Marking Knife Swap

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Project by Quaternion posted 04-06-2013 08:55 AM 1453 views 1 time favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch

This is the scratch awl I made for the 2013 Marking Knife swap. (Well, actually a “marking tool swap” but I think people might search on marking knife.)

My original concept was based on an old Shopnotes article and my ideas were confirmed by seeing the neat stuff Dave was doing with twisted steel.

I don’t have a lathe, and I like tools that “feel nice” so, I decided to do everything I could with hand tools, and try to make an awl that felt nice in my hand.

Because I was twisting an old allen wrench and I liked the hexagonal feel, I went for that as an element of the design. I was extremely pleased that the recipient waho6o9 noticed and commented on both of the design elements I was going for without my prompting. I still don’t think my tool is nearly as nice as many of the others in the swap, but hey, if what I was going for got through, I did ok. I do think it feels really nice in the hand, and I did get it nice and sharp.

My basic procedure (and I’ll happily elaborate if anybody wants more detail):

Pointy bits: Start with an old allen wrench, heat it with a torch, twist it with vice grips. I had a hard time keeping the axis aligned, and ended up having to bend it a few times to get it straight. If this were a production procedure, I’d probably end up making a jig to keep it aligned while twisting. Once I had it reasonably straight, I chucked it into a hand drill and held it against an oscillating belt sander to form a point. I then sharpened the very tip by hand, and did my best to harden it, although I’m no metalworker.

Handle: Start with a scrap piece of birch firewood, and play with the drawknife. I managed to get an amazingly round result, without any turning tools. I did stop every few strokes to grab the handle and make sure it felt nice. Once it was round, I set the ferrule (some piece of brass plumbing I had around) on it and marked the hexagonal profile. I simple used the drawknife to these lines to make it match as well as I could. I am really pleased how this turned out, and was again gratified by the comments on the thread. When others notice the details I go for, it makes me feel good, even if the rest of my work isn’t up to the specifications I’d like. I also continued the hexagonal theme on the back of the handle, and carved a small six-petaled flower (colored with black marker) into the end of the handle.

Once I had a decent fit for the ferrule, I scribed a line and used chisel and dovetail saw to make a small tenon to fit the inside of the ferrule. I applied it with epoxy, and then filed and sanded to get an exact fit.

Finally, I finished the metal with gun blue (3 coats) and the handle with two coats of BLO.

When I finished this project, I was a bit disappointed – I saw so many things I could have done better, since I was learning with almost everything I did. But after I held it for a while, and showed it to my family and friends, I felt better – it is by no means perfect, but it’s a pleasant tool to use, and perfectly functional. And the comments from the recipient and others on the marking knife swap thread made my day – as I said above, when others see what you intended in a design, it must be at least somewhat a success.

I still wish I had been able to polish the ferrule a bit better, and I’m not sure why the joint between the ferrule and the handle looks so dirty, but all in all I’m pleased, and I’m repeating the process to make one for myself. Thanks for looking.


1 comment so far

View Mauricio's profile


7168 posts in 4442 days

#1 posted 04-07-2013 03:55 AM

Its a really beautiful and unique tool man and I like that you tried for something way outside the box.

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

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