Upcycle For a Good Layout Knife

For more information on the woodworker’s knife, see our beginner site Common Woodworking.

I am not the first to do this and I will not be the last

DSC_0021 - Version 2

Perhaps it is to our shame, but consumerism has rendered good knives like this to become obsolete by fashion on the one hand and an inability for most men and women to sharpen their own knives on the other. t’s not too far fetched to say people have an attitude of throw-it-away too, and that means we can’t be bothered to sharpen something that is good and well made because it seems, well, easier to simply throw it away and buy another. Perhaps also it is the fact that knives with throwaway blades cost so little. 

I sometimes lose sight of the fact that in Western Europe and the USA, perhaps other countries too, we have a rich and diverse range of different tools available for almost any purpose and almost no money at all. New and secondhand markets, internet sites like eBay and many more give most of us an unlimited variety of options to go to.

John reminded me today that this abundance of tools we take so much for granted would not be available in many countries around the world and whereas I can buy my favourite knife from two dozen internet suppliers for a few pounds or even fewer dollars, it is the simplest thing to adapt an existing one in under a few minutes. ready made kitchen knives are more widely available than the type of knife I like so well so this blog is for those who have no spare, the poor and the thrifty. This knife will work as well as any other. Secondhand knifes will of course be cheaper than almost any other. The above knife cost 50 pence.

Most kitchen knives are made from thinner stainless steel or a similar looking steel alloy. Generally these steels are developed to take a keen edge, keep a keen edge and to be resharpened readily. This will not be an inferior knife in any way even though it is said that stainless will not take a good edge. I sued this one today and the edge was definitely as keen as a surgeons knife or even better. If you need a good knife, progress with impunity.

Knives like this will make a good woodworking knife and will likely be comparable to any you can buy for joint making and creating my knifewall. 


I put my knife in the vise and snapped off the bulk of the excess leaving about 2” of steel to shape into the new blade. Snapping is quicker than sawing or grinding. 


I like the shape to be rounded on the back as shown in the finished knife above and so I used a grinding wheel to reshape and define the knife blade. You could snap further and then use a file to form it too.


Right on the very tip I ground the tip to a steeper point for resistance and strength.


DSC_0021 The very thin and fine point is the most vulnerable to burning but frequent quenching will keep the steel cool.


Of course the cutting-edge bevels are already formed with a shallow, hollow-ground bevelled edge to both sides to form the cutting edge. The hollow grind is of no real consequence but the two-sided bevel is and I generally find this more useful and versatile than a single-sided bevel and definitely better than diamond or spearpoint knives too. 


  1. Very nice. I made my own first marking knife from a hacksaw blade epoxied between a couple of thin pieces of wood. Ground it and sharpened it and it served me well.

  2. I always thought the spearhead knives would be awkward but the single bevel seemed to make sense until I bought one for $70 from a maker here in Australia at the wood show. Wasted my money. Have since bought two stanley folding knives and they feel much better to use. Yet another purchase that went against my gut feeling but thought I was getting advice from the experts. I hadn’t discovered Paul back then. Now I never buy a tool without reading what Paul has to say first. My pretty spearhead knife with round sheoak handle sits in a drawer unused. Anyone want it for $50?

  3. Nice one. Quenching the blade and keeping your tea warm at the same time! 🙂

  4. I may give this a try one day, but since you introduced the Stanley 10 – 049 here in the States nothing beats it. I do have a couple nice marking knives but I prefer the Stanley the most.


  5. I find that Mums bone handled Sheffield steel butter knife perfect. It’s thin sharpens to a razor and long enough to get close to work without handle fouling on workpiece

  6. That’s a great idea! I’ve been using chip carving knives with this shape for marking, but you can find knives like this by the dozens for the dollar at flea markets. Nice steel, nice handle.

  7. Soe tie ago I aquired a free 6mm spade bit free with a magazine, i can’t recall ever using it. No spurs means it will not cut cleanly. Have converted it into a marking knife. Reversed the angle of one ctting bevel. Polished the back and sharpened the 2 bevels. Fitted a wooden handle. Only did it recently, but really like it so far. May now use it in preferenance to my 40 year old white handled stanley. Handle is mostly silver as time has resulted in most of the white being warn away.

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