Pole and Paddle Canoe

Traditional Canoes And Gear
Made By Hand In Maine

Crooked Blades


  • Pole and Paddle Crooked Knife Blades


    Made right in our shop.  Prices may be higher, depending on customer specifications.

  • Manufactured Crooked Knife Blades




    These blades are replicas of an old Hudson Bay Company blade, but fabricated of stainless steel. Made in England.




    • The crooked knife blade you have purchased is a truly historic woodworking took, reproduced in fins Sheffield steel and bearing authorized, historic trademark. As the blade is so light and portable, it may be the best knife for the wooden canoe enthusiast and for wilderness travelers. The curvature of the blade, especially at the tip, facilitates carving concave surfaces. Nevertheless, the chief purpose of the gentle curvature is to allow smooth, easy separation of the chip from the work piece and, in skilled hands, will allow the user to turn out true, flat surfaces with an almost machined appearance. The slight curvature also permits the blade to remain slightly above the working surface giving very precise control with changes in engagement angle. Careful practice with a properly sharpened blade in a sturdy handle will reveal the potential of the crooked knife. Keep in mind that you will most often be using your crooked knife with your palm turned upwards and with the blade pulled towards you.

      Please read these instructions and review drawings before beginning. Note that drawings illustrate a left-handed blade being handled.

      Here are some suggestions (and a drawing of the finished product) for handling your crooked knife. Since the blade is most often used with the palm up and thumb extended along the "crook" in the handle, it is best to find a natural wood crook in the shape of an "L" (imagine the "L" on its side and reversed, see the drawings). It is also possible to use other materials than wood, such as a curved portion of an antler or stag horn. Grasp this unfinished crook in your hand and see how it feels. The diameter of the crook should be such that, when finished, it will be a little larger by about 1/8 inch or more than the width of the blade at the tang. This allows room to fit the tang and not have the blade protrude beyond the side of the handle. NOTE: It is advisable to leave extra wood thickness until the mortise for the tang is complete to avoid the possibility of splitting out the wood.

      Now assuming that you have the rough finished crook in your hand, mark it so that you can trim both ends of the "L" so that on the thumb side the handle will be an inch or two above where your thumb will rest, and the blade side about an inch or so longer than the tang. You do not want the blade out too far beyond the grip of your hand in a comfortable grip, but you do need enough room to cut the tang mortise and anchor the tang.

      Orient the blade to the handle (wait to sharpen the blade until later and mask the edge with tape to avoid injury while fitting the handle). Note that the FLAT bottom of the blade will be in the same plane as your upturned palm. Play around a bit to see how you want the blade to angle into the handle. A straight out position in a flat plane with the palm of your hand is fine. Some users prefer a slightly upward and backwards angle. The tang will fit in a mortise in the handle with the tang resting slightly above the top edge of the mortise cut. It is important to leave enough material (the handle must have enough diameter) to support the tang fully without splitting out. Now, in the same plane as the blade will rest and about halfway through the round handle, carefully make a slot about 1/2 inch longer than the tang. The end of the handle where it meets the blade should first have been cut off flat. Then cut another slot at a slant to meet the first cut so you will remove a piece of wood that in cross section looks like the letter "L" on its side. Retain this piece of wood, it will be used to secure the tang.

      Now, cut a close fitting mortise for the tang using a small chisel or pocket knife. This mortise should be cut so that the tang is not fully recessed in the mortise, but rests slightly above so that the piece of wood you removed will put pressure on the tang. Also, be sure that the area of the blade which joins the tang will rest snugly against the end of the handle when the tang is in the mortise, this will help support the blade much like a hilt.

      You can shim up the mortise with small slivers of wood if the fit is a bit loose. You want a good, tight fit of the tang in the mortise. While fitting the tang mortise, test a number of times by placing the L-shaped piece you cut out on top and grasping the set up loosely to see if the fit is OK.

      After fitting the mortise, drill a small hole in the wood handle to receive a pin or small brass wood screw through the factory drilled hole in the tang. DO NOT BEND OR RESHAPE THE TANG - THIS COULD RESULT IN A TNG FAILURE OR STRESS CORROSION. Insert the pin after making a corresponding hole or recess in the :-shaped part you cut out of the handle to accept the screw head or portion of the pin protruding through the tang.

      The traditional finishing method will now be described, and uses strong net twine or artificial or real sinew or rawhide. This method is similar to the whip finishing of a rope end, and involves tightly winding the cordage around the handle with the L-shaped piece installed, carefully tightening the loops as you progress and finally pulling through the end with a loop of material you previously wound under the turns. Pull up the ends tightly before cutting. The result is very similar to the nail knot used by fly fishermen and is based on the same principle except the nail or needle is replaced by a loop of strong twine to pull the end through and under.

      The handle can be finished with an oil finish or varnish. You may also want to cut a flat or curved recess so that your thumb will be as comfortable as possible. Other, more expedient and less traditional methods are possible, for example by drilling a hole in a suitably curved antler and filling the void with epoxy or other bonding compound and then inserting the roughened and degreased tang.

      Sharpening is very critical to get the truly excellent results this blade can deliver. Take the time to do it right, and don't worry about marks or scratches on the blade. These can always be polished out or left alone, this is a tool to use. Use of power equipment, unless carefully done with water lubrication, is not advised. It is too easy to ruin the temper of this thin blade by overheating. Start with a coarse stone and carefully grind the flat bottom of the blade until the bottom angle meets the edge dead flat. Then carefully shape the top of the edge so that it blends smoothly at the lowest possible angle into the top. You should now remove any wire edge with a bit of "back honing" or gently honing a few strokes at a higher angle. Properly establishing the edge will take time and requires patience, but will yield a tool that gives great results. Use increasingly finer stones to finish. A curved "slip" stone will be found helpful to sharpen the curved portions of the top of the blade.

      One way to use this blade for larger items, such as canoe paddles, is to sit or kneel and rest a portion of the piece you are carving on your thigh, gripping the upper portions of the work with your opposite hand. This method is not recommended for small, short wood products. Obviously, you must ensure that the tool cannot slip and cut any portion of your leg or body. Be sure to keep the work piece holding hand and arm bowed and braced well out of the possible cutting range of the blade.