For more information on the woodworker’s knife, see our beginner site Common Woodworking.
I like to adapt existing tools for my work, make them, adapt them or whatever to suit my task. I found the different curved hook knives less effective for carving more dense grained hardwoods and much less effective when the wood, hard or softwood, is dried and seasoned. With tons of both a ready and steady resource of dry hardwoods through offcuts in the shop I can make a spoon or spatula much more effectively using a gouge and spokes shave followed by a scraper. There is of course something special about carving spoons from riven stock using limbs and stems and letting the chips fall right there on the woodland floor and that’s what we enjoyed about being a cub and scout when I was young. Over recent decades a woodland craft revival has established a place here in the UK and other parts of the world called green woodworking or bushcraft. I think it’s answering one of the basic needs we humans have to work with our hands in a diversely different culture of its own and eschewing the otherwise excesses where we live without making much of anything at all beyond a two-dimensional screen and a keyboard. I think that it’s much more than just green woodworking really. For some it ties in with a way of living they find truly valid as an alternative reality. It’s far from mainstream but they want to and indeed develop lifestyle with woodland crafts and management, woodland living and woodland dependency with some committed to living as small and unobtrusive a low-carbon footprint as possible. Carving every stick and stem into something useful from any split limbs provides raw materials in the rawest state of all. There is a sort of primitiveness about the work that places it in a realm all of its own and by that I don’t at all mean it’s a lesser work but perhaps a greater work or perhaps merely a different work. Yes, I think different. Woodland craftwork like spoon and bowl making and much more beyond that means adapting a mindset and especially so if you are say a bench woodworker like myself. The benchtop and vise adds a convenience in any work and brings work to a comfort level that’s practical and perhaps less stressful longterm to the body. Whittling out a spoon in the woods means working on a portable shaving horse or simply holding the spoon with the less dominant hand and carving it with the other. Two distinctly different ways to make two distinct products.
I bought a couple of knives that I thought were useful even though made for working the feet and hooves of animals. The wooden handled hook knife is a knife that might make greenwood spoon carving doable on a slightly less expensive budget in that it costs around £6. It means doing a little fettling yourself, sharpening and honing, but usually that’s necessary anyway and ongoing throughout the life of the knife on an hour by hour basis. I sharpened this one first and then reshaped the curve with a couple of hammers and a dished wooden block. I doubt that the steel would bend too much without reheating and hardening again, but for the shape I wanted it came just right with half a dozen nylon hammer blows that could have well been steel hammer blows just fine.
The other knife is hooked to a curve keeping the long the flat face flat in like style to a fruit-carving knife. It’s all stainless and folds neatly into the handle and is very nicely made. I like this knife shape for some of my work and especially reaching into internal tight corners like dovetails and such. Joseph uses a hooked paring knife made by Victornox for violin work and also all his knifewall work and John winter went down that path too. The Victornox knife is inexpensive and takes and keeps a good edge too.
You will hear people say that stainless steel doesn’t take and keep a good edge. I have not found that to be the case at all, though I do trust what people say. I have different tools made from stainless including gouges that are flawless when it comes to edge retention and sharpness. These knives will get you going if budget is important. Both seem to me to be lifetime tools.
More on shaping and sharpening tomorrow or sometime soon.