A Tale of Two Tools: Kestrel Adze vs. Two Cherries Inshave

I think every woodworker is probably aware of the giddy anticipation of ordering a new tool and finally having it arrive. Sometimes those tools exceed our highest expectations. Other times excitement quickly fades to disappointment as soon as the package is opened and reality interrupts. I’ve mentioned previously that I ordered an adze blade from Kestrel Tool as well as a Two Cherries inshave from Amazon for carving Windsor chair seats. I’ll discuss my impressions of each tool, since they represent opposite ends of the spectrum between elation and letdown.

Let’s start with the good. The Kestrel adze blade cost $70 shipped. I could have paid $200 for a complete tool, but I don’t mind making my own handle. For a bargain price, I got an exquisitely shaped and sharpened blade. The camber is perfect. The back is polished to a mirror-finish.

kestrel adze (2)
Mmm…shiny.

The bevel is ground at the correct angle. Honed razor-sharp.

kestrel adze (3)
Razor-iffic.

The non-critical parts of the blade still wear the marks from the forge as a badge of honor. The blade is neatly stamped with the maker’s name, as it should be. The maker is rightfully proud of his efforts.

kestrel adze (4)

The tool even comes with a handy guide filled with information about using the tool, selecting and fitting a handle, patterns, and lots of other helpful information. I used the pattern in the book to pick out a mulberry branch that should work perfectly for the handle.

kestrel adze (5)
Aside from spoons, I don’t often get to use branches in my woodworking. This should be fun.

Alright, the fun is over. We’ve seen the good, now we’re skipping the bad and diving straight into the ugly.

inshave1
Doesn’t look so bad from a distance, does it? Let’s have a closer look…

Since the blade came wrapped in oiled paper, the first and most obvious unpleasantry that I noticed upon unboxing my inshave was the handles. Now I realize that handles will be functional, but the trio of flimsy metal caps and ferrules, poorly turned wood, and carelessly applied stain and varnish doth offend both hand and eye.

inshave2
I would have paid extra for them to send me the tool without these handles.

More to the heart of the matter, however, is the condition of the blade. The grinding was utterly atrocious. I make no exaggeration when I say that it was the worst condition of any woodworking blade that I’ve ever purchased new. The corners were both nearly a full 1/4″ out of level from the rest of the blade. How is it even possible to ship a tool this poorly finished in good faith?

inshave4
I would say that it looks like the grinding was done by a Cub Scout with a Dremel tool, but I’m afraid it would be an insult to Cub Scouts.

And finally, the worst surprise of all. The curvature of the blade is not what I was expecting and doesn’t even match the stock photo at Amazon. I haven’t measured it precisely, but I would guess that the curve at the corner follows a 1″ radius. That’s just too dramatic a curve. The primary radius is not quite as bad, but it’s larger than I would prefer. I have never used an inshave before, all of this may be meaningless when I finally put metal to wood, but it’s clear that the shape of this inshave is very different from those used by most chairmakers.

inshave3

It’s going to be a near-Herculean task to get this sucker into working shape, but I’m going to take a whack at it. I’ll post an update with the results.

So there you go. Moral of the story: save yourself some heartache and order from a reputable toolmaker. I can’t say that I’ve ever been disappointed when I’ve order a tool straight from the maker, and the Kestrel adze was no different. As far as Amazon…well, that may be a perfectly reasonable place to buy a DeWalt router (I wouldn’t know) but it ain’t the place to buy your hand tools.

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