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


Shiny Handles Suck

Many wooden-handled tools that you can buy come covered in a tough, shiny finish.  These tools look so perfect and pretty and would look right at home in a glass display case under a spotlight in the Museum of Modern Art.  While the shiny handles are pretty and easy to wipe clean, they are slippery and not very comfortable to hold.

One day, I got fed up with the lacquered handles on my chisel handles.  I took a piece of coarse sandpaper (80-grit, I think) and removed the shiny finish.  I palmed the handle and knew immediately that I had done the right thing.  I was able to grip the chisel with more control than ever before, and with less effort.

Lacquered and Stripped Handles

Later, when I decided to strip the finish off the remaining chisel handles, I decided to try something different.  Instead of using sandpaper, I used a spokeshave.  The result was a faceted handle that felt better in my hand.

Working on a Chisel Handle

Although I could have left the naturally-oily rosewood handles bare, I chose to add a coat of oil finish.

Refinished, Faceted Handles

I also removed the finish from the handles of my spokeshave and finished them in a similar fashion.

Refinished Spokeshave Handle

With the slick, glossy finishes removed, the tools were much more comfortable to use and looked even better, in my opinion.

Heirloom Quality Screwdrivers For Sale

My turned screwdrivers are now for sale.  They feature a solid dogwood handle and a polished magnetic bit holder which accepts all 1/4″ hex-shank screwdriver bits.  The price is $30.

To make a screwdriver, I first cut a dogwood blank to size.  Then I bore a 1/4″ hole to accept the shank of the magnetic bit holder and use a forstner bit to square the face of the blank to the hole.

1-Milling Blank

Next, I put some cyanoacrylate glue into the hole and press the bit holder in until it is seated fully.

2-Pressing Parts Together

The screwdriver is mounted in the lathe, with the bit holder in a chuck and a live center supporting the butt end of the handle.

3-Ready to Turn

Finally, the screwdriver is turned to shape and a finish is applied (Photo 4).