In preparing to review the new Czeck Edge birdcage awl for the February issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine (find out how to get the electronic version free by clicking here), I asked Bob Zajicek (founder of Czeck Edge Tools) to also send his new Super Kadet II carbide marking knife. Because it is a (relatively) new product, and I’m the tool review guy at the magazine, it made sense to give it a whirl. (Note: Christopher Schwarz reviewed this knife in April 2013; the sharpening process has since been changed.)
Let me begin by saying, I’m not normally a marking knife kind of person. I tend to use a sharp pencil when I scribe my dovetails and other joints. That doesn’t mean this is going to be a beat-down review of this new tool (or even marking knives in general). I’m just expressing my long-held tool preferences up front so you can understand where I’m coming from on this from the outset.
My first thought, when Bob told me he was making marking knives with carbide blades, was “I wonder if they’ll be sharp enough?” Generally speaking, carbide is tougher than regular tool steel but you just can’t make it as sharp. It’s great for table saw blades and router bits because you can get it sharp enough to cut and the toughness makes it last a long time. This does not necessarily translate well to edged hand tools, however, the Super Kadet II is an exception to this rule.
Out of the box this knife is razor-sharp. Czeck Edge has somehow managed to get a carbide blade sharp; really sharp. Sharp enough, in fact, that you can shave with it. This fact alone piqued my interest enough to give this tool a thorough test; so off to the shop I went.
Trying the knife out on both hardwoods and softwoods, it cut crisp lines with very light pressure. Applying more pressure still leaves a crisp scribe line that’s deeper (which is useful for scribing dovetails if you follow my method.) Being made from carbide means it should stay sharp a very long time. What more can you ask from a marking knife?
Ultimately, the real reason to own any Czeck Edge tool is the quality and attention to detail. The Super Kadet II has a perfectly formed handle turned from cocobolo. The indentations of the turning allow for the knife to be gripped in several positions depending on the intended use. The cocobolo is polished to a satiny-smooth finish giving it a good feel in the hand.
In addition to the slender, graceful, handle the brass ferrule is elegantly turned and finished. Again, the cove turned into the ferrule is placed to allow comfortable gripping of the knife. It’s evident Czeck Edge has put lots of thought into its knives and, at $69 for the carbide knife, while not cheap is certainly a bargain given the quality of the tool.
If anything gives me pause in recommending this tool whole-heartedly, without hesitation, it’s the fact that it’s carbide. It’s sharp and will remain so for a very long time. The problem comes when it finally dulls. Do you have the ability to sharpen a carbide blade? If you have diamond stones this may not be a concern for you. And, under normal conditions, the average hobbyist probably won’t dull the tool in their lifetime but is it something to consider before you run out and buy one.
So, with all this praise for the Czeck Edge Tool Super Kadet II am I ready to throw away my pencil for scribing lines? Well, maybe not for dovetails (more than 35 years of splitting a pencil line is a hard habit to break) but I can certainly see a place for it in the tool cabinet. If you regularly use a marking knife, you won’t be disappointed adding this one to your arsenal.