Versatile (however difficult to sharpen) – we assist you choose the
finest instrument to your work.
By Christopher Schwarz
From the March 2005 challenge ofWoodworking Journal, pages 14-15
Spear-point marking knives are essentially the most versatile model of
this invaluable marking instrument. Whereas different marking knives excel
at one explicit process, the spear-point varieties are good
all-rounders and are a superb first knife.
Not like knives with a single bevel, the spear-point knife simply
registers towards a information on both the knife’s left or proper
facet. This is a crucial function when marking dovetails. If
you need to mark a dovetail with a single-bevel knife, you’re
going to want two instruments – a left and a proper. I favor the
comfort of 1 instrument.
Or, should you personal a instrument that has a knife-like edge (corresponding to an
X-acto or a pocketknife), it is advisable to rotate the knife left or
proper relying on the mark you need to make. Studying to
rotate the knife is a learnable ability. However extra considerably,
rotating the knife limits how tight an area you get the instrument
into. With a skinny spear-point knife, you may sneak into virtually
I personal many marking knives, together with a number of I’ve made myself.
So I do know that the spear-point knife isn’t good for each
operation. However when you get comfy with a very good spear-point
instrument, you’ll see your accuracy enhance. And you then’ll
understand how different knives might help your explicit model of
A Boutique Choice
There are numerous spear-point marking knives on the market, and
they’re surprisingly completely different within the particulars. For this
overview, I’ve chosen six knives which are well-made and
well-priced (some Japanese knives price virtually $100). Three of
these knives are made by particular person makers: the knives from
Blue Spruce, Chester and Knight toolworks. The knives from Hock
Instruments come from a small firm in Northern California. And the
Veritas knife is from the biggest hand-tool firm in North
America: Lee Valley Instruments. Regardless of the corporate’s measurement, it
maintains a private contact.
For me, marking knives are an merchandise of some intimacy, and so I
gravitate towards instruments made by folks you may name on the telephone
and speak to personally. After six months of store time, I can
say that I like all of those knives, although every has quirks and
limitations. This overview ought to assist you to type out the most effective one
Three Necessary Traits
I don’t fear a lot about edge retention with these instruments.
As a substitute, listed below are the traits I’ve discovered to be extra
■ Ergonomics: A marking knife should be comfy in a range
of positions. It should be balanced, light-weight and hold your
fingertips away from the sharp edges. You must be capable to
management the knife with no loss of life grip.
■ Blade Angle: That is the angle of the spear level. Bigger
angles (such because the 75° tip of the Chester Toolworks knife)
make a greater line when the instrument is sort of upright to the work.
Smaller angles (such because the 50° tip of the Hock knives) minimize
higher when pitched decrease. This is a crucial distinction.
Bigger blade angles are higher for marking dados and tenons
utilizing a sq. since you need to deeply rating each the close to
and much corners of your work to make it straightforward to hold the road
across the workpiece. A bigger blade angle cuts these nook
marks with out you having to radically angle your wrist.
I favor the smaller-angle knives for dovetails, particularly for
transferring marks from the tail boards to the pin boards. The
decrease blade angle lets you exert stress in the precise
■ Blade Thickness: When you make (or plan to make) intently spaced
dovetails, this is a crucial function. Skinny knives enable you
to sneak into tight areas between the tails to mark out the
pins. This profit comes at a excessive value, nonetheless. Skinny knives
are harder to sharpen as a result of the slicing bevels are
In regards to the Knives
After six months of use in our store, listed below are my impressions
■ Blue Spruce Toolworks: This instrument is the only option for
woodworkers who hand-cut dovetails. The skinny blade is
strengthened by two brass ferrules, which make it inflexible. The
middling blade angle makes it fitted to each dovetail or bench
work. And the instrument is well-balanced, comfy and a pleasure to
wield. I even just like the acorn on the top of the deal with. Its solely
disadvantage is that its skinny blade makes it essentially the most tough to
■ Chester Toolworks: Although this instrument appears to be like rather a lot just like the Blue
Spruce instrument, it’s really fairly completely different. The massive blade
angle makes it nicely fitted to bench work; marking tenons,
dados and the rest throughout the grain was a breeze for this
instrument. It’s not going to sneak into tight tails nonetheless; it’s
3 times thicker than the Blue Spruce knife. The deal with
isn’t fairly as comfy because the one on the Blue Spruce instrument,
however the instrument does a high-quality job general. The benefit of
sharpening ranks someplace within the center.
■ Hock Instruments, giant knife: Offered with no picket deal with or
scales, this instrument is begging for some customization from its
proprietor. The low blade angle (50°) permits the instrument to chop nicely
whereas the instrument is sort of parallel to the bench, although the
blade’s thickness limits the kind of dovetails you may mark
out. It and the Veritas had been the best to sharpen as a result of the
blades of each are thick and large with giant bevels. Not like the
different instruments on this check, each Hock knives required important
setup. All of the backs needed to be lapped flat and polished, and
the bevels needed to be floor and honed. Fortunately, this explicit
blade was warmth handled nicely so there was little warping.
■ Hock Instruments, small knife: Although this instrument was additionally offered
with no deal with, it suits simply within the hand as-is, like a
pencil. It’s a bit thinner and significantly narrower than
the bigger Hock knife. This makes it preferrred for sneaking into
tight locations, although not in addition to the thinnest instrument, the Blue
Spruce. Like its bigger cousin, this instrument wanted important
setup. Annoyingly, the tip of the instrument was a bit warped, which
resulted in numerous lapping. As soon as I obtained the instrument working,
nonetheless, it carried out nicely.
■ Knight Toolworks: The Knight marking knife has a chunky
deal with that isn’t notably comfy when held in a
pencil-like style. Particularly, I want the thick again finish of
the knife had been thinner, which might make it extra comfy
for marking dovetails. The middling blade angle allowed it to
minimize nicely in upright or down-low positions, and the thick blade
made it a simple instrument to sharpen (although it was unattainable to
navigate the knife into tight tail joints). If the deal with had been
thinner, this could be a very good knife for marking out joints.
■ Veritas: Whereas the massive bevels of this instrument make it straightforward to
hold sharp, I’ve some issues in regards to the deal with. General, the
form of the deal with is comfy and its flats hold it from
rolling off your bench. However the deal with’s manufacturing facility end was
tough. I sanded it off, took the wooden to #400 grit and utilized
a greater end. Additionally, the bead on the deal with was weak to
injury; ours turned chipped after two months of use. The blade
angle makes it nicely fitted to dovetailing, although its
thickness prevented it from sneaking into the narrowest
dovetails. Nonetheless, the instrument’s value makes it a very good worth. It
is the least costly knife and performs admirably.
General, my fingers concluded that the Blue Spruce knife was the
proper instrument for my type of labor. That shouldn’t be shocking.
I minimize numerous dovetails, do fairly a little bit of bench work and I’m
an skilled sharpener. When not slicing dovetails, I tended
to favor the Chester and the (modified) Veritas knife.