Skiv­ing Knives

Picture of two skiving knives lying on a piece of leather

Both sizes of skiv­ing knife sold by Lisa Sor­rell

I recently bought a couple of skiv­ing knives from Lisa Sor­rell, and I’ll start this by say­ing this:

Run, do not walk, to Lisa’s web­site and buy one. One of each if you can afford it, but the big one if not. If you can’t afford a US$45 knife, that’s Ok, but if you can get one of these.

Back? Good.

Yes, they really are that good. One of the hall­marks of Lisa’s work is her intric­ate and beau­ti­fully executed inlay. That tech­nique requires an incred­ible level of accur­acy in skiv­ing fiddly pieces of inlay leath­er and she uses these knives.

They’re Japan­ese and made from layered steel. Ductile steel on the out­side and very hard steel on the inside. They are double-bev­elled, unlike some oth­er skiv­ing knives but that’s Ok, it makes them use­ful either right or left handed.

Close up of the sharp ends of skiving knvies showing the different textures of steel in the knives

Here you can see the dif­fer­ent tex­tures of steel in the knives.

I don’t know where Lisa sources them from, but they have this mark on them:

Close up of a Japanese maker's mark stamped into the steel of a skiving knife

The maker’s mark on the skiv­ing knives sold by Lisa Sor­rell.

When I got them these were the sharpest out of the box knives I have ever encountered, scalpels included. I’m pretty good at sharpen­ing things, but these set a new stand­ard for me.

When I’m not at reen­act­ment events I sharpen my leath­er work­ing knives and awls on a series of extremely fine grit abras­ives stuck to a glass shelf from the hard­ware store. The abras­ives are 3M microfin­ish­ing abras­ives I get from Lee Val­ley Tools stuck down with car­pet tape, which is a wide high-tack double sided tape. The leath­er bit is for sharpen­ing awls and oth­er things that aren’t a good match for the very fine abras­ive stuck to the glass.

Picture of a sharpening surface made from three grades of 3M micro abrasive sheet and a leather strop stuck to a glass shelf.

Sharpen­ing sur­face made from three grades of 3M micro abras­ive sheet and a leath­er strop stuck to a glass shelf.

These knives get a light hon­ing on the finest grit between uses, and that’s it.

I’ve used a few skiv­ing knives of vari­ous shapes, includ­ing ones I’ve made myself, and I’ve got­ten pass­ably good res­ults with most of them but these are the first ones I’ve used that I didn’t feel at all like I was fight­ing with in any way. Like any really good tool they get out of your way and Just Work.

They work well skiv­ing thick­er veg tanned leath­er as well as soft gar­ment weight stuff.

Wide skive taken with one of Lisa Sorrell's skiving knives in some 2mm veg tanned leather.

Wide skive taken with one of Lisa Sorrell’s skiv­ing knives.

This is some quite soft garment weight leather about 0.8mm thick. The wide knife easily skived it down to nothing at the edge.

This is some quite soft gar­ment weight leath­er about 0.8mm thick. The wide knife eas­ily skived it down to noth­ing at the edge.

To store them I just made a couple of sheaths out of manilla folder wrapped around the knife a few times and fol­ded over at the blade end to close it off.

Sheathes for my skiving knives made from manilla folder and gaffer tape.

Sheathes for my skiv­ing knives made from manilla folder and gaf­fer tape.

These aren’t just for skiv­ing. You can do all of the cut­ting required to make a pair of medi­ev­al or renais­sance shoes with one of these knives.

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