoops, I guess I missed that. #flairww -10:36 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks That was in Session 5. [Actually, the countertop connectors appeared in Session 6.] RT @gvmcmillan:@FlairWoodworks Whoops, I guess I missed that. #flairww -10:39 PM Apr 24th, 2012

gvmcmillan @FlairWoodworks Right. I went back and looked just now. I think long-term consequences should be better than glue, no? -10:41 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Half done! Half of the bottom, that is. #flairww -10:50 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @gvmcmillan I’m unsure. At the moment, I think glue would be better long term so that the seams stay level. #flairww -10:52 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I wish I could turn the table top around so I could more easily plane the other half. #flairww -10:53 PM Apr 24th, 2012

gvmcmillan @FlairWoodworks What about something like a biscuit joint to do that? #flairww -10:56 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks And glue? I don’t think biscuits add strength RT @gvmcmillan: @FlairWoodworks What about something like a biscuit joint to do that?#flairww -10:58 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks By the way, I’m planing mostly at a 30-90 degree angle to the grain. #flairww -11:01 PM Apr 24th, 2012

gvmcmillan @FlairWoodworks Yes. But not the whole seam. Kinda like gluing a large mortise & tenon joint – just glue an inch in the middle. #flairww -11:07 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @gvmcmillan I’m not sure that would help… #flairww -11:08 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Ahhhh! Water! #flairww -11:10 PM Apr 24th, 2012

gvmcmillan @FlairWoodworks Ok, what about these?  #flairww -11:11 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Ha ha ha… That’s what I’ve installed! RT @gvmcmillan:@FlairWoodworks Ok, what about these#flairww -11:11 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @gvmcmillan I’m confident that those connectors can keep the joint together but it’s the veritcal alignment that worries me. #flairww-11:12 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @gvmcmillan I may try building the table without glue first. I can always glue it together later. #flairww -11:13 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @gvmcmillan Whoops. I haven’t yet posted Session 6 in which I installed those countertop connectors. #flairww -11:15 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m about 3/4 done. Just this section remains… on this side.#flairww -11:19 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m really surprised that I haven’t had to resharpen the plane blade yet. I might finish the bottom without resharpening! #flairww -11:27 PM Apr 24th, 2012

gvmcmillan @FlairWoodworks Yeah, that way you can see if it moves. You don’t think a hardwood biscuit joint would stop it shifting vertically? #flairww-11:38 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @gvmcmillan If the slabs want to move, I think that only a good glue joint can keep them aligned. #flairww -11:40 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @gvmcmillan Actually, now you’ve got me thinking. Perhaps a beefy tongue and groove would work. #flairww -11:40 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I just sharpened my plane blade again. It wasn’t too bad, but was starting to get dull. #flairww -11:52 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m slowing down… and working up an appetite. #flairww -12:11 AM Apr 25th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Would ya just look at this! The bottom’s nearly finished.#flairww -12:21 AM Apr 25th, 2012

FlairWoodworks The surface is planed as smooth as it’s going to be tonight. I need to flip it over and do the other side. #flairww -12:40 AM Apr 25th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Yikes! I just broke a sawhorse! I didn’t drop the top – the weight was just too much, apparently. #flairww -12:45 AM Apr 25th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Despite the sawhorse breaking, it was not difficult for me to flip the top by myself. #flairww -1:00 AM Apr 25th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I reglued the sawhorse’s foot and put it back into service supporting the top. #flairww -1:01 AM Apr 25th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Time for a break. Actually, I’m going to get something to eat, then go to bed. #flairww -1:03 AM Apr 25th, 2012

Tumblewood I think it’s ultimately a good thing. Allows adjustment and easier portability. RT @FlairWoodworks:@Tumblewood I’m not sure about the long-term consequences of making the top in two pieces, instead of gluing them. Any thoughts? #flairww -6:12 AM, April 25, 2012

Tumblewood I can’t think of a negative. -6:12 AM, April 25, 2012

Tumblewood Too much weight + lateral force. RT @FlairWoodworks: Yikes! I just broke a sawhorse! I didn’t drop the top – the weight was just too much, apparently. #flairww -6:23 AM, April 25, 2012

That was a good amount of work for one evening and a good workout.  In Session 8 I flattened the top.

I would appreciate it if you left a comment.

WoodRiver #5 V3 Bench Plane Review – In Use

My LAST POST showed what the hand plane looked like out of the box.  This post shows what the plane was able to do.

While setting up the plane, I took note of the slop in the lateral- and depth-adjusters.  The depth adjuster had 3/4 of a turn of slop and the lateral adjuster had a little side-to-side play.

Lateral Adjuster Play

I honed the bevel up to 15,000-grit on a Shapton stone.  This process took about two minutes.  I then reassembled the plane and surfaced a board of beech.  This was the reflection I saw when I looked down the board’s length.

Beech, After Handplaning with Honed Bevel

The plane made shavings like these.


To further increase the performance of the plane, I then lapped the back of the blade.  It took 12 minutes to bring the blade to this degree of flatness.  At this stage, the blade was flat enough to be usable, but there was still a large hollow in the center.

Adeqately Flattened Back

Six more minutes of lapping erased the hollow and I was able to bring up the polish.

Completely Flattened Back

I then reinstalled the blade and surfaced the beech board once again.  The polish of the planed board after having lapped the back was noticeably better.

Beech, After Handplaning with Honed Bevel and Lapped Back

I took this shot for fun.

WoodRiver #5 V3 Handplane

Remember the grease I wiped off as soon as I got the plane?  Within a week of returning home to the Westcoast, I found that the sole already had rust spots.  I cleaned the rust off and applied a coat of Boeshield, something I should have done right away.

Overflow, Part IV


I have two identical saw sets and this one is a little grungier.  It still works fine.

To use the saw set, loosen the lock knob, rotate the round anvil until the number representing the TPI of the saw is at the top and tighten the knob.  Then position the set over the saw blade, lined up with the tooth you are setting, and squeeze the handles.  Set every other tooth, then turn the saw around and set the remaining teeth in the other direction.

If you need such a saw set, leave a comment below, indicating your interest before midnight of January 17.  I will then draw a winner at random.  Even if you don’t get this saw set, remember that this is only one of the MANY things I want to give away.

And if you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to my blog using the widget in the right-hand column so you can be notified as soon as I post something new!  And please tell your friends about my Overflow program.

Review the details of the Overflow program.

Sharpening Should NOT be Difficult or Time-Consuming

It’s been said a thousand times that a sharp tool is a safe tool.  Sharp tools require less effort to use and as a result the user has greater control and is less likely to slip and injure themselves or damage something.   A sharp tool also cuts more cleanly, leaving a surface requiring less clean-up later.  It makes sense to keep your tools sharp.

The most commonly sharpened tools in my shop are plane blades and chisels.  When I sense that my tools are starting to get dull, it usually only requires a little work to restore the keen edge I expect.

I wet the surface of my 8000-grit Norton water stone and hone the microbevel freehand.  Usually, about 4-10 strokes is all that is required before I turn the tool over and lap off the wire bur with three or so strokes.  Then I dry off the tool and check the edge on the back of my fingernail.  If the blade is sharp, it will catch on my fingernail.  If the blade is dull, it will slide.

If the edge isn’t sharp enough, I’ll use my 4000-grit Norton stone and repeat the process and check the results.  Usually this is enough to restore the edge.  I’ll finish by repeating the process once again on the 8000-grit stone.

If the edge is in really rough shape, I’ll start the process on my coarse DMT diamond stone.  A 200- or 325-grit stone would be about right.  In this case, I will use a honing jig.  I work the edge for about a half-minute and then check to see if I’ve created a sharp edge.  If not, I continue until I have a sharp edge.  Then, with the tool still in the jig, I’ll proceed to the 4000-grit stone for about 10 seconds, then the 8000-grit for a half-dozen strokes before lapping off the wire burr.  Then back to work.

Once you figure it out, sharpening chisels and planes is quick and painless.  There is really no excuse to be using dull tools.  Everyone has their own opinion on how to sharpen and the most important thing is that you find a method that works for you.  After all, without sharpening there’s no point.

Recognizing Sharpness

We all know that it is important to have sharp edges when working.  They cut more cleanly and require less force to use, either saving us effort or strain on the motor.  Knowing how to sharpen is certainly an important skill, but just as important is recognizing when a tool requires sharpening.

With enough experience, you will be able to tell by feel when a tool needs to be sharpened.  It will take more force to use and may yield a poor-quality cut.  Another way to tell is by looking at the edge and observing how the light reflects off it.  Good lighting is important, and it helps to angle the cutting edge back and forth until you see the light reflecting cleanly off the edge.

Take this chisel, for example.  We can see light reflecting off one bevel, closest to my thumb and another bevel almost as wide closer to the tip.  Then, there is a third bevel of light, quite fine.  However, there is one point along the edge that reflects light differently.  That is a dull spot on the edge.

Here is the back of the same chisel.  Most of it appears to reflect light consistently, but there is one area right at the tip that is different.  It appears that the cutting edge has folded over a slight bit, resulting in a dull edge.

I sharpened the bevel of the chisel, but it still won’t cut well.  That’s because of the wire burr that was raised on the back of the tool.

Here is a close-up of the wire burr on the edge.  After sharpening the bevel, I carefully lap off the wire burr using my finest stone.

Also, regardless how much you polish the bevel of a tool, the back must also be polished to the same level for maximum sharpness.  Here’s the polish on the back of the blade of my favourite plane, the #4 smooth.

Clean Your Blades and Bits!

One thing that I force myself to do is to inspect the various cutting edges in my shop regularly. Because they are constantly subject to wear, their cutting abilities are gradually diminished and eventually, the cut becomes labourious. With power tools, cutters dull as they cut, but another enemy is heat build-up. A fast feed rate goes a long way to keep the heat down, but perhaps more important is to keep your cutters clean.

I make it a regular habit to check for any accumulation of pitch, etc. and when I notice it, I take the time to clean it. I use a nylon brush to apply blade cleaner and let it sit for 15 minutes or so while I do other tasks. Then a light brushing is all that’s required to get the blade looking like new again.

I’ve had a router bit so covered with gunk from routing plywood that it was almost completely black and wasn’t even cutting – it was burning its way through the stock. I really thought that bit was a lost cause, but decided to drop it into a jar of blade cleaner to see what would happen. To my surprise, with a light brushing, all the build-up was removed and the bit looked like new again.


Sharpening a Card Scraper

Of all the techniques related to woodworking, this sharpening a card scraper tends to generate the most interest. This is my method:

  1. Remove the old burr if necessary by rubbing the face of the scraper on a stone. I use my diamond stone as not to scar my water stones.
  2. Clamp the scraper in a vise with the edge you are working on exposed by about 3/4-1″ (enough room for your knuckles, but not so much that the scraper flexes too much) and mill the edge square by holding a mill file parallel to the edge and taking passes until the edge is flat. If you get the right angle, you can tell that the edge is straight by how it reflects light. Be careful not to create a rounded edge.
  3. Refine the edge with a water stone. I usually go up to 1200x, but you can go as fine as you like. At this point, I will have a burr on the edge of the blade which will actually turn up shavings. However, the burr is not nearly as durable as a hook, so I proceed.
  4. Start to roll the hook by taking 2-3 passes with the burnisher square to the edge. Use steady, controlled pressure. If you have any fear of slipping and hurting yourself, you are using too much force! At this point, the scraper is ready for very fine scraping. For a more aggressive cut…
  5. Roll over the hook by taking another 2-3 passes with the burnisher tilted slightly, using the same force as before. A five-degree angle is great for fine work, fifteen degrees is very aggressive and takes work to push! I usually aim for about five degrees.


The Evolution of Sharpening

When I started woodworking six or seven years ago, all my tools were usually dull.  I sharpened them will a mill file.  Yes a mill file.  I clamped the tool in my metal working vise and went at it.  Maybe that was a blessing because I learned to sharpen with a steady hand.  Anyhow, the file produced a sharp edge good enough to cut adequately.

Then I acquired a 4″ bench grinder.  It removed metal faster than the file, and with due care, didn’t ruin the temper and created a good edge.

At school, the shop teacher used to touch up chisels on the belt sander.  That produced a workable edge in a couple seconds.  Just mind the heat build up.  While he used the 6×48″ stationary horizontal belt sander, a 1×42″ belt vertical belt sander is a better choice, in my opinion.  They have nice adjustable tool rests as well as an unsupported area to sharpen gouges.

Digging though my dad’s stuff, I found a sharpening stone (oil, I think).  I bought an Eclipse-style honing guide and spent an hour going back and forth on the stone.  My chisels were sharper, but also cambered because the stone was dished.  To flatten it, I stuck a piece of 60-grit sandpaper on a scrap of laminate flooring and rubbed the stone on it, which lead to…

The scary sharp sandpaper on glass system.  Wet-dry automotive sandpaper on plate glass or other flat surface becomes the sharpening medium.  The beauty of the system is that it never needs sharpening and starting-up costs are comparatively little.  However, the ongoing purchasing of sandpaper got tiresome.

So I got a diamond stone.  Fast cutting, long-lasting, but expensive.  It put a nice keen edge on my tools.  I was happy.

But then I had a desire (maybe more external than internal) to put a finer edge on my tools.  My diamond stone was the finest grit available at 600x/1200x.  So I bought a Norton 4000x/8000x water stone.  And it cuts quickly and leaves a nice finish and a super sharp edge.  Water stones wear quickly too, but I stay on top of that and keep it flat with the diamond stone.

Then I got into carving.  Most carving tools are not flat, rendering my wonderful stones suddenly lacking.  It was then that I was introduced to the strop and honing compound.  Wow, a simple piece of leather and a green “crayon” sure put a keen edge on a tool.  This is the sharpening method I use for all my carving tools.  They cut so the end grain of pine so cleanly.