A spatula is a first project with shape. It’s an escape from straight lines and the guarantees of the machine so many machinists rely on. Whereas you could jump through the hoops to create jigs or just use a bandsaw for the bulk of the work, the experience you gain from coping cuts, sawing, chopping, shaving, rasping, filing and much more. It’s immeasurable.
I remember each of my boys learning to use the spokeshave even as young as three years old. The patience, the care, the enthusiastic approach to their early woodworking. It was the same with my grandsons too. Soon I may well have a first experience with my granddaughter. Who knows. I am teaching her to say spokeshave. The importance of the spokeshave has been ever more lost to the modern world of CNC routed stuff. Knowledge to program a computer can never translate into hand skill so with the work I am doing online we are restoring the spokeshave to its rightful position in the hierarchy of hand tools. It is one of the single most important woodworking tools we have and especially is this so in the shaping of wooden objects.
I remember when I was teaching children buy the dozen how significant this tool was to train children. Pardon the pun but it is one of the few hand tools they can handle at an early age. To see shavings rise through the throat with your eyes and nose fixed just inches away from the dynamism is incalculable. It’s a safe (with supervision) tool to use, with both hands on the handles, and it quickly gets results – it is a most inspiring tool. But it was the project that was most important. Of course it is not just the spokeshave we use on a spatula. The coping saw shapes too, and the chisel and tenon saw, the rasp and the file all shape wood alongside it too. Put all of these tools work together with shaping tools and you can shape the neck of a violin and a guitar after you learn to make a spatula. Did you know that? You can shape the hull of a kayak and canoe, the arches for aprons to tables, the legs of chairs and spindles and spokes for a wide range of other pieces. The spatula is the vehicle for early learning shaping with spokeshaves. Don’t underestimate its value in learning about grain direction too.
The problem today is not enough people know about it’s true value through the using of it. My involvement with teaching and training children, teenagers and young adults tells me just how significant this tool truly is. When others dismiss it to use their power router, they might also be dismissing having their children with them in the shop. I am not saying you can’t do both, just that it sends a mixed message if children are there. They will see the router as the more advanced and progressive method and not realise that it is the less skilled and most limited way. I think only one of my children ever saw me use a power router for a period. I am so glad I stopped.