What is a Drawknife? Three Examples

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Whether for bushcraft, carving, or just straight woodworking, drawknives are handy tools that range quite a bit in size, function, and style. There are large drawknives to peel bark or hew small logs, as well as models for specialty purposes such as coopering or making chair seats. There even used to be specialty drawknives for shaping round handles small in diameter for brooms, rakes, and other implements.

Three small drawknives for carving and crafting are the focus this time: the MoraKniv Classic wood splitting knife, Flexcut Drawknife, and Veritas Drawknife. They are great because they are relatively compact and portable, and help comprise part of what you could call a portable rustic tool kit.

DUAL BEVEL

I know, right off the bat the MoraKniv Classic is called a wood splitting knife and not a drawknife. I thought this model would be interesting to test because it departs from the regular one-bevel blade geometry. The handle positioning is straight, giving the tool a compact configuration for transporting. It also comes with a sheath.

The author uses the MoraKniv Classic wood splitting knife in a push-cut motion to perform a stop cut while contouring the grip on a paddle.

Over the years, I’ve seen many a bushcrafter try and find a way for a standard knife to act as a drawknife. You can do many bushcraft chores with the MoraKniv Classic, from spoon work to shaping a tenon on a stool leg. You can do some of the same things with a regular knife, but with a drawknife it can be easier.

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The 4.5-inch carbon steel blade has a dual bevel. An advantage of such a bevel is it makes the knife more versatile. A disadvantage is you don’t have depth control on a cut like you do with a single bevel. Single-bevel blades provide control similar to using a woodworking plane or a chisel. You shear through the levels you need to and, once you establish your depth of cut, you can remove material without bogging down by using a bit of depth control. Given that the dual bevel is a Scandi grind, it makes control easier than, say, a grind with a micro and major bevels on both sides. Control is most certainly easier than, for instance, with a convex grind. In the end, it is no big deal. Having to control a blade only becomes a problem when its design is not conducive to the job at hand.

Having in-line handles and a dual bevel, the Mora allows use like a sheath knife. It adds to the tool’s versatility and saves time, as you don’t have to put one knife down and pick up the other.

For the most part, control affects how much energy you put into making the blade do exactly what you want. In the case of a convex-ground blade, if you want to make a long, straight cut at the same depth, you will expend more energy than you should trying to keep the blade from “porpoising” (that is, front to rear bouncing of the blade). The alternative is simply getting used to making shorter controlled cuts more frequently.

The Classic cuts extremely well. Due to the straight handles and dual-bevel blade, you can switch and use it like a sheath knife in a split second.

 

WESTERN TRADITIONAL

Flexcut has a variety of tools covering chip, relief, and decoy carving, just to name three. The company also has a couple of drawknife styles. The Flexcut Drawknife is more of a traditional Western version. The 5-inch blade is 1095 carbon steel with the bevel brought to a mirror shine.


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The Flexcut comes with a well-made sheath. It is always nice to have something protecting the edge—if not for safety’s sake, for that of preserving the edge from accidental harm.

Right out of the box, this thing is wicked sharp. It comes in a leather case with a peg-hole loop. It has a curved blade, which gives it a natural tendency to skew in a leading edge cut. If you haul the spine up a bit on your cuts, it will make more of a scraping action for a hollowing effect. It is a thin blade and not suited for hogging off large amounts of wood at one time. It is great for detailed jobs like the subtle contours you might find in a canoe yoke.

Using the Flexcut Drawknife, the author shapes the handle for a flat-board atlatl. The efficiency you gain using a drawknife is hard to beat for control and energy.

Such a small drawknife is a good tool not only to create art but to make utilitarian items. Given its Western-style handles, it doesn’t make a streamlined package for carrying in a pack like the Mora does, but it still has very little bulk and weight. The arched blade can be sharpened with a flat stone, though I find sharpening it with a small handheld stone and using a dynamic sharpening method easier. The Flexcut Drawknife is the kind of tool that suits the creative mind.

HOB-KNOBBER

The Veritas tool company manufactures the last of the test drawknives in Ottawa, Canada. Sporting a 4-inch blade, it is a small carving-style model. Steel is PMV-11, a stainless with a Rockwell hardness of 61-63 HRC. Veritas made the switch from traditional tool steels like O1 and A2 to up cutting performance and edge retention. A case for the knife sells separately.

The Veritas Drawknife’s 20-degree angle cuts aggressively and you have complete control with the well-shaped handles. Here the knife is skewed compared to its cutting path. Skewing the knife provides a leading edge to the cut, reducing resistance

The company’s technical information says the bevel is ground at 20 degrees. To sharpen the Veritas, be sure the sharpener is of a flat design. Given the knife’s size, you can sharpen it in either a dynamic or a static style*. To cover/sharpen the entire bevel, you will need a flat surface. There is no micro bevel on the Veritas, though that’s not to say you can’t apply one. However, if you want to keep it original, you will need to cover the bevel.

The angling of the handles is a traditional Western style, though they have more of an elongated knob shape to them. The shape helps reduce fatigue. Because of the handle angling the Veritas does not offer as compact of a carry as the Mora, but the .125-inch-thick blade makes it a bit sturdier user than the
Flexcut. Handle material is torrefied maple. Due to the kilning process, the material has a greater stability to it without the use of chemicals. At the top of each handle is a brass ferrule.

The author stated he has been known to push a drawknife to make a quick cut. The Veritas Drawknife clearly warns not to do that. At a 20-degree bevel, you take a chance of damaging the edge if you were to catch and roll it.

It is a good-looking product and out of the box is ready to work. It is the most expensive of the review knives, yet is not so much more that you wind up scratching your head. A drawknife like this can be put to work doing a number of things limited only by your imagination. Veritas promotes it more as a carving tool and actually shows it making a decoy in the company’s marketing media.

Staying within the bounds of this tool, I can’t think why you couldn’t get chores done or entertain yourself by making pieces of art with it. Keeping you busy in the woods and not necessarily only during a survival situation promotes better mental health. It is a great little package and a good tool—I just think the company could include the sheath. When you hold the knife you see where the extra cost is as the precision work shows in the fit and finish.

EXPLORING OPTIONS

Once you leave the big city behind, in order to thrive you must know how to make what you need. Many of the tools you carry will depend on what you plan on doing. If you’re building up a getaway spot, you might need to build items for the camp. When planning to build a more substantial base, you will need more tools. Again, it all depends on what you plan on doing. A good drawknife can greatly increase your cutting and carving options—not to mention that being able to use two hands greatly reduces fatigue. If you haven’t tried a drawknife yet, I highly recommend doing so.

*Static sharpening is when the stone is stationary, and dynamic is when the stone is moving.

A trick to sharpening drawknives both in the shop and field is to brace one handle against your armpit or chest. After bracing the knife, simply use a dynamic sharpening method with a small stone running parallel to the edge.

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