Don’t buy the knife shown above. You’ll likely find it useless for dovetailing. It will languish at the bottom of your tool box, mocking you every time you push it and the Black & Decker battery-powered tape measure aside.
Heck, I don’t even know who makes the knife. The handle says “KST,” but my catalogs don’t turn up any tools for sale from that company. And during the last 16 years or so I’ve slightly altered its profile to suit my work. I don’t think it’s the same knife.
I don’t know where I got the knife. It’s always been in my toolbox. Did it come from my grandfather’s shop? My dad’s? I honestly don’t remember.
Yet every time I’m cutting dovetails, this knife is in my hand. I won’t demonstrate dovetails without it. If I lost it, I’d have to make a substitute.
What does this useless tool do? It’s the tool I use to make my dovetails fit the first time. After I cut the tails, this knife quickly pops out any remaining waste or fur in the acute corner that my chisel didn’t pop out.
After I cut the pins, this tool really goes to work. It cleans out the corners, natch, but it also flattens the floor of the pins. The cutting edge has a very slight curve. This allows me to put it on its side and shave any waste in the center of the pin floor down. Thanks to the curve, the knife edge never touches the baseline.
And when I go to knock the joint together, this knife eases the inside corners of the tailboard to make starting the joint easy and prevent any bruising of the pin board.
But anytime I show someone how I use the knife, they just look at me more puzzled than enlightened.
In my years of visiting other shops, I’ve found that most woodworkers have some sort of odd piece of metal on a stick that they have ground to their personal liking to do some specific chore. I’ve seen Senior Editor Bob Lang’s version (a brand of knife also lost to time). Senior Editor Glen Huey hasn’t shown me his yet. I don’t know if Managing Editor Megan Fitzpatrick has acquired one. Publisher Steve Shanesy’s is made from a car bumper I think.
In any case, this is my knife. There are none like it and this one is mine.
– Christopher Schwarz
P.S. The dark lines around those dovetails are pencil marks, not gaps. Really. Come to my house and check it out for yourself.