A Lighter Touch On Wooden Spokeshaves

Wood on wood is light, frictionless woodworking at its best and no metal-cast spokeshave offers anywhere near the senseasesiness to the hands of woodworkers than a wooden bodied spokeshave. There you go, it’s said and done. I was really raised on the Stanley and Record 150’s and 151’s and have used them all through my life.

My first time with the all wooden tang-type spokeshave shown here came at the same time and remains etched in my brain as an ever present physical impression of total harmony. Until this happens for you you can never understand why they were and are so ever popular for certain types of shaping work. Shaping and shaving a mahogany neck for a new guitar, a maple cello neck or carving out the four-foot outspread wings of a soaring eagle seems little more than peeling skin from an apple or a potato. The wooden spokeshave can still be had from secondhand tool dealers and of course eBay fairly easily and inexpensively but there are no guarantees until you have it in your hand and can actually test it out on your own wood.

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Above you can see a well-used traditional tanged spokeshave showing the wear that occurs when used on narrow work. This still has many decades of use for my work.

Things can and do go wrong, and several things make this type of spokeshave work or work not, but usually you will be able to tell if they are neglected by the images provided. Two woods make the best spokeshaves and were indeed the most commonly used, beech and boxwood. These two woods resisted wear well and left no marks on the wood being worked.

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Several years ago, maybe 10, I bought some Veritas kit components (shown above) for making spokeshaves with. I wasn’t sure if the results of these would give me the same feel as the twin tanged ones shown at top but, thankfully, I was satisfied then that actually matched and surpassed the traditional models for me to recommend anyone to go ahead and make them. Since then I have bought them to teach others how to make and use them in classes on tool making I used to hold in the USA..

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Adding the brass wear plate defies the lightness of use by introducing friction. It’s the choice you make determined by what you will use the tool for. I have both. I found it better to use it without and then repair as needed as shown here. The reason for the change of wood to maple was the Padauk I used leaves red marks on light coloured woods.

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Here shows the repaired padauk spokeshave

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These brass adjusters give very precise setting to the cutting iron in relation to the wood or brass forepart to the sole. The instructions come with the fitments you buy as a kit from Veritas but you should not hesitate to consider other shapes that you might want if customising handles and such. This is an interesting all-day project and everyone interested in owning a good wooden spokeshave should set aside time to make one.

Also, I am looking forward to the time their designers come out with a similar kit for a chair travisher.

There’s more to be said on wooden spokeshaves, much more, but we can save that for another day.

4 comments on “A Lighter Touch On Wooden Spokeshaves

  1. Thanks for the subtleties. Learned something today from a master woodworker. :<)

  2. Watching you work has awakened something in me that has been missing since my teen years in shop class in high school. I can’t wait until the next time I can get my hands on a piece of wood. The only other time in my life I have felt like this was when I apprenticed at 64 to become a gunsmith and machinist. Keep up the good work. You are a very inspiring teacher.

  3. HI PAUL, ARE THERE OLD WOODEN SPOKESHAVE MADE WITH A FLAT SOLE OR THE SOLE IS ALWAYS SLIGTLY CAMBERED, WITH THE RELATIV IRON ALSO SLIGHTLY CAMBERED? I FIND THAT MINE HAVE ALL THAT CHARACTERISTICKS, AND I CAN SET THE DEPTH OF CUT BY ANGLING THEM IN DIFFERENT MANNER, BUT:
    – IN SOFTWOOD IT DON’T CUT REALLY WELL;
    – IT IS DIFFICULT TO WORK SOMETHING LIKE A SHAPED ROUNDED LEG DUE TO THE CAMBERED SOLE.
    IS IT MY APPROACH THAT MUST BE MODYFIED OR I SHOULD TRY WOODEN SPOKESHAVES WITH A COMPLETELY FLAT SOLE?
    THANKS VERY MUCH.

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