Don’t Buy A Draper Spokeshave!


I feel bad. A year or two ago I said the Draper (UK) spokeshave would be more than adequate as a user spokeshave to begin woodworking with. Today I am forced to say do not buy a Draper spokeshave. We mentioned it on our tool buying guide for Common Woodworking in good faith because it was an economical introduction for those unsure about how much they wanted to invest woodworking. But Draper have not held the standard of the ones I trialled. No sirree! They downgraded component parts to save fractions of fractions of a penny and any new woodworker would find it extremely difficult to get one to take a single shaving. Who is in charge of buying in stock for this company should be sent packing. The engineering is very low grade as are the parts. I am saying sorry to everyone for supporting Draper. I found the user of the new one we bought to check it out so frustrated and herein lies the problem—any new woodworker would automatically think this issue was them and not the new and sparkly tool.

24 comments on “Don’t Buy A Draper Spokeshave!

  1. I wouldn’t buy a spokeshave from them either but there are a lot of tools they do stock that are great, so I would not run the company down completely on one duff tool.

    Note: My 18v battery drill and Hot Air Gun from Draper are fantastic

    • Sorry but the fact is I simply said not to buy their spokeshaves and nothing of any other product they sell because they had so seriously deteriorated in quality and engineering standards–this is hardly “running the company down completely”, which is the truer exaggeration I think, Iain.

  2. Sadly, this is reflective of the situation with Draper and other companies, such as Silverstone, which sell products of variable quality and specifications under the same reference.

    I recently purchased a #4 plane which, to my surprise, came with a corrugated sole… and no mention of it on the packaging. While it worked fine, it definitely wasn’t the same product as the one reviewed positively in an earlier blog from Paul. In this context, recommending brands or products becomes quite tricky unfortunately

    • I too bought Silverline #4 plane and it came with a grooved sole. This was a total surprize to me too, though silverline website now does say “Milled sides & fluted base”.

  3. Being in the US I literally just bought the Stanley analog of that spokeshave and I haven’t even sharpened it yet. Is that going to be a waste of my time, too?

    • Craig, I own both a classic Stanley spokeshave and a brand new one. Both function very well. The only thing on the newer one is to make sure the back of the blade AND the back of the top 0late are flat. The newer ones aren’t always ground completely flat. This is a one time correction (unless you drop the top plate). Otherwise, I am able to use both equally well.

    • Craig,
      I hope not, for your sake. I bought the Stanley version (US) several years ago and am fairly well pleased with its performance. I alternate its use with my Lei Neilson and get good results.

  4. I have some Draper tools which have performed well for me. On the other hand, I have looked at other Draper tools in shops and walked away because of obvious quality concerns. Some Draper tools get very poor reviews on the internet due to poor quality/poor accuracy – so I know not to waste time even looking at those.

    When the standards of any particular tool are below an acceptable level, then I am grateful to reviewers in general and to Mr Sellers in particular. These people take the time and effort to guide us away from buying a pig in a poke – and towards better purchases’ Manufacturers of quality items, check components and raw materials on receipt and/or expect their suppliers to have checked before shipping. Producers worth their salt take steps to prevent rubbish goods from leaving their factories so they do not find their way to the hands of buyers via shop shelves. In the case of Draper and some other manufacturers, it appears they expect purchasers to QA their finished product. To me, this beggar belief. Surely Draper et al appreciate the effect of critical reviews in the public domain. If the substandard products attract valid critical comment then the fault rests with the company. If potential buyers are then cautious about other Draper tools (which may well be fit for service) then Draper has only itself to blame. The remedy is in the hands of the company management.

    Francois mentioned Silverstone (I guess he meant Silverline). I recently bought a new Silverline No 6 fore planes which, I was lead to believe, had something wrong with the packaging. In fact, the packaging was fine. The sole was more concave than I have ever seen on any plane in my life! The hole in the iron (for the head of the cap iron screw) had not been completely stamped out – a large chunk of jagged metal remained – making it very difficult to assemble and disassemble the iron & cap iron. The edge on the iron was worse than I have seen on any plane – it needed regrinding. There were rough edges to the body casting in awkward corners, (probably bad enough to draw blood but I did not test it). The thread of the depth adjusting nut (and/or bolt) was poorly cut and almost impossible to shift. The obvious course of action would have been to send it straight back – right? Wrong! Thanks to reviews I had read before buying, I was expecting many the problems. I have restored a number of old planes to excellent working order and, since following Mr Sellers excellent guidance, I now do a better job much faster than my first effort. (Thanks for that Mr Sellers!). The plane cost me £15:00 (including delivery) and, after my fettling, works like a charm. The concave sole is so bad that (if I bother with it), a lot of grinding will be spread over a long period before it is fully resolved. However, it works beautifully for my current purposes – so may corrcting the sole may become a very low priority – at least for the time being. For me, this was a bargain and I was happy. However, I wonder what would have happened if it had been bought by someone with little or no experience. They would, as a minimum, have found the experience discouraging. Many modern tradesmen, whose time is money, would either have returned it or thrown it straight in the bin.

    One wonders what these companies hope to achieve by this absence of quality control. I have a chisel acquired as part of a job lot and which was manufactured in the PRC. The steel has been ‘hardened and tempered’ to have the qualities of plasticine. I keep it for amusement (it certainly has no practical value). Are Draper, Silverline and others trying to compete with makers of plasticine chisels etc. to see who can produce the lowest quality. It cannot be about price. A tool which is not fit for purpose is expensive at any price. A tool which works well and gives a lifetime of service is cheap at (almost) any price.

    There is enough precedent in the graveyard of British manufacturers to demonstrate that making and selling substandard products is like petitioning for one’s own death warrant. Draper, Silverline et al have proved they have the ability to produce decent tools; They have also proved that sometimes they cannot be bothered.

    • Ken,
      I had a similar experience with a £17 Silverline #7 plane that was concave and couldn’t be adjusted. Whenever the adjustment nut was turned the yoke opened up and the blade stayed put. To say blade is a misnomer, it wouldn’t cut butter even after a proper sharpening. I made a new yoke adjuster, flattened the sole and replaced the blade with a Stanley. For £17 plus £12 for a blade and many hours of fettling, I now have quite a good plane. The frog casting is extremely poor but it works after tuning. I later found a replacement yoke is £5 so I could have saved myself a day forging and welding, but it was a challenge and fun. If I ever feel the need I’ll refinish the woodwork. I sure as hell will not be buying another Silverline plane. I’m retired so I can spend time sorting this out, a professional would not waste their precious time.

      • In my experience, a professional would not buy a tool with the lowest price tag but rather go with a reputable name and recommendations from other professionals.
        As you stated, a professional’s time is precious and even if they are cost conscious they would rather buy a more expensive tool that they know will work. A professional would also, most probably, know more about how the tool should work and what adjustments would be considered reasonable on a new.

        On the other hand, the aspiring hobbyist would not know this and would probably despair or give up before the tool was in working order, if they at all would know what working order is supposed to be.

        I think there is a spot in the market for a tool maker to make working tools at a reasonable price point. Tools which are maybe not as highly refined and polished as the best brands (you who they are) but works better than the rubbish sold as tools by the afore mentioned companies.

        I would gladly spend a bit more of my money on something that I “knew” should work out of the box (after some set up and sharpening) than trying to buy from eBay (where prices has soared the last few years, and I’m never certain what I’ll get) or spend hours and hours on fettling with a cheap, sub standard tool.

        In my case I have a day job which pays the bills and then some and would like to make things in my spare time. I’m willing to do the work and put in the time to learn as in all cases when you are new to something but I’d rather do that with tools that are OK and spend my time learning wood working – not how to fix a poorly made tool.

        • I’m not altogether sure if this advice works today as many if not most so-called “professionals” in woodworking are machinists only with a few token hand tools somewhere in the background. Certainly the ones I have known in recent decades rely only on machine cuts. That translates into them knowing little more than the novice seeking guidance. The same is true of “professionals’ in other important spheres such as educational institutions and magazine writers. Not saying they are not there, but that they are more a very small minority. People these days generally send newbies to high end makers that are prohibitively high in price for someone starting out and just testing the waters to see if they might like woodworking. Also, out if the hundreds of tools I have bought on eBay I have only had two that needed serious adjustment and one I needed to send back for which I was fully refunded. I am pretty sure that I could by the next hundred Stanley or Record spokeshaves for around £20 on eBay and have it fully working with a single sharpening. So, in my view, eBay is as good a source as any and one of the safest to buy from too.

          • I’ve noticed that over the last year or so, some of the woodworking magazines and shows are starting to feature hand tools. I expect this has something to do with the attention around hand tool use and history created by folks like Paul. I rarely read those magazines or watch those shows anymore but when I was just beginning to become interested woodworking years back I consumed content broadly while trying to develop understanding and perspective of the craft. For a number of years now, I’ve worked to build knowledge and understanding around traditional hand tools. I’m far from expert- barely novice really in terms of actual hours of practice. What I’ve found really interesting is how blatantly obvious it is that much of this content has to only be there based on perceive demand. Even with my barely novice skill and knowledge it’s clear that many of the article writers or TV show folks don’t really understand these tools. They say and do things that are just improper. There are of course many sources of great information available online these days from Paul and some others folks too (thank you internet). It is just interesting that all those “wood machinist” magazines and shows are now starting to put hand tools in rotation- even if perhaps less skillfully than even a several years of experience novice like myself.

  5. BELIEVE what Paul said about the Draper. Shortly after his review I bought one of those wretched things. The adjusting screws were loose(too short and wrong thread), the cutting iron was upside down and when placed properly there wasn’t room in the throat to adjust the it. I replaced the adjusting screws with longer stainless screws and cut the heads off. It took A LOT of filing to open the throat wide enough to allow room to adjust the cutting iron and shavings to pass through. It’s 7mm wide as compared with 4mm on my Record. The tightening screw was unacceptable(too short), as shown in the photo in the blog, and was replaced with a decent one. The colors are nice, and other than those problems it’s OK.(LOL)

    Please understand that is not a criticism of Paul’s recommendation. I value his counsel and advice with respect to tools, but he has no control over manufacturers who reduce the quality of their product.

  6. Recently saw the latest spokeshave offering from Stanley in the local big box store . Packaging was nonexistent- they were all bundled in a plain cardboard box, which I don’t have a problem with. The general finish wasn’t great and the tolerances looked bad enough to not warrant further appraisal. They weren’t terrible, it was the $50+ price tag that sealed the deal for me. They could have been finished to a much better standard for what was being asked. Given the comparative cost of an older and much better finished model second hand by the same company it is not all that tempting. I haven’t found an old model that has needed that much work to get them working to an acceptable standard. I think the biggest irk is this scramble for cents to the detriment of the tool generally, seems a waste of resources and time producing a lot of this stuff in the first place.

  7. With some honorable exceptions, I think that that adagio of “you get what you paid for” is the biggest true when it comes to tools. A good tool is not a cheap thing, normally. I’m talking about new tools, of course, not good tools bought second hand.
    I’ve bought five Faithfull 36″ sash clamps a few days ago. As Paul says in his video about retrofitting clamps, they sound (and look, and feel) as cheap as they are. Cheap and bad made. The holding of the heads with two pins were so poor that they wobbled terribly, the jaws got stuck, the painted screw was almost impossible of moving smoothly. I’ve retrofitted them as Paul reccomends in his video, adding some things (I’ve changed the pins with screws with autoblocking nuts and stripped all the paint on the threaded rod, lubricating it with dry teflon after). Now they work acceptably well… just. The total amount for these five clamps has been 108 euro.
    I’m pretty sure that a Juuma clamp, wich cost more than double a piece, doesn’t present these problems. Yes, it’s true: sometimes we cannot or we don’t want to pay the money that a good tool costs, specially if it is destined to an amateur/ocassional use. Some things can be good enough for some types of use, but we must be clear that nobody gives a dollar for twenty cents.

  8. I bought a Draper spokeshave at about the time of Mr Sellers’s blog, managed to sharpen it and it works well -so far!

    I think there will always be a potential for a cheap tool to be disappointing either because the quality control is not on the ball or as Mr Sellers indicates, the ‘bean counters’ have found a way of penny pinching to the overall detriment of the object concerned. This seems to happen with almost every article ever produced since time began. “Let the buyer beware” has been true since Roman times and is still true today.

    A parting thought, the pack of four chisels I bought from Lidl ,for about £6, are great!

  9. My son works for a company which Imports Commercial Equipment from China, They have to go over each piece of equipment as the quality varies from shipment to shipment. Some shipments have almost no problems and some require rebuilds on all pieces. Quality control is non-existent. My point is the next batch of these spokeshaves might be excellent. buyer beware.

    • This is true, quality control can be lacking from the producer, but also something that I as a consumer expect the importer to manage. They can inspect and refuse/return the bad ones and then sell the OK ones.
      Given that the producer will not get paid for the sub par products they will start making improvements to meet the required standard as it it too expensive for them not to.

      I once had a job where we bought paint brushes from a Chinese maker and the samples were excellent, the first delivery as well, but then quality started to decline. We had had the fore sight to keep a few of the samples and sent one of each size back to the producer along with the bad ones and told them that we would only pay for brushes where the quality matched the sample. Anything else would be sent back at their expense or thrown out(unpaid).
      After some time of them not getting paid they started to send only acceptable products.

      If the company bying from a producer and selling the products doesn’t care about their good name they will only look at the price but we were very keen to only sell products we deemed good or excellent so we would rather not make the sale than sell a sub par product and this was something our customers were very understanding about.

  10. I use older wooden spokeshaves of various sizes acquired over many years and, providing they are kept sharp, they are far superior to metal ones, in my opinion. I also have several Preston metal shaves that are OK.

  11. The bad news is you’re too late. I already bought one. The good news is that I bought it decades ago (presumably before the standard dropped even further). Even so, it is not a great… or even average… spokeshave.

  12. I recently bought a Stanley that looks a surprising lot like this one, my first spoke shave.
    As a beginning woodworker I am no authority on spokeshaves, but I noticed the sole had markings of 40 grit sandpaper as finish, so I ground that down to 240, making a much nicer surface. I also sharpened the chisel, reassembled the thing and no shavings were coming off, it just binds up on first contact.
    It will come in handy if I ever have to climb a wooden pole, I guess…

  13. Paul’s video on making a wooden spokeshave is excellent. I made two and both work really well, so much so that I reach for them first and haven’t used my Stanley spokeshave since. So easy to adjust too.

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