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Traditional striking knives have almost disappeared. Except for Adam Cherubini’s article on them in the April 2005 issue of Popular Woodworking, you’ll find little written about them in this century.

Perhaps it’s because they look like an eye injury waiting to happen.

After working with one for about four years, I’ve become quite fond of it. It seems a simple thing , so simple that I’ve made several striking knives from spade bits. My spade-bit knives work OK, but they are missing details that make my original knife much better.

I don’t know who made my knife. It’s stamped “1876” on one side and “London” on the other. The rest of the maker’s mark is too faint to make out. Whoever manufactured it knew what they were doing. Here are my three favorite things about it:

The Curvy Bits: Where the knife goes from flat to round it has two curves. If you pinch those curves with your thumb and forefinger, your middle finger presses the blade against your try square with surprising force. Also, the round bit of the knife has a swelling that pushes your fingers into just the right place.

The Fulcrum: The knife balances on its swelling, which raises the pointy bit into the air about 1/4″. This makes it very easy to pick the knife up off the bench. Sounds minor, but it’s not.

The Pointy Bit: It’s more than an awl. I use it all the time for cleaning waste out of mortises, clearing shavings from the mouths of planes and marking where hardware is going to go.

And, for the record, I still have both of my eyes and no scratches on my eyeglasses because of it. To download a drawing of my knife, click below.

StrikingKnife.pdf (285.11 KB)

–Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 18 comments
  • jeeperjeff

    Suddenly, 5 years later….

    Cue the Marty Stouffer voice-over discussing “circle of life” while we watch the video of the wolf eating the baby rabbit.

    Yep. Today at the Lie-Nielsen tool even at PopWood in Cincinnati I purchased this very striking knife from Chris for $15. It is the same one shown above that says “London” on one side and “1876” on the other.

    Like a 17 year old girl who has been dumped two days after prom, this little knife is right now sobbing, “Chris Schwarz liked THREE things about me!!!!!!!! Why was this not enough to keep us together forever?!?!?!”

    With that said it should also be noted that today Chris also GAVE me a set of turning tools to give to a 14 year old kid/guy who is just now learning the craft.

    Our cut-throat world has no way to really understand Chris Schwarz, because Chris is a guy who does not make money the #1 priority in every decision he makes. Chris just won’t milk out the last dollar (or two dollar bill) at the cost of the craft or the relationship.

    My life has been GENUINELY improved because of Chris Schwarz and his selfless desire to promote woodworking, craftsmanship, and writing.

    Thank you, Chris.

    I will cherish this striking knife, and I will take very good care of it.

    Jeff Skiver

  • Phil Spencer

    Hi Chris, I have just emailed you pictures of a striking knife that belonged to my Grandfather, I suspect it belonged to my Great, Great, Great Grandfather who was a prominent furniture maker in Melbourne Australia in the 1800’s. It has been exquisitely crafted with twists in the shaft to make it easier to hold.
    I have also posted a picture on my Face Book page at FIG Woodworks for other blog followers to see. 🙂

  • MHomer

    Chris, I think your knife is the 1876 Baker London Phila Expo Prize Medal, actually I’m positive thats the one because I used to own one and it had all the specifications you described above. That knife actually won an award for being the best in it’s class, and you can probably guess why.

  • Christopher Schwarz


    I have made several striking knives from spade bits. They work fine, though they don’t have the same graphic look.

    Keep looking. I just bought another one for $5 a few weeks ago. They turn up regularly.


  • Marc

    I found one on eBay in a Antique Tool Shop

    It’s a ”Baker London 1876 Marking Knife”

    Looking the price, it’s a collector tool ( 100 $ ) ;-(

    Maybe , you can made one from an old flat wood drill

    Marc from Luxemburg

  • Jake

    Chris- If you are looking for a backup, check out this e-bay listing:

  • Christopher Schwarz


    I just posted the drawing in the entry above.


  • Steve Spear


    Sounds like a good test for your EyeClops toy/tool.

    I don’t know who made my knife. It’s stamped "1876" on one side and "London" on the other. The rest of the maker’s mark is too faint to make out.


  • Alessandro

    When I read you writing about striking knives, marking knives, drawing knives and so on I remember an italian joke that I try to sum up and translate.
    When NASA first started sending up astronauts, they quickly discovered that ballpoint pens would not work in zero gravity. To combat the problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 billion to develop a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on almost any surface including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to 300 C. The Russians used a pencil.

  • Jameel Abraham

    "The Pointy Bit:…I use it all the time for clearing shavings from the mouths of planes…"

    …I hope Wayne Anderson isn’t reading this… (wink)

  • Pete Owen

    Hi Chris, nice post, could you please add another picture showing the top view? I like to tinker in metal a bit and might try to hammer one of these out.

  • Christopher Schwarz


    Lots of people use chisels as a marking knife. They are a little top-heavy, but they do the job.


  • Chris Ackerman

    Chris: the blade of your knife resembles a chisel. What are the pros and cons of using a chisel as a striking knife?

  • William Duffield

    The eye injury argument against these is paranoia, perhaps incited by purveyors of competing products and stirred up by HS propagandists :^). These are no more dangerous than a Ticonderoga™ pencil employed in erase mode, which is a skill we all mastered in kindergarten. Sure, both ends of the knife are sharp, but it belongs out on the bench, not in the apron pocket.

    For lefties, it’s easy enough to regrind the bevel.

    A bit more dangerous but quicker way to fabricate one of these from a spur bit simultaneously uses two power tools to grind the point: I grip the blade in my wood lathe’s scroll chuck, run it at a very low speed, and regrind the hex end into a point with an abrasive cut off disk in my angle grinder. Sweep up under the lathe before you start, because you make lots of sparks.

  • Doug Fulkerson

    I haven’t used a proper striking knife, yet, but I made one using a spade bit and really liked it. The bit I used is a little too short for comfort, but it really lays down a nice line. I think I picked my spade bit up at a flea market for about a dollar. About an hour and half with a metal bandsaw, a grinding wheel, and a whetstone gave me a good, serviceable tool.

    I also picked up from Woodcraft something called a Double Ended Scribe, which resembles a striking knife, somewhat, but the blade is much smaller and has a knife edge instead of a single bevel. Its length fits my hand better and it works well, but it takes a little more effort to register properly against my square than my spade bit/striking knife. It probably isn’t a half second extra effort, but it is an extra thought none the less. Not a bad tool for six dollars in my very humble opinion.

    I use both about equally when I work. The shorter, heftier spade bit version tends to get used more on longer markings while the longer, thinner Scribe gets used for tighter spots like small dovetails.

    Someday soon I hope to get my hands on an actual striking knife. I’m sure it will be just that much more of a revelation as these two have been.

  • Christopher Schwarz

    Sure Dan,

    There are lots of good knives, and I’ve written a lot about them. What I neglected to mention above is that I use a spear-point knife for dovetails and this striking knife for most everything else.

    The Blue Spruce and Czech Edge knives, for example, are great brands.


  • Dan

    How does this compare with the marking knives sold today? Are today’s marking knives just as useful?

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