Review By Dean Bielanowski  Chris Vesper Website -

Chris Vesper's Joinery Knife

By Dean Bielanowski

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As many of you probably already know, I prefer power tools over hand tools in most cases, however, I still have a small but growing collection of hand tools, and in some cases, a good hand tool is MUCH better than a power tool for performing a particular task. One of the first "hand tools" I bought when I started woodworking was a basic marking knife. It has served me well over the years, pretty much replacing my shop pencil for layout and marking.

When I saw Chris Vesper's Joinery Knife however, it appeared my humble old marking knife might soon be superseded with something better.

Chris Vesper's Joinery Knife
Chris Vesper is a Melbourne (Australia) based toolmaker producing a number of fine hand tools utilizing some magnificent native Australian timbers. The Joinery Knife reviewed here is made from select Tasmanian Blackwood, and you can see from the photos, that visually, it is stunning. I am told by Chris himself that this particular knife I received is not special, at least not in terms of the quality or figure of wood used. He assures me all the tools he creates feature equally stunning and figured wood! Other wood species are also available to order (dependant on material availability) and include:

  • Hairy Oak

  • Ringed Mulga with a striking sapwood feature

  • Tiger Myrtle

  • Black Red Gum

  • Native Olive

The knife measures roughly 200mm in length from the blade tip to the butt of the handle. The shape of the handle resembles somewhat of an elongated pear or teardrop shape. This provides a larger, wider surface for gripping the tool in use, particularly when using it as a chisel, where control becomes more important, as well as resistance to twisting of the blade. This wider shape nearer the blade provides that added control and twist resistance needed in chisel or joinery refinement tasks. The body of the handle begins as flat stock, then the edges and rear section of the handle are turned round. Doing it this way saves much more wood than turning a larger piece round then flattening the faces. The Chris Vesper logo is engraved into one of the faces. The tools is then hand polished with shellac to make the wood's natural figure "pop". As you can see by the photos, this brings out the true beauty of the Blackwood and adds durability to boot. A brass ferrule provides the transition from handle to blade, and adds greatly to the overall aesthetics of the tool.

The blade is crafted from tool steel and features double 20 degree bevels ground to form a sharp diamond-shaped tip. The back side of the blade is ground flat so the knife can be used as a very precise marking knife, the sharp diamond tip point ensuring a fine, clean result for both cross-grain and with-the-grain marking. You can virtually guarantee a scribed line as close to the edge of a square or other marking ruler/guide as possible with the joinery knife. It sure beats the precision of even my finest marking pencil! The knife's sharp point and edges also helps reduce splintering and chipping on edges as it scores the fibres prior to cutting. You might also notice that the blade itself has a curved shape on its edges. This provides a curved surface to place your forefinger comfortably in a pen-style grip for better control when marking. Additionally, it also allows pressure to be exerted on both bevel angles of the diamond shape for particular chiseling or planing cuts. Because of standard bevel angle implemented, the knife is also very useful as a small chisel, its shape allowing it to reach into tight places and into corners to clean out mortises or dovetail pins/tails as needed to refine a joint fit. This is just a few of the practical applications in which it could be used of course.

In Use
It is probably pretty obvious how this tool is, or can be used just by looking at it. And this is very true with the joinery knife. I use it to undertake pretty much all my marking tasks on projects these days, gripping the knife somewhat like a pencil, as can be seen by the photo on the left below. This grip affords me good control over the tool and allows accurate marking. The beauty of the tool handle's shape is that it can be gripped in many different ways, and what works for me, might not be the ideal grip for you, and indeed, in certain circumstances, the grip of the tool might need to be changed to angle it appropriately for some marking tasks. As a marking tool however, I cannot really fault it. It works perfectly. The photo below on the right shows my preferred grip on the tool when using it as a chisel for joint refinement tasks. My left hand grips the edges of the handle while the right provides to pushing force to push into the cut. Again, your preferred grip may vary.

Left: Gripping the tool for marking.  Right: My preferred grip for chiseling.

I must say that I enjoyed using this tool. Not only does it look the part, but it works very well too. It is the type of tool that will greatly complement a good set of chisels, or completely replace your marking pencil. It is an excellent tool for working with dovetail joints, or joints with odd shapes where a standard square edged chisel simply wont work. But perhaps the most appealing feature of the tool is its price. At AUD$65 (price may be higher for some wood species), the joinery knife is very well priced for a hand-made woodworking tool featuring fine figured Australian native timber and an odd-shaped blade with a diamond-shaped tip. If you are looking for a nice little joinery knife, or just a quality marking knife that is well made and finished, the Chris Vesper marking knife might just be the thing to add to your hand tool shopping list.

Left: Using the joinery knife as a marking knife  Right: Refining a dovetail joint.


Available to Order through these Companies...
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In Australia

Direct from Chris Vesper



Joinery Knife Photos
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The Joinery Knife

The dual bevel forms a diamond tip

Flat back provides accurate marking and chiseling capability

The Chris Vesper logo engraved into the Tasmanian Blackwood handle

Rounded tool butt. Note the great figure in the Blackwood



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