Questions for making a dovetail marking knife

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Forum topic by ColonelTravis posted 07-18-2014 08:58 PM 2717 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1756 posts in 1856 days

07-18-2014 08:58 PM

Topic tags/keywords: dovetail marking knife kerf

What’s an ideal thickness for the kerf of a dovetail marking knife?
Also, is this shape of blade for dovetail marking preferable?

I’m making two knives for the heck of it but one expressly for dovetails. The other knife will have this kind of blade, which I’m guessing isn’t preferable for dovetails, or if it’s thin enough, maybe so?

9 replies so far

View Hammerthumb's profile


2835 posts in 1937 days

#1 posted 07-18-2014 09:52 PM

I have made quite a few marking knives, but this is the last set I made for a friend.

I like right and left knives as they are easier to use accurately. I also like the lower angle to the point and also a shallow angle to the edge as they make a very nice scribe line in end grain. These were made with 01 steel and are a little harder to sharpen, but keep there edge a long time.

-- Paul, Las Vegas

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1756 posts in 1856 days

#2 posted 07-19-2014 02:17 AM

Very nice, Paul.

View Loren's profile


10241 posts in 3610 days

#3 posted 07-19-2014 03:52 AM

I use a short length of hacksaw blade ground into a
hook like a bear claw. I cut the tails first because it’s
easier to cut the pins dead vertical than control the
angle of a tail cut. I use a bow saw.

I use a chisel usually but if the pins are to be narrow
a chisel won’t fit but the hook blade will.

View Paul's profile


721 posts in 1527 days

#4 posted 07-19-2014 03:54 AM

What ever works and feels comfortable in your hand. There is no industry standard. My current marking knife is an old spade bit ground to a 45 and fit with an oak handle. I don’t like spending money on things I can make. They sure aren’t as nice as store bought but they leave a clean line when sharp and that’s all I care about.


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1756 posts in 1856 days

#5 posted 07-19-2014 06:35 AM

I’ve got the handle part fine but the blade thickness is what I’m wondering about. Since first posting this, I read about people using a HSS jigsaw blade for a dovetail knife. Whatever I go with, looks like thin is in!

Mr. Barron sure makes some nice ones.

View Loren's profile


10241 posts in 3610 days

#6 posted 07-19-2014 06:45 AM

I have Japan marking knife with a blade kind of profiled
like the ones in the top picture. It only marks one way,
with a hollow back like a Japan chisel, so to mark dovetails
one would nee a pair. Still I have tried similar marking
situations with it and don’t like it for that. One is either
holding it vertical and using it like the tip of an x-acto
knife or holding it so a lot of the edge is engaged in the
cut and I don’t like either for marking end grain.

Now consider the messy line a pin marking gauge leaves
at the shoulder, one might want to use a knife there. I
just use a Japan marking gauge which has a knife. Again,
a knife for a shop made marking gauge can be made
from a hacksaw blade.

If you don’t have skew chisels you might get a pair. They
are most useful and one can fool around with using
them as marking knives. I hold mine (Crown) by the
blades, choked up close to the edge, when I mark with them.

I often carry an Opinel no. 8 in my pocket and I
do mark with it. No good for dovetails though.

View Derek Cohen's profile

Derek Cohen

369 posts in 3930 days

#7 posted 07-19-2014 04:51 PM

I use HSS jigsaw blades.

Full tutorial here:

These are now made for sale by Chris Vesper.

Regards from Perth


-- Buildiing furniture, and reviewing and building tools at

View lew's profile


12015 posts in 3717 days

#8 posted 07-19-2014 06:26 PM

Made one using 1/4×1/4 machine tool bit stock

Then ground it thinner

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Paul's profile


721 posts in 1527 days

#9 posted 07-21-2014 05:11 AM

My personal opinion is use what is comfortable to you. I will never buy another marking knife. The grips I make conform to my hand and can’t be replicated. I don’t turn my tool handles I shape them with the drill press and sanding bit.

My last marking knife came from and old spade bit.


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