Spokeshaves Wooden and Iron

We've split and chopped and adzed, working with tools that could also be used to storm the castle. You wouldn't do that with a spokeshave. This is the first move away from the wildness of the open blade, now the depth of cut is fixed in the tool. The spokeshave can smooth, but it can't do sharp transitions or tight inside curves. We're working with a plane now, and risk is getting left behind.

The name suggests that the spokeshave was primarily a wheelwright's tool, used for smoothing the rounded surfaces of wooden wheel spokes. But the word "spoke," in an older sense, can mean any long split-out billet of wood. So coopers, shoe-last makers, and anyone working with wood from the wedge might lay claim to the spokeshave's edge.

Wooden-bodied spokeshaves use cutting irons with the flat face against the wood. The ends of the blade turn up into tangs that make a tight fit into matching holes in the body of the tool. You adjust the depth of cut by tapping either the protruding ends of the tangs or the extremities of the blade on any handy hard surface. Later models use thumbwheels to adjust the depth of cut, but the blade arrangement is the same.

In use, wooden spokeshaves must bear entirely on the narrow ledge of wood in front of the cutting edge. It takes a little time to get used to working "rocked forward" rather than with the flat of the blade against the wood.

Iron spokeshaves use a different configuration of stock and blade. An old shop textbook advises, "The spokeshave is practically a short plane with handles at the sides, and in using it the aim should be, as with the plane, to secure silky shavings of as great a length as the nature of the work will allow."

Planes have been around for 2,000 years, but only when malleable cast iron became available in 1860 was it practical to make this "short plane." If you can make the body of a plane in cast iron, it can be much shorter than is possible if it's made of wood. The basic plane or iron spokeshave consists of an iron (the blade) sharpened on one face to about 30 degrees, mounted, bevel down, at 45 degrees in the body. Like any plane, these tools allow you to work with their whole bed riding on the wood. They come in a thousand patented configurations and contours, and can handily combine a concave and straight cutter in a single tool.

Iron spokeshaves have some advantages over wooden-bodied spokeshaves. They are sturdy and longer wearing, but don't let the pleasures of the wooden spokeshave pass you by. Wooden shaves adjust with a one-handed tap on the bench, and there's nothing like the feel of the warm beech stock in your fingers as gossamer ribbons of end grain flow from the low-angle blade.

The iron spokeshave rides more like a plane.
Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

There are a lot of things that either needs to be repaired, or put together when youre a homeowner. If youre a new homeowner, and have just gotten out of apartment style living, you might want to take this list with you to the hardware store. From remolding jobs to putting together furniture you can use these 5 power tools to get your stuff together. Dont forget too that youll need a few extra tools for other jobs around the house.

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