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Marking Knives: Four Years Later
Copyright 2008. Originally appeared in the Fine Tool Journal

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Hock Tools  www.hocktools.com or 888-282-5233

Price: $31 (large knife), $28 (small knife)

Toolmaker Ron Hock began his career making knives and then ventured into making plane irons after meeting woodworker James Krenov at the College of the Redwoods in Ft. Bragg, Calif.  Hockís tools always have good steel and always hold the best edge, and the two spear-point knives he sells are no exception.  I have beat the snot out of these tools and they hold up better than anyone elseís in the test.

I always intended to make handles for these knives, but I never
got around to it.  Nonetheless, the knives have grown on me and
both offer daily service Ė though one isnít in the shop exactlyÖ.

Normally, I donít put much stock in edge retention with marking knives, but itís nice to know that these knives will always be sharp.  Some details:

Hock Tools, large knife: The low blade angle (50į) allows the tool to cut well while the tool is nearly parallel to the bench, though the bladeís thickness (.093Ē) limits the type of dovetails you can mark out with it.  It and the Veritas were the easiest to sharpen because the blades of both are thick and wide with large bevels. 

Unlike the other tools in this test, both Hock knives required significant setup (a task I have long forgotten about).  All the backs had to be lapped flat and polished, and the bevels had to be ground and honed.  Luckily, this particular blade was heat treated well so there was little warping.

The large knife was always too large (.752Ē) for shop work, and so it became a trusted general-purpose knife in the office by our shop.  It opens all our boxes, cuts wood, paper, cardboard and anything else youíd find in a publishing company (including the top foil of an occasional wine bottle).  I know I sound like Iím running down this knife.  Iím not.  Iíve paid a lot more for knives that do a lot less in my hands.  This one is just too big for my shop work.

Hock Tools, small knife: Though this tool is also sold without a handle, it fits easily in the hand as-is, like a pencil.  Itís a little thinner (.060Ē) and considerably narrower (.255Ē) than the larger Hock knife.  This makes it ideal for sneaking into tight places, though not as well as the thinnest tool, the Blue Spruce. 

Like its larger cousin, this tool needed significant setup.  Annoyingly, the tip of the tool was a bit warped, which resulted in a lot of lapping.  Once I got the tool working, however, it performed well and has earned a place in my tool cabinet.  Instead of making a handle, I wrapped the small knife with high-friction tape, like a hockey player.  With the tape, the tool is a bit graceless, but I donít care.  Itís always sharp and goes almost everywhere.

Veritas Striking Knife  www.leevalley.com

This tool has been discontinued, but can be found on the secondary market.

While the large bevels of this tool make it easy to keep sharp, I initially had some concerns about the handle.  Overall, the shape of the handle is comfortable and its flats keep it from rolling off your bench (very nice).

 

The Veritas doesnít get pulled out for dovetailing (itís too thick),
but it a great knife for all-around general joinery.

The handleís factory finish was rough, so I sanded it off, took the wood to #400 grit and applied a better finish Ė a task long forgotten.  Also, the bead on the handle was vulnerable to damage at the outset; ours became chipped after two months of use.  However, after those first few chips, the bead has stayed intact for the last few years.

And it is the easiest knife to sharpen, hands-down.

The blade angle (55į) makes it well suited for dovetailing, though its thickness prevented it from sneaking into the narrowest dovetails.  So the Veritas ended up as more of a joinery knife, and it works well at that task. 

After four years of use, Iím still appreciative of how easy this tool is to sharpen.


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