Glossary Drawknife

Drawknifeor Drawknife: also Drawing Knife, Draw Shave; Draft Shave; Shaving Knife.

According to R. A. Salaman's Dictionary of Woodworking Tools Rev Ed. Newtown, Ct: Taunton, 1989, pages 175-183: Etymologically, "The modern form [of Draw Knife] is depicted by [Joseph] Moxon ... [Mechanick Exercises on the Whole Art of Printing (1683-4). 1703. Reprint. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1970] -- among carpenter's tools, and by [Denis] Diderot and J. D'AlembertEncyclopedie, Chez Briasson, Paris, 1751, among cooper's tools. (A translated version of Diderot's Encyclopedie is searchable on the ARTFL Project, but subscription needed.) Draw Knife is in neither Webster's Dictionary (1st ed.) 1828 nor Webster's Unabridged Dictionary 1913 -- both searchable on ARTFL Project-- but Draw Knife is in Webster's New Dictionary 2d ed 1952.

The common form consists of a flat or curved blade made in sizes from 8 to 18 in long and up to about 21 in wide. The blade is normally chisel-shaped in section and bevel-ground on its front edge. Tapering tangs at both ends of the blade are bent at right angles to the cutting edge and are fitted with wooden handles, usually turned, with the end of the tang clenched or riveted over.

These tools are used in many different trades for the removal of surplus wood and for rounding and chamfering. In operation the work may be held between the bench and the user's chest, but more often in a Shaving Horse, Brake, or Vice, and the tool drawn towards the user.  Drawing Knife is included in a group of Viking Shipwright's Tools c. A.D. 100 in the State Historical Museum in Stockholm. Tools of this type were widely used in medieval Russia for smoothing a surface after using the Axe or Adze, but no examples have been noted in medieval illustrations in the West.

Source: R. A. Salaman. Dictionary of Woodworking Tools. Newtown, Ct: Taunton, 1989, page 175.

First called the "drawing knife" because you drew it toward you, the drawknife (or snitzel-knife, as some Pennsylvanians called it) came to America before the Pilgrims. But only with the emergence of the snitzelbank, or Shaving Horse, which made it simpler to hold the article being shaved, did the drawknife become a most favored tool. There are probably more ancient drawknives extant than any other antique tool.

The drawknife was used to taper the sides of shingles, to rough-size the edges of floor boards and rough-trim paneling before planing them, to fashion axe, rake, and other tool handles, and to make stool legs, ox yokes, pump handles, and wheel spokes. It is easy to see why the draw-knife was so popular! The final finishing on much drawknife work was done by our next tool, the spokeshave and scraper.

Source: Eric Sloane, A Museum of Tools. New York: Ballantine, 1964, page 38.

... For over twenty years, I've built in dimensional lumber, as it's called — four sides and two ends — or used peeled factory logs of roughly uniform thickness to build log houses. I like the precision and angular lines of a square, plumb, straight structure; when the last nail is set, something in my left brain smiles a square, straight smile, exactly plumb with the end of my nose.


But now my right brain is asking for a little creativity in the matter. That's reason-able. The pony won't mind a bit if his house lacks miter cuts and perfectly square in-side corners. He won't care if it's a little rustic. And it's been too long since I worked with my drawknife, bitbrace, and chisels.



Jeff Taylor. Tools of the Trade: The Art and Craft of Carpentry. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1996, page 128 (Taylor's entire discussion of the Drawknife is occupies pages 125-130.)

A Scorp is a curved Draw knife, or, alternatively, according to Salaman,Dictionary of WoodworkingTools, 1989, page 176, Cooper's Round Shave. (Scorp, not Scorper, is the term used by the Canadian-based Lee Valley Woodworking in their mail-order catalog for these tools. In my local community, this curved draw knife is called "Scorp".

Sources: "Draw Knife, Scorp", Home Craftsman 4 March-april 1935, page 172; Jeff Taylor. Tools of the Trade: The Art and Craft of Carpentry. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1996, page 128 (Taylor's entire discussion of the Drawknife is occupies pages 125-130.)