When I was new to woodworking, I didn’t see much use for marking knives. But, people whose work I admired used them regularly, so I tried them. And my joinery improved. Marking knives have contributed to tighter, more accurate and better-fitting joints for me.
Mind you I’d prefer to own one of these exquisite beauties by Blue Spruce Toolworks:
But the $65+ price tag was more than my limited tool fund and priorities could bear. So I drafted knives lying around. And I made a couple of my own. Soon, I had six knives cluttering precious bench space. So I resolved to whittle them down to one by testing each in pine, oak and maple end grain.
Here are the marking knife contestants:
1. Utility knife (box cutter)
2. Swiss Army knife (main blade)
3. Stanley 10-049 utility knife. Paul Sellers turned me on to this option in his post here.
4. X-ACTO blade (#26 Whittling Blade)
5. Homemade marking knife with repurposed sabersaw blade
6. Homemade spearpoint marking knife, with repurposed sabersaw blade
And here are closeups of the cutting edges:
Well, the utility knife (1) and both my shop-made (5, 6) knives performed poorly. The remaining three (2, 3, 4) were judged on the criterion of clean, crisp and narrow gauge. Based on that, I ranked them 3, 2, 4. Round 1 goes to the Stanley utility knife.
All six were competitive, but again the bottom three marks were 1, 5 and 6. Following the same criterion as above, I ranked the remaining three: 3, 4, 2. Round 2 goes to the Stanley utility knife.
For dovetail marking, I eliminated 1 and 5. 6 did ok for one mark but not the other. 2 also did ok but the mark was not well defined nor deep. That left 3 and 4. And to mine eye, 4 made the better cut with 3 close behind. Round three goes to X-ACTO.
And the winner is…
1. The Stanley utility knife (3.) It was the best all-around and is a very reasonably priced tool suitable for marking.
2. Coming in second was the X-ACTO knife (4) #24 whittling blade. Some users may prefer the pencil-style handle versus the flat handle of the Stanley.
3. Taking the Show Position was the Swiss Army pocketknife (2.) I liked the curved blade which consistently severed the wood fibers effectively and easily. However, its large size made it cumbersome to mark tight dovetail spaces.
I should note that both my homemade equivalents did poorly. That made it easy to get rid of them. I also found new places for the other marking tools. So today, my sole marking knife is the Stanley10-049 utility knife.
© 2015 Brad Chittim, all rights reserved.