Timber Framers Slick
Now on to one of my favorite woodworking tools, the timber framer’s slick. This sizeable tool feels great in your hands, and I find it therapeutic to use at times. This tool is absolutely essential if you plan on undertaking big projects or timber framing. I’m not saying you can’t work logs or timber without one, but why would you want to? I’ll go over some basics of the timber framers slick, talk about some characteristics of a good slick and finally tell you about some of the best slicks on the market today which are:
Timber Framers Slick Reviews
There aren’t many producers of timber framer’s slicks out there, as many artisans use antique or custom-made tools. It just isn’t all that prevalent of a tool. However, this does not mean that there aren’t any reputable manufacturers out there. Take a look here at some of the most trusted brands that create excellent tools to rival any custom job.
2-3/8" Robert Sorby #289 Timber Framers' Slick
This first slick is from Robert Sorby, one of the more popular and widespread manufacturers of woodworking tools. They are known for quality tools made with the finest materials. Their timber framer’s slick is no different.
Their 2-⅜” wide blade strikes a good balance when it comes to blade width. It is very versatile and can tackle many different jobs. The blade is high-grade carbon steel and can hone to a razor sharp edge, but it does not arrive that way so you will have to put some work into it so the slick can reach its full potential. The contoured ash handle, however, is very well crafted.
- Versatile slick capable of varied work
- High quality steel that hones to an exceptionally fine edge
- Sturdy tang and connection to handle
- Blade requires a fair bit of sharpening, especially when first receiving it
- A bit shorter than some slicks for those who want a longer handle
Barr Tools 2-½” Timber Framer's Slick
This handmade slick has a great overall quality, and the attention to detail is apparent. The individually tempered Barr Tools’ slick keeps an excellent edge without being brittle. Very high-grade steel.
The blade is a bit longer, which allows for better clearance off of the surface. The added blade length does add some weight to the slick, however, and may tire you out after extended use. The handle is also somewhat oddly shaped, I find.
- Long blade for higher clearance
- Exceptionally tempered steel that sharpens well without being brittle
- Satisfaction guarantee
- A bit heavier than other slicks
- Handle has a strange shape, may not fit well in some hands
Northmen Beveled Timber Framing Slick 2.5”
You aren’t likely to find a more beautiful slick than this one from Northmen. Formerly John Neeman Tools, Northmen is a self-proclaimed guild of craftsmen dedicated to reviving traditional ways of craftsmanship, woodworking included. They make exceptionally fine products by hand, including this slick.
This 2-½” wide slick has a comfortable and stylish hand-lathed elm handle with a leather grip. The blade is beveled to make it usable in a variety of ways and is treated with a traditional blend of oils and beeswax to prevent corrosion. The blade is high carbon 9260 spring steel with a Rockwell hardness rating of 58-60.
- Handmade slick with peerless attention to detail
- Ergonomic handle with leather grip
- High quality, lightweight and treated steel blade
- Handmade quality comes at a price
- Beveled blade may be more difficult to sharpen
3-3/8" Robert Sorby #289 Timber Framers' Slick
This Robert Sorby slick is the largest that the company offers. The wider blade makes for easier paring on softwoods and larger surfaces. It comes with the company’s signature quality. The steel hones to a razor edge, but is rounded on the corners for user safety.
The handle is standard contoured ash which is quite comfortable to use. Additionally, the handle is offset from the blade to offer higher clearance from the working surface. It is, however, a bit shorter as Robert Sorby slicks tend to be.
- Signature Robert Sorby quality steel and construction
- Wide blade for easier work on softwoods and big projects
- Excellent value for its affordability
- Shorter slick can be difficult for some to handle
- Wider blade not suitable for delicate or varied work
Rutlands Timber Frame Slick 2”
This slick is from Rutlands, a smaller manufacturer that makes quality tools nonetheless. The Rutlands 2” timber frame slick distinguishes itself by being so narrow. It may not be the easiest slick to use, but it can be used in a variety of other ways than simply paring or evening.
The steel is hardened to an impressive RC 61 which is quite hard. This hardness allows for extremely sharp edges, but you must be careful not to put the blade under too much stress. Higher hardness can make steel brittle so take care not to overdo it. The extra long handle allows for long sweeps so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
- List Very fine steel with above average hardness
- Extra long contoured ash handle
- Narrow blade makes for a versatile tool
- Extra hard steel prone to brittleness if overstressed
- Narrow blade may make for harder work for some
The Way of the Slick
The timber framer’s slick is a long woodworking tool used to flatted or clean up the surface of a large piece of wood, usually a hewn log or something similar. Unlike a chisel, you never strike a slick with a mallet. The woodworker pushes the slick along the surface of the wood firmly but carefully to pare it down and make it even.
The slick has a much longer handle than a chisel because you aren’t using that mallet and you will nee both hands to operate it. The blade is either angled upward, or the handle socket is cranked upward. This way, the handle and socket clear the work surface when the edge is touching; you don’t want your handle or hands dragging across the surface while you work! This upward bend distinguishes the slick from the similar looking millwright’s chisel.
What To Look For
While similar in appearance and function, the timber framer’s slick has slightly different qualities and desirable characteristics than a chisel. However, preference and intended type of work should always factor into your decision-making process. Don’t assume “the best” slick will meet your needs precisely. That being said, let’s look at some things that the best timber framing slicks have in common.
Depending on what you are going to use it for, you should look at the different widths of timber framers slicks. They can come in widths from 2 inches up to “fat boy” slicks at around 3-½ inches and up with several sizes in between. Wider slicks naturally lend themselves to broader work on large surfaces. They work better with softwoods and see extensive usage in boat building.
Narrow blades, on the other hand, allow for more precision and work better with harder woods. Narrower slicks can even be used in place of a chisel in some instances for more detailed jobs. Just realize that a narrower slick is probably going to mean more passes over the surface and more work for you.
When it comes to material, sharpness is key. Strength is all well and good, but as you aren’t using a mallet and relying on your arm strength, the edge should take priority.Make sure your slick has a hollow in the blade to make for easier sharpening and finer edges. Steel treatments also help keep a keen edge.
When it comes to slicks, comfort is king. When working with a slick you can expect to be making many long and broad strokes, so your handle needs to be a delight to handle. Durability is not your chief concern, but of course, it shouldn’t be overlooked. Don’t forget about aesthetics either; a beautiful tool can be a joy to wield.
Split on the Slicks
Personally, I think that the Northmen beveled 2-½ “ slick is just awesome. It looks and feels great, and you can use it for all sorts of things. But, all that coolness comes at a price. I’m ready to drop serious coin on something like that, but I understand if you have simpler wants or don’t want to pay too much for a tool that you may not use frequently.
In that case, I would go with the Robert Sorby 2-⅜ “ timber farmer’s slick. All around quality at a reasonable price. It doesn’t have any of the bells and whistles of the Northmen slick, but it will more than suffice and last you a long time.
Of course, all of this depends on the job you have planned. The larger Robert Sorby 3-3/8” will work well for large surfaces like boats, whereas the narrow Rutlands slick will make itself useful in a variety of ways. It’s 2” wide blade is very precise despite requiring a bit more work to operate. Always choose the appropriate tool over the job over the fancier one!