Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Stock Knife

Last August, at the National forest wood fair at Beacon Hill, I met a traditional Windsor chair maker.

A few months later he visited the workshop and we discussed our shared interest in old tools and how interconnected our two crafts used to be.
We also chatted about Stock Knives.
“What is a stock knife?” – is the first question many people ask.
A stock knife is a distinctive, long woodworking tool that has a strong handle, a blade of one kind or another and crucially a hook and eye bolt that secure the tool to a sturdy bench. It is a hand tool with a machine like action that uses leverage to maximum effect. A stock knife, when used well, produces unique cuts in green timber- you try doing a continuous curve over several inches with any other tool. What makes the device special is the union of power and control the user has as the blade is always in contact with the work; it never chops like a swung axe. Instead, it is applied to the timber and the pushed through it, past it. The blade is fixed at one end through an eye bolt allowing tremendous force to be exerted without the tool moving out of the plane.
I love them. I think they are very clever and wonderfully sculptural.
Here is someone who really knows the tool, Jeremy Atkinson.
I should say that there is some variety in types. There are smaller pegging knives which have a similar appearance to the massive clogging knives but there are also the fascinating French Paroir that use the same principles but take a different form. 
Here is the tool I produced for the chairmaker.
The handle, blade and hook were all forged from separate pieces and forge-welded together.