I was thinking of using an old file to make a drawknife blade.
It’s pretty much the same size and shape.
And made of the right steel.
One would have to create a bevel and thus cutting edge. And flatten one face. Without overheating the steel. Like so:
But there’s a bit of a problem with a file – it doesn’t have handles or tangs to add handles to like a drawknife has.
Of course, it’s possible to dedicate part of the file to becoming tangs:
But files aren’t that long, and you’d have to end up with very little left for the blade. (though there’s a trick to use to maximize blade length. Ask if you’re planning to make one this way)
So I was contemplating ways to add handles to a file-derived blade.
I thought of doing this:
Which is merely a few inches (in this case about 18 cm) of mild steel flat bar (5 mm by 20 mm), welded or bolted onto the flat blade.
And I was planning dimensions and angles etc.. To know where and how to bend the steel strips, and come out with a functional knife.
For instance, a traditional drawknife has “broad shoulders” to make it possible to angle the blade to the wood and slice more than wedge it apart.
But I could achieve the same thing by adding handles at an angle instead of imitating the traditional shape.
Which would save me some effort making handles imitating the elbow shape of traditional drawknives to add to the simple file-derived blade. Doing it this way of angling strips outward, it’s basically just a matter of welding on strips of flat bar which has one bend in it to take care of the up-down orientation of the blade for comfortable use.
And i’m pretty sure that the way drawknives are shaped (broad shoulders) is a result of how blacksmiths would have forged the first drawknives. Taking a plate of steel, adding some cuts, then unfolding the shape, before refining things.
Cut; bend; then shape things like the bevel etc..
So copying the shape blindly wouldn’t have any purpose.
But contemplating adding flat-bar strips to a straight blade, I was pondering a few things.
Whether to add them to the top or bottom of the blade. Would the added strips for the handles get in the way more if placed on one side than the other?
Which direction should the handles be bent? Above or below the blade? One direction might be helpful for “bevel up” cutting, but a hinderance for “bevel down” work.
Pictures of each possible arrangement were all swirling around in my mind at once. Blades and strip handles at all angles, and all sorts of options for each way of using the knife. And i’d had a bit of coffee so I was hazy. And they sorta melded for a second. Superimposed.
And because I was also thinking of how I was going to add wood to the flat strip handles to make them comfortable to grip, there were wooden rods floating around the same picture space in my mind too, and those also got superimposed.
Which left me imagining two strips leading from each end of the file-derived blade to the ends of a wooden handle oriented not in-line with the blade as is common, but perpendicular to that.
This is how lots of handles for pulling upon look out in the world, right? Have you seen the handles on a TRX exercise contraption, or pull handles in the hardware store? So why not on a knife that you pull on?
,,, Of course my blackboard drawings above are of a side-on view. Which wrongly implies that the handles would somehow jutt out straight in front of the blade. But remember i’m also planning to have them splaying outward. Here’s how they might look in a plastic model of the idea:
And an idea of what the resulting drawknife might look like:
In making this model I experimented a bit with ways that the strips of steel bar would be attached to the flat blade. With the idea to weld the pieces together:
Welding high carbon steel is possible. And it will remove the hardening only very locally ot the weld, so that welding the strips on well away from the cutting edge won’t ruin the blade.
I also experimented with ways of bending the strips to create an angle of the handles or grips to suite, in this case, bevel-up cutting.
A handle ‘perpendicular’ to the pulling force won’t want to slip out of one’s hand when pulling on it. (The reason that drawknife handles are pear-shaped.)
If I put my hands out in front of me and grab at nothing (to simulate the most natural or comfortable position for them), they end up with an imaginary grip on handles that are more vertical anyway. So shouldn’t my more vertical drawknife handles be more comfortable to use?
And how about the control they’d offer? As much or more as handles jutting horizontally toward the user, surely? -Since they’d be equivalent levers rotating the direction of the blade, and thus direction and depth of cut.
These things are complimentary too. Not having to grip so hard upon a handle which wants to pull out of your grasp will allow muscles action to go toward fine control of the cut.
Since there would be two ‘tangs’ coming off of the blade rather than one, and the handle would be in the strong shape of a triangle, there should be less chance of flexing between the handles and blade for better control. Though I don’t honestly think that’s ever really a concern with traditional drawknives. Just showing what my brain was running through when analysing the new handle design that’s come about from fuzzy superimposition.
Depending on how the wooden ‘grip’ part of the triangular handles were affixed, they could probably be more easily replaced than those that are friction-fit upon a peened-over tang as is common.
There’s even the possibility of introducing variation in how the knife can be used. By swapping out or adjusting the angle of the grip in the triangular handle arrangement.
Perhaps most importantly for me though, is that the perpendicular handle design is achievable with my flat blade derived from a file. More than achievable, it’s probably easier to do considering the tools at my disposal (grinders, vise, and welder – rather than forge, chisels, and hammers). So without involving a blacksmith, and using standard materials easily available.
Not that one has to use an old file. I was contemplating whether a guillotine blade, or indeed a large planing (jointer or thicknesser) machine blade would make a good drawknife blade. And such things would also be flat and without tangs.
But why not such handles on a drawknife? – I did ask.
Well, every design has good consequences and bad consequences. A knife with a handle perpendicular to the blade will take up more space in storage / cartage. It also jutts out below the direction of the cut (depending on how exactly you shape the strips). So that the piece being worked on couldn’t be too much wider than the blade (couldn’t slip under the handle). But if we’re honest this would be an issue shared with most other handle designs, and very wide stock isn’t really the quarry of the drawknife.
I’d welcome any insights into major flaws with the handle design i’ve conceived. But for now I can’t see any big issues. And the extra comfort, control, possible variability, replacement of parts, and the ability to make it with common tools and materials, make me think that this might be a better handle for drawknives. There’s no reason for us to use modern tools and fabrication means to create a product that is exactly as it would be if made the old-school way.
Perhaps this is one you might try if you’re going to make your own drawknife like I am. I’ll let you know how it goes when i’ve made the first one.
-- Never is longer than forever.