If you name a task, chances are there is a specialty tool designed for the job. While many blades such as fillet knives, utility knives, and skinning knives are well known, there are many others that are rather obscure to those not engaged in a specific discipline or activity. These woodworking marking knives are one example not generally known to the public at large . . .
Within woodworking circles, marking knives are preferred to pencils when laying out cuts. Pencils have a tendency to wander along the grain of the wood and leave thick, uneven lines. Marking knives (and for that matter utility knives) can scribe a line along a metal ruler or square that is much more precise.
They’re sold (or personally made) in pairs, with one each of a left and right bevel. The flat side is placed along the the ruler (bevel facing out) and the line etched into the wood. If one needs a darker, more visible line, you lightly trace the line with pencil and then erase. The etched line now stands out clearly in contrast to the wood.
While such precision is unnecessary for through cuts on wood, it is important when laying out mortises and other joinery marks. An Exacto or utility knife can fill the role adequately, but many people find knives have an aesthetic purpose as well. Most woodworkers do not exclusively use hand tools, but at the same time treat their hand planes, saws, knives and other tools with a certain amount of reverence. They represent the timeless quality to the art in a way that a power tool can never duplicate.
This pair of marking knives, made by the Crown Tool Company of Sheffield, England, have served me well for many years. They will likely survive to be passed along to one of my children if they show an interest in the joy of working wood.
How many other specialty knives can you name? Are there any you use in your vocation or recreational life?