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)

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

kestrel adze (3)

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.

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.

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?

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.


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.

Tool Procurement: It’s Going to Cost Me How Much to Build a Windsor Chair!?

As I’ve mentioned previously on this series about my relationship with Windsor chairs (Part I & Part II), I didn’t immediately like them, but I did slowly begin to foster a sincere, but hesitant respect for them. I believe it was Peter Galbert’s magnificent blog that finally pushed me over the edge, head over heels in love. His clear and inspiring writing style sucked me in, and after seeing picture after picture of the wonderful little details that he adds to the chairs – the faceted surfaces from the drawknife and spokeshave, the thoughtful steam-bent curves that add comfort to the back and elegance to the undercarriage, as well as the painstaking finishing work – well, suffice it to say that after following his blog for a year, there was no longer any mistaking Peter’s works of art from the creaky kitchen chairs of my youth.

galbert rocker
Not a factory-made piece of rubbish. Credit: Peter Galbert

Moreover, Peter’s blog introduced me to Curtis Buchanan’s work, whose superlative derivation of more traditional Windsors simply blew me away. Seriously, if you can’t see the brilliance of his comb back arm chair, then you’re probably at the wrong blog. (Or maybe you just need to study up on design some more. You can start here.)

curtis buchanan comb back
Also not rubbish. Credit: Curtis Buchanan

So, what’s the point of all this drivel and gushing? Well, I’m a woodworker. I finally love Windsor chairs. Now, of course, I want to build one. I’ve been buying tools for over a decade, surely I have everything I need. After all, I’ve already built four ladderback chairs with the tools I already own, so I’m ready to hit the ground running, right?

Well, actually, just for shaping the seat, you’re going to need a curved adze, an inshave, and a travisher. Oh, and don’t forget the tapered reamer for the leg holes. And a rounder plane to shape the legs to match the reamed holes. Also, didn’t you re-grind your skew chisel into a scraper about 8 years ago, because you always sucked at it? You’re going to need one of those, too, and you’re going to have to man up and learn how to use it. And that rickety shavehorse you built 9 years ago? That thing was fine for an occasional axe handle, but it’s going to frustrate you to no end when you start working on a dozen oak spindles or a 5′ rail for a balloon-back.

Fine, dammit. How much is all of this going to set me back?

I thought you’d never ask. Kestrel Tools makes a great adze. You want the “Sitka Gutter Adze” at $190. Barr Tools makes an inshave that’s just right for Windsor chairs: $140. Claire Minihan makes the best travishers around for $245. You can’t beat Tim Manney’s 6 degree tapered reamer: $110. Elia Bizzarri makes the rounder plane to match it for $65. A Henry Taylor 3/4″ skew chisel will set you back $51. Don’t forget about shipping for all of that. But, don’t worry about the shave horse, you can make that yourself!

Um…That’s almost $1000. Can’t I just buy a handmade Windsor chair for that much?

Sure you can! But then you won’t get the pleasure of forsaking your long-suffering wife while you piddle in the shop for weeks on end. After all, you’ll probably be sleeping in the shop for a few weeks after draining your checking account for a bunch of tools.

Geez, dude. That hardly seems like a reasonable argument. Surely there’s another way, right? Right?

Ok, the sarcasm has gotten thick in here, so let’s step out of the fog and be serious for a moment. All of the toolmakers listed above are, by all accounts, at the top of their game. I sincerely wish that I could afford to support each of them. But, being the sole source of income in a family four – soon to be five – means that I have to make compromises when it comes to spending money, and that unfortunately includes tool purchases. The point of this post was to highlight just how different the Windsor chairmaker’s tool kit is from a joiner’s toolkit. I’m used to having to buy one or possibly two new tools for an ambitious project (or better yet, asking for them for Christmas!) But buying six new tools? That’s a bit harder to swallow. In my next post, I hope to discuss what I’m doing to bring the starting costs down to something a bit more manageable.