Infill Planes


Letters from Paul Schobernd


Block Knife


Dearest Scott, Brian and Galoots,

As usual I'm late into this conversation, but I have to say that the block knife is indeed a handy tool. Having recently purchased one and set it up on a large stump. I am only beginning to see the potential.

But, after sharpening the knife section I found that I could do quite a shaving number on everything in the wood pile from soft maple to mulberry which is hard as a rock when seasoned.

I bought the block knife with the thought of the clogmaker who makes the process look like he is carving candles, but soon realized that there is a reason that the knife is over 24 inches long with a well-polished hardwood handle that allows for your full weight to be applied. I have found that it is not as easy to manipulate as I thought and that it is tempting to take too big a bite. Patience seems to be the key until you get the rhythm and skill down.

I am going to check with a local blacksmith regarding making another and perhaps using a file as the blade portion for the high carbon. I am not a metal person, but even an entire steel model could be made I suppose. The handle appears to be Swamp Oak on the one I have as it appears to have a natural curve following the grain of the wood. It also seems to match the wood on the old scythes. As old as it is there is no rot or pithiness. I had searched for a long time when this knife came available from Tony Seo. I jumped all over it like ugly on an ape and price was not a factor. I figured my only other choice was going to be to have one fabricated, probably at a high price.

Tony did tell me about something sort of akin to the block knife, but was used for chopping pumpkins. This knife has a long blade. If that could be found I can't see why it could not be ground into the block knife configuration. Or, why couldn't it be used just as it is? What would more blade hurt?

These are artifacts in their own right and not in great supply either, but I gather might be more readily found than the regular block knife. One other philistine thought has come to mind - maybe the old school paper cutters with the steel blade screwed to a cast iron arm? Don't shoot, it was just a thought, but I am heading down to Tool Hell to check out my old 1950s vintage paper cutter. I bet it can be done.

One story. I was in the school office many years ago when a maybe 12 year old came in to use the office paper cutter. The office secretary was a portly woman of exceedingly good cheer. I made an exception and let the student use the paper cutter with the stupid admonition, "don't cut your finger off!"

Whoomp went the blade, up went a shriek as the student turned and handed me the end of his finger while he was bleeding profusely and turning white. I turned to the secretary to have her call the local medics, but as she stood, she turned from white to green and hit the deck like a ton of bricks. So I am standing there with the boy's finger in one hand his raised hand in another and working an intercom with my elbow until I raised back-up.

The secretary recovered, but we removed the paper cutter from her line of sight - just in case. And the boy's finger was re-attached. Happy Ending.

Paul in Normal, IL
October, 2008




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