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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have two project I'm going to tackle next. One is a rather large maple stick, into which I've been carving the ball on the end. The other is a length of long-leaf pine that's been drying for over a year. (interesting little beads of dried sap along the length just pop right off).

Both have a fair number of knots. Not huge, but enough to make me pause.

With the maple stick, I'm going to want to make the stick thinner, so will need to reduce the knots down along with the rest of the surface.

With the pine, I'm mainly just wanting to smooth them down to the surface of the stick.

Since I only have hand tools (with the exception of a random orbital sander I've used only twice, and a dremel tool) I'm thinking a mixture of chisels, rasps, files and sand paper for the pine stick. For the maple, I'll be using a drawknife for the general reduction, but for the knots I'm wondering if I use more of chisels, sawing?, rasps...

Any suggestions? What do you use for smoothing and reducing knots in different woods?

Thanks
 

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I have two project I'm going to tackle next. One is a rather large maple stick, into which I've been carving the ball on the end. The other is a length of long-leaf pine that's been drying for over a year. (interesting little beads of dried sap along the length just pop right off).

Both have a fair number of knots. Not huge, but enough to make me pause.

With the maple stick, I'm going to want to make the stick thinner, so will need to reduce the knots down along with the rest of the surface.

With the pine, I'm mainly just wanting to smooth them down to the surface of the stick.

Since I only have hand tools (with the exception of a random orbital sander I've used only twice, and a dremel tool) I'm thinking a mixture of chisels, rasps, files and sand paper for the pine stick. For the maple, I'll be using a drawknife for the general reduction, but for the knots I'm wondering if I use more of chisels, sawing?, rasps...

Any suggestions? What do you use for smoothing and reducing knots in different woods?

Thanks
When I use a chisel or draw knife, sometimes a knot will initiate a big splinter of wood, highly problematic. My orbital sander or a rasp are my preferred attack for knots.
 

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Good point about the splintering.

If the knot is more protruding and you can get a good spot to start the cut, you may try to use a thin Japanese flush cut saw (like the one sold at Harbor Freight Tools).

If necessary, you can continue with a small but sharp whittling knife by carefully whittling away small slivers (please protect your hand because the knife will likely slip on the hard wood of the knots). You can finish with the sand paper.

It will be slow, but will less likely to splinter. Also, don't saw completely through in the same direction, but move the saw around/make a counter cut, because otherwise a tearout or splintering may still occur at the end.

Good luck and please let us know how did you do it.
 

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Can't comment much about the pine. I had a huge plank once, a barn structural timber, possibly 50+ years old. There was 1 goant knot that I worked into the composition, it being too tough to cut away. Surprisingly, even as old and weathered as it was, the knot expressed some resin after I cut it.

I don't even try to take an edge to knots. Too easy to split them, and get tear-outs. Rasps, rifflers, and sanding, being careful to not get into the softer surrounding wood, are how I deal with them. For ones that are rotted in the center, I use a small gouge, and clear out the crumbly stuff.
 

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Since your talking hand tools -- a good rasp works best, but that pine will gum up the works fast!
 

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Can't comment much about the pine. I had a huge plank once, a barn structural timber, possibly 50+ years old. There was 1 goant knot that I worked into the composition, it being too tough to cut away. Surprisingly, even as old and weathered as it was, the knot expressed some resin after I cut it.

I don't even try to take an edge to knots. Too easy to split them, and get tear-outs. Rasps, rifflers, and sanding, being careful to not get into the softer surrounding wood, are how I deal with them. For ones that are rotted in the center, I use a small gouge, and clear out the crumbly stuff.
Slowly, slowly is how you deal with knots. Very slowly and carefull indeed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Slowly, slowly is how you deal with knots. Very slowly and carefull indeed.
Excellent advice. With the pine stick, I've found even rasps will cause tear-out in the knot itself. I'm finding a flush-cut saw (which is a cutting tool, after all) and sandpaper works the best.
 

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I think y'all're gonna find that I'm more of a zen type whittler. After being stationed in Japan for 2 yrs and being around sword makers and woodworkers and gardeners( Japanese gardens are works of art themseves) and Bonsai makers, etc I believe all things has it's own energy, especially wood. I go out in the woods and find saplings and branches that all have a story to tell about how it came to being. My job is to bring that story out. The same goes with knots. Sometimes, I choose a stick because of the knots.

I've found that some knot's story is inside the knot and some knots story is outside the knot. I see some knots where something has lived inside of it and has carved out quite the bungalow. I leave those knots alone. Other knots, the more interesting story is underneath, so i whittle it away, to reveal the "old man underneath",,,,,,most times a real nice birds eye of a ciontrasting color in the wood, some times a very interesting figure.
 

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Using a rasp on knots that have sap still in them, need to be cleaned with a 'file card' every so often. A file card is a little paddle with very short brush bristles on one side, and a "back bent" set of wire bristles on the other side.

If the teeth of the rasp become clogged with cuttings, you apply more pressure, and skid off the loaded teeth into the softer wood, making gouges that are hard to smooth out. It is way easier to just take a few (4-6)strokes of the rasp, then stop and clean the teeth with the file card, inspect your work, and continue.

Rasps are also sized, just like files. Start with a coarse rasp, on down to a fine rasp, then a coarse file (if need be),to fine, using a file card no matter what instument you're using. I've found that using the brush side of a file card will work very well on sandpaper too! Unclogs it amazingly well.
 

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cchgn,

I would agree with most all you said about the knots. But to me if they are just small little limb knots, maybe a half inch or less, then I personally don't pay them much attention and use them as part of the shaft and the birdseye they allow. The others, I treat on an individual basis..... is there any character or k(not)? I will certainly use a rotten knot in the handle of a cane to provide a rustic character to the stick, or incorporate it in another manner. I'm not a Zen student, but I do kinda let the stick "tell" me how to work it. I do a little carving, but most often I look for sticks to harvest that tell me something, or show me something before I ever even cut them. I've only been at this hobby for a couple of years, so I'm certainly still learning from my mistakes.... and from folks like those that frequent this forum. Many thanks!
 
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