Friday 10 August 2012

Dovetail Marking Knives

I'm making another batch of dovetail marking knives. Snakewood is by far the best seller despite the higher cost, it is a rare wood and very expensive. I visited Bob at Timberline in Kent to get some more for stock but he said it was unavailable at the moment at any price.

I like to get the blanks turned and leave them to settle for a few months, if I used them straight away there's a risk of the wood shrinking and the ferrule coming loose. I like to keep 100 or so in a box settling down.

The slot for the blade is cut by hand and needs to be in the middle and dead straight, although I make good use of my magnetic dovetail guide I can still saw straight by hand when required!
The dovetail saw was made by 'Hill Late Howell' and the word 'late' was often used during a transition period of a business, from a maker stepping into another's shoes. This helps with dating antique tools and this   saw dates from about 1860. After sharpening the steel cuts very well, but more importantly it has a 0.6mm kerf which fits the blade exactly.
Note the position of the index finger on the handle, this prevents any bias being introduced to the cut by pointing the finger down the blade and was the purpose of this recess. It is interesting to see some modern makers copying the recess but making it too small to be used in this way.

Blades are glued in with epoxy resin and here you see another good used for my Moxon vice to allow the glue to dry. I apply the epoxy liberally so that all gaps are filled having first waxed the handle and the brass ferule to act as a resist. A larger overflow of epoxy is easier to remove than a little so I don't hold back!

Here are some of the finished Snakewood knives showing some great figuring. The recess adds quite a bit of time to the finishing process as the handles can't be finished on the lathe but I won't compromise as the recess is a very important part of using the knife keeping the blade at exactly 90 degrees.

Here it is in African Blackwood, my preferred timber as it has great density and a nice weighty feel in the hand.


  1. David,
    I have several other marking knives, but my David Barron special is my go-to marking knife. It's approach for sharpening and most importantly its thickness makes it indispensable. I even bought a couple for my buddies. Keep pumping them out!!


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