Canadian Woodworking

Marking knife

Author: Michel Theriault
Illustration: Mike Del Rizzo
Published: August September 2005

The Marking Knife is one tool that will not only improve the marks you make to guide your cuts, it will also be a welcome addition to your collection of hand tools.


An accurate line is the cornerstone of good woodworking. It sets the standard for how well the wood you’ve crafted will come together in the finished work by guiding the steel of your tools through an exact plane in the wood.

Rout the groove

Sandwich the knife

The Marking Knife is one tool that will not only improve the marks you make to guide your cuts, it will also be a welcome addition to your collection of hand tools. If you don’t already have one, you’ll soon realize how useful it can be. If you’re already using a store bought knife, you’ll appreciate using one that you’ve made yourself.

With it’s thin, sharp point, the marking knife scores the wood exactly where the cut needs to be, so you never again have to wonder which side of the pencil line to cut. To use the knife accurately, keep the bevel flush against a square or ruler when marking.

To make the knife, you need to start with a good blade. The one I use is from Lee Valley Tools. If your blade is different, be sure to change the dimensions on the stock accordingly.

Begin by cutting the two pieces for the handle. I used oak, but this knife would look great in almost any wood, including cherry, makore or bird’s-eye maple. Cut two end cap pieces from the same or contrasting stock.

Next, set up your router table with a ½” straight bit set to take a 1/16″ deep cut (approximately half the thickness of your blade). Set your fence ⅛” from the bit. Check your settings on some scrap pieces and adjust the fence and router depths as necessary.

Rout a groove down the length of each piece along one edge. Since the pieces are fairly small, be sure to use a push stick and use firm, even pressure. Flip the pieces around and rout along the second edge to make the ¾” wide groove. Check to make sure the pieces fit together snugly over the knife blade. Place your knife blade into the groove of one piece and put the second piece over it. The two pieces of the handle should come together without any gaps. The knife blade should fit snugly, but not be so tight that you can’t pull it out.

Once satisfied with the fit, glue the two handle pieces together with the knife blade between them. The blade should stick out about ½”. Remove the blade before the glue sets. When the glue is dry, glue the end caps on each end. Sand flush if necessary and rout the edges of the knife handle with a ⅛” roundover bit.

Cut off the piece for the knife cap, using a mitre saw with the blade centered on the line in the illustration, leaving approximately 4 ¾” for the handle. Squeeze a small amount of glue into the slot in the handle and insert the blade until about 2 ¼” of the sharpened end of the knife blade is left exposed. Allow to dry.

Fit the cap onto the knife blade, then sand the knife lightly with #220 sandpaper and apply your favourite finish. Now enjoy your shop made knife.

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