HANDTOOLS FOR THE HOMESTEAD
Cut the (power) cord with these sharp woodworking tools.
Whether you’re a DIY homeowner or a hardcore homesteader, you will see your fair share of woodworking projects. That said, there are only two reasons you would rely upon hand tools for wood construction projects: you want to or you have to. No matter which reason is yours, in a survival situation, having the right tools and the ability to use them could mean the difference between life and death. In the short term, you might be able to get by with just an axe and a bush knife. But, if the situation is protracted, your tool arsenal must include hand tools that have broader capabilities. Within your "bag of tricks" should be three tools, all of which will make your life easier. They are the draw knife, adze and a set of wood chisels. In this article, we will take a look at all three and discuss how they are used and when you would use them.
WHY THESE TOOLS?
Why am I discussing these tools, as opposed to axes and saws? Simply put, axes and saws will provide you with the lumber you need to make sheds, barns, fence posts and a home. However, draw knives, adzes and chisels will allow you to take that lumber and turn it into those things you need. Whether by choice or not, if you plan on longterm survival in off-grid living conditions, you
will need to make things. These tools will allow you to do that easier and more efficiently. Bark will need to be peeled, and pegs will need to be made. Gutters will also need to be made to allow rain and snowmelt to be diverted from the homestead. The list could go on and on. So, once again, to accomplish these tasks, you will need these tools.
The draw knife is an ancient tool. Examples of draw knives have been found among Viking tools that date back to 100 AD. They were very popular tools for shaping timbers in the shipbuilding industry. Draw knives were brought to America by the early colonists and were very common in places such as Jamestown and the Plymouth Colony. Although draw knives have been replaced in modern times by more-efficient power tools, they will make a comeback if the power grid goes down. Draw knives come in various sizes, ranging from 8 to 21 inches long. The blade is normally chisel-shaped, with a beveled cutting edge on the front. On each end of the blade are forged tapering tangs set at right angles to the cutting edge. Onto these tangs are fitted the handles. The handles of draw knives are usually wood (although with the vast amount of new materials out there, the handles could be made from just about anything). The draw knife is used by grasping the handles and, as the name implies, drawing it toward you. For proper results, the piece of wood should be clamped in place or stabilized in some manner,
WHETHER YOU’RE A DIY HOMEOWNER OR A HARDCORE HOMESTEADER, YOU WILL SEE YOUR FAIR SHARE OF WOODWORKING PROJECTS.
and the cut should be made with the grain of the wood. The depth of the cut is controlled by raising or lowering the handles. The idea is to shave away small amounts at a time until the desired result is reached. The uses for the draw knife are almost endless. It can be used to remove bark from logs, for rounding logs to be used for fence posts or for taking down rough edges from timbers used for building homes or barns. Draw knives can also be used to make pegs and handles for axes and other hand tools. They are perfect
DRAW KNIVES WERE BROUGHT TO AMERICA BY THE EARLY COLONISTS AND WERE VERY COMMON IN PLACES SUCH AS JAMESTOWN AND THE PLYMOUTH COLONY.
for making furniture legs and taking the sharp edges off planks and handrails. So, you can see why this tool is an important one to have in an off-grid situation.
The adze is another ancient tool, dating back to the Stone Age. It is made similarly to an axe, but where the blade of the axe is in line with the handle, the blade of the adze is perpendicular to the handle, similar to a garden hoe. With its sharp edge, the adze is sometimes referred to as a “chisel” made for chopping. There are two forms of adzes: the hand adze and the foot adze. The hand adze is a short-handled tool made to do finish work. These adzes are used a great deal today by wood carvers and are available with straight and curved blades. They are also perfect for making wood gutters and chair seats for your off-grid home. Foot adzes have long handles and are made to be swung using two hands, with the cutting edge striking the log near the foot. These tools are designed for large-scale wood removal, such as making a trough for your livestock or roughing out a dugout canoe. The adze has multiple uses around the workshop and homestead. It has almost been made obsolete by the power saw and power planer, but in a world without power, the adze will get the job done. With proper practice, a person using an adze is capable of producing useable smooth and flat timbers from a log. It was men using adzes who made the railroad ties up through the early 1900s. Adzes were also used to shape the timbers used to build sailing ships during the golden age of sailing. Around the off-grid homestead, the adze can be used to shape logs into wood for sheds, barns
Left: It is important to keep your tools sharp. Here, the author is sharpening a draw knife using the Work Sharp WSGSS sharpening system.
This woodworker is using a chisel to refine the tenon that will fit into a mortise, solidly joining two pieces of wood.
A mattock is basically just a dull adze that is used to dig in the ground. The author sharpened this hand mattock to convert it into an adze. While it is not the same quality as a true adze, it will work in a pinch.
Above: A draw knife (top), wood chisel (middle) and an adze made from a mattock (bottom) Near right: Split-rail fences are easy to make and are a good choice for the offgrid homestead. The pieces were processed by using an adze. The mortises (slots) and tenons (tabs) were made with a chisel. The edges of the posts were rounded using a draw knife. Above, top and bottom: All the work required to build this rough split-rail fence can be done with simple hand tools such as a draw knife, adze and chisel. Left: This woodworker is shaping the wood with a draw knife that has a curved blade.
A draw knife can perform fine work too. Here, it is being used to remove rough edges from the side of a barrel.