Woodworking in the great white north.

Marking tools from kits

Czeck Edge tools (see the link to the right) has a number of kits for making some basic essential marking tools.  I picked up kits for the scratch awl, large marking knife and medium marking knife.  A while ago I posted about the design that I would use for the handles, as essentially these kits are each turning projects to make a handle and glue in the pieces.

The process for each is more or less the same.  Get an appropriately sized blank, drill a hole for the blade to be glued into, turn a shoulder for the ferrule the sit on and then shape handle itself.  Once you’re done turning, you just epoxy the blade and ferrule in place.  Easy peasey.

The pictures attached are basically walking through the process of turning the medium marking knife, the other two were more or less the same.  I’ll elaborate on my process for turning/finishing before the assembly.

I drilled the hole first for the blade by using a pen blank drilling vise and using my drill press.  For the marking knives I found it easier to drill two adjacent holes as the blade’s tang is rectangular in profile.  This leaves less room for slop around the blade.

The blank is then mounted between centers on the lathe and once I have it turned down to rough maximum diameter, I use a large parting tool to turn down the shoulder for the ferrule.  This is the only really tedious part, it involves popping the blank on and off the lathe a few times until you get a nice snug fit without taking too much material off.

The design of the actual handle is really a personal thing, but I opted for a pen-like shape for the knives and a doorknob style handle for the scratch awl, to fit nicely in the palm of the hand.  A lot of people like to build story sticks and profile templates for their turnings, and I do agree when it comes to replicating multiple copies of the same piece, but for these one-off pieces I pretty much just go with what looks good at the time.

Once I get down to the final shape I’ll do my best to burnish the surface with the edge of the tool as I do the final cuts then switch to sandpaper.  I use fabric backed turning sandpaper from 120 to 240 to 400 grit followed by micro mesh all the way down to 12000 to get a nice polish.

For finish, I use Lee Valley’s turner’s polish which gives a great base for a protective wax.  I often use a base coat of thin crazy glue to seal the wood and build up a base for a really shiny finish, but for these tools I’m happy if they eventually develop a bit of wear and patina.  The final finish is Hut wax sticks, a couple of coats with the brown stick to get a base, then a couple of coats of the white to give it some gloss.

After parting it off the remaining blank, I’ll touch up the area that is exposed once it comes off the lathe and dry fit everything before mixing up some epoxy.  I apply the epoxy around the ferrule shoulder and insert the ferrule with a coupe of twists to make sure it seats fully.  I’ll fill the hole as full of epoxy as I can and then insert the blade.  If there is any slop in the blade, I’ll shave off a small wedge from a scrap piece and try and get the blade centered and straight by shimming the sloppy side(s).

If there is any squeeze out during this process, I’ll try to scrape it off rather than wipe it, but inevitably a little is left behind that might need to be wiped.  I’ve heard that you can use acetone to clean up any that is left behind, I’ve never found the need to go this far.  A clean shop towel does the trick for me.

In all, I would recommend these kits.  I’ve had the scratch awl and the large marking knife built for a while and find them very handy and the steel used keeps an edge quite nicely.  I had thought up front that I’d use the heavier large blade more than the more delicate medium blade, but now that I have the medium blade done, I can see using it for dovetail work more easily than I’ve been able to do with the large blade.

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