An Affordable Spokeshave For You

For more information on spokeshaves, see our beginner site Common Woodworking.

I bought a spokeshave you can afford and one I haven’t tested out before either. I liked the look of it and Draper UK has been a long established distributor of all kinds of tools, machines and equipment here in the UK for decades and whereas their quality is generally accepted as reasonable to well made, it’s not necessarily high-end, so pricing is always within reach too. As with all distributors who distribute but don’t use, they can be the source of package misinformation, but I can live with that as long as the product works in the hands of the users. This standard pattern #151 spokeshave does. I tried to imagne what George would have said to me if I’d said pass me the spokeshave, George.

In this case the cardboard package backer says that, “the spokeshave is for convex surfaces” whereas it works equally well in convex surfaces too, just so long as the diameter doesn’t exceed around 6”. Oh, and we don’t call it a spokeshaver either. Someone somewhere sitting in a buyer’s office, or perhaps a copywriter??? Even spellcheck got it right. Anyway, they got it right on the back of the package so we’re OK with that. The funny thing is they show it being used on a concave surface and they actually got it right without knowing that it does work both both surfaces.

Do what you read on the package and you will encounter serious issues. In this case it says that, “this cutter can be set up or down”. That’s very far from true. This spokeshave MUST be used with the bevel down only. Bevel up will leave the surface of the wood looking like a corrugated roof or an old-timey washboard.

In most cases you need only a flat-bottomed version of the spokeshave and will rarely need or use a round-bottomed version.

The spokeshave did arrive very well packaged using some recycled boxing materials, which I liked. Double boxed and pillow-packed in airbags and brown paper–all recyclable, the tool arrived in perfect condition. Shipping was free—I have ordered six more —I was pleased with the price, the quality, and the functionality at the bench in oak, pine, cherry and sapele.

Price is always important. The nearest any other domestic maker can come to match currently is with a Stanley UK, which may vary but is usually twice as much. Now that vintage #151s are selling so high, the Draper is a good alternative.

One thing in particular that worked well for me is the brass adjusters that operate very smoothly in both directions. The threads into the sand-cast body are good, with little play and none of the established makers, even high-end ones have zero play.

The blade was close enough to flat and as can be seen was ground ever so slightly concave. Whether intentional or not, the blade back honed out quickly enough because of it so sharpening was quick.

Veritas spokeshave blade thickness is 3.24mm
Draper cutting iron thickness is 2.13mm

With a quick sharpen up the spokeshave needed no additional work at all and the shavings rose full width and full length from the throat. Another element with the spokeshave is the lack of rattle you often get from less expensive makes. The blade is 2.13 mm thick, whereas Stanley and Record versions measured in at between 1.41-1.71mm. Veritas is a massive 3.24mm thick and two Hock irons were 2.38mm and 2.42mm respectively.

Two Hock irons came in at between 2.38mm and 2.42mm.

I tested all of the spokeshaves alongside the Draper and being more esoteric than scientific my gut impression was that they all cut well and if there was any difference it was in the Veritas, which I think benefits from the added thickness and the wooden handles both of which serve to dampen any vibration.

Cost? Well, I did shop around after buying the first here and I bought six more with free shipping for £11.60 each. A second-hand one on e-Bay came in for for £8.50 with free shipping and the original one cost me £13.60 with free shipping.

Finally, as with many planes, and the #151 design spokeshave is indeed a plane-like tool in every way chiefly but with side handles instead of ‘fore and ‘aft’, the blade and cap iron had been tightened down to the body of the shave to make it secure for shipping. This leads new woodworkers to think that the slot-headed screws through the cap iron are to set the blade for actual use.. This is not at all the case. A lack of information is the result and common enough these days.

Both of these two screws are to set the cap iron to apply appropriate pressure to the blade and whereas they do secure the blade in the body of the spokeshave, they are neither of them cinched tight using screwdrivers.

The setscrew in the lower centre of the cap iron should be adjusted to allow a gap to be established between the top edge of the cap and the top edge of the cutting iron. Turning the larger setscrew transfers pressure to the fore-edge of the cutting iron by using cantilevered leverage.

Once the central setscrew is distance-set it generally needs only occasional adjustment. To remove the cap iron and of course secure it in place over the blade we use the top setscrew only. Turn it counterclockwise to loosen the cap iron and the blade is freed. Turn it clockwise to tighten everything in place and centre all the components by eye and feel. Loosen slightly to align and distance the cutting iron for depth of cut and cinch tight to set the cutting edge as desired.

Those of you who have it, there is a lot more information on the #151 spokeshave in my latest book, Essential Woodworking Hand Tools. Just saying!


  1. Dear Paul,
    Lately most of the images on you blog are not loading on my iPad although they do show on my desktop computer. I wonder if their size is too large for portable devices.
    Just thought I would draw it to you attention,

        1. I can see them just fine on my iPad, so it’s not an iPad issue. And it does not look like a size issue either, (They are not all that large.).

        2. Nice article Have you ever tried the Japanese spoke shave. My teacher was Japanese. Unusual so I asked him why he would teach a white guy he said no matter what I teach you you’ll never be as good as me. He was an excellent teacher. If I did a job that didn’t turn out so hot he’d shake his head and say How did we lose the war

  2. I made a stool for a craftfair I’m attending and finally got my 151 Record Spokeshave to work well. I had trouble with tearout and dig-ins. Dig-ins for me are when the spokeshave almost topples over onto itself leaving a small gouge in the wood. I thought it was a sharpening issue but really it was happening because of hand pressure and positioning of the spokeshave on the wood. The grain also had something to do with it but it was more of a technique problem. The first leg of the stool turned out a little mishapen but by the 4th one I had the spokeshave working better. This lead me to getting my card scrapers to finally work as well. Question though about concave scrappers. Do they need to be bent with your hands like straight scrappers?

    1. It sounds to me as though you have too much cutting iron protruding on your spokeshave. Try taking less off and feeling for the result. It should be cutting like a plane. If the bevel is too steep on the cutter then the sheer physics means the blade must protrude markedly before it will cut. Check with an angle finder and pay particular attention it the very cutting edge because often people round the bevel right there. Yes, you do flex all scrapers to give them the stiffness to cut. Scraper is a misnomer because they don’t scrape in any way at all. Read the section in my book, Essential Woodworking Hand Tools if you have it. It will become much clearer.

  3. Hello,
    I’ve been using a cheap Silverline spokeshave for a while (about 6£) and saw no notticeable difference with the good old Stanley or Record ones. Perhaps a lesser quality body casting, but I won’t know until it breaks, if it does. The iron and the brass wheels are nicely made. Just to say!

  4. I would like to know which Veritas I should purchase. I will probably use it on spoon handles and other woodcarving items. Would the Draper be ok to purchase for this?
    I would like the Veritas if it is better!

    1. Veritas flat-bottomed is about as good as it gets. Highly recommend them. This may not be an either it though. I’d have both.

  5. Morning Paul,
    As comment on shaves,
    I picked up pair from Harbor Freight, very cheap.
    Thinking l would have to make new irons. However, l
    Tuned blades, was surprised how well they worked.
    Taught my granddaughter to use it, and we had a great time.

  6. Hi, Paul.

    You didn’t post any pictures of the mouth or bed of the spokeshave. How does this one compare to the Stanleys.

  7. Thank you Paul, for once again (continuously rather) making real woodworking accessible to the average person and the beginner. The young especially need affordable ways to get into real woodworking with their limited money. I wish I had known better twenty years ago.

  8. Paul, I am looking forward to helping the son of a friend start off. He is reportedly excited to kick off with a spatula. Will a new Stanley spokeshave work? If so, what fettling may be necessary?

  9. Across the pond here the Draper spokeshave is not generally available. Amazon has carried it in the past (with a lukewarm review) but not available there. The Kunz spokeshave is more available and which seems to be the same Stanley/Record 151 copycat. It is affordable and well reviewed. It’s a shame that as Paul stated that the classic 151s have become so dear.

  10. I think the directions on the Draper box regarding setting up or down means adjusting the cutting depth up or down, not reversing the bevel to “up”.
    I think these things are all made in the same factory in China and just branded differently. They all look identical. I have a “Stanley” and the eBay/Amazon no-name brands seem identical to me… the only difference looks to be the Stanley sticker on the cap iron and brand stamped on the blade.
    After tuning these do work great. I filed the bed flat (mostly paint unevenness), lightly filed the cap iron tip for a better seat, and I tightened the fit of the adjuster rods into the casting by wrapping the ends of the thread with some plumber’s teflon tape.
    However I still think my favorite “spokeshaver” for general use (so far) is my Grandfather’s old #51… finer, lighter feel. Maybe I’ll try the Veritas bevel up kit next.

    1. You may well be right re bevel up bevel down and I saw that but there was enough ambiguity there fro me to worry the blade might be the wrong way around as is the case of many that arrived.

      1. Yes, so true and you’re right to point it out. Unfortunately this kind of poor product description/instruction is all too common these days, for the reasons you have so clearly discussed in your blog over the years.

  11. Grazie Maestro just a praise for all of the priceless videos, knowhow
    and info that you share with passion and “maestria”. Daniele Cunico.

  12. I have just received mine and if I try to put the blade in bevel down it fouls the mouth! Any thoughts? Thanks

    1. Most likely the blade is out too far or there is a gap between the cap and the blade where leading edge of shavings can concertina and clog. This can be because the cap is not angled upwards sufficiently. All of that’s covered in my book Essential Woodworking Hand Tools.

      1. I did reply to you the other day but mysteriously my comment disappeared! Anyway thanks Paul for the speedy response. It is not a shavings issue as I can’t get the blade in bevel down to take any shavings. It looks like the mouth is too narrow for the thickness of the iron. I will try to file the mouth a tad larger and see how I go. Also many thanks for introducing me to the pleasures of hand tools. My woodworking has been transformed since I saw you at Harrogate last year.

    2. Many thanks for your prompt response Paul. Its not a shavings issue as I can’t get the blade in bevel down to take any shavings! Its almost as if the iron is too thick for the mouth; perhaps I’ll get to work with the file. Incidentally a huge thankyou for opening my eyes and mind to the delights of handtools ever since harrogate last year.

  13. This might be an older entry but I still think it is worth sharing my latest experience with the draper spokeshave i bought. I ordered one thru Amazon Marketplace from an UK dealer and what I got was unusable: the play of the fine adjustment was 3 turns. The blade had no nips like shown above but the groove was wide which I see as the cause. Either a different nut or the blade shown above would have fixed it but this combination was a bad choice. In additional the thumbscrew for tightening the cap was too small to grab (way thinner head than shown above) and even the slot was useless as it only was as deep as the konvex top. The dealer reacted great and refunded the money immediately but it keeps me searching for an reasonable priced spokeshave in Germany. Getting good tools is difficult here if you don’t want to go with e.g. traditional wooden planes.

  14. I also purchased one of these recently and can confirm it is unfortunately not of the same quality as the one Paul writes about. As Sven writes, the holes in the blade are much too large for the nuts, and the locking screw is small.

    I have manged to tune it up and get it working, but the adustment nuts have so much play they fall off the bolt before they touch the back of the cutter! Thus you can only adjust by pushing the blade out, so I underset it and then adjusted out only.

    Paul, you say that you have to set the spokeshave bevel down! I have been doing it wrong with this spokeshave and a Stanley 51 and been getting ok results! Can’t wait to see what happens when I do it right, explains why it has taken me so long to warm to spokeshaves!

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