Observations Series Post I

I thought it might help if I posted some life-at-the-bench practicalities for you. Much of the information on hand tools is available in my book, Essential Woodworking Hand Tools, but I can expand on some things a littler more with my reasoning here too. Also, go to commonwoodworking.com if you are new to or relatively new to hand tool woodworking. There is tons of great information there that we have put together for those just starting out.

This is my favourite knifewall knife, the Stanley Folding Pocket Knife 0 10 598. Few knives give me what this knife will. Thin, strong blade, sharpenable and costs under £7.50. Pretty? Not really. Functional? Absolutely!

There are many tools that generally pass unnoticed along and around a woodworking workbench. Many get the merest nod, are seldom ever mentioned, and even though they may be picked up a dozen times in an hour or a day, somehow they seem less consequential than they actually are. I too gave many that passing interest even though I relied on them as much as the ‘doing‘ tools like planes and saws. I own many knives for my knifewall work to create cross-grain perfection in the squareness to my shoulder lines. Though I own them, I seldom use them at all these days. Even my many hand-made, homemade versions, lovely examples of workmanship as they are, deliver more an evolutionary process that has led me to where I am today in reaching for my favourite knife, rather than any of the above. Of course, they all work well, but the one knife that delivers every cross-grain cut line for me is my Stanley 10-598. I would never say that it is a pretty knife, but in terms of functionality, I have yet to find the knife that beats it.

In most lives good pocket knives have gradually been replaced by the ubiquitous utility knife – those ugly versions with razor-sharp throwaway replaceable blades sold in packs of 5, 10 of 50. Over half a century and a score more, such a tool replaced all need for a pocket knife and so too the sharpening of knives. In most cases, the modern-day users could no more sharpen a knife than cut a straight line with a handsaw. That’s why the blades are replaced constantly and rarely ever sharpened even though they can be. Knife sharpening skills have indeed been lost to most men for nigh on a century and yet at one time this skill was something all men knew intimately. As a skill lost, I doubt the future holds out much hope or that you’ll find anyone on any scale capable of sharpening a knife. In my world, it was a skill mastered in boyhood and kept for life. Not unlike the safety razor that replaced the cutthroat versions, you will find it hard to find any sharp knife in most households, let alone a man’s pocket. Below is my pocket knife. I carry it with me everywhere I go and each time a package arrives my granddaughter suggests we open it with the knife in my pocket. I sharpen it once a week, about as regularly as I wind up my 8-day wall clock that is as accurate as fifteen seconds a month and can be adjusted more tightly than that.

This knife is still made and costs around £11 from Amazon. Its the C.K Classic C9036 Lambfoot Knife used by electricians mostly. The blade is tapered from thick back to cutting edge and it takes a keen edge that lasts.

It was the spear-point knife that first drew my attention to knives in a different way. I know of many who swear by them and with good theory to back up their opinions. I admit here that I quite dislike their thickish blades and though the weight can be light in the hand, they are often too long and too thick for me. Long handles suggest or even necessitate holding them like a pen which is not the best ergonomic grip for most work.

A knife that slips neatly inside the palm seems most perfect to me. There is no posing or poising about it. My fingers fold around it, support it wholly and it’s this envelopment that I love the most because of both the comfort in use and the efficacy in creating my knifewall cuts which need more pressure. The supposed theories surrounding spear-points in most cases don’t at all pan out with the supposed benefits, but, I agree, you can get used to whatever tool you have.

My preferred overhand grip envelops the handle neatly in my palm.

The idea that spear-point knives create a perfect vertical wall when severing fibres is not automatic nor any more a reality than with a standard, bevel-both-sides knife. In my view, it is simply a matter of getting used to whatever you start using. Using a spear-point knife is most likely a personal preference or a point-of-introduction tool (influencing at genesis) rather than the better choice. That being so, it’s really of little consequence which knife you choose to get used to in your work. And I’m not looking for argument or trying to incite a riot with spear-point aficionados, just questioning the supposed logic and efficacy behind the theory that spear-points address the certain issues they’re professed to, that’s all.

Placing the flat face of such a knife against a straight edge is not of much benefit if any. Why? Well, when you use a knife alongside a straightedge or square, you generally need both hands in near proximity to one another. One hand holds the straightedge and sometimes the wood simultaneously, the other, the knife. The alignment of shoulder to hand functionality creates a triangle between three points of the body – the two wide shoulder-point extremes down to the side-by-side hands. Commensurate to this stance or positioning, the triangular reality the human body assumes when using any knife for a two-handed, two-tool necessity becomes self-evident. To clarify, moving the hands in to any point from two broad shoulder extremes to a pinpoint position to strike a line along a fence is quite less natural in the many applications of creating the knifewalls we need and use to create them. Experience tells me that, whereas verticality may be the intent, rarely do we actually achieve it.

The drawing shows the vertical hold of the knife and the double bevel that enables the knife to be flipped for both left- and right-handed use.

Supposedly too, this saves having to own two separate knives with two opposite bevels for left and right-handed use by the owner. Of course, as I pointed out, buy a knife with a bevel on both sides and you only need one knife. It’s no more easy to use a spear-pointed knife than to use two knives. Most people will find it awkward to use any knife in their non-dominant hand no matter what until they have trained themselves over a number of years. Only in the rarest of cases do you find either an ambidextrous user or a two-handed user. In my own life, after 55 years using the knife daily minute by minute, I still find less control with my left hand than my right. The reality is that the dominant hand will feel perfectly natural and the other utterly awkward. Also, the idea that flipping the knife for a left-sided presentation (as in the spearpoint versions), using the non-dominant hand as a matter of improved dexterity, is far from practical and achievability too. Frankly, well, it’s truly quite awkward. Of course, this is just my point of view and someone will no doubt offer another perspective from their preference. But we should realise that it is indeed a preference and not a better option for the vast majority. On the other hand (no pun intended), a bevel-both-sides knife compensates perfectly well for the triangular presentation of which I speak.

The knife, so held, presents the one side of the bevel with relative verticality against the straight edge of the square or straightedge perfectly well, if you think about it, and flipping from one hand to opposite hand means the same opposite bevel side is presented with the same verticality. Adopting either presentation in left or right hand, the shoulders being wider, will cause the hand and arm to adopt a perfectly natural angle that compensates for the actual bevel of the knife perfectly. I think adopting the double-sided bevel on a knife is quite apt to address the work of any woodworker. With the single-sided bevel knife, there will be a 15-degree difference pushing the limits on the human form further, one way or the other. The user must bring the hand in to a more central position, forcing the hand itself to verticality in the central position.

Of course, you can buy some quite fancy spearpoint knives for good money and if you like them then there is no reason not to buy them. My favourite knifewall knife now is the Stanley Folding Pocket Knife shown at the top of the page, but not because the blades are throwaway but because they are easily resharpened in seconds and then too, very important, they seem to keep their sharpness for as long as any other knife blade anyway. I wanted something that was readily available and relatively low cost for everyone. It’s a nice knife and I have had one of mine for about 17 years with no sign of wearing out or any malfunction. I have found that spearpoint knives are not so easy to sharpen as regular knives because of the awkward geometry and the points themselves don’t seem to retain the pristine edge I get with bevel-both-sides knives. If I were to sharpen my knife in front of you you would indeed see what I mean. It is literally a few strokes each side in under five seconds. Use any knife type you prefer. It makes no difference as you will usually adapt to the one you adopt to use anyway.

66 thoughts on “Observations Series Post I”

  1. Doug Irish, Arizona

    Thanks, Paul. A while back I took your advice & bought a 10-598, but because I wasn’t sure about the numbering, I also bought a 10-049. They seem to be essentially identical except for the spring-loaded release mechanism which slightly differ and the 10-049 has the Stanley logo stamped, along with its number, on the side of its casing along with some grip stippling.

    They both work exceedingly well, and have replaced my Japanese spear-point which has the shortcomings you mention. And you are right about folks not knowing how to sharpen a knife. Something I had to learn in the early 1950s in Boy Scouts in order to get my merit badge!

  2. My older style, but similar, stanley knife has suffered from lose blades for some time. It was 40 years old. You fitted the blade by splitting the handle. So i bought as per your recommendation. The new knife seems so much better in my hand during use. They both use the same blades. the old one is now relegated to rough use.
    I have also several other modified kitchen knives and a spearpoint made from a 6mm spade bit. But rarely use them.

  3. Lee Aufdemkampe

    I used the -049 for several years until it went dull. I’m a bit embarrassed to say it, but I’ve never been able to master the art of knife sharpening and so I put it away in favor of a common utility knife with a snap-off blade. Frankly, the convenience of a sharp blade instantly available outweighs hand sharpening. The blades are cheap, double-sided and available everywhere. I don’t see the need for special woodworking knives.

    1. I am disappointed that anyone would use a knife for years and not master the art of sharpening them because it is so fast and easy to do. I know that you will maybe think I want you to feel bad; not at all. It’s more that you may be much nearer than you think which is often the case with any challenge.

  4. I’m really surprised that other men don’t sharpen knives the way I do. I’ve been sharpening blades of all kinds sense I was 11. Lawn mower blades to kitchen knives to pocket and hunting knives. And I don’t know many men that don’t keep a knife on their person all the time. A sharp knife is a safer tool than a dull one.

    1. tayler whitehead

      i have seen so many lawn mower blades that are completely rounded that just bash the grass. like yourself i take my blade off every two hours for sharpening (two mows). a recent article said over 50% from memory but i think it was more like 75%. darn memory, couldn’t even change a wheel now. i may be old but at least i can look after myself far better than the kids of today.

  5. I get great pleasure from well made tools and and I have a couple of spear points and will admit they don’t look as pretty after I have sharpened them a few times. It’s much more time consuming to sharpen them for me. I really dislike the utility knives as they flex easily and can wander quite easily away from the knife wall line your trying to establish. I have come to appreciate the straight blades and rigidity of the thicker blades that I can sharpen easily and quickly. I also find they stay on track much better, I have never had issues with my knife-wall lines being inaccurate because of the bevel.

  6. Thanks Paul.

    Your Thor Hammer and the Stanley knife are without a doubt solid recommendations. I’ve tried others but agree with your conclusions. For my work it is either the Stanley or that red handled one you recommended 4 or 5 years ago.

    As for pocket knives. My dad gave me my first one (the traditional American Boy Scout style) when I was 7 years old. I was reminded frequently that I was expected to carry it daily. I still have it but have retired it given it’s sentimental value. In a pocket knife I like to have a screwdriver as well. I sharpen mine most Sundays (as well as wind my 8 day movement on a mantle clock; made me smile when you mentioned you did the same.

    Naturally, when my daughter turned 7, I got her a Boy Scout style pocket knife as well. And yes, I showed her how to sharpen it similar to how my dad showed me when I was her age. She’s not very good at carrying it (and she can’t at school as she found out when she one day did). However, she runs to get it when a package arrives and I ask her to open it.

    1. Hey Joe, There is a girl scout penknife too! I normally carry a simple, old, single blade, Sheffield made, Taylor/EyeWitness carbon steel penknife when I wear jeans, which have deep, secure pockets. It readily takes and holds a keen edge and must be kept oiled and dry. My #1.

      But other times I carry a similar looking, vintage, stainless steel, Girl Scouts of America penknife (I prefer it’s medium blade + small blade format, ok for UK everyday carry laws) and I prefer it to Swiss army knives of the same format. It has a substantial connection loop, so can be secured to my belt or belt-loop. I bought it, used, from a guy in Poland, it’s now in England. It may end up in Thailand.

      I’ve only regularly carried a penknife for the last 10 years or so but don’t feel properly dressed without one now. Stropped razor sharp.

  7. Malcolm Smith

    I use a spear point. I like my spear point. Any perceived difficulties with it are accommodated in the same way as those for double bevelled, craft, utility, veg (I used when starting out) or other knives. I’m comfortable with it and as you say it’s a personal preference so I don’t see any need for me to go through any pros and cons except for one. It’s much easier for me to think of it as my woodworking knife and therefore resist the temptation to reach for it for twine, packaging, tape or anything but wood.

  8. Paul I am with you on the little Stanley, easy to sharpen and very handy. I used to have a nice simple pocket knife (Taylors Witness, Sheffield) which I had since the age of about 10. I am about your age. Funnily enough it eventually migrated into my son’s pocket. Now I have inherited another ancient Sheffield made pocket knife from my late uncle and that is staying with me! Don’t tend to carry it with me much these days as one never knows how that might be interpreted in these ‘enlightened’ days.

    1. In the UK it is illegal to: sell a knife to anyone under 18, unless it has a folding blade 3 inches long (7.62 cm) or less. carry a knife in public without good reason, unless it has a folding blade with a cutting edge 3 inches long or less.
      I’ve carried a sharp knife since I was fifteen years old for practical reasons only. No plans to stop, but remember you can do a lot of serious damage with a utility knife with only a 1″ (2.5 cm long blade).

      1. I think it has to be a blade that can’t be locked open. I think a folding blade that can’t be locked is ok. That means I shouldn’t be carrying my trusty little Opinel around.

      2. You can indeed do a log of serious damage with a utility knife, it seems that that was the weapon of choice of the 911 hijackers and no one would argue the damage they inflicted!

      3. You can do a lot of damage with a pointy stick, a sharp pencil and much of the contents of your kitchen knife drawer or garden shed. Or a car.

    2. Allen, coincidentally my everyday carry knife is also an old Taylor EyeWitness penknife. To me, it looks and feels just right and the blade is perfectly legal for everyday carry in the UK. It is carbon steel so readily takes and keeps a keen edge but must be kept dry and oiled.

  9. My experience where tools are required to complete a task (surgery, model making, cooking, wood working…) just about any tool works. The really important bit is to listen to the tool work. Tool seems sluggish – sharpen, chiseled wood crunched – sharpen. Weird quirks learn to adapt to them.

    It all comes down to what Paul has taught me, things we use should last as long as the material its made from lasts. We don’t have the time or resources for a disposable tool culture. Tools need care, sharpen, oil…. Tools need practice use them over and over until you get it as good as you can.

  10. Looking at Paul’s drawings and explanation of the impact of posture while working was awesome.
    I may have suggested this before, but what about tracking Paul’s movements, via video tracking. I’m thinking some simple no fancy AI/ML, just a way to highlight best practice movement??

  11. I think you are correct that it sometimes depends on what you are used to using. 15 years ago, I started out using a chip carving knife like Roy Underhill uses and I have not been able to get comfortable with other knives. I tried several times to use the Stanley knife (the UK version like yours) but I always go back to the chip knife.

    It is more about me than the knife. I tend to have clumsy hands and the Stanley knife just does not settle into my grip. In fact, it gives me some anxiety when I use it because it feels small and delicate.

    But the Stanley knife is a good precise one and I would encourage using it if you are comfortable with it.

    1. I’m certain it is perception rather than any reality with regards to smallness and delicacy, precise work, etc. The blades are not fragile, in my now 15 years (at least) of use I have never broken a blade in use, the steel takes and holds a good edge and it will tackle heavy opposition too.

      1. The very tip of my Stanley always snaps off in short order. Do you ever encounter this and what do you do? Perhaps I am too heavy handed with it.

        1. I am afraid it must be you, Jon. I have advised people to snap off the first mm at the very tip if they experience regular snapping but mine really don’t snap.

          1. Richard Misdom

            Agree with PS. I treat my stanley to the grinder ocassionally to keep a fresh point at the tip with double bevel dressed on diamond plates, finished on strip. Also have many other knives that continue to wait for that stanley to retire.

  12. Hey Paul,
    I started off using the Stanley 10-049, because it was easily available in the stores here. A little while ago, I made a couple of spear point knives out of saw blades. They’re very pretty and I like using things I’ve made myself.

    Which is better? I cannot say. They all work and I adjust easily from one to the other. I like the nice wooden handles of the ones I’ve made and I will make one that fits in my hand like the Stanley.

    Regardless of which I use, my joinery has improved a lot since I started following your instructions on YouTube. Thanks for taking the time to spread the knowledge.

  13. Paul.
    I completely agree with you about the Stanley utility knife. I starting using one for marking wood after watching your example years ago. Now, I am hooked.

    I have a collection of these utility knives, mostly new and unused, with an equal collection of replacement blades — which I never use because I sharpen the original blade in my knife.

    One of these utility knives rests in my shop apron front pocket and another has its place on my work bench. They are always within reach in my workshop.

    This is just one of many things I picked up from watching your videos, for which I offer many thanks.

    jurgen01
    Wisconsin
    USA

  14. Hi Paul,

    I followed your lead some time ago and bought the several stanley knives
    and shared them with my sons. To my surprise my eldest son carries his stanley with him daily!
    I just used the Stanley for a walnut dovetail box that I made the other day. As always, it worked beautifully. Thanks Paul.

  15. John Morrison

    a couple fyis only

    Android phones seem to have a challenge picking up new postings on the blog, post your recent changes (tried this on an Android 9 & Android 10 phones – both have issue). They seem to get the new postings after a few days.

    Your Essential Woodworking Hand Tools got reviewed on the Hand Tool Book review podcast.

    1. I still get the update issue with firefox. I have to refresh every link to get it up to date. the website obviously isn’t coded for all platforms. this can be fixed by a good website designer / platform.

  16. William D. Elliott

    Paul,
    This story might humor you. I’ve followed you and subscribed to your teachings for years and have greatly benefited from your instructions. Every summer, I try to find and attend a woodworking workshop somewhere (though the pandemic interrupted). The workshops are usually taught by a nationally recognized expert that enjoys a prominence.
    At one of my last attended workshops, after an introduction, we started on our project. Marking was the task. I pulled out my Stanley Folding Pocket Knife 0 10 598, which of course I use because of your recommendation. The teacher was standing next to my bench and looked at the knife come out my pocket and asked, “You must follow Paul Sellers.” I replied, “Yes, I do.” Well, you could just feel his reaction. “You know, a spear point achieves a more precise line.” I replied, “I think this knife works just fine for me.” The teacher just turned and walked away. It could be my imagination, but I think I was placed into a certain category for the entire week. I was marked as a Paul Sellers guy.
    What was and is funny about this incident is all of the unspoken words.

    1. I trust your gut feeling on this one, William. Why would someone ask a leading question but to obviate disapproval and make a way to do so? No one knife is more accurate than any other. Accuracy is in the hand of the beholder. Thank you for not yielding to peer pressure.

      1. “Accuracy is in the hand of the beholder” – love it!… a ‘Sellers-esque’ take on an old saying which rings so true.

  17. I have the Stanley knife. It is as good as you say. The blade sharpens quickly. I’m 63, and have sharpened my knife(s) since I was eleven. To me, a knife should grab the moment it touches the work. If it doesn’t it needs to be Sharpened. I am contrary to the misleading adage “a sharp knife is a safe knife”. My most memorable knife mishaps have been with a freshly sharpened edge. The saying eludes to an assurance that you are safe.. The sharper the edge, the more care needed for safety. When I teach people to sharpen, I clear up that idea right away. The saying is probably taken from the dull ax version which I believe fits.
    Another comment
    When I was about twenty years old, I decided to learn to play pool. I went to rent the table and said I was brand new and starting Today. The kind man gave me advice I use to this day. If you are starting today become ambidextrous. You will never have to shoot behind your back. Whenever I introduce a new motor skill, I begin the same way. I was a machinist for a while and I was asked why I have a hammer on the right and left to me. I told him I never need to hammer backhand
    Thanks for your valuable mission to present woodworking to a throw away society.
    Roger

    1. Interesting! I’m a left hander that probably should have been right handed (copied my brother and dad who were left handed). I write with my left, but most other activities I do with both hands, apart from snooker/pool which I can only play left handed! Strangely, I play racket sports by switching hands so as to avoid using a back hand. I’m fairly terrible at them though, so it hasn’t been a distinct advantage! I do like the advice though, and whilst I’m better at sawing and marking with my left, I have no real difficulty with my right hand.
      As to your ” a sharp knife is a safe knife”, I would say that is definitely true when chopping veg. Things like tomatoes, peppers etc where the skin resists a semi-blunt knife can cause real damage when your knife deflects off them. I always keep mine razor sharp with some good water stones that I keep in the kitchen. It’s quite good fun sharpening.

    2. Roger Karrasch

      Roger Miller Esq.
      I have been advised that should I ever suffer from a stroke affecting my dominant side, being ambidextrous may be a blessing.
      Therefore during the period before stopping woodworking activities for a cuppa I use my left hand for a short time. Hammering, sharpening etc. sweeping and cleaning up etc. In fact at any time the matter comes to mind.
      Roger K.

  18. The statement “you will find it hard to find any sharp knife in most households,” seems a bit rash and maybe to some offensive. All my knives (plane blades, chisels, and saws) are sharp, don’t find myself using them a lot so don’t do a lot of sharpening. The statement even if true sounds a bit snobbish.

    I too learned to sharpen a knife freehand a long time ago but found to my chagrin that if you don’t use that skill on a regular basis it expires! so i’m often reduced to using guides to get a good edge.

    You are right on with the Stanley knife – a great tool, even better is your technique to sharpen it with the small diamond stones.

    1. How on earth can reality be snobbish? And there is nothing at all rash about what I said either. The vast majority of people, 95% at least, have no clue how to sharpen any kind of knife. If you can sharpen your knives, all well and good for you, but that is not helpful to others in any way unless you loan them your knives or teach them to do what you can do. It does not in any way mean the majority can sharpen knives and `I know of no one who sends their knives anywhere to be sharpened. I suppose my truthful statement offended your sensibilities. Most households do support dull knives. I have yet to find a sharp knife in someone’s kitchen drawer.

      1. I have learned that teaching your brain a new motor skill is much easier than revising an established one.
        “Unlearning” is much more difficult than learning.
        Woodworkers are a small part of the population. Most people don’t know they have dull knives.
        I tell people that bring their knives to me that I am the best knife sharpener I know.
        (I’m also the only one I know).
        Paul, you are teaching me so much on aspects that I thought I had down. You really know how to shed unnecessary components of a task. It makes projects much more streamlined.

    2. Jerry – check the kitchen drawers of your friends, when we can start mingling again … I have many friends who ONLY have sharp knives because they ask me to sharpen them when I visit. I’ve tried teaching some but … you can’t always make that horse drink ;). Paul’s comment is spot on – many many households are working with knives that lost any semblance of an edge years ago.

    3. Clarence Perry

      Jerry, you are right about losing skills if you don’t keep them up. In my younger days, my pocket knife would usually shave my arm. That is how I checked if it were sharp.
      After working a few decades in locations where I didn’t carry a pocket knife, I find I can no longer sharpen my knife to shave. My chisels probably would if I had the nerve to try it.

  19. A Japanese tool seller in Seattle taught me to check my edges with a jeweler’s loupe. You can get one for $3-4, and it will improve sharpening results faster than anything. Nothing like seeing what you are doing.
    Also, for me sharpening knives (as opposed to plane irons and chisels) is easier with handled, file -like diamond hones. I more easily get a nice consistent angle on my edges using these, and they come in various grits.

    1. Greg,
      I’ve used the jeweller’s loupe and that works great as you say. I also tried a cheap plastic micro-microscope with a built in light. Boy that was awesome. I could see the lint from paper on the curling steel burr. So much fun for such a small thing!

  20. Jeremy Ruppert

    All well made points, but I have to point out one discrepancy.
    You say that the utility knife blades can be sharpened, and you’re technically not wrong. But, the problem with those blades isn’t them going dull, it’s that they chip, making the sharpening process more wasteful of time than simply replacing it. It’s a byproduct of companies yet again trying to “improve” products to the point of them forgetting what the product is intended to do. Just like the 9 bladed safety razors that cut hair down to the micron level (until the first blade in the series go dull, and then it doesn’t matter how sharp the other ones are), they think that if they make the blades harder that they won’t go dull, but now they chip as soon as you slightly twist it in the cut.
    I use a utility knife, but I’m also a maintenance technician for a metal shop. Those blades get abused so much that I’d never use my actual marking knife at work. Completely different tool for a different job as far as I’m concerned..

    1. I never really know how to respond to some of these comments. I have never had a utility knife with a Stanley blade chip on me from sharpening. I have sharpened them the same way I sharpen many of that type of knife in about five seconds to each bevel for the last fifty years now.

      1. David Hutchins

        I don’t think he was talking about chipping while sharpening. I think he was saying that the blades chip during use making sharpening them a much longer task. Im in construction and utility knife blades, whether Stanley or Lennox, chip constantly, which I think is what he was referring to

      2. Jeremy Ruppert

        Sorry, I must have not been clear enough. I meant those disposable trapezoidal blades, regardless of brand, and how they chip from normal use, not from sharpening. I’ve honestly never had one go dull before it chips and becomes useless. Hence why I say that the time it’d take to sharpen the chips out, which would be nearly impossible in 5 seconds let alone 5 minutes, wouldn’t be worth the 5 cents that the blade costs. If a blade is chipping due to sharpening, I’d blame myself before blaming the steel.
        As for the 10-598, I agree that it sharpens up very nicely, and I’m yet to chip the one I’ve been using for about 3 years now. Kind of makes me a fool for ordering replacement blades that I’ll probably never need to use. That said, I also only use it for making knife walls and sharpening pencils and wouldn’t dare use it like my utility knife

  21. Maybe marking gauges with circular blades hint that layout is best done smoothly with a circular blade. Why? Because as you pointed out, the points of the traditional, awkward layout knife wear to dull ovals anyway. Cite the Veritas mortise layout gauge. It has time circular cutters. They roll like silk over the wood when crossing grain. Kind of hard to avoid skewing offline into long grains of red oak, but still doable. When you use a circular blade the wear will dish it into a less than perfect circle over time into a flat oval…still circular! I think the reason beginners like the Veritas gauge is the feel of them gliding over the wood.

    1. Those circular cutters don’t roll, though (unless they’re loose, but this is not how they’re intended to work). They slice using only the part of the edge that makes contact with the wood. The cutter remains still/fixed.

    2. Vidar Fagerjord Harboe

      I own two Veritas gauges. The eccentric model is the better model in my opinion, as it is easier to hold.
      However: the line is pretty hard to see (I wear glasses that magnify on the lower part, still hard to see even in sunlight). They do follow the grain sometimes, and they are prone to binding up if the grain moves away from the edge. Great tools, but a bit hyped up. My Silver Line classic combination gauge with pins and brass inlays works better in general, although it is not as easy to really fine-tune to the same degree the micro adjustment on the Veritas gauges offer.
      And neither of them creates the knife wall like a sharp knife does (spear point for me, as I fell for the guru talk back in the days. I’m used to it and it works. Let’s move on). The Veritas only goes so deep where the knife goes much deeper if you want it to.

      What ever floats your boat is fine. My spear-pointed Pfeil marking knife, a Bacho comination square and a cheap steel ruler was all I used to square off a small side table I made recently. The diagonals, after planing to the lines, were within .3mm of eachother. My guess that they were a lot less than that, but it is not possible to know given the uncertainty of measurement.
      I am not going to buy the Stanley knife since my Pfeil works so well for me – I do not spend money to fix a problem I do not have. But I’d recommend following Pauls’ advice if one has not chosen a marking knife yet. Even though my Pfeil looks a million times better (in my opinion). 🙂

  22. Hi Paul,
    Thank you, thank you, thank you for raising this.
    So it’s not just me who has noticed the inconsistency between the theory and the practicality of spear point knives.
    Whilst the theory appears sound, the reality, on YouTube at least, appears opposite.

    As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, I did my Cabinet Making trade 40 years ago but life dictated a different path; I’m now returning to it in preparation for enjoyment in retirement.
    We were always taught to use a sharp pencil (not a carpenters pencil) for long grain and a marking knife for cross grain when marking out.
    The first tool we made was our own marking knife out of an old kitchen knife (the same type you used in your repurposed knife video years ago).
    None of my old tradesmen used these highly decorated spear pointed marking knives either; they all just used repurposed kitchen knives.
    I needed a new marking knife so I bought one because that’s what many were using on YouTube and thought I’ll give it a go. I found trying to keep the blade perpendicular to the surface against my straight edge was neither practical nor natural; I felt cramped, so it doesn’t get used.
    I also bought the Stanley to give it a go, that’s now what I use because I found the angle more natural.

    I then looked closer at many YouTubers using them and everyone of them who are advocates for the spear point don’t actually hold it perpendicular to the surface; because it’s not natural; they hold it at an angle as you have just described; therefore the flat side is actually superfluous.
    They hold it at the same angle as you would with the Stanley or an repurposed kitchen knife.
    I encourage everyone to start looking at the angle these spear point knives are being held.
    I say this because human nature dictates we will hold our marking knife at an angle that is natural; and that is not perpendicular to the surface when holding and striking against a square or straight edge.
    You almost have to have your wrists touching.
    If the knife is not natural in the hand, our accurate lines may not always be so accurate; defeating the purpose of what we are trying to achieve.
    End of the day, I reckon use what is naturally comfortable in the hand, this makes the job enjoyable (and accurate).

    1. If you have a knife that is 0.050 inch and bevel both sides, the cutting edge is centered at 0.025. That means as you put the bevel edge on the mark you should put the flat part of the knife against the rule not the bevel, otherwise your knife will want to cut a circle.

  23. Donald Lawrence

    I cannot locate a Stanley 10-598 at my local store that carries Stanley tools

    1. That’s the downside of local stores as the internet becomes the new so-called “buying experience” for everything I suppose: the people selling usually don’t know much if anything about tools and what works. They simply buy and sell and copy and paste the information gleaned from what speaks good profit with the least hassle and face-to-face contact to them – online or not, this is what happens. Amazon sells it for around £7 as I said in the article.

  24. Is there a “Paul Sellers knife sharpening tutorial / video”?
    I have a “Tormek” (actually it is a Jet) slow-speed wet grinder that I use to sharpen our kitchen knives. I get them so they easily “slice” through a piece of paper – (holding the paper in my left hand and then making a lightly “slicing” cut form the edge of the paper to the other side… but my wife complains they are not sharp since they don’t easily cut an onion… Do I need to leave them more “rough sharpened” so they almost “act serrated” or do I need to spend more time trying to get them sharp like a Japanese knife?

    1. It sounds like that’s become overcomplicated really. I use an oversized nail file that is a diamond hone with coarse one side and finer the other. Once a week I sharpen it and it will slice over-ripe tomatoes 1 mm thick.

      1. Agreed, and thank you for your quick response!
        It is EVERY bit of that. But I know that I could carve wood with the sharpness that I get on the “good” knives (not those stupid Inox / Stainless steel ones that were purchased at the grocery store) but trying to figure out a solution for LOML (Love of my Life!) and her “onion slicing struggle” ha ha

        1. Vidar Fagerjord Harboe

          Remeber those «laser cut» serrated knifes? They are GREAT for onions and tomatoes as they «saw» in stead of slice. They won’t slide on the tomato skin. A sharp, but somewhat coarse edge works best in my experience. You can obtain a decent edge using the un-glazed bottom edge of your favourite tea/coffee mug.👌
          No need to be too nit-picking over it. You are slicing tomatoes to eat them, not to perform surgery.

  25. Christopher Bruce

    Thank you Paul. The explanation about the shoulder width in relation to the work piece was a great insight. I have owned a Stanley since I first subscribed to your Chanel and was thinking whether a single sided blade would be better, but I see the logic behind your choice now.
    However I think I would be using that beautiful ebony handled one you made if it were me.
    Very nice, thanks again
    ChrisB

  26. I love this knife but always have a problem finding replacement blades.
    Any help anyone?
    Thanks

    1. Swann Morton SM 01 are identical and will fit exactly as the standard Stanley replacements. I use these as I can buy 50 blades for around £9 on eBay (probably a lifetime supply for me). I wouldn’t be surprised if this surgical knife supplier made them for Stanley. I try to keep my blog clean and free from adverts and promotions so try not to give links on here but all you need is the name as above.

  27. Rodney Wellman

    Thanks Paul. After I first saw video of you making a knife wall, I said to myself, hey I have a knife like that. I found it, sharpen it and use all the time. I am one of those fortunate people that is naturally left handed living in a right handed world. So as I say, I am equally clumsy with both hands.

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