Spokeshave Questions?

I wrote a blog post recently expressing my feeling that the spokeshave is a far more important tool than we might understand. If I can make it more understandable for you then that’s what I want to do because I cannot imagine my own woodworking life without one. We’ve had questions over the years about spokeshaves and thought it would be good to follow on from the coping saw Q&A we did via YouTube video. Please send in questions via the questionnaire here so that we can address any issues or concerns you might have following the same video format.

Thank you for all your questions! This questionnaire is now closed.

29 Comments

  1. Ross Hollinger on 28 March 2019 at 4:30 pm

    My opinion is that the lowly spoke shave is the most underrated and unappreciated hand tools in the shop, if it’s even in the shop. I recently ‘carved’ a new hatchet handle out of Ipe (won’t do that again) and my Stanley 151’s (flat and curved) did the lion’s share of the work that my chisels didn’t do. I would not have been able to pull off the job without them.

  2. nemo on 28 March 2019 at 6:00 pm

    There were some things I wondered about a few days ago, after reading your previous blogpost on spokeshaves. But with the ‘search’-function I managed to answer all my questions, plus a few more I didn’t know I had…. And some more about saws, chisels and planes. And then I suddenly realized it was already way past my bedtime. Time’s fun when your having flies.

    Ross: why wouldn’t you do it again? Too much work? Or was the result unsatisfactory? Or something else?

    • Anthony on 30 March 2019 at 1:13 pm

      Nemo – I’m guessing because Ipe is a very hard and dense wood. If memory serves, it’s twice as hard as Purpleheart and Hickory.

      • Paul Sellers on 30 March 2019 at 10:02 pm

        I think nearer a third harder on the Janka test

        • Ricardo Kohler on 1 April 2019 at 7:38 pm

          That’s correct. For many years the Ipe, or Brazilian Walnut had ranked on top spot on Janka scale. Last time i’ve checked, it’s was ranked in third. This info may be inaccurate, since the last i’ve checked was two year ago.

          • Adam on 4 April 2019 at 2:56 am

            Interesting how it changes though, Ricardo.

            I just checked on Wikipedia and it’s now 9th! I assume that’s because new species are being tested now?

            I noticed that Australian Buloke is number one. I have some of this and it’s ridiculously hard. I sawed and shaped a few pieces to use as bandsaw blade guides in my old bandsaw and the finish left when rip-cutting a small ‘cheek’ was as smooth as silk with barely any noticeable saw teeth marks. A really interesting grain pattern too.



          • Paul Sellers on 4 April 2019 at 8:03 am

            Ah, the good old pre-roller bearing days when guide blocks worked so well. I too made hardwood guide blocks from Texas mesquite to replace steel ones one time and never out the steel ones back.



      • nemo on 31 March 2019 at 12:04 am

        Thanks for the explanation. I thought ‘Ipe’ (Handroanthus) was the same as our Dutch ‘Iep’ (Olmus, ‘Elm’ in English), but obviously not.

        Janka hardness. Never heard of that one, did a quick websearch and some reading. Was familiar with Vickers, Brinell, Rockwell, Mohs and Shore. But Janka was a new one to me.

      • Lynn on 1 April 2019 at 5:48 pm

        For my money, hardness would NOT be the no. 1 characteristic I’d seek for a hatchet handle. “Toughness would be be no. 1. And that would be hickory …at least here in the US. Ash would be pretty good too.
        It’s not just a coincidence handled tool makers have traditionally chosen those woods.

        • Paul Sellers on 1 April 2019 at 5:53 pm

          Traditionally the two most common woods used for spokeshaves were boxwood and beech.

  3. Herbert Shaw on 1 April 2019 at 9:34 am

    A friend of mine worked at a company fabricating in- floor heater grids made from Ipe. I gained many offcuts from which I made pens on the lathe. The high speed polishing yielded some of the most beautiful luster from this exceedingly hard wood.

  4. mark e baldwin on 1 April 2019 at 12:44 pm

    My observation, I first bought an el cheapo spokeshave on ebay for $6 and got what I paid for. The threads on the screws and knurled nuts are very coarse and grind and bind when turned. The chip breaker keeps popping loose. I think for $15-$20 you can get one that will work well. Its not much for such a useful tool.
    Happy Woodworking!

  5. Rodrigo Meza on 1 April 2019 at 12:50 pm

    Are brass spokeshaves better? Is there a particular maker or design that stands out from the croud?

    Cheers,
    Rod

  6. Steve Reilly on 1 April 2019 at 1:10 pm

    Truth be told the reason I have a few in my shop now is that they belonged to my Father-in-Law and were passed on to me. Like his hand planes, I’m just starting to take an interest in these tools and their uses. Much to be learned.

  7. Douglas Howe on 1 April 2019 at 2:34 pm

    I would agree that the Spokeshave is an underrated tool that can do so many things, for me after finding one in a box of tools I picked up at an estate sale, learning about it, trying it out and finding that it was made in 1868, and still works although I need to replace the blade once it dialed in I was off to see what it could do, and did it ever light a fire in my soul it is my favorite and the beginning of my acquisition and use of these wonderful tools to shape and create wood art, functional tools and useful items, and thank you Paul for your guidance back to the “wood” I passed by in my youth for other career choices.

  8. S Richardson on 1 April 2019 at 2:36 pm

    I have half a dozen of these things, and rarely ever use them, what I will say though is that I find the old wooden ones much, much easier to use, more forgiving and the relationship between the blade and the handle seem to be better. It is probably me but the cast steel ones seem to need to be sharpened and set for exactly what you are doing and may need altering on the same workpiece, they also chatter more in my hands than the wooden ones

  9. Donald Kreher on 1 April 2019 at 2:49 pm

    What is your opinion about round bottom spokeshaves?

    I’ve been thing about acquiring a Stanley 151R or similar. The trouble comes when shaping tight curves for example where the spoon shoulder meets the handle. (Purchase price seems to be around $50 USD.)

    I do have a Miller falls Falls No. 2 Four Way Spoke and some wooden spokeshaves that help.
    (I think I have 8 wooden spoke shaves now, but not a good small one.)

    Would a round bottom Stanley 151 type spokeshave be useful or a waste of money?
    Should I modify one of the wooden ones I have or make a new one that will address my needs?

  10. Joe Kesselman on 1 April 2019 at 4:11 pm

    One of the other sites expressed a strong opinion in favor of spokeshaves whose handles were in the plane of the body, as is true for many wooden versions, rather than having a “gull wing” arch above the body as is fairly standard for the metal shaves. The argument seemed to be that lower handles let the took follow curves more easily without requiring that the user pay so much attention to holding against unwanted rotation. If you have an opinion…

    • Paul Sellers on 1 April 2019 at 4:51 pm

      Much to it. Really lots of theories but in the field both have their place as always. The Q&As really helped identify many problems people find with their d=shaves so we will send the video out and see what people feel then.

  11. Ian Titulaer on 1 April 2019 at 9:40 pm

    My favorite spokeshave like object is a Y handled vegetable peeler. Because they are so cheap I have been satisfied with ones from Kiwi of Thailand, Ikea and Kmart. They work well for quick bulk stock removal but usually need following up with a finer tool or sandpaper. I have had a couple of duds, notably metal handled ones. My favorite actual spokeshave is from HNT Gordon.

  12. Brian on 2 April 2019 at 2:13 am

    I haven’t been using my Stanley 151 lately. I used it to put a curved aspect on my ‘poor man’s router’, then I put it away. I should get back to it and see if I can make other curved things.

  13. Stephen McFadyen on 2 April 2019 at 3:25 am

    Spokeshaves are a bit of a mystery to me, my questions relate to when to use the flat V’s the rounded base, how to hold the blade when sharpening and what is the optimum angle to sharpen at.

    Thanks Stephen

  14. Kathy Spera on 2 April 2019 at 2:01 pm

    I have an old A.G Bachelder round and flat side by side. I would like to get it in better shape especially since the rounded blade has a badly defined pivot in it and without good sharpening stones- I have oil stone and only to 600g. Any Suggestions or instructions to get better with on very poor limited budget?

  15. Sylvain Gregoire on 3 April 2019 at 5:17 pm

    Hi Mr.Sellers , i’m new with the spoke shave . I would like to know witch ones are the best for the $ and quality ?

    • Paul Sellers on 3 April 2019 at 5:27 pm

      I would look at a secondhand one on eBay first. Get the Stanley or record version with the adjusters; the #151. Take a good look at the parts, make sure the blade looks in good condition. I just looked and you can get them for between £15-25 in good shape but check shipping costs as these can put the bargain price into ripoff state. Oh, you really only need a flat-bottomed one to get started.

  16. Michael Ross on 4 April 2019 at 10:37 am

    I bought a spokeshave, and it sits unused. It is unwieldy and I feel as though I cannot make it work for me. It is as if it’s a bicycle that I never learned to ride. Anything that helps me understand how to tune it and use it will be very helpful. I look forward to the video.

    • Paul Sellers on 4 April 2019 at 11:57 am

      Well, Michael, another thing in common with bikes is that once you learn to use it you never forget.

  17. Mike Z. on 10 April 2019 at 11:23 pm

    I’ve been looking for a good second hand or new made #151 for several years now but their quality was terrible. I visited a tool and wood seller in the US the other day, I will not mention them by name here but they have been carrying these spokeshaves for years and I could not force myself to buy a new model the quality was so lousy, even for the small asking price. I looked their selection of three spokeshaves hanging on the rack over well, and was immediately impressed. Their factory of manufacture had been moved from Mexico to China, but the quality has obviously been improved by at least 50-60% of what they were even a year or two ago. I would have bought two, a user and a spare but I spent my allowance on walnut they had on sale!! I will grab a pair next time I am up that way, like a spare would be needed but they would make a good gift for another without a #151 like I have been for years. I have other spokeshaves but they are just not the same when I need one for donkey or finer work. Check them out before they move them to a different factory again I say!

  18. Daniel Hopwood on 22 April 2019 at 9:29 pm

    My father grew up on a farm in the early twentieth century. He never learned a lot about woodworking and had only a few basic tools: handsaw, brace and 3 bits, hammer, screwdrivers, tape measure. No planes or chisels. But he remembered spokeshaves from his youth. I suppose they were commonly used around a farm at that time. In my lifetime, if he wanted to shave something, he used a piece of broken glass. He managed to make a few things in spite of tool limitations!

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