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Forum topic by Kv0nT posted 10-20-2013 01:29 PM 2995 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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84 posts in 2665 days

10-20-2013 01:29 PM

Topic tags/keywords: drawknife greenwood spindle table butternut

I have seen numerous demonstrations from windsor chair makers on the glories of drawknives. However, they tend to exclusively work in green wood.

I want to shape a number of spindles and 4 table legs out of dried butternut. Is this stupid? Is there a trick to using a drawknife on dry wood? Is one drawknife better for dry wood and another more suited for green wood?

Any advice will be much appreciated.


PS am I up sh*t creek without a shavehorse either way?

9 replies so far

View jap's profile


1251 posts in 2591 days

#1 posted 10-20-2013 02:52 PM

I’m pretty sure drawknives work best with green wood. But there’s no harm in trying.

-- Joel

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5228 posts in 4498 days

#2 posted 10-20-2013 03:18 PM

Most of the time I use my knife with the bevel down and the blade skewed a bit to make slicing cuts. Sometimes the wood won’t cooperate, so it’s bevel up time. Ya just gotta feel your way thru the wood.
A SHARP blade is a must.
And be careful.

-- [email protected]

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 3025 days

#3 posted 10-20-2013 03:22 PM

Maybe a drawknife for rough work and a spoke shave for fine work?

No need for a shave horse, but it does make the work much easier.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 3489 days

#4 posted 10-20-2013 03:31 PM

Butternut is pretty soft wood. I made a cradle from butternut a while back. I was pretty surprised how soft it is, especially given it is in the walnut family. You should have no issues shaping it with a drawknife.

You can use pretty much use any vice and do your work with a drawknife. The down side is it will take much longer than having a shaving horse setup.

-- Mike

View Kv0nT's profile


84 posts in 2665 days

#5 posted 10-20-2013 03:40 PM

Thanks for the feedback. I just ordered an Auriou 9” curved drawknife. While I’m waiting for it to arrive I’m going to make a shave pony. It just looks like way too much work to shave out of a vice alone.

View xwingace's profile


229 posts in 3126 days

#6 posted 10-20-2013 03:46 PM

I’ve been working a dry hickory bowstave with the drawknife. It works, but you gotta keep it sharp! That and take small bites. The main thing is practice, you might want to play with some scrap first.

-- I'm not as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was.

View jdh122's profile


1102 posts in 3355 days

#7 posted 10-20-2013 03:53 PM

A drawknife definitely works best in green wood – but traditionally coopers did almost all of the shaping of staves with a drawknife, and they work in exceedingly dry wood. As Bill says you’ll get nicer cuts if you skew the blade a bit and slide it not only toward yourself (if on a shaving horse) but also from side to side.
I’ve found that bevel up/down mostly depends on how the handles are attached. Any knife can be used in either configuration, but if the handles are in line with the blade it will be very awkward and uncomfortable to use bevel-up for any length of time.
Go from square to octagon (I use Pythagoras to calculate the distance in from the edge and then use a marking gauge) and then round it.
You can definitely do it with a vice, but I think you’ve made the right decision to make a shaving horse. Plus you may get addicted to drawknifing…
You’ll need to clean up the pieces with a spokeshave, as Dallas mentioned. You could probably sand or scrape instead, but spokeshaves are much nicer to use. I thought I needed a concave shave and bought a nice one from Veritas, but have pretty much decided that it can all be done with a regular straight, flat-soled one and rarely use the concave one at all. Also, a drawknife can only be pulled toward you, and as you get closer to the final dimension there are places where you’ll have to push to avoid tearout (close to the ends where you can’t turn it around and still have purchase in the horse). Spokeshaves can be pushed.
Have fun…

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View Tim's profile


3859 posts in 2499 days

#8 posted 10-22-2013 01:37 AM

I read an opinion that the utility of shave horses has been blown way out of proportion and that all the turning and moving wastes time and thus it would have wasted money so a vice is better. I was surprised by the opinion but it was some fairly renowned woodworker, and now I can’t recall who it was or where I read it. To me the shave horse seems to be able to do anything the vice can, you don’t have to move the work often, but it is quicker when you want to.

View Kv0nT's profile


84 posts in 2665 days

#9 posted 10-26-2013 01:50 PM

Well the shave pony works great. Unfortunately I cut myself on my new draw knife about 2 minutes after I took it out of the box. That thing is piano wire sharp.

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