Now here’s a tool that very people know of. Every time I show a person the draw knife and ask them what it is used for I generally get a perplexed look. A look of confusion is definitely not too surprising as this tool is much rarer than the typical set of tools you’d expect to find in somebody’s garage, basement or tool shed. The reason has to do with how we get our wood nowadays. Most people go to a big box store and buy wood that is already milled. Many years ago that wasn’t always possible. The draw knife was used to shape logs of wood into more usable pieces. It generally did this by flattening out the curves and bumps that occur naturally in a log of wood.
To use the draw knife a person would first position himself next to or over a log slightly below waist level. Next he would hold the tool in both hands and pull towards himself. He would continue this raking motion skimming the top of the log. The draw knife’s blade would shave off the top of the log and begin to shape it. If you spent enough time you could shave off enough bark and wood to make the rounded log contain flat sides. Naturally one would have to flip the log from time to time to achieve a plank-like piece of wood.
I couldn’t paint this oil painting of the draw knife without constantly thinking of my favorite documentary of all time: Alone in The Wilderness. In the film the star of the documentary can be seen using a draw knife to shape logs for his log cabin. He makes his entire home by hand! The first time I saw this film about a man (Dick Proenneke) who lived a life completely off the grid in the beautiful land of Alaska I was intrigued. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to leave everything and live off the land? I sure have. Obviously I haven’t made that leap or I wouldn’t be typing this now! Someday I’d like to travel to Alaska and check out the cabin he lived in, I believe they turned it into a park. Somewhat ironic isn’t it?
Please let me know of your thoughts below!